I swam in middle school, high school and collegiate swimming was never really on my radar. At the start of my swimming career, I did it because it was fun. It wasn’t until I started to get a little more competitive as a teenager that I started to take it more seriously. Ask most olympic athletes and many of them didn’t have the dream of being an Olympian until later as a teenager.
Physical fitness is a necessity throughout the entire lifespan, whether it be sports, physical education or workouts. However, physical fitness requirements change with various age ranges. Over the next few days I’ll be sharing with you the requirements and action steps for each decade of life.
Today we will be talking about youth training. Popular belief has stated that weight training and exercise should not be implemented for children. Most articles online say that weight training is safe for kids after puberty.
Growing research has concluded that strength training is safe and effective for youth of all ages as long as the following are properly implemented: coaching, form, load (weights) and volume (reps) management. What this means is that weight training and fitness is in fact safe for children, as long as they are able to listen and be taught how to move.
Before the age of 10, it is important that these children are active. This is the very beginning stage of athletic development and a relationship with health and fitness. This is not the time to determine whether or not that child will be playing the specific sport in college or professionally. Children younger than the age of 10 should be primarily focused on having fun, learning motor skills, and developing team building skills during practices and games.
If we were to be implementing a program for kids 10 and under, the biggest focus would be having fun and learning how to move (which would carry over as they get older). This can be done by linking physical activities with games/sports.
The focus of strength training and exercising for young adults ages 11-15 should be on developing optimal movement patterns as they grow into their bodies. Puberty is a time of not only bodily changes, but also identity formation. Height, muscle, and hormonal transitions during this time can make moving and lifting weights awkward and difficult. It’s crucial that we focus on the aspects of athletic development, fun, and positive body image. Adolescents are already having a hard time trying to figure out who they are in the world, and to draw attention to how their body looks can actually put even more pressure on them.
We’ll be focusing on improving flexibility (their bones grow faster than their muscles), improving strength (there will be accelerated muscle mass growth), safety, and having a healthy relationship with exercise. This is also the time where they can start to specialize a little bit with the sport that they play (after 14 years old), as they start to formulate an opinion on what they truly enjoy. Everyone has their own path. Focus on what they do particularly well and support them in every endeavor when it comes to physical activity.
This is the time where kids are able to listen and follow directions clearly. Squats and deadlifts within 10 reps will be crucial to bone, muscular and athletic development. Jumping activities are allowed, but should be limited in quantities to ensure proper mechanics and positioning. This will also be crucial to minimize injury as kids will start to be a little more competitive in sports (interesting fact: there is a higher risk of ACL injury in young female soccer players than males).
These kids will often be tired and fatigued because they are busy growing. As a result, be careful with overtraining, which can increase the risk of burnout and injury.
As the youth approach the later teenage years, the pressures of social media and society is going to be pushing them to make aesthetic changes by working out. At this time, height growth acceleration has slowed down and flexibility will start to improve again. There will also be significant strength gains at this point in life as muscle will continue to grow and catch up with bone length.
This is a time where we can start experimenting with more sport specific strength and conditioning This is where they can increase their workout frequency (days per week) and intensity (weights moved). Power lifts such as squats, deadlifts and overhead presses will build the foundational base before adding anything else such as running (endurance or agility) sessions. Juniors and Seniors in high school can also start thinking about the future to either play a sport or staying active in college.
I didn’t really decide that I was going to swim in college until I was officially enrolled at Villanova. If you have any children and want them to be physically active, take the points above and apply it to their athletic development. Starting a fitness program is perfect at any age. However, the stage in life will dictate requirements, priorities and the direction taken.
Tomorrow we will talk about fitness in your 20s.
Have a great day,