While the US as a whole is beginning to shine more light on the health of our children, not many people automatically make the leap from there to strength training. In fact, when the majority of parents are presented with the idea of strength training for kids, the initial reaction tends to be incredulity: strength training is for adults, or maybe high school athletes. Kids aren’t supposed to be lifting weights.
But that notion may be changing as prominent sports medicine specialists are starting to believe that strength training can be a fantastic way for kids to stay healthy.
The seemingly new concept is really at least a decade old. It started back in 2008, when the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its stance on weight training for adolescents. At one point, the Academy stood against weightlifting for children. Based on newer research, the AAP has now determined there is no specific danger for kids over age 8 to start a light weightlifting program.
“Light” is the operative word here: no one wants their 4th grader to look like Rambo Jr. For the most part, it wouldn’t be possible anyway, as bulking up isn’t really an issue pre-puberty. The goal is less about making the muscles LOOK bigger, and more about actually making them stronger. And not just the arms or legs, either: kids, especially, need a balanced routine that works their entire bodies.
Going to the gym can be boring: as adults, we accept that. Kids, on the other hand, thrive on variety, which makes CrossFit a much better option. CrossFit routines are based on constantly altered activities, from swinging kettlebells and flipping tires, to doing squats and dead lifts and more.
The variation in routines goes beyond holding kids’ attention, however. CrossFit routines are designed to include a variety of fundamental physical qualities such as strength, stamina, flexibility, speed, agility, balance and more. The end result is that kids end up doing a wide range of different exercises in different disciplines, and thereby working as many parts of the body as possible.
The workout is always difficult, which raises a question: is a hard workout for kids a good thing?
In part, that can depend on one’s definition of “hard”: an “easy” workout isn’t going to do much good. But while a child may not like to put forth the effort, that doesn’t inherently mean the required effort is inappropriate.
The goal here, as much as anything, is to establish both good habits and good technique for exercise. Of course, being kids, some may push themselves more than they should; others may try to rush through the routine to get it over with. Both often lead to proper form being compromised. It’s crucial that CrossFit trainers for kids pay extra attention to their students.
Unlike with adults, kids doing CrossFit aren’t aiming for full muscle fatigue. And while CrossFit offers measurable benefits, it’s important that kids incorporate activity into their daily lives to help keep them in shape. A financial entrepreneur said it best: in order to succeed, you have to constantly push forward and strive for greater heights.
The bottom line is this: if you have a child interested in CrossFit—and you can find a box with good trainers—great! Let them go for it. On the other hand, if your middle-schooler would rather ride a bike or do handsprings, well, that ok, too. As a parent, your job is to make exercise a fun, natural part of everyday life…and the earlier you get started on that, the better.