Today's post comes from SAPT intern Dalton Barker.
Resistance training in children (for purposes of this article, let’s say 8-14 years old) has always been a tough subject to approach. I use the term “resistance training” to define a wide range of both body weight and external weight-bearing exercises. There are still remnants of old myths whispering to parents and trainers that warn them of the “dangers” when working with children in the gym setting.
One such myth is that resistance training in children will stunt their growth: the thought behind this was that their bones would compress and growth plates would not be able to align correctly. This has proved fairly effective in convincing the community that children should not train at all. Understandably, inexperienced children should not train as an elite or high-level athlete should. However, early resistance training and proper instruction of those movements can lead to a treasure trove of benefits. These benefits can include: better movement patterns, increased strength, flexibility, stronger bone growth, and increased athleticism in children. This primes them to excel in sports and everyday activities.
The early developmental years, when the brain is young and neural pathways are growing, are the most opportune time to properly ingrain movements such as the hip-hinge, the squat, and push-up that will soon become conditioned into the child's movement map. These basic movements help strengthen muscles and prime the child’s body for more complex and sport-specific exercises later on in their life. These exercises, when taught correctly will help the body program the right muscles to “fire” in the correct sequence, which in turn, helps improve overall force production of the body. Additionally, the child develops a better sense of body awareness. That alone will help them in all stages of their journey to adulthood as the children begin to enter sports or other activities. With this fundamental training, a child’s risk of injury while performing sports is greatly reduced and sets up a strong foundation for more complex movements in the future.
In regards to the “growth stunting” capabilities of resistance training: there is validity to the statement that resistance movement will cause a change in one’s bones. However, this is an adaptation of the body that will only positively benefit the one performing the resistance movements. Wolff’s Law states that the bones will adapt to loads under which it is placed. (Essentially, bones change in density according to what stresses we place on them). The more strain our bones are placed under, the denser it will become, ultimately strengthening the bone to withstand higher and higher force levels. Resistance training is the best way to produce those same results. Because the child is adding increased loads on their bones, the body responds by making the bones denser and stronger which is a huge benefit.
It should be stated however that this is all relative to the weight and ability of the child. This is not meant to approve the use of turning one’s child into a powerlifter or load their bodies with an absurd amounts of weight. Using poor judgement with training children will produce negative results and potentially cause injury. When using the proper programming however, which can be seen in 100% of SAPT’s workout programs, you will begin to see incredible results.
Ultimately there is no reason other than health issues,that a a child should not be exposed to and taught proper movement patterns and starting resistance training. There is a plethora of benefits and will provide the perfect framework for building a healthy and strong future athlete and adult.