Kids Can Lift
This normally just would have been a link with a blurb in the "Fitness Found" section, but the visuals had me doing some head shakes. So here goes.
A recent post in the "Well" blog at the NY Times
, Strength Training as a Family Affair
, talks about using resistance training--bodyweight exercises and light
dumbbells--to do strength training with kids as young as eight years old. That part is great! Too many parents are concerned about letting
their kids lift weights or do other strength training. While powerlifting with heavy weights or bodybuilding for aesthetic results are indeed
inappropriate, handling lighter weights is not only acceptable, it’s perfectly natural.
As one commenter notes, "My [3-year old] squats
upwards of 100+ times per day." While loading those squats with heavy weights would be bad, adding some additional resistance and limiting
the number of reps is fine. The article cites recent studies backing this up. But this should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen kids wrestling
and one of them standing up with the other on his back. That would be akin to squatting with a heavy
load, yet few parents would object.
So strength training is just a natural part of growing up. At least it should be. But too many kids today are not active enough to get this
natural development, and many are participating in sports without a solid physical foundation, resulting in injuries. A planned strength training
regimen (made to be fun, of course) is a great idea for most kids today, especially those participating in sports.
Some commenters quibbled with the seemingly arbitrary eight-year-old limit, noting the aforementioned natural strength training that takes place
practically from birth. That’s true enough, although it is more difficult to get younger kids to actually do something structured (which makes
them poor subjects for these kinds of scientific studies).
But the content of the article is sound and I don’t imagine many people would refute its findings or recommendations. (I hope not, anyway.) The
visuals, on the other hand, are another story.
The image at the top of the post shows Dr. Jordan D. Metzl, a sports medicine doctor, marathoner, and triathlete, leading a group of more than
20 kids doing bodyweight squats. So what’s the problem? While Dr. Metzl’s form is excellent, most of the kids in the picture have form issues
ranging from inefficient to dangerous. This is not a big immediate problem, but it’s helping create a movement pattern
that can carry
forward into adulthood leading to back, knee, and hip problems for the rest of their lives.
Now maybe he subsequently corrected all of them, offering personal assistance and modifications to help them progress. But that’s really hard
to do with a group that big. The same applies to adult large-group training: it needs to be designed and run to either minimize potential
form issues, typically by sticking with simple movement patterns (see Zumba
or ... well, I don’t really know which is why I don’t train large groups. Anyway, seeing kids squatting in a forward position or with their
knees collapsing inward bugs me. Help them maintain the natural squatting form they had as toddlers (although they’ll have to deal with reduced
hip mobility as the skeleton firms up--same idea, though) so trainers (like me!) don’t have to try to fix them later. (Or worse, they never get
it fixed and live with the consequences their whole lives.)
Then at the end of the post is a short video showing Dr. Metzl describing a series of exercises for them using dumbbells. While some of the
terminology bugs me (e.g., the title calls it a "superset" but it’s really a "dumbbell complex"), no one really cares about that. But other
things do matter.
The first exercise is a push press, and I have no problem with that one. Well, maybe with the standing on one foot part, but I won’t make a
big deal about it.
But the second exercise is bicep curls which he sort of apologizes for by saying they "are probably helpful. I’m not positive these are the
most important exercise but everybody wants some bigger biceps..." First, let me help out by saying I’m positive they are not
the most important exercise. As a single-joint isolation exercise, they’re not particularly useful except for bodybuilding. He notes this himself
with the "bigger biceps" comment, but this comes after stating earlier in the video that young kids can’t really grow muscles
"). But even for adults, unless you’re a bodybuilder
or trying to spend extra time working out, skip the curls in favor of compound exercises like chin-ups (if you can’t do any, work on that) or
cleans (hang power cleans
The third exercise is deadlift high pulls. On the picky side, it’s not a deadlift. But more importantly, the high pull drives the shoulders into
impingement, which sounds bad because it is bad
. And it’s
an unnecessarily complex movement to be teaching kids. And it’s bad. Did I mention that?
I don’t want to pick on the doctor. He seems like a nice guy and certainly has good intentions. He could probably train them well in running,
cycling or swimming, but weight training is another story.
But I don't want to be a Gloomy Gary. The core message that strength training is good for kids is a valuable one. So, yay! Let's just do it right.
Be seeing you.