I’ve had several conversations about strength training for teenagers (young adults in modern speak). They usually revolve around the risks of joint health, growth and injury. We spend a lot of time dispelling the myths around strength training and how to develop muscle safely.
It simple enough, kids who do sports should be doing strength training. Kids who don’t do sports should be strength training! It’s that simple.
It’s not surprising when talking to teenagers who wish to get bigger or stronger for their sports and simply want to be bigger don’t know what to do. I have the same conversations with adults who have been involved in competitive sport all their days. They don’t know what a sound training programme looks like. Teenagers are no different!
When we dig deeper into their knowledge base it’s also obvious that they have very little idea on nutrition and what and when to put into their system pre, during and post workout. It all seems to be about sugar and caffeine from energy drinks!
The right answer, by the way, is a well-designed strength training program combined with an appropriate nutrition plan. And no, running and energy drinks are not a part of the strength answer.
The fact is, teenagers don’t know how to reach their fitness goals any more than adults do. Even kids who are on teams where strength and conditioning are part of their programs don’t know.
And that means that your kid doesn’t know either.
So what, you might be saying. My 16-year-old doesn’t know that his afternoon jogs aren’t going to make him look like Captain America. My daughter who plays hockey doesn’t know that she needs to eat a sound meal before her games to improve her performance.
They’re kids! They’re still learning, right? Most of this is just fun and games for them at this point, right?
Both teenage boys and girls should be thinking about their future health.
The muscle mass we put on in our youth, when our bodies are the most primed for muscle growth, is the muscle that has the longest effect on our health. People who establish a base of muscle early in their lives and then maintain it have faster metabolisms well into their adult years. They stay leaner more easily, have more leeway in their nutrition needs, and have better long-term health markers overall.
You know those men and women you see all over the internet who look jacked and fit and claim they maintain their bodies by eating moderately or “intuitively?”
It’s not moderation or intuition that got them where they are.
They get to be moderate and eat “intuitively” now because they spent their youth building their bodies and watching their nutrition or should I say they learnt what intuitive is. Knowledge is power!
Teens who build that base of muscle early have a better chance of avoiding the things we fall prey to when we grow up in a sedentary lifestyle—like type 2 diabetes, obesity, early signs of osteoporosis, and chronic joint issues.
We may think this is all about teenage boys, strength training is important for teenage girls, too. Girls at that age are more prone to ACL injuries. Many experts theorise that estrogen is to blame, in addition to bone structure differences and extra laxity in girls’ joints. Girls are also more prone to hyper-mobility and this can cause girls to be more prone to injuries in their joints. I see a lot of knee and shoulder rota-cuff issues in females of all ages.
Guess what helps prevent those ACL and shoulder problems?
And guess what helps train hypermobile teens to move in more acceptable and healthy ranges of motion?
No, strength training will not stunt your teen’s growth. No, it isn’t dangerous for them. Just like adults, teens can learn how to squat, deadlift, lunge, and bench press with correct and safe form.
The other benefits of strength training apply to teens too, such as the psychological and mindset benefits. Nothing teaches you that you’re capable of making yourself successful faster than realising you can squat more weight than you thought you could. Kids who learn to have that kind of growth mindset, who see the ways in which they can learn from the world around them rather than feeling defeated by it, can become better students, better leaders, and most of all, better humans. It’s not just about being a better lifter.
If you’ve got a teenager at home, regardless of how athletic that teen already is, think about how you can make strength training a part of his or her education.
And if you’re not sure what that might look like, talk to us at Forty Four. We can help.