How to train with Kids (Part 2)

In the picture above you can see the first, second and third place winner from the competitive Spartan Kids Race in Thailand 2018. The third placeholder on the podium is one of my Youth Athletes.

Almost two years have passed since my last blog post about Strength Training for Kids.  In the previous blog, I talked about Why and How with regards to training kids. It even got published in BKK Kids and I got a great positive response. This blog is a summary of the past two years of training young athletes.

Youth training is a hot topic this year. In fact, TIME Magazine recently reported that youth sports have become a $15.3 Billion industry. Over $4 Billion a year is spent on personalized training and coaching for young athletes in the US alone. And parents want to see results for the money they invest in the athletic development of their child. That being said, a lot of coaches and gyms are jumping on the training kid’s bandwagon. I can only assume that most of the programs out there are expensive babysitting and having little impact on strength or athletic improvements. The same can be said for most fitness training in general.

Right now I am training four young athletes. All are boys ranging in age, development, and sporting interests. Kavin and Izzy are 12 years old, Sam 10 years and Jace is 8 years old. There are different goals and expectation for each one of the boys.

All of the boys have reached their goals or got an award over the last few weeks. These goals have been accomplished with 1-hour training in the gym and the rest with normal activity and following their sports practice. The goals have been tailored to the individual child as there is no need to place them under undue pressures or add to already busy schedules.

For example, one goal was to increase total body strength and being able to do one unassisted chin up.  Kavin, who was featured in the blog post two years ago, has managed to achieve this goal.

Kavin, age 12, makes great progress in his Youth #strengthandconditioning program. A few months ago it was impossible, now he does unassisted strict #chinups already. #football is his passion. So most of the time he is and should be practicing his skills. The little gym time we have is spend working on GPP (general physical preparedness). Strength, agility, balance, endurance etc. to increase his sports performance and a bit of fun play. A child's first chinup is a good indicator of training progress, upper body strength and confidence. Well done Kavin 😊 @kavin2024 @bkk.kids . . . . . . . . . . . #personaltraining #fitness #health #fitfam #fitspo #fitspiration #instafit #fitnessmotivation #fitstagram #instagramfitness #livehealthy #healthiswealth #bestself #familyfun #familyfirst #youthfitness #kidsfitness #youngathlete #kidstraining #fitkids #kidfit #soccer #crossfitkids #bkkkids #agility #endurance #strength

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As you can see in the clip, we reached that after a few months of practicing.

For Izzy, who is very athletic and engages in school basketball and partaking in the competitive Spartan Kids Race, the goals included finishing the Spartan race in a top position. In my opinion, Top 3 was realistic. Watch this and you can see why.

As the clip clearly demonstrates, we use a child’s barbell when doing squats, presses, deadlift, and chin-ups already. We are now at 11 (!) strict unassisted chin ups. That is 11 reps more than I have ever done at that age. Mostly we focus on lifting weights. He understands the movements well and has quite good control of the eccentric phase in the lifts. Which normally kids struggle with. Only closer to the Spartan Race we decrease the lifting and focus more on conditioning and specific skills for the race (running, burpees etc.)

And for the two brothers, Sam and Jace who plays Kids Rugby, the goal is less strict. Learning the basic human movements first, such as squats and push-ups, the boys will build the foundation for their upcoming programs as they get older. Agility drills and a bit of basic speed work are also included. The first few sessions were a bit chaotic, but after a few times, I informed their parents, that the boys are starting to understand how their feet should move and becoming nimbler. The next time the boys took to the rugby field, they received the trophy for most improved players.

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I prefer to challenge these kids as much as I can and keep playing time down to a minimum.  I slowly move them into a more planned training program. Their training program is still way less structured than that of the adults. With the children, I focus on, GPP (General Physical Preparedness). Sport specific training doesn’t exist. There’s no such thing as a “soccer-specific program” or a “rugby-specific exercise.” I understand there are some exceptions, like certain Spartan Kids specific skills they have to master for the race. However, the end goal is to make someone a better athlete and that is the same for young and old. For some kids, this means already squatting and deadlifting with a barbell while for others, it will be learning a basic bodyweight squat and how to lunge properly without having their knees all over the place. Athletes get enough sport specific training playing their respective sport. The gym is for general athleticism.

The gym is there to address weaknesses and build resilience; to help build confidence and self-esteem, and to make them competent to compete against other kids. Competition can be valuable and we all learn from those experiences. Safety is very important and I understand concerns from parents when they see me teaching certain lifts to their kids. An interesting fact is, that force plate analysis shows even fairly heavy squats (exceeding bodyweight) do not impose as great a load on the body as casual running or jumping, which can impose joint loading and exerts a force 6 times greater than bodyweight.

With the appropriate exercise selection and progressions, the gym is a very safe space for a young athlete. They will get stronger and learn valuable lessons for life in the process. Let me know your thoughts and experiences regarding kid’s strength and conditioning, and fitness training in the comments or a message and share this post with parents whose kids will benefit from being more active.

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