This is the essay I submitted for the Learning Experiences part of my ISSA Personal Trainer Certification.
As I neared the completion of these Learning Experience Essays, I considered what I'd like the subject of this last essay to be. Having four (4) children of my own, ages 13-20, and being as active as I have been my whole life (weight-lifting, bodybuilding, martial arts, FBI Cert. DT Instructor, and some manual labor), I considered THEIR health and well-being. As I try to set a good example for my children through my own choices, actions, and virtues, I also have to consider how I would train them, if they should ask me to.
Training ANY child, or young adult, not just my own, needs to be done with care, and certain considerations. I ask, "what are the benefits, and what are the risks of encouraging, teaching, and assisting these young adults?"
The Risks -
Children are NOT "miniature adults." Training methods and psychological/motivational methods need to be different than that which are used for adults.
Children are prone to different types of injuries than adult trainees. Children are susceptible to growth-related overuse injuries such as Osgood Schlatter's Disease.
The temperature regulation system of a young adult is not as mature as an adult. Muscle when children are young doesn't make up a lot of their body mass. Therefore, children are more susceptible to cold injuries. Also, because children sweat less than adults do, they are more likely to suffer from heatstroke.
Low muscle mass and a hormone system that is still developing may hinder coordination, speed, and power in the young person. Personally, a mistake that I see a parent make often is to "force" their child into a sport, just because the child is maybe bigger than his/her peers. The parent may enroll the child in football, because the child is a big child for his/her age, only to witness the child get injured because he/she just didn't have the coordination, strength, power, or ability to perform in that sport. The capacity of the child to learn motor skills is lessened by the growth and development of that child. The development of sports skills will be dependant on the brain and nervous system of the child, muscles, temperature regulation, and the endocrine system. Every child is an individual; with different training needs. The educated personal trainer will be aware of this and will develop the proper training techniques to increase athletic ability and fitness in young adults.
The task at hand for the personal trainer is to safely promote fitness, make it fun, and appealing to kids at different age levels, and encourage children to maintain a healthy lifestyle beyond their youth.
The Benefits -
Exercise, good eating habits, and a healthy lifestyle will improve the child's body image, and therefore boost the confidence, peer acceptance, self-esteem, and goal setting of that child. A child that has a distorted body image of themselves would certainly benefit from the sculpted muscles, improved posture, and psychological lift of increasing poundages lifted while engaged in progressive-resistance/strength training.
Exercise drills that can be performed by both boys and girls will improve speed, power, endurance, agility, reaction time, and coordination.
Establishing proper exercise technique, and good eating habits with children and adolescents is a MUST. When these virtues are established early on in the child's development they are likely to continue into adulthood. Children and adolescents are influenced by the adults in their lives, mostly their parents. I would encourage parents and children to partake in this journey together - training the body physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Because children and adolescents often participate in competitive athletics they are a natural market for the personal trainer. Personal Trainers have a toolbox full of tools to assist the child/adolescent in training, nutrition, and psychological well-being. These tools, in the hands per se, of the educated personal trainer, will help young athletes excel, not just in sports, but in Life.
America is faced with an obesity epidemic that extends to our youth. The task at hand is to promote fitness, make it appealing to kids at different age levels, and help children to maintain active lifestyles beyond their youth.
Warm-up and stretching should be performed before resistance training.
Begin with light loads to allow for appropriate adjustments to be made. Increase loads gradually (5% - 10%) as strength improves.
Workouts should not occur in succession, but allow 1-2 full days between workouts.
Two to three non-consecutive workouts are recommended.
Multiple-joint exercises can be used, but the focus should be on form and technique rather than weight lifted.
Finally, encourage kids to drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise.
The teaching of resistance training principles and their benefit to overall fitness will be important in maintaining children’s health.
Category 1: Younger (5-12) – Learn skills and coordination first. Examples include a proper range of motion in lifting, bilateral symmetry, handling free weights, and power drills versus strength drills.
Category 2: Older (12-17) – Increase in training intensity, preparation for sports competition, body toning and general conditioning, increase of range of motion (ROM), enhancement of posture. Make it fun. Get feedback.