5 conditioning exercises safe for young athletes
Thursday, October 17, 2019
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), strength training is recommended and marked as safe for children 8 years old and up. However, "strength training" should not be used interchangeably with "weight training."
We've heard for years that athletes shouldn't lift weights at a young age. But there are so many adults — with children — who misconstrue what they see or read. Contrary to what some may assume, the right conditioning is a must for young athletes in that in can improve performance enhancement and also reduce injury.
Conditioning is important. Conditioning does not mean putting the young athlete in front of the bench press or power clean bar and making them perform reps. For young athletes, leave the weights alone.
But...do not leave the conditioning alone.
Millions of children play sports in North America. Proper conditioning will help a young athlete build core strength and balance without having to pick up a weight.
Injuries in sports happen at times, but a lot of injuries can be avoided with proper conditioning. Here are five exercises for young athletes to help them improve their conditioning — and all five are safe.
Just saying the word "burpee" makes the skin of many adults crawl, but it's funny to see how quickly young children are excited about doing better. It's squatting, it's jumping, it's falling to get up faster than everyone else...what's not to like, right?
What the youngsters don't realize is that a proper burpee is one of the better full-body exercises to increase core strength and improve coordination and agility. If a parent cringes at a set of burpees, don't cringe in front of the child. This is one exercise where they'll thrive — even if they don't realize the majority of adulthood is a sworn enemy.
There are some who view sprints as a boring method of exercises. There are others who view sprints as punishment. Truthfully, proper sprinting can be taught to a large group and kept as a simple task. If children feel that the learning assignment is fun, it won't be viewed as "work," per se.
Sprinting involves proper technique, but an article from Coaching Young Athletes provides a variety of ways to make sprinting warmups fun for children. If you can make running fun from the get-go, it shouldn't be hard to keep it fun for an interested athlete.
There are tons of adults who don't do planks correctly, so it wouldn't be shocking to see a child doing it incorrectly. Chances are, it isn't done correctly if you see a child holding a plank for minutes at a time.
Planks are not supposed to be easy. According to this article from Stack, a proper plank "should be challenging to hold for even 15-30 seconds, leaving the entirety of the body straining to maintain stability." This is a core-building exercise, and it's designed to work all over. It shouldn't be easy — but it will be effective.
There are grown-ups to this day who refuse to believe that wheelbarrows are solid core training exercises. Why? Because it's fun to have someone hold your ankles while you walk on your hands. Try doing that without smiling.
Wheelbarrows accomplish a few things. They build arm strength. They will definitely build your core. To add, they can help build team camaraderie and trust.
Equally important as the person walking on his hands is the person holding the ankles. Either you work as a unit, or you fail. It's the perfect team-building exercise — with "exercise" holding multiple connotations.
Using the jump rope is an excellent cardio workout that improves overall agility, coordination, endurance and footwork. It can immediately become a game of who can jump the most without messing up, or who can jump the fastest. Or who can jump rope on one foot, or who can make the classic double jump or, dare we say, triple jump before everyone else.
Jumping rope also is something to do that is considered a low-risk injury activity — as long as children are landing softly. Done correctly, the jump rope can be the main ingredient of a full-body cardio workout that can be done for minutes at a time.
Physical activity should be encouraged, and when it's made to be fun, these types of activities won't be hard to force on eager children. Try to get your child active for at least an hour a day. Keep them active, but also keep them safe. It's easily doable.
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