Since last September, I have been training the “kids.” Will, Nick, and Connor (ages 9-11) are all close friends who come to Cressey Performance every Saturday morning at 10 AM. To say that it’s one of the more entertaining hours of the week is an understatement.
I know what many of you might be thinking: “won’t having children that young lift weights stunt their growth?” Many parents are still under the assumption that weight training prematurely closes the epiphyseal growth plates in children; forever stunting their growth. It’s gotten to the point where putting a barbell on a child’s back and having them do a few simple squats is apparently more dangerous than having them pet a grizzly bear with a raw steak tied around their chest.
This popular fallacy is NOT supported by research or clinical findings. In his book Facts and Fallacies of Fitness, renowned exercise physiologist and biomechanist Mel Siff notes that force plate analysis shows that even fairly heavy squats (exceeding bodymass) do not impose as great a load on the body as fairly casual running or jumping, which can impose joint loading which is greater than SIX TIMES bodyweight! Thus, if resistance training is to be eliminated to promote growth plate safety, then all children must be forbidden to run and jump.
It’s a gross error to say that resistance training is “bad” or dangerous for adolescents. Strength and Conditioning coach Mike Boyle has even gone as far to say that activities such as gymnastics and ice skating (which many parents have their children do on a regular basis) is just an organized form of child abuse.
Both put a ton more stress on the joints compared to resistance training. In the end, carefully controlled progressive resistance training can actually improve muscle and bone strength significantly in children and help to develop gross motor learning skills that they would otherwise lack because many spend way too much time playing video games.
Just to give you an idea of what types of things I have these kids do, here’s what we did last weekend:
1. Kids arrive and Nick shows off his bruise that he got during a recent baseball game. Total awesomeness.
2. Kids are taken through their typical warm-up, which includes simple dynamic movement and activation drills. We also take this time to totally talk about the last episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That Shredder is such a cotton-headed ninny muggins.
3. Ten minutes of sprint technique/drills. Nothing fancy: high knee skips, reverse skips, and simple coaching cues to help improve their running mechanics.
4. Dedicated strength training. When we first started, this entailed nothing more than body-weight circuits where they worked on movement patterns (squat, deadlift, various lunges, push-ups, etc). Now we spend more time working on main lifts and then add in some accessory work as well.
5. The fun stuff. I might have them push the sled (with each other on it), play tug-o-war (I’m totally still undefeated), perform med ball circuits, run football routes, etc. Last weekend, I had them push my car in the parking lot.
Your eyes are not fooling you. That’s a vintage Hyundai Elantra. See ladies, not only do I spend my spare time nursing kittens back to health, I also drive a car that’s environmentally friendly. 32 MPG’s has never been so sexy!