“Athletes as young as 8 or 9 can benefit from a supervised strength training program, as long as it’s the children who want to pursue it and not the parents,” said Joseph Congeni, MD, director of Akron Children’s Hospital’s Sports Medicine Center.
Strength training using weights is not the same as competitive weight lifting, which is not recommended until adulthood.
For young athletes, strength training should focus on strengthening their core (trunk, spine and abdominal muscles) and improving their balance and functioning.
Dr. Congeni offers these general guidelines:
- Make sure all kids under 14 receive one-on-one supervision by someone who understands strength training.
- Start out with body weight exercises such as push-ups, chin-ups and sit-ups.
- For weight lifting exercises, start with no weight, gradually increasing to 3 to 5 pounds as strength increases.
- Limit workouts to no more than 30 to 40 minutes each day, three days a week. Skip a day in between workouts if possible.
- Warm up and cool down properly.
- Stick to high repetition (12-15 reps) with low weight rather than lifting to fatigue with heavier weight to avoid growth plate and other injuries.
- Incorporate activities to improve balance and core strengthening, such as those using a Bosu ball or mini trampoline.
- Mix up activities and add games to keep it fun.
- If you’re enlisting the help of a strength training coach, look for a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).
Dr. Congeni cautions parents to be realistic about what their child is able to achieve.
“Elite athletes have genetic gifts that give them athletic advantages. Training and conditioning can help your athlete improve performance and avoid injury, but be realistic about your expectations,” Dr. Congeni said.
Akron Children’s Sports Medicine Center staff is available to develop a safe and effective strength training program for your athlete. For more information, call 330-543-8260.