How Do you Incorporate Resistance Training, Safely?
The most important aspect of any resistance-training program is form. If you are not an expert in proper form, it does not hurt to get assistance from a certified professional who can teach you and your child the proper form. It's recommended that children first learn each exercise without resistance (no weights).
Once the child has mastered the proper form, weights can be introduced slowly. Children should perform smooth, controlled movements and it is best for them to lift for higher reps and lower weights. Two sets of each exercise, one to two times per week, are adequate.
When it comes to technique, stress the importance of exhaling when performing the hardest part of a repetition. Form and breathing should be perfected before the skill and intensity is adjusted.
Compound movements (i.e. a squat and shoulder press at the same time), may be too difficult at first and can compromise form. The resistance-training program should contain basic exercises for the large muscle groups and new exercises and weights should be introduced every three to four weeks. Heavy single repetitions or 'max outs' are contraindicated until later adolescence.
Children should never lift alone. In addition to safety reasons, oftentimes enthusiasm results in an attempt at a 'max out', a guaranteed prescription for injury.
Strength training does not need to take place in the gym with lots of equipment. Resistance bands and body weight are just as effective as free weights in developing muscular strength.
Resistance bands can be purchased for less than $20 at any sporting goods store. This will give younger children a chance to work on technique before adding too much weight. Resistance bands can be tied to doorknobs or positioned below the feet for various exercises that stress the upper and lower body. When body weight is the only equipment available, push-ups, crunches, lunges, squats, burpees and box jumps, are no less effective in building muscular strength than free weights in children.
Unstructured and structured play promotes physical and psychological benefits in children. There is evidence that healthy habits and enjoyment of physical activity at a young age will provide a lifetime of positive results.
The most important concept is to incorporate physical activity that the child enjoys. Similar to adults, these are the activities that they will continue to do. Adults should join in on the activity too. Playing tag or climbing on the monkey bars with your child may remind you just how much fun exercise can be.
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