Kids as young as seven can use strength training to improve their health and fitness and ward off the degenerative effects of aging. Unfortunately however, coaches, teachers and fitness instructors often try to accommodate kids' needs by simply watering down adult programs--which can lead to injury. Now, two of the nation's top strength training authorities, Avery Faigenbaum, and Wayne Westcott, provide up-to-date advice on designing age-specific strength training programs in their new book, Youth Strength Training (Human Kinetics, September 2009).
Both Faigenbaum and Westcott have been involved in research that has proven the benefits of youth strength training. Chief among those benefits is increased bone mineral density at a rate several times faster than those who don't strength train. Faigenbaum also notes that one out of three children is challenged by excessive body fat, and these children gravitate toward and perform better at resistance training than other activities. They also find the activities reinforcing in that they look better, feel better and function better, so strength training provides a good first step toward addressing problems with physical inactivity.
Youth strength training must be managed strategically, however, he warns. "Because of variations in maturation, training age, and stress tolerance, youth strength training programs need to be prescribed and progressed carefully," says Faigenbaum. He and Westcott therefore break down age-specific strength training regimens into programs for elementary level (7 to 10 years), middle school level (11 to 14 years), and high school level (15 to 18 years) children.
"We believe that proper exercise technique is the most critical concern in youth strength training programs," Faigenbaum explains. "Although the number of exercises, sets and repetitions youth perform are important aspects of workout design, how they perform each exercise, set and repetition has even more impact on the safety and success of their training sessions." Youth Strength Training thus focuses on training in the right manner to maximize musculoskeletal development and minimize risk of injury in children and young athletes.
To minimize the risk of overtraining and maximize the benefits of youth strength exercise, Faigenbaum advises developing programs that emphasize a broad base of balanced muscle development and provides specific strength-training protocols for sports and recreational activities. But, he also stresses the importance of incorporating fun into youth strength training programs. "The goal of youth strength training should not be limited to increasing muscle strength but should also include teaching children about their bodies, promoting an interest in fitness, and having fun."
Youth Strength Training offers age-specific strength-training programs for students in elementary school (7 to 10 years), middle school (11 to 14 years), and high school (15 to 18 years). Faigenbaum and Westcott also offer guidelines for individualizing exercise protocols in each age group depending on a child's physiological development.
For more information on Youth Strength Training or other strength training resources, visit www.HumanKinetics.com or call 800.747.4457.
 

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