When should they start?
Youth Athletes can start training as early as 6. However they should not be lifting massive amounts of weights until they start puberty. When starting at an early age kids should learn proper mechanics and fundamentals. It should be fun. The entire point to starting at an early age is to become comfortable moving objects with efficiency. Once a youth athlete has hit puberty those fundamentals will carry over into actual weight lifting and training which has been proven to reduce injury rate and increase performance.
How should they start?
Youth athletes, regardless of age, should be taught by a qualified professional. These coaches should know how to train an individual and give them the necessary motor patterns to continue into adulthood. Finding a qualified person can be tough. My favorite example is football coaches. Football coaches know football – plays, techniques and strategies. While they may have done lifting in the weight room they do not know lifting and how it can be beneficial. This is the same as asking an eye doctor to fix your knee. While they may have some expertise in the field they do not know all the ins and outs. Youth athletes should be put on a program that teaches them and keeps them interested in learning and progressing.
What are the benefits?
Youth athletes who start training at a young age can have a multitude of benefits. First, they will learn how to lift properly which should carry them through their athletic career. Second, they will gain strength to prevent injuries. When muscles can take a brunt of a force, ligaments, tendons and bones are better protected. Finally they will fulfill their genetic potential. When a person starts training their body will up-regulate certain functions. Training is a stressor that the body will adapt to. The younger the athlete the more time that is available to adapt and thus fulfill their maximum potential.
Where should they learn?
Parents should seek to find a coach who has a background in training children. Not coaching children but training them. Almost anyone can sign up to be a coach but to train the youth of today they should be qualified and up to date on the most recent findings on training youth athletes. One place locally is Crossfit Diversion. Come see me!
-Coach Aaron Adams