Strength Training for Youth
Wednesday, July 3, 2019
Movement is a part of life from start to finish. From crawling as an infant, to leisurely walks late in life, humans are built to move. Following a fitness routine helps young people realize all the potential benefits of an active lifestyle. However, not all youth fitness programs are created equal. No matter if this is your child’s first exposure to regular exercise, or if you cannot get them to sit still for two minutes, youth activity is an important building block for a healthy life.
Use the following points as a guide for things to look for in your child’s fitness routine.
Pre and post assessments
Determining your starting point and tracking your progress is a great practice to use with all fitness programs. For youth trainees, demonstrating progress can be especially motivating. This helps them see specific benefits of all their hard work. When entering your child into a new fitness program, be sure measurements are taken before the program begins and right when the program ends. These tests can include 40-yard dash time, broad jump distance, or time to hold a plank. Bonus points for those who did mid-way tests.
Technique, technique, technique.
School may be over, but learning never ends. Make sure your child is set up for long term success by learning and mastering the fundamentals of exercise before moving into advanced training programs. Youth fitness programs should emphasize exercise technique in movement such as squats, pushups, and pull ups, before moving on to heavy weights, fast repetitions, or high volume. Executing the basics of exercise teaches long term muscle memory, builds higher resistance to injury, and establishes confidence in training scenarios.
Make it fun
One of the best methods to improve program adherence with youth is to keep fitness fun. Kids do not need complex training programs to experience the benefits of regular movement. Rather, incorporating informal play and games into fitness routines increases the participants’ enjoyment, making them more likely to come back for more. Games also provide excellent training of reaction skills, agility, and coordination. Consider playing simple games such as tag, dodgeball, or gaga ball.
When beginning a youth fitness program, be aware of common gender differences. Boys often develop strength quickly as they grow, while their flexibility lags behind. Girls are typically very limber with great core strength, but take longer to develop overall strength. Fitness routines should address these differences to ensure safety and maximize training benefits.
Who is the routine for?
As mentioned, one of the most important factors in a child building healthy lifestyle habits is their level of enjoyment. Having fun while being active is based on the activity involved, but also their desire to be there in the first place. Getting them on board with what they do, where it happens, and who it is with all play a role in the success of the routine. Make sure your child’s fitness routine is based around their interests rather than the parents’.
Developing healthy lifestyle habits for kids does not need to be overly complicated. Ensure the program emphasizes high quality movement patterns, incorporates some fun and games, and your child will be well on their way to a lifetime of healthy activity.
Nick Rozek Greater Green Bay YMCA
East Side Healthy Living Director & Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist