We've all heard the age old theory that strength training for younger children will stunt their growth and ultimately hinder their athletic development. This has led parents to withhold their child from specific training in an effort to advance their performance potential. Although there are certainly exercises that have an age and strength standard, there are still plenty of things young kids can do to get faster and stronger.
How old are these "younger kids" we're talking about?
Anywhere in the 7-10 age group.
At that age, kids are so moldable. This is when they can develop good or bad tendencies, and that's why they need to be exposed to efficient movement patterns weekly. They have a great opportunity to develop the three pillars that are the base of any good athlete. Those pillars are spatial awareness, coordination and strength.
Goal No. 1 while training children in this age group is to make it fun! They need to associate the gym and training with fun or else it will be a struggle to keep their attention. Burnout is the number one reason why young people abandon sports before adolescence, and keeping things fun is the best way to combat that. They have to be placed in situations where they don't even know they're training. Using games like tag, dodgeball, and running through obstacle courses are fun and easy ways to place kids in fun situations in which they are developing those essential pillars, particularly spatial awareness and coordination.
When it comes to strength work, less is more. There is no reason to overthink or over-do strength training at that age. They just need to get really good at squatting (with their body weight) , carrying things, and planking and or a Push-Up variation.
We use Bodyweight Squats and Step-Ups with our very young athletes, and if resistance needs to be added, they can hold light medicine balls. For loaded carries, we have them carry 8- to 20-pound medicine balls for 20-40 yards at a time. We also have our kids perform High Planks (performed from the top position of a Push-Up) as well as Low Planks for up to 20-30 seconds. We will throw in some Eccentric Push-Ups, as well, using 5 reps per set with a 3-second eccentric lower. We've found these sort of movements to be the perfect combination of upper-body, lower-body and core pattern development in our strength training.
As careful as one needs to be while training kids at such a young age, we still have opportunities to help them. There is a huge window of opportunity to start developing the base of a good athlete and that needs to be taken advantage of. Keeping things simple, fun and safe is always a smart approach.
Photo Credit: LightFieldStudios/iStock
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