Hello CAMP-ers, things are starting to be manageable and I’m finally able to get my first real post off. Today’s topic is one I seem to be asked multiple times every week, “Is my child too young to lift weights, won’t it stunt their growth?” I think this is a very valid question. Up until recently there hasn’t been much research on the subject, and like many areas of training, new research has cleared this topic up for us. More and more they are finding that strength training can actually promote the development of the skeletal structure. Can it be harmful? Yes. Is it beneficial? Very!
Not too long ago kids not only participated in multiple sports through the year, they were able to excel at many of them because they were natural athletes. I know the type because I was jealous. The teammate of mine that sticks out the most was my best friend Steve. It didn’t matter the sport, he was just a gifted athlete. This didn’t really bother me because we were always on the same team, and we would most often come out as winners, but I remember having to work almost twice as hard to be at the same level. From that time until now we are seeing that if an athlete wants to excel at a sport, they need to specialize and stick with one or two. Not only do they have to specialize, they also need to engage in additional training outside of tradition practice. Athletes are having hitting, throwing, shooting, striking, and running practices outside of their traditional team practice. On top of all these, and those are just a few, weightlifting and other strength and conditioning exercise programs are making their way into youth sports.
Now this is where you need to be careful. These days there are way too many under qualified strength and condition coaches claiming to know hot it’s done. Watching a how-to video and purchasing some equipment does not qualify an individual to train anyone, especially young athletes more susceptible to injury.
Programs for young athletes need to contain varied programs, while still remaining structured. Young athletes shouldn’t train like adults. Because their bodies are still developing, they may need additional time to recover between training sessions. Also kids often do not get sore like adults, but their muscles and structure still need time to recover and go through its natural growth process. Programs also need to allow for adequate recover so development can take place. Progression is important, but basic motor skills need to be established first.
Youth programs should focus on small achievable goals that help the child accomplish difficult things, even outside of training. Young athletes should be encouraged and praised with positive feedback. It is crucial to their early psychological and sociological development. These programs shouldn’t contain intense punishment that would potentially damage these developing areas. Now all athletes will have to learn to deal with loss and disappointment as they progress, and this should be addressed as they fall short is some areas of their training, but it is important to help the athletes understand why they failed, and what needs to be done to come out on top the next time. This kind of positive reinforcement will help the young athlete accomplish difficult things, even outside of training.
In my next post I’m going to talk about nutrition. Right now all that needs to be said is young athletes need to pay more attention to what goes in their mouth than a non-athlete.Sean England General Manager / Performance Specialist CAMP, Building Better Athletes LLC