Fact or Fallacy # 5: Children shouldn’t train with weights? (Part 3)
So far in this series the question of safety has been addressed, click here to read part 1.
In the second post the question of need and the benefits were examined, click here to read part 2.
This final part will address the question of readiness to train. Here we go!
Are they ready for it?
Avery Faigenbaum from the University of Massachusetts in Boston, who is perhaps the most prolific researcher in this area, In a review paper entitled: “Resistance training for Adolescent Athletes” stated:
“Although there is no minimum age requirement for participation in a youth resistance-training program, all participants should have the emotional maturity to accept and follow direction and should genuinely appreciate the potential benefits and risks associated with youth strength training.” (Faigenbaum, 2002 p 32).
From my point of view as a coach I look at pretty common sense factors to determine an individuals readiness to engage in a strength training programme. Heres a quick bullet point list:
1. Can they listen and follow instructions clearly? This is a must. If they can’t listen to what you’re saying they can’t be coached in this way. You’d be better off doing less focussed activities with them.
2. Do they have the emotional maturity to accept when they are doing things wrong and address these issues? If not then again better off doing less intense and focussed activites.
3. Do they have basic competency in key movements such as squats, lunges, push-ups, planks, core endurance holds, single leg squats etc etc. If not they better get this sorted first. Master your bodyweight before you add loads!
If they pass these criteria then consider introducing them to basic strength work.
What does youth strength training look like?
Just to keep you going, heres a clip of one of my young athletes (14 at the time) performing deadlifts for strength:
Here’s a beginners programme taken from an excerpt from the ASCA (Australian Strength and Conditioning Association) position statement. Its a decent session in my opinion:
A beginning program would comprise a basic 3 day per week circuit type whole body program performed on alternate days (i.e. Monday, Wednesday and Friday) of the following exercises:
Basic warm up (5 minute jog or cycle etc plus 2-3 minutes of dynamic stretching)
1. Step ups (both left and right legs) (quadriceps, hamstring and gluteal muscles) – 20 to 30 cm step or chair
2. Push ups (pectorals, deltoid and triceps brachii muscles) – off knees initially progressing onto toes as strength increases.
3. Star jumps (quadriceps, adductors, gluteal muscles).
4. Abdominal crunches (abdominals and hip flexors) – as strength increases progress towards bent legged sit ups.
5. Chair dips (triceps brachii muscle) – initially have legs close to the chair and use the legs and arms to raise the body. As strength increases progressively move legs further away from the chair.
6. 90 degree wall sit (quadriceps and gluteal muscles).
7. Reverse back extensions (lower back, gluteal and hamstring muscles) – lying face down with torso over table or bench and lift legs to level of hips hold top position for 1-2 s and repeat.
8. Hover (abdominal, hip flexor and lower back muscles) – initially off knees progressing to toes.
Cool down and stretch – (5 min jog or cycle etc and 5 minutes of stretching)
Week 1: Perform 20 s of each exercise for as many controlled repetitions as possible followed by 40 s rest and then move onto the next exercise. Perform 1 circuit – total workout time approximately 25 minutes (including warm up and cool down). Once this circuit is comfortably achieved by the athlete progress onto stage 2.
Stage 2: Perform 30 s of each exercise for as many controlled repetitions as possible followed by 40 s rest and then move onto the next exercise. Perform 1 circuit – total workout time approximately 27 minutes (including warm up and cool down). Once this circuit is comfortably achieved by the athlete progress onto stage 3
Stage 3: Perform the same as stage 2 but repeat the circuit 2 times – total workout time approximately 38 minutes. Once this circuit is comfortably achieved by the athlete progress onto stage 4.
Stage 4: Perform 2 circuits but increase exercise time to 40 s per exercise with 50 s recovery -total workout time approximately 40 minutes. Once this circuit is comfortably achieved by the athlete progress onto stage 5.
Stage 5: Perform 2 circuits but increase exercise time to 50 s per exercise with 50 s recovery -total workout time approximately 43 minutes. Once this circuit is comfortably achieved by the athlete progress onto stage 6.
Stage 6: Perform 2 circuits but increase exercise time to 60 s per exercise with 60 s recovery -total workout time approximately 47 minutes.
At this stage the athlete can keep the same circuit but try and increase the intensity of some of the exercises. For example, some options include:
> Increasing the step height for the step ups
> Push ups off toes rather than knees
> Progress from crunches to bent legged sit ups
> Chair dips performed with legs progressively further from the chair
> Hover off toes rather than off knees
Although i’m not a lover of the crunches or the push-ups off knees, I think that the progression is sound and this programme will achieve results in the youngsters. The key point is that it is competency dependant not age/time dependant. Don’t progress someone just because they are older. Make sure they demonstrate the competence to progress.
Lastly, common sense I know, but machines are not the way forward, a good S&C coach working with children and adolescents should incorporate as much bodyweight and free weight type activities as possible. Unfortunately there are gyms aimed at kids out there that are basically scaled down machine weights. Completely non functional and against so many principles of athletic development. Heres an example taken from a local school near me.
This is more functional:
So in summary:
The child needs to have the emotional maturity to understand what they are doing and accept instructions.
The programme implemented needs to be progressive and competency based.
The modalities employed need to be functional, free weight movements that build multi-directional strength and body awareness.
Dont progress too fast, earn the right to move forwards!
Keep the sessions fun and enjoyable.
Thats all on this topic, think it has been pretty well covered!
What do you think about youth strength training, leave me a comment below?