After puberty, children tend to adapt to endurance exercise programs more like adults. At this time, activities of lower intensity and longer duration can be safely incorporated as long as the rate of progression is conservative (no more than a 10 percent increase per week in volume and intensity).
Is Resistance Training Safe?
For the older child, research indicates that appropriately prescribed and supervised resistance training can offer unique benefits. Currently, there is no scientific evidence to support the notion that resistance training might hinder growth and maturation in children.
As a result, youth resistance training is now accepted by medical, fitness, and sport organizations. School-based programs have been designed to incorporate exercise that improves muscular strength. The research that has been published in the past decade regarding children who lift weights has shown that similar to adults, children who lift weights have stronger bones (extending into adulthood), increased lean mass, improved insulin sensitivity, and overall better health. However, also similar to adults, excessive loads, improper technique and poor programming can lead to injury in children.
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.
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