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How and When to Start Fitness Training for Kids

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There are a lot of myths surrounding the topic of youth training. Parents are faced with questions like, “Is it too early for my kid to start strength training? Doesn’t that negatively affect their growth plates? Will they get really bulky and start to slow down?” and the list goes on.

You might be thinking, “I have read somewhere that it is unsafe for my athlete to be lifting weights at their age,” and to that I would implore you to read an article from one of the most credible sources on this topic, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), YOUTH RESISTANCE TRAINING: UPDATED POSITION STATEMENT PAPER FROM THE NATIONAL STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING ASSOCIATION, where they discuss how a properly designed and supervised youth resistance program: is safe, can enhance muscular power and strength, can improve motor skill performance, can increase their resistance to sports-related injury, can help improve the psychosocial well-being of youth, and can help promote and develop exercise habits during childhood and adolescence. 

That extensive article concludes by saying, despite outdated concerns regarding the safety of youth resistance training, there is evidence that with appropriate guidelines, it has the ability to positively impact an athlete’s performance.

The truth is a lot of the information out there saying it is too early and they will get hurt and it will stunt their growth, is true…if done improperly and without regulation. This is where Peak Human Performance comes into the conversation. We always focus on mastery of technique before trying anything more advanced. We take the time to provide quality instruction and supervision. We ensure that safety is the number one priority. We are focused on each athlete’s individual needs and experience levels so we can always be challenging them without overwhelming them. 

Performance can be broken down into two categories: Skill Acquisition and Training. Skill acquisition can be as simple as learning to jump and land correctly and as complex as learning a whole Olympic lifting complex. Every time you work at getting a skill nailed down correctly and safely, you build confidence. Once you have successfully picked up the skill, it is time to apply it and that is where training happens.

As you learn something new, you also learn how to succeed, and more importantly, how to fail. Failure is a part of life’s lessons and training teaches us a lot about how to turn our losses into lessons. The more we learn, the more potential we can unlock. 

A great example of skill acquisition is how we break down something as simple as getting into a starting position for a sprint, or a two-point stance. It starts with teaching the positioning. What does it look like, what does it feel like, where is my weight, etc.? Once an athlete has that down, we can learn to act. We have the athlete get down into position and then we let them get into the sprint. Now there’s some application because they get the understanding that if my feet are set, and I feel all the things I need to feel, I am going to be much faster than when I am not set. It’s imperative to break things down so we learn the patterning and we can do it in a controlled environment, but sports are unpredictable. This is where we add a reaction component to the drill and that is where the athletic evolution occurs.

Now that we understand that “training” can be considered activities other than just weights, let’s open the floor to the weight training component. Just like the other training we spoke about, it starts by learning a movement and then mastering it. The important thing to understand about weight training is there is a risk of injury if not done extremely well. That is exactly why we start with body weight movement and breath work well before we would ever begin with just weight training for an athlete. 

This is also why we have levels to our Athlete Program. We train athletes as early as 8 years old, as long as they are ready, in our Level 1 program. At that age, we are learning how to move body weight as best as possible, focusing on ground-based movements like jumping and running mechanics. As they get older and progress to a level of mastery of those movements, we can start to introduce some lighter loaded exercises in Level 2. That way, by the time they are in Level 3 for high school, or even college, they are so confident and familiar with resistance training, they are the freshmen lifting with the seniors. And that is the intangible facet of training: confidence through repetition.

If you want to read more about this, please follow the links below!

https://www.nsca.com/globalassets/about/position-statements/position_stand_youth_resistance_training—2009.pdf

https://www.nsca.com/education/articles/infographics/youth-resistance-training/

If you want to learn more about how to get your athlete started, please contact me at:

Coach Rob Smaldino, Athlete Program Director, CSCS
athletes@peakhumanperformance.us
614-918-7476
7920 Corporate Blvd. Suite C, Plain City, OH

#LetsDoThisTogether

About the Author

Rob Smaldino is the Athlete Program Director at Peak Human Performance. Shortly after receiving his Bachelor of Exercise Science degree from The Ohio State University and his Master of Exercise Physiology from University of Dayton, he earned his CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) and found Peak in the Fall of 2017. He has been a coach with Peak since then. In the Spring of 2021, he was approached to step into his Director role. 

He is a coach truly enamored with the success of any athlete he comes in contact with. He openly states that he is equal parts a coach and a fan of every one of his athletes. From training sessions, to mindset and preparation talks, to showing up to his athletes competitions, Rob is willing to go above and beyond for any athlete at any level of competition. If you want to gain more insight into what makes Coach Rob such a gravitating force, follow him at @robsmaldinophp

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