Happy Healthy Blogger Thursday!
As you know every Thursday, I feature a new blogger and their views on a healthy lifestyle. This week I am excited to introduce you to my good friend, Jared, who recently started his own training business, Functional Integrated Training (F.I.T.), in Madison. Dare I say that Jared is even more passionate about fitness than Manatee and me, and I can’t say that about many people.
Today he is going to share with you his professional thoughts on training kids. I love how he approaches fitness with the idea that we are all athletes. It was hard for me, a terribly uncoordinated and always-picked-last-during-gym-class-type-of-girl, to think of myself as an athlete. When I started working out, I worked out to lose weight, to look better, to have “ripped” arms. It wasn’t until I let go of those goals and focused more on becoming stronger, faster, better than I actually achieved what I had originally sought. Well, okay, so I wouldn’t necessarily say that I have “ripped” arms but you can see a little tricep-diamond when I am lifting a heavy pot and that’s pretty cool.
Check out his thoughts below and if you are in the Madison area, check out his website as well. F.I.T. offers training for kids and adults. I have heard nothing but rave reviews for his work as a trainer and he teaches some kick butt boot camp classes.
Without further adieu,
Do Children Need Strength Training?
Should my child join a strength training program? The short answer, YES. Throughout this post, we will cover the many variables that need to be considered in order for your child to strength train safely and effectively.
1) How young is too young to strength train?
Functional Integrated Training (F.I.T.) strength coaches are certified to coach children in strength training as young as age 6. There are two main reasons this is a necessary age to get involved in strength training. First, free play is almost non-existent. I would be happy to argue otherwise and applaud parents that have found creative ways to keep their children active and imaginative. However, most of the youth culture today is glued to iPods, iPads, Xbox, PS3 or other gaming devices. Ask your children, 6 and older, to make up a game with minimal equipment: a ball, a few cones, a piece of plastic tubing, etc., and see what they come up with. It’s surprising how many children stare blankly, lacking the imagination to do so. This is where we come in. Strength training allows children a place to grow physically in a safe environment. F.I.T. Coaches strive to give structure and let them play as if they were making up the game. Over time, your children will be more imaginative and desire an active lifestyle. Observing this change, as a coach and parent, is incredible.
The second reason closely relates to the first. Children are becoming de-conditioned younger and younger due to the lack of free play and sedentary lifestyles. We are seeing children as young as age 6 who can’t roll on the ground, bear crawl, squat, or lunge. Children need the opportunity to use their bodies as resistance and undo all the inactivity that occurs on a daily basis. The earlier a strength coach can get a child involved in a strength program, the earlier they can build good habits that will translate over to sports, activities in P.E. class, and higher self-esteem (a lot of times the most important one). Simple movements such as crawling, lunging, pressing, jumping, running, landing, cutting, and squatting are all great for children. These exercises will give them a great foundation for movement, and send them back to their parents sweaty and smiling!
2) My child plays sports all year round, so he/she doesn’t need strength training, right?
First off, I will be the last person to tell parents to specialize their children in one sport. I’m under the belief of, “the more activities, the better the athlete the child will be.” However, I also believe that any child participating in multiple sports needs to have a 1-3 month “off-season.” This means they are not playing sports and are either recovering or involved in a strength program. If your child is involved in a quality off-season strength program, the strength coach will build their strengths and improve their weaknesses for the upcoming season. F.I.T. coaches prefer a 3 month off-season but also understand this is often unrealistic. Look at baseball, football, soccer, hockey, or basketball; the professional athletes involved in these sports take a month or more off after the season and literally do nothing but rehab, stretch, foam roll, and generally take care of their bodies (1). Competition at the professional level is clearly different from a 10 year old’s soccer/basketball/baseball/football schedule. However, both groups need time to recover, grow, build more strength, and come into the next season ready to perform optimally while remaining injury free. Most quality strength facilities offer youth classes that work around your child’s academic/sports schedule allowing student athletes to maintain an active social and athletic lifestyle. After the program, they will walk out stronger and less likely to get injured, ready to take on the next challenge!
3) We don’t want our child lifting a bunch of weights, getting bulky and slow.
As previously stated, strength training for children, especially in our culture of inactivity, is simply moving through bodyweight squats, lunges, presses, jumps, running, cutting, and so on. Those children who are student athletes playing sports year round or close to it, need the strength training as much if not more than their inactive counterparts. For example, a child plays baseball (throwing and batting one way), soccer (kicking one way), and hockey (shooting one way), and walk away extremely coordinated on one side of their body and uncoordinated on the other side. Imbalances are a prevalent reason for non-contact injuries and if those imbalances aren’t corrected and improved, the child will battle overuse and nagging injuries their entire athletic career (2,3,4) (I was this athlete until I learned my own imbalances and corrected them). Properly designed youth strength training programs will help athletes build and improve both sides of the body; developing coordination, balance, and strength so when the athlete is called upon to use the non-dominant side they will be able to do so quite competently (5).
Functional Integrated Training (F.I.T.) believes that children (6-18+) should be involved in a strength training program. Whether their goals are athletically based or simply general fitness, F.I.T. provides a safe and effective place to improve strength and have fun at the same time!
1) Kiesel K, Plisky P, Butler R. Functional movement test scores improve following a standardized off-season intervention program in professional football players. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2011 Apr;21(2):287-92.
So readers, what do you think? And for any of you who were child athletes, did you have an “off-season”? Would you have liked one?