Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Training Child Athletes

This is my first post. I've decided to start with one of my favorite subjects, training child-athletes. This subject is important to me not only because I'm a father of four kids, but also because the benefits kids receive from exercising can last throughout their lives.

Research clearly shows that exercise has numerous benefits for children. First, exercise has been shown to increase a child's strength, power, muscular endurance and flexibility. Second, children who exercise are less likely to be or become obese. Third, exercise has been shown helpful to treat such disorders as attention deficit disorder. Fourth, children who exercise are generally happier and optimistic. Finally, in a recent study, children who regularly exercise were shown to perform better in school. See

What are some things to keep in mind when training children? First, remember that children are not adults. The exercise or program must be tailored to a child's abilities and strengths, while recognizing that children are physically less mature than adults. Children should not lift heavy weights or perform exercises that risk personal injury. A major concern when training children is injury to the epiphyseal plate or soft tissue injuries, particularly to the back and shoulders. These concerns must be kept in mind when training a child.

Second, any program you design for a child must be fun. I have seen from my own experience that exercise programs for children should contain a variety of exercises and lots of movement. Additionally, kids love to hear encouraging words. Do all you can to motivate the child to do his or her best.

Third, emphasis must be placed upon teaching the child the proper form for performing the exercise and the child should have ample recovery time.

My personal belief is that you do not need to incorporate weights into an exercise program for a child. Instead, I prefer to use objects such as tires, ropes and rocks to develop strength and muscle endurance. My personal favorites are tire flipping, tug-of-war, sled drags (forward and backward), and different movements with rocks (such as deadlifts, squats and presses). Children seem to love playing with tires and rocks.

I also like to implement sprints, body movements, and speed and agility work on the agility ladder or with the use of cones. A recommendation I have is to set up different drills for the child, time each drill, and encourage them to try to beat the time it took them to finish the previous drill.

I would encourage you also to check out what Joe DeFranco recommended