Getting children involved in a good strength & conditioning programme from an early age has many benefits that provide the framework towards building lifelong healthy habits. It also forms an essential component of training for improved athletic performance in any sport from grassroots to elite level.
Why do strength & conditioning?
Strength & Conditioning is primarily concerned with developing proper movement patterns through practice and play in a safe, controlled environment. By repeatedly training a variety of fundamental movement patterns amongst the joints, they become second nature; developed in the brain and engrained through neuromuscular motor development to build neurological pathways that last a lifetime.
A well-rounded programme that includes the basic movements of hinging, squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling, crawling, rolling, carrying, running, jumping, throwing etc. forms a basis from which children (and adults) can learn more complex skills, as well as develop strength and power, whatever their goals.
A solid foundation of physical literacy is built from the ground up from learning proper breathing mechanics and core control techniques to the set of functional movement patterns mentioned above. General physical preparation qualities such as flexibility, coordination, balance, strength, power and endurance are developed using bodyweight movements as well as external loads (weight training) appropriate to the age and ability of each individual.
The use of strength & conditioning training has served as a foundation for professional and elite athletes for many years. These days the growing physical demands of sport at all levels, and a pressing need to empower the next generation to stay healthy and get physically active, makes strength & conditioning an essential activity for children of all ages and abilities!
Benefits to health
There are a number of general health benefits for children participating in strength & conditioning whether they are involved in other sporting activities or not. From the earliest ages the goal is to allow children to experience the joy of being physically active, as well as promote safe and proper movement mechanics. A well-rounded programme will address any imbalances by learning to recruit and fire muscles correctly. It will also help strengthen ligaments and tendons, increase bone mineral density, as well as promote a healthy metabolism, decrease blood pressure and cholesterol whilst helping children maintain a healthy weight.
Encouraging children to participate in a strength & conditioning programme will fill any essential gaps in physical literacy that are not fulfilled by other activities or through sport specific training.
Benefits to fitness and performance
As a young athlete, sustaining an injury is the last thing you want to have happen. The ultimate goal of participation in sport from a young age should be to set the foundations for long-term health, enjoyment and later success. Unfortunately all too often young athletes who experience injuries from overuse and early specialisation lose the enjoyment of participation and are put off from sport and exercise later in life.
Using strength & conditioning to train and progress movement patterns the right way in the gym will promote longevity in training by reducing the risk of overuse injuries. Young athletes will learn to automatically default to their training under the demands of competition and sport with a reduced risk of injury in the field of play.
The right strength & conditioning programme can also decrease the time it takes to recover from an injury as well as increase an athlete’s durability.
A well-designed programme has the flexibility to address the needs of individual athletes, from muscle imbalances and injury rehabilitation to sport specific demands. This will lead to improved performance and competitive advantage over those who have paid less attention to developing their foundation of general physical preparation!
Benefits beyond fitness
Exposing children to a wide range of activities and training methods from an early age will not only help develop better athletes, but better people too!
A young athlete who works hard and follows a strength & conditioning programme will display more confidence in competition due to a higher level of physical fitness.
At any level, the discipline required to make progress in the gym will help build resilience and confidence in a child’s physical capabilities.
When children participate together as a community of young role models they will develop other important life skills such as integrity, humility, teamwork, resilience, confidence and friendship.They will build their framework for success in all aspects of life and will learn to enjoy the process amongst a supportive community of like-minded role models.
A framework for training for life – Consistency, Progression, Variation
Any successful strength & conditioning programme is rooted in a shared mission to keep its participants healthy and get them moving well. The goal amongst its community is to build a foundation from which to progress health and fitness through consistency and accountability. Any good programme will allow the freedom for adjustment and variation to keep things fun and interesting; as well as cater to the specific needs of its participants and the training environment.
Teaching children fundamental movement patterns through strength & conditioning, and instilling the principles of training (consistency, systematic progression and variation) will inspire and empower any child to build their own healthy habits for life!
Join the Kidz Impact community today and gain access to fun and adaptable lesson plans, coach education and a wealth of resources to help inspire your members to stay healthy, get active and build confidence!