Synonyms in the broadest sense

Weight training, childhood weight training, childhood bodybuilding

see also: Endurance sports in childhood


Concerned parents ask again and again whether targeted strength training in children and adolescents makes sense, or whether it involves dangers. These concerns are not unfounded, as strength training on machines not only results in adjustments to the active musculoskeletal system, but also numerous adaptations to the passive musculoskeletal system (joints, ligaments, tendons, etc.).

The fact is:

While overweight children were a rarity in the past few decades, the number of overweight children is now staggering. In addition to this obesity tendency, more and more children and adolescents suffer from serious poor posture, coordination and physical deficiencies.

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The increasing use of technology and the associated tendency towards computer games, the poor quality of teaching staff in schools, especially in primary schools, are the cause of this lack of exercise in German children. The problem also lies in the inadequate cooperation between schools and sports clubs. Most overweight children lose more and more the connection to sport and thus a way out of the problem, which worsens in the course of adolescent development.

It is particularly suitable for children and adolescents to adapt to training stimuli. In these so-called "sensitive phases", the child's musculoskeletal system is particularly suitable for strength training stimuli. A child-friendly, adequate Strength training in childhood also enables children to make coordinative progress, as the increased strength potential enables movements with more dynamic use of force. In many game sports, one-sided movements take place that lead to long-term muscular imbalances. Here offers a compensatory Weight training balances and prevents these imbalances.

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However, strength training in childhood should not develop small model athletes, but should use the urge to move that all children have in a targeted manner in order to prevent deficits later.

Strength training in childhood is viewed rather critically in Germany. The fears of injuries and impairments that could subsequently accompany the young athletes for a lifetime are too great. In addition, the amount of building hormones is still too low to allow muscles to grow and so to justify strength training. In America in particular, studies are now proving the opposite. There, weight training for children is even recommended under supervision. In contrast to strength training in adulthood, children do not focus on maximum muscle mass or on lifting the highest possible loads. Strength training for children is intended to train general fitness and improve mental wellbeing. In addition, the performance in physical education should be improved and injuries effectively prevented. Strength training with bands, free dumbbells, machines and your own body weight can therefore lead to significant success.

Exercises with your own body and ligaments are the gentlest. Strength exercises on machines and with dumbbells are better suited when it comes to more complex movements or movements for which the strength is not yet sufficient. For push-ups or pull-ups, the strength is not yet sufficient in individual cases, so dumbbells and machines are interesting here.

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Strength training before puberty does not result in significant muscle gains. However, the musculature becomes significantly more efficient because the muscle strands previously "broke“Were now activated and trained. This is due to the increased coordination within the muscle. Above all, strength training in childhood trains the coordination within a muscle so that as many muscle fibers as possible are activated. In addition, the interaction between muscles and nerves improves so that the muscles generally work more effectively. The performance of the muscles increases without building additional muscle mass. This can protect and stabilize a twisted foot and thus prevent injuries.

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Scientists in the USA found that after a few months the concentration of muscle-building hormones also increases, so that after a certain time an increase in muscle mass is possible.

The maximum strength is the basis for the speed strength, the strength endurance and the explosive strength. These strength properties are required to different degrees in a wide variety of sports. That is why it is only advantageous for children to start early with appropriate strength training in order to be able to develop their strength skills better afterwards.

So you shouldn't rule out strength training for children in general. Age-appropriate training does not damage bones, cartilage or joints. Exactly the opposite happens, additional bone substance is built up, ligaments and cartilage get used to the higher loads and are also strengthened.

Thus, strength training begins in childhood to counteract bone loss in old age. Further studies indicate that tendons and connective tissue also benefit from strength training in childhood. Just two units a week are enough to have significant effects on strength and endurance. In general, training for children should contain a maximum of eight exercises, of which two to three sets should be performed. The movement should always be carried out slowly and in a controlled manner. In strength training, children should always strengthen their abdominal and back muscles first, and then train shoulders, arms and legs. In addition, there should always be at least a day's break between training sessions to ensure adequate recovery.

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Studies show that even among children, body composition is changing. The percentage of fat in children's bodies has been increasing over the past 30 years. Strength training improves body composition, reduces fat tissue, builds muscle mass and even has positive effects on the cardiovascular system.

If you still don't want your child to do classical strength training, you can opt for other sporting activities such as fighting, wrestling and wrestling instead of athletic training. The children can do similar exercises in a playful way and also benefit from the positive effects. Arm wrestling is another example of how children can be introduced to strength training through play. They can also push each other away, pull each other back and forth or try to knock each other over.

Strength training in childhood, properly dosed, can play a significant role in healthy and athletic development.

Muscle building in children and adolescents

The muscle building in childhood must not be compared with the targeted muscle growth in adulthood. The development of the muscles is particularly sensitive to training stimuli during puberty, but this training should not take place in the sense of dumbbell training in the gym, but through exercises in which the children and adolescents have to carry and move their own body weight. Once the growth in height has been completed, you can start training in the gym, but keep in mind the progression in training. Muscles also develop in early childhood, but this is done in a playful way in the form of climbing, hanging, hanging, jumping, throwing, etc. It is important that children always focus on the motivational aspect of play.

Read more on the topic: Strength training in adolescence

Dangers and Risks

The dangers of strength training in childhood are similar to those in adults. The muscles are in the rarest of cases overstrained. Rather, there is damage to the bones or ligaments, as these adapt later than the muscles.

The bone structure of adolescents is much more elastic than that of adults due to the low calcium deposits, but it is also more susceptible to pressure and bending loads. Since the ossification of the skeletal system is only completely completed between the ages of 17 and 21, the loads should not be too severe before this age. This does not mean that the training stimuli should be too weak, because targeted training stimuli of the muscles strengthen the bone structure.

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In order to minimize the dangers in childhood and adolescence, the following points must be observed.

Influence on growth

In the past, strength training was not recommended for children as it was said to have a negative impact on growth. Recent studies discard these concerns. Targeted strength training, including the use of weights, increases bone density, promotes muscle growth and reduces the risk of injury in children. However, in order to avoid negative consequences such as overuse of joints or muscle attachments, the right guidance and professional, precise control of the training in children is essential. The exercises must be performed in a technically correct manner, with appropriate weights (also strenuous training) in order to avoid mistakes.

Regeneration breaks should always be observed in order to avoid overloading on the one hand and to ensure adaptation and thus training success on the other. Weight training does not affect growth, and there are no physiological explanations for it and no studies to support this claim. Long-term, severe overuse can lead to fatigue fractures in the area of ​​the growth plates, which can then contribute to growth disorders. However, the risk of fractures is much higher in active contact sports.

7 principles for strength training in children and adolescents

  1. The primary goal of strength training in childhood and adolescence is to promote motivation. Much more important than the current development is the education for sport, because only those who do not necessarily associate sport with negations will do sport and especially weight training outside of school and after school.
  2. The focus is on the development of the supporting and holding muscles (abdominal muscles and back muscles)
  3. All exercises should be carried out in a child-friendly manner and with absolute safety.
  4. In addition to strength training, the focus is on developing coordinative skills.
  5. The strength development must be designed extensively in order to create an optimal basis for later sporting loads.
  6. No maximum strength content may be integrated into childhood, as the supporting apparatus is not yet sufficiently developed.
  7. The breaks should be kept longer in children's training than in youth and adult training.

The strength development in the individual age groups

Strength training up to 7 years of age

In this preschool age, strength training makes no sense and must not be carried out. The children's healthy urge to move should be used to set targeted stimuli for bone growth and childhood-appropriate muscle growth. The exercise kindergarten and obstacle course are particularly suitable for this.

Strength training between the ages of 7 and 10

In this early school age, the focus is still on stabilizing the holding and supporting apparatus, but the children's urge to move can be exploited for adequate strength training. First and foremost, speed strength should be trained at this age, as the greatest and most significant improvements in performance can be achieved here. However, it should be ensured that the strength training is put in a motivating context appropriate for the age of the children. Circuit training is particularly suitable, as variety and training control are particularly important here. The load should be held between 15 and 20 seconds with a 40 second break. Between five and ten stations should be completed with the fastest possible movement.

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Strength training between the ages of 10 and 12

This age ends with the onset of puberty. In this age group, the main focus is on developing the most important muscle groups (back muscles, leg muscles, abdominal muscles). However, no exercises with additional weights may be used. Only exercises in which your own body weight is carried and pulled or the use of expander bands are suitable for this age group. Due to the already good coordinative development, the exercises can be chosen more coordinatively demanding at this age. However, it should still be ensured that the exercises are carried out in a playful way in order to promote motivation for strength training.

Read more on the topic: Strength training in childhood

Strength training in pubescence

With the onset of puberty, childhood ends and adolescence begins. Puberty is in a first phase (Pubescence) and a late phase (adolescence) assigned.

In the first phase of puberty there is a pronounced increase in length, which often leads to a disharmony of body proportions. The leverage ratio of the joints and the performance of the muscles are in an unfavorable relationship, and problems in the area of ​​the spine are not uncommon at this age. There is a sharp rise in the sex hormone testosterone, especially among boys. This makes strength training particularly beneficial in this age group. However, it should be ensured that the passive musculoskeletal system (bones) has not yet fully developed. Strength training should primarily be brought into harmony with the development of endurance and coordination and be used primarily as jumping strength training, throwing strength training and sprinting strength training.

This increase in length often leads to a pumping of the motor skills, and training of coordinative skills should therefore not be neglected.

Strength Training in Adolescence

Adolescence ends in adolescence and there is a widespread increase, especially among boys. The disharmonious physical imbalance that developed during pubescence is balanced out again in this phase of development. Adolescence is the best age for strength development throughout life and should therefore be used especially at this age.

Due to the stabilized joints and bones, the exercises can largely be taken over from adults. But the amount of training should always be increased before the intensity.

Weight training and swimming

When swimming, intensive training often takes place during the week, even in childhood. Current findings show that supplementary, intensive strength training is particularly important for swimmers, even in childhood. Due to the lack of influence of gravity in the water, the athlete hardly experiences any compression forces during swimming, which are extremely important stimuli for the muscle to build up.

In the long term, swimmers can adapt and thus degrade bone tissue. High-performance adult swimmers often have below average bone density. Corresponding strength training with weights as early as childhood can prevent this process by applying appropriate stimuli to the bones through the weights and counteracting demineralization.

Weight training and soccer

Football is a sport that is very susceptible to injury due to frequent changes of direction and contact between the players. Through weight training in childhood, the muscles are built up and, above all, their responsiveness through the nerves (intramuscular coordination) is improved. The organism can secure its joints and ligaments by allowing its muscles to react faster and more effectively to external influences. However, care should be taken to avoid overstressing the patellar tendon during intensive strength training of the lower extremities, e.g. by not fully stretching the knee joint when doing squats. Strength training in childhood can therefore reduce the risk of injury in football

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