Let’s face it, we take our kid’s sports pretty seriously.
It seems like it’s a different landscape nowadays, with ultra-competitive travel teams in all sports, year-round practicing, and multiple sports being played, it’s enough to keep your schedule packed to the max. There’s very little time to fit in anything else.
However, if you’re not involved in a strength training program for your child, they are missing out on a big piece of the puzzle. Adding a strength training program into their routine can be extremely beneficial, even if it means cutting back on some of the other sport-specific activities to fit it in.
Wait… isn’t my child too young to lift weights?
Even at a young age, strength training is very important. There is conflicting opinions on when to start serious weightlifting, but most evidence suggests that you wait until after your child hits puberty, to avoid any negative response to lifting too heavy too soon. This is a good guideline, but that only applies to more serious weightlifting, using heavier loads.
“Strength Training” doesn’t have to involve lifting heavy weights, or even lifting weights at all for that matter. You can develop strength at a very young age (before puberty) using only the child’s body as resistance, also known as “bodyweight exercises”. The most common of these exercises are things like push-ups, squats, lunges, and pull-ups, but aside from those basics, there is a wide variety of bodyweight exercises that will challenge your child and help develop total body strength, balance, agility, coordination, and core stability.
Once a foundation of strength is developed, then the coach can start to add lighter resistance in the form of bands and very light free weights such as: kettlebells, dumbbells, and bars. The most important focus at this point is to learn proper technique to maintain the safety of an athlete while strength training. Safety is absolutely key, and that should be the number one concern, especially when we are talking about youth athletes. This is why it is important for you to hire a certified and knowledgeable strength and conditioning coach who will directly supervise the athlete to ensure proper technique at all times.
If you’re not already convinced, here are 3 great reasons to get your child involved with a strength and conditioning program:
1. INCREASE PERFORMANCE
This may be the most obvious reason of the three, but a well designed strength and conditioning training program is definitely going to translate into better performance in whatever sport your child participates in. It doesn’t matter what sport it is, your child will be better off if they have more strength. Stronger athletes are better athletes.
Power, balance, core strength, explosiveness, and speed are all keys to excelling in athletics, and a well designed program will help build all of the above. If you rely solely on the sports practice to develop these attributes, your child will be limited, because most practices consist of skill-based drills and techniques. In a strength training program, the focus will be on developing muscles that don’t get worked during regular practice. The development of total body strength will allow an athlete to be more efficient and powerful in all skilled athletic movements due to body control, power generation, and muscular recruitment during athletic movement.
2. REDUCE THE RISK OF INJURIES
Injuries are a part of all sports, whether we like it or not. It’s inevitable that injuries are likely to occur while we are engaged in athletic competition and practice. Some sports have higher rates of injuries than others, due to contact, the overuse of certain muscles, and other circumstances that may put an athlete into awkward positions. If you’re an athlete, you’re probably going to incur some form of injury during your career.
One of the biggest benefits to proper strength training is that it will greatly reduce the risk of becoming injured. While we can’t totally eliminate injuries from sports, a stronger body is more resilient and less likely to become injured while in competition or practice. A good deal of injuries are a result of muscular imbalances, which can be addressed and corrected through proper strength training with a professional coach. A good coach will assess posture and movement patterns of an individual athlete, and develop a plan to correct any problem areas. A balanced, strong body will be better prepared for the rigors of athletic pursuits.
3. BUILD CONFIDENCE
Confidence and mental attitude play a huge role in the success of an athlete in sports. This is something that gets overlooked, but it can make a giant difference in competition. Natural ability and skill is one way to be confident in your sport, but that will only take you so far. Eventually, when you progress to higher levels of competition, everyone will be around the same skill level and it can be difficult to remain confident in yourself.
Seeing consistent progress in the gym is a surefire way to develop self-esteem. When you set goals in the weight-room, and eventually reach them, your confidence will soar. Keeping track of your progress, and looking back to see how far you’ve come, is a solid way to boost your belief in yourself as a direct result of the work you have put in. Sometimes it’s hard to measure your improvements in skill-based measurements in your sport, but with strength training, the results can be measured in exact numbers. Furthermore, the work you do in the gym should directly impact performance in your sport, giving you a boost in confidence when you see the hard work paying off.
Another way weightlifting boosts your confidence is from purely visual results. There aren’t many things more uplifting to your self-esteem than looking in the mirror and noticing muscle definition that wasn’t there before. It may seem egotistical, but if used in a constructive way, can be extremely beneficial for building confidence in yourself as an athlete. Let’s be real… if you look at yourself in the mirror, and like what you see, that confidence will translate to psychological improvements when you compete in your sport. It’s a primal instinct that works wonders for your confidence, and a more confident athlete is more likely to perform to their potential.
It’s never really too early to start adding strength training into a child’s routine, especially if they are an athlete. At a very young age, you can start with bodyweight strengthening exercises. This will develop a solid foundation to build on when they finally hit the age when they can start weightlifting. Then your child can start with light weights, and focus on technique. After they are comfortably performing the movements correctly, then more weight can be added, furthering the benefits of newfound strength.
There are so many benefits to strength training for athletes, but the key is to find a good strength coach who can teach you proper form and design a program that is right for your child athlete. A good coach will challenge an athlete physically and mentally, with the ultimate goal of developing a strong athletic body, capable of handling the challenges of their sport. If you are consistent with your workouts, the work done in the gym will pay off big time. The end result of the hard work will be a stronger, safer, and more confident athlete, ready to excel in their sport.