Chris Wharton- Better Body Group Director
Before I begin extolling the benefits of kids pumping iron, let’s get the biggest elephant in the room out of the way.
The whole notion that weight lifting can damage children’s growth plates is 100% true. A theory that dates back to 1970’s study on Japanese child labourers that found that constant lifting of heavy loads resulted in children with a smaller stature.
However, this is entirely the result of reckless training (and unfair child labour of course). Poor movement patterns, faulty technique and weights that are too heavy are entirely responsible for this. A carefully structured resistance training plan, delivered by a properly qualified professional has been proven to have some extremely beneficial effects for kids. Let me talk you through them;
1. It makes them healthier
Aside from the obvious- Decreased body fat, Increased bone density and improved strength and sports performance- there are a myriad of other health benefits that apply to both children and adults alike such as;
Improved concentration, improved brain function, less stress, reduced risk of diabetes and other diseases, improved sleep, improved mood, and increased energy levels. With less than a third of the children in the UK getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day, your kids could be missing out on a number of these health benefits.
2. It helps decrease body fat
Although I mentioned this in the list of health benefits above, it’s worth reiterating. There are now 2.1 billion people in the world considered overweight or obese (yes, you read that right). It’s important for kids to learn, as early as possible, the benefits of taking care of themselves. When it comes to keeping in good shape, the most beneficial training method is lifting heavy things, with good technique. Getting them started on this path early, gives them plenty of opportunity to develop good habits as they grow into young adults.
3. It strengthens family bonds
It’s fairly easy to bond with your kids during infancy, but a whole different story as they develop into adolescents. With more and more adults reaping the benefits of strength training, it makes for a great shared experience for the whole family. Not only will you be building strong, healthy habits for your children, you will get to spend some quality time with them and a way to acknowledge your kid’s efforts and achievements, as well as their weaknesses. I would advise seeking professional help when starting along this path as their training program will vary in intensity and exercise selection from that of an adult.
4. It improves sports performance
Whist it cannot be argued that skill is a major proponent of sporting success, the physiological difference between children and young adults aged between 8-18 varies massively, and often influences the competitive outcome more than talent alone. The inclusion of strength training can help level the playing field somewhat, especially for the late developers. A properly tailored training plan will result in increases in strength, speed and power as well as improvements in neuromuscular coordination and efficient movement patterns.
5. It reduces likelihood of injury
Nearly all kids play sport- and this is a good thing of course. However, when a kid sits in front of a screen or in a classroom for the majority of the day it’s unwise to think that they have the tissue strength to with stand impact or rapid change of direction without picking up injuries. A proper strength training program will not only help them to become stronger, more powerful and more agile, it- perhaps most importantly- will strengthen their muscles, tendons and ligaments to help avoid injury and fend off those slide tackles with ease.
6. It stops them going to the dark side
Whilst it would be foolish to suggest that weightlifting can save all adolescents from getting in trouble, it will provide them with the self worth, confidence, discipline and respect to make some better choices. Understanding how to look after your body leads to respecting your health and wellbeing. This can help kids grow into far healthier adults that are less inclined to make reckless decisions that could damage their health.
In summary weightlifting for children can provide some huge benefits to their development. However, it is of paramount importance that they are coached by professional’s experience in resistance training with young adults.
We have just launched our new Young Athlete Membership offering kids between the ages of 11-17 the opportunity to take part in guided gym sessions under the watchful eye of our Head of YAD Sam Austin and his team. For a free trial class for all Sevenoaks Mums members please contact us on 01732 451 979 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject KIDS MEMBERSHIP.