In forums and chatrooms all over the internet, 15 and 16-year-olds are asking the same question:
Am I too young to start strength training?
When it comes to answering their query, people are usually in one of two camps.
Firstly, there are those who believe that strength and resistance training is healthy at any age, as long as it is adapted to the physical ability of the athlete.
And on the other side, there are those who are staunchly against it. These people insist that this type of exercise should not be practised until the teenager has stopped growing, around the age of 20.
At Superprof, we always advise that you should always take care and seek advice from a fitness professional before engaging in this kind of exercise.
Finding a personal trainer or another certified fitness expert who listens to their young client’s needs and advises them on the best functional training techniques to achieve their fitness goals is paramount.
During adolescence, health and fitness aspirations may include:
- Losing excess body weight
- Building muscle mass
- Preparing for a fitness assessment or team trials
- Training for a sports competition
So, when it comes to youth fitness, there are a few things to bear in mind to avoid injury, achieve your goals and enjoy your training!
Exercise Has No Age Requirement
Giuliano Stroe is a 13-year-old bodybuilder from Romania.
At the age of just 5 years old, he broke his own world record for the largest number of 90-degree push-ups, managing 20.
As the years have passed by, Giuliano has continued to set and break world records to the amazement of many.
This fitness-mad youngster spends his time building his strength and muscle mass when he’s not at school.
Giuliano is a true athlete who trains at a very high level and sticks to a rigorous fitness nutrition and personal training program which is designed to produce the best possible results.
His father, who is passionate about bodybuilding, has been the driving force behind his child’s muscular training, putting Giuliano’s fitness program into motion from the age of just 2 years.
Giuliano’s super strength has seen him become a TV and online sensation, and he even has his own YouTube channel where he posts videos of himself performing intense workouts.
This peculiar story soon turned sour when Giuliano and his younger brother Claudiu made headline news in the Romanian press.
Their father, Iulian, was accused of pushing his sons to become body-building stars for money. Social services were alerted and the boys were taken away from their parents pending a decision by the court.
After being assessed by a psychologist, the brothers were allowed to go home to their parents.
Although the ethics behind the Stroes’ story is hotly debated, medical professionals advise against strength training before children have stopped growing.
This is because lifting heavy weights can put too much pressure on their bones, which are not yet fully developed.
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Personal Training for Competitions: is the Pressure Too Much?
Regardless of the athlete’s age, the pressure to succeed in competition is undeniable.
Due to the nature of competition, candidates may spend a lot of time being critical of themselves and focussing on the big win.
However, is this amount of pressure healthy for young minds?
For teenagers, finding a personal trainer or online personal trainer can be a good move in the run-up to a competition.
As an accredited fitness professional, your personal fitness trainer will be there to:
- Improve physical ability
- Provide a tailored nutrition and exercise programs that focus on the athlete’s needs
- Advise on the most efficient training methods
- Find the right time of day to incorporate training
- Discuss progress towards fitness goals
A surprising number of parents act as coaches who act to train their own children.
However, most of these parents have not sat any exams to gain relevant qualifications and do not hold a personal trainer certification.
This introduced health risks, as the child may be pushed too far – something a certified personal trainer would know how to avoid.
A study carried out in 2008 showed that the more positive a relationship a child has with their parents, the better the child performs in competition.
However, a sporting parent-child relationship can also be harmful, as some parents will be tempted to live their sporting lives through their children.
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So, having help from a private fitness coach can motivate children on their way to their goals whilst providing a safe environment for children to express their attitude towards training.
There are 4 main aspects to personal training services:
- Discussion: Trainers will keep an open dialogue with the athlete to make sure they’re in a healthy state of mind
- Exchange: Taking the athlete’s feelings into account and helping them prepare for competition
- Observation: The fitness instructor will study the behaviour of the youngster and identify any negative effects of training
- Advice: As an exercise science and fitness specialist, the personal trainer will help the athlete with training techniques and their nutrition
The Risks of Strength Training for Children
Resistance training and building muscle are attracting more and more adolescents who want to ‘get shredded’.
When athletes start weight training at an early age, they should take extra care to minimise the risk of injury.
One 2009 study pointed out that:
“some retrospective reports noted metaphysis fractures during adolescence, most of these injuries were due to:
Imperfect techniques for lifting weights
Using the maximum amount of weight
A lack of supervision from adults”
So, if you’re thinking about starting muscular workouts at a young age, there are some things to consider.
For instance, your coach will advise you to avoid attempting to work with too much weight and working out too intensely.
You shouldn’t be straining your body while it’s still growing.
At the age of about 15 years, the human body undergoes major changes, so it’s important you don’t subject it to further stress.
There are certain exercises which are strongly advised against by health professionals since they put too much pressure on the spine, ligaments and cartilage.
- Sit-down bar lifts
It is not recommended that you begin weight training before the age of 15 - this goes especially for young girls.
Before this age, aim to focus on cardiovascular endurance training instead.
And don’t neglect your fitness nutrition!
Many young athletes are tempted to take nutritional supplements to speed up their progress, but don’t be fooled – this can do more harm than good!
In addition to not helping results, these supplements can be bad for your health and should be avoided.
Instead, why not focus on looking at your normal diet?
Learn about how nutrition contributes to physiology. You may add eggs to your breakfast because of their protein, for example.
You should also remember to stretch after exercise.
Even though a lot of people tend to think that youngsters are suppler and therefore recover from exercise more quickly, stretching can save you the discomfort of post-workout stiffness.
So, make sure you find out how to stretch your muscles effectively and incorporate stretching into your workout warm-down.
Adopting healthy habits such as these will serve you throughout your fitness career.
Group Fitness Classes
Running, cycling and swimming are simple and natural ways to tone and build muscle.
These big and small group activities also happen to be low-risk and the most fun and rewarding for children to do.
Playing basketball with a group of friends, jumping into a swimming pool, and playing tag – these are all ways children can unknowingly build muscle whilst playing.
However, there are certain situations where hours of training are required.
If the child is enrolled in a sports club and competes for a team, there are plenty of coaches that can help with training alongside their group fitness instructor.
But make sure that the child isn’t under too much pressure to succeed!
Personal training sessions are a great complement to any other training the child may be doing, as they work on mentality as well as physical performance.
Personal fitness training should be little and often, so 1 to 2 hours per week should be enough.
Training Options for Youngsters
The vast majority of gyms and fitness clubs have a minimum age requirement of around 16 years old and ask for parental consent before teenagers are allowed to register with them. But there are a variety of small exercises that don't put too much strain on your body that you can do between classes at school or at work if you are in training.
There are also many exercises you can do at home using your own body weight.
One such example is press-ups.
When you’re starting out, be gentle with yourself. This will help you avoid injury and keep you motivated.
If you’re looking to get into a training routine, why not start by doing press-ups in the evenings?
If you’re not sure about the press-up method, here are some simple pointers:
- Lay on your front and place your hands on the floor, underneath your shoulders
- Lean on your toes or your knees, depending on your desired level of difficulty
- Bend and extend your elbows, lifting your body towards and away from the floor
- Try to let your chest nearly touch the floor when you come down, without releasing your body weight
- Make sure you keep your back straight throughout the exercise, this should work your core and your arms
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Don’t forget that your body is still growing and that it will react negatively to being pushed too far, so take the time to develop and recover, and look after yourself!
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