Resistance exercise is defined as a specialized method of conditioning that involves the progressive use of resistance to increase one’s ability to exert or resist forces. When most people think of exercise, they think of bodybuilding, especially when it comes to children and exercise. What they don’t realize is that any activity can be considered exercise from riding a bike, running, and swimming, to playing sports. When you have young children starting exercise it does not mean they are bench-pressing, dead lifting, or heavy squatting. Most likely they cannot even lift the bar! They need to learn how their body moves first. Equipment like the ladder helps to improve speed, agility, and coordination. Calisthenics are body weight exercises like push ups, pull ups, and sit ups to learn how your body works and moves while increasing strength and teaching muscle how to recruit more muscle fibers. Specific drills and exercises are used to improve the children’s overall athleticism and increase strength and conditioning in a controlled setting to reduce the potential risk of injury. Exercise has proven to be a safe and effective method of conditioning for individuals with various needs, goals, and abilities. Despite previous concerns that children would not benefit from resistance exercise or that the risk of injury was to great, clinicians, coaches, and exercise scientist now agree that resistance exercise can be a safe and effective method of conditioning for children. With the growing interest in youth resistance training, it is important for strength and conditioning professionals to understand the fundamental principles of normal growth and development. Because of considerable variations in the rates of growth and development, it is not particularly accurate to define a stage of maturation or development by chronological age in regards to training kids. Children do not grow at a constant rate, and there are substantial differences in physical development at any given age. A group of 14year old children can have a height difference as great as 9 inches and have weight difference up to 40 pounds. Furthermore, an 11-year-old girl may be taller and more physically skilled then an 11-year-old boy. The timing and magnitude of puberty corresponds to these variations, so Strength and Conditioning professionals must recognize these differences and individualize the training program based on each child’s maturity level, training experience, and specific needs.
During puberty, a 10-fold increase in testosterone production in boys results in a marked increase in muscle mass, whereas in girls an increase in estrogen productions causes increased body fat deposition, breast development, and widening of hips. During this time period muscle still increases in girls just at a slower rate than boys, and despite sex-related differences, men and women respond to resistance exercise from their pre-training baseline in similar ways. At this stage muscle becomes larger without fully expressing full strength for its size increase, therefore, trainers must allow the child’s body to adapt to increased weight with weight bearing exercises and not increase max effort to fast to soon.
Around the same time, the period during peak height velocity (growth spurts), young athletes have relative weakening in the bone, muscle imbalances between flexor and extensor groups around a joint, and relative tightening of muscle-tendon units panning rapidly growing bones are risk factors for overuse injuries. Flexibility, correction of muscle imbalances, and decreasing volume and intensity of training should be emphasized during periods of growth spurts. Another common misperception during this period is that exercise will shunt the natural growth of children. Resistance training does not affect the genotypic maximum. Physical activity, specifically weight-bearing activity, actually generates compressive forces that are essential for bone formation and growth, as well as reduce risk of injuries from sports.