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Pros and Cons of Weight Lifting on Children and Adolescents
More children and adolescents are beginning weight training at an early age. Some of the reasoning behind early weight training concerns sports activities and what stronger athletes can do in a sport. Since inactivity among adolescents is the most common cause of obesity, the American Heart Association makes recommendation on how much physical activity an average child requires each day. According to the AHA, children require a minimum of 60 minutes of exercise everyday.
The real problem with starting early weight lifting on a child is the negative effects this type of training will have on a younger, underdeveloped body. It is already proven that weight lifting has its benefits, such as an increase in strength, fat loss, muscle growth and metabolism boosting. All of these benefits will help a child’s self-esteem. The real question is, what is the right time to allow a child to begin a weight lifting program or regiment?
The American College of Sports Medicine states that each child is different when it comes to weight training. Each youth must be assessed individually to determine if it is a good time to allow this type of exercise. However, most experts agree that 15 or 16 years of age is the best time to allow this type of physical exercise. Special consideration must be taken, even for these teenagers.
The immaturity of the body and a child’s growth patterns can prevent a child from beginning weight lifting as a strength exercise. The biggest cause of weight lifting injuries to children is the lack of proper technique. The teenager must be taught the proper lifting technique before being allowed to begin a weight-lifting regiment. When deciding whether the teenager is ready, you must ensure the child can take proper direction and continue to be supervised during their daily routine.
You must make sure the child can perform the weight-lifting technique without the weights before allowing them to begin this type of strength training. It takes an experienced trainer to show a beginner the proper techniques to use for each weight lifting exercise. As the teenager begins learning the proper technique, the trainer can begin to add weight into the routine, as well as add additional weight onto the equipment. Never start a young weightlifter out on their maximum lift weight, this is another major cause of serious injury to a teenager.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has done a lot of research and determined that weight lifting does not stunt the growth of teenagers, but the academy does identify some risks when beginning weight training at an early age. Again, most of this risk is caused by improper use of the equipment. Extreme heavy weight lifting must never be done by an adolescent until their bodies have completely matured, especially pre-teen adolescents.
There are some guidelines a teenager must follow before beginning weight-lifting training and a parent must ensure that these guidelines are followed.
Always have your teenager get a full physical assessment by a medical doctor or physician before allowing the child to start weight lifting. Always start the teenager weightlifter out at smaller weights. Teach the teenager properly breathing techniques as part of the technique training. Training must be done for 20 minutes, but no longer than 30 minutes, and should never be everyday. Two to four days a week is recommended by most strength coaches. Allow your teenager to warm up and stretch before lifting any weights. Rest a minimum of one minute between sets and the repetitions should be between eight to 15 reps, but only to moderate fatigue.
Both the AAP and the ACSM agree that a properly supervised strength program for teenagers will benefit the individual. These benefits include increasing the life expectancy and reduces the chances of chronic illness or diseases.
A child that is unable, or been determined by a physician, to not engage in weight-lifting training have other strength building alternatives available. The standard exercises, like push-ups, squats, pull-ups, crunches, sit-ups and lunges are very effective strength building exercises.
Any child with hypertension, seizure disorders, Marfan syndrome or cardiomyopathy must check with a physician, preferably a pediatrician, before engaging in any exercise, including weight training.