StrengthLog’s Training Program for Children and Adolescents: an excellent way for your child to develop a strong and healthy body for a strong and healthy life.
At StrengthLog, we want you to find the training program that is just right for you, both here on the website and in our training app with the same name. In our section of training programs, you’ll find both free and premium plans for anyone, from powerlifters and bodybuilders to newcomers who have just stepped into a gym for the very first time. Recently, we added a training program specifically intended for seniors, and you can always browse our extensive library of training guides to all the major muscles of your body.
What we haven’t had on the website is a training program specifically designed for children and adolescents. As you already know, we have now corrected this little oversight. You can also find StrengthLog’s Training Program for Children and Adolescents in your StrengthLog app, under the Free tab.
It’s Never Too Soon
The saying “it’s never too late to start exercising” is not only common but factual. You have probably heard it before. Fewer people and parents realize that you’re never too young to exercise, either. That includes strength training in some form.
Physical activity should be encouraged right from the get-go, from the age of 0 and onwards. Suppose you are the proud parent of a preschool child. In that case, you’ll find a great resource in the form of the World Health Organization’s Guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behavior, and sleep for children under five years of age.
Our training program is mainly for children and adolescents above that age. The rate of physical development varies a lot from child to child. That means you can’t set an exact ideal age to introduce structured strength training suitable for every child. Many children around the age of 6 or 7 can understand and follow instructions in the gym to ensure proper and safe form in various exercises. That’s also when many children gain the ability to coordinate their brain, nervous system, and muscles enough to physically perform strength training exercises in a practical setting, in the gym.
Some children mature fast and can start exercising with weights earlier than others. Others take a bit longer than average to reach the development level where structured strength training is suitable. Different rates of development are perfectly standard. However, because of these individual differences, we recommend the age span of 9 to 12 as ideal for introducing your child to StrengthLog’s Training Program for Children and Adolescents.
This training program is also an excellent option for children and adolescents above that age range who want to join mom and dad in the gym and start lifting. Teens can follow the same training programs as older beginners, such as our beginner barbell program, but StrengthLog’s Training Program for Children and Adolescents is an excellent introduction to weight training for them as well.
If your child is ready for the first steps on the strength training path at the age of 6 or 7, feel free to introduce them to StrengthLog’s Training Program for Children and Adolescents. You as a parent know your child best and can tell if they are ready for a training program better than we can.
What Does a Good Training Program for Children Look Like?
A training program for children needs to meet the following ten criteria:
- Start with a 5–10 minute warm-up for the entire body. It should include a general warm-up phase that raises the heart rate and a series of dynamic movements preparing the targeted muscles for the upcoming workout.
- Until the child has mastered the proper form in the exercises, the loads should be light enough to complete every set without a struggle.
- It should include a varied selection of exercises for both the upper and lower body. Performing 1–3 sets of 6–15 repetitions for each activity is optimal.
- Include exercises specifically targeting the core muscles, including both the abdominals and the lower back.
- The program should develop and strengthen the child’s muscles in a balanced way. Don’t neglect any muscle groups or joints.
- Increase the weights gradually in a progressive manner in increments of 5–10% once the child learns the correct form.
- Vary the exercises systematically from workout to workout. That makes training more fun in the long run and helps eliminate boredom.
- Ensure you or another adult with proper knowledge of training and exercise execution supervises the child at all times. Offer instructions to keep the activity safe and effective.
- Combine the training with a healthy and varied diet, and make sure the child has the opportunity to recover properly from the practice.
- Offer encouragement and support to the child, motivating them to keep exercising instead of making it a short-term, throw-away activity.
StrengthLog’s Training Program for Children and Adolescents provides you with the first 7 points. You can’t include the final 3 in an app. That means that those are up to you as a parent or caregiver to provide for the child. They are all essential to make sure your child benefits appropriately from the training right from the get-go.
The Benefits of Strength Training for Kids
Strength training makes muscles stronger and the body more functional, regardless of age. A child doesn’t just build strength by lifting weights but also a foundation for healthy habits during adulthood and old age. That, in turn, is key for a healthy and robust life.
Strength Training Is Safe
Old and tired myths might not agree, but strength training is a safe way to exercise for children and adolescents. For example, no prospective studies suggest any harmful effects on the growth plates. Those are the areas of new bone growth in children and teenagers. Current scientific consensus tells us that there are no reasons to avoid strength training before the growth plates harden into solid bone.
The risk of injury is lower for children engaged in strength training than for most other common sports. That includes all popular team sports. For example, the association between soccer and the risk of injury is 1,000 times greater than weight training.
There is always some risk of injury with any physical activity—the risk of getting injured when weight training is comparatively low. And not being physically active means a much greater chance of health issues, regardless of age.
Strength Training Gives Your Child Both Physical and Psychological Advantages
Not only is strength training a safe activity for children. It also offers unique and positive health effects that benefit them into adult age.
Children engaging in weight training increase their maximal strength by up to 50%. Also, they improve their motor skills in all kinds of physical tasks. Several studies show that strength training improves the body composition of adolescents. Overweight children achieve a healthier body composition and enhance their self-esteem and confidence.
When you get old, strength training is vital to keep as much bone mass as possible. Children can improve their skeletal mineral content and mineral density and gain bone mass by lifting weights. This practice lays the foundation for sound skeletal health throughout life.
