Keep'er Fit

Gary Wallace

Start young when it comes to strength training


Recently I gave a presentation to a group of Strength and Conditioning coaches on long term athletic development. While researching a few different models one thing stood out -strength should be trained from early childhood.

As soon as your child enters any form of physical activity they should be participating in strength training to help reach their full athletic potential and increase their life span.

Strength training is different from weight-lifting, power-lifting and bodybuilding so before you think I’m suggesting that your child gets under a bar and squats, let’s first define what strength training is.

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Strength training is a planned and structured means of exercising with appropriate resistance that a participant gradually progresses as the musculoskeletal system becomes stronger.

Any child and adolescent can perform strength training with a variety of equipment, such as weight machines, free weights, bands, medicine balls or body weight.

When introducing your child, young athletic or team to strength training you must first remember that they are not mini adults. They will not be able to lift additional load because they have not mastered body control and their musculoskeletal has not yet developed.

Instead stick with body weight exercises especially those that can be fun. For example to build strength in a young child have them play tag while bear crawling or crab walking. Moving on all fours while keeping the body embraced and under control is a great way to build strength in children and adults.

Once they have mastered simple movements like push, pull, press, squat and hinge then you can consider adding load and no, it won’t stunt their growth.

The same principle of strength can be applied to adults – both athletic and the general population.

After my presentation one of the coaches said a rising tide lifts all boats. He was referring to strength as the ‘rising tide’ and ‘boats’ as all other fitness components for example speed, power and agility.

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Once you improve strength other fitness components will increase and you will see greater improvements from specific component training.

Generally sports teams overload their strength training during pre-season, which is the right thing to do, but then they stop once the competition phase hits.

Remember that the tide also drops and when you don’t train strength you slowly start to lose it along with the effects of all the other components of fitness.

Strength training also holds the same principle when it comes to the general public. Make sure you always have some form of strength training in your weekly exercise plan, the amount and type will depend on your own goals.

Increased strength will improve your lean muscle mass which in turn will burn more fat.

Getting stronger means you can push, pull, squat, press and hinge more weight which again has an impact on other fitness components. For example if you are a recreational runner then strength training will not only help improve your times but it will help reduce the risk of injury. Your muscles can better withstand the repetitive force and demand that comes from running.

Also one of the biggest fears of the elderly is falling down and not getting up. By improving strength throughout life you are giving yourself a better chance of being able to lift yourself up, recover quicker and improve overall health including bone and heart health.

So for me it’s a no brainer, get strength training into your life from an early age or as soon as possible and keep doing it.

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