By Alika Antone
As the father of four young kids, a physical therapist, and a gym owner, our children get regular gym time. And strength training is part of that. I am often asked the question “When Should Kids Start Strength Training?”
Now a lot of people hear “strength training” and automatically get visions of musclebound folks lifting heavy weights. While lifting weights can be incredibly beneficial, there are lots of ways to gain strength without weights, too.
My kiddos don’t lift heavy weights (yet) — mostly for safety reasons as they are still learning coordination and control of basic functional movements. We enjoy working on balance, coordination, footwork, agility, and power. One of our favorite exercises is sled pushing. It is hard work and challenges power and endurance. The best thing about the sled is that it is not technical at all. It is safe, effective, and the kids love it.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association’s position is that it is “imperative to determine safe, effective, and enjoyable practices by which resistance training can improve health, fitness, and sports performance of younger populations.”
If kids are ready for resistance training, a trained coach can help them build stamina, strength, and cardiovascular endurance — with safety at the forefront. Kids who train with or without weights may see improvements in sports and it may even help them avoid sports-related injuries. Not to mention, it is building a healthy foundation for their futures.
When I hit the gym with my kids, my main focus (beyond safety) is making sure they are having fun, working hard, and learning.
If they love something (like exercise) chances are they will get better at it. Focus on getting your kids to love the gym and what it has to offer to their body, mind, and spirit. Making sure their experiences now are safe, effective, and fun will lead to a continued love of moving their bodies for life!
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