As you can see, strength training offers your child plenty of positive physical health effects. However, the benefits of lifting weights at a young age don’t stop there. Research looking at adolescent strength training’s psychological effects is not as extensive, but the available evidence is overwhelmingly positive. Better self-confidence, improved self-control and regulation of emotions, a feeling of self-worth, and a more positive body image are all results from studies where children and adolescents engage in strength training regularly.
The Training Program
Physical and psychological benefits galore, and plenty of positive health effects, in other words, when you introduce your child to strength training. Scientific evidence is quite evident in this regard. There are numerous reasons children should engage in muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities several times a week, and lifting weights is an excellent option.
In StrengthLog’s Training Program for Children and Adolescents, you’ll find both bodyweight exercises and free-weight exercises. We designed the program according to current scientific recommendations for strength training for children. With this program, your child effectively and safely trains the entire body, strengthening all major muscle groups, gaining functional capacity, and improving balance.
The program comes with two different full-body workouts. The first workout is called Workout A, and the second Workout B. Alternate between the two for a varied and fun training week, like this:
And so on.
Frequency and Rest
Children should work out 2 or 3 times per week. Research suggests that a single workout a week does not give as good results. At the same time, more than three workouts per week offer few, if any, additional benefits. With StrengthLog’s Training Program for Children and Adolescents, you can choose the training frequency you and your child prefer. We suggest you start with two training sessions per week, increasing the frequency to 3 times per week, if and when your child wants to. You can also go from 2 workouts to 3, then back to 2 again, depending on time and what the child wants.
Separate each training session by at least one day of rest. That doesn’t mean physical inactivity, but children should rest 48 to 72 hours between strength training sessions, to ensure proper recovery and to give the body a chance to get stronger from the lifting.
Children are more resistant to muscular fatigue than adults. Strength training guidelines for adults recommend rest intervals of at least 2–3 minutes between sets, but children can rest as little as 1 minute and still recover properly. A more extended break between sets is no problem, but children can get antsy by sitting around doing nothing for too long. If that’s the case, feel free to begin the next set within a minute or so after completing the last one.
When starting, choose a reasonably low weight for each exercise that the child can handle without much effort. He or she should be able to complete at least 10–15 repetitions without struggling. This practice allows the child to learn proper form.
Children do not need to reach muscular failure. They shouldn’t. In the beginning, the main goal is to teach the muscles and nervous system how to perform the exercise safely and effectively. Then, let the child use a weight that makes the last repetition a challenge, but not impossible. Also, the weight should never be too heavy for proper form.
Exercise Form and Progression
Be sure to instruct the child how to perform the exercises correctly. Supervise the training sessions and make sure the child performs each set and repetition safely and correctly.
Once the child knows how to perform the exercises and is capable of doing so, it’s time to start using heavier weight. Increase the load 5–10% once the child can do 10–15 repetitions with proper form and without struggling overmuch. Gradually increasing the weights is essential for progress, regardless of age. Training without progression does not only provide poor results, but it can also be quite dull. Tangible results workout to workout, on the other hand, is both motivational and fun.
The best way for your child to learn how to do the exercises is to perform the repetitions reasonably slowly and with complete control of the movement. Over time, introduce different velocities, including fast and explosive. That leads to better training adaptations and improved physical function in the long run. Regardless of repetition tempo, the child should always perform them with full control of the movements.
Start every training session with a thorough warm-up. Ten minutes of preparing the muscles and nervous system for strength training is a great way to get ready for the workout. An excellent way to warm up looks something like this:
5 minutes of jogging, rowing, cycling, or jumping rope
- Bodyweight squatting
- High jumps
- Jumping Jacks
- High Knees
- Arm circles
- Wall slides
You can, of course, use many other warm-up protocols, but the one above is a fine example.
The Strength Training
This is the actual training program
- Body Weight Lunge or Dumbbell Lunge: 2 sets x 10 repetitions
- Box Jump: 2 sets x 10 repetitions (use a lower box than in the linked instructions)
- Bench Press: 2 sets x 10 repetitions
- Lat Pulldown: 2 sets x 10 repetitions
- Dumbbell Row: 2 sets x 10 repetitions
- Back Extension: 2 sets x 10 repetitions
- Triceps Pushdown: 2 sets x 10 repetitions
- Dumbbell Curl: 2 sets x 10 repetitions
- Lying Leg Raise: 2 sets x 10 repetitions
- Plank: 1 set x max time
- Dumbbell Squat: 2 sets x 10 repetitions
- Step Up: 2 sets x 10 repetitions
- Lying Leg Curl or Seated Leg Curl: 1 set x 10 repetitions
- Push-Up or Kneeling Push-Up: 3 sets x 10 repetitions
- Inverted Row: 2 sets x 10 repetitions
- Back Extension: 2 sets x 10 repetitions
- Triceps Pushdown: 1 set x 10 repetitions
- Dumbbell Curl: 1 set x 10 repetitions
- Sit-Up: 1 set x 15 repetitions
- Oblique Sit-Up: 2 sets x 15 repetitions
Ten repetitions per set is a great starting point. Feel free to vary that amount, and use anything from 6 repetitions with a heavier weight to 15 repetitions using a little lighter weight. Any number of repetitions within that range leads to the same or comparable results, but varying the training can make it more engaging and fun for the child.
You can find much more in-depth information about strength training for children and adolescents in our comprehensive review, where you will also find references for everything in this article.
Now get the whole family into the gym and get stronger and healthier for life!
We also have a premium version of StrengthLog, with additional benefits. Want to give it a shot? We offer all new users a free 14-day trial of premium, which you can activate in the app.
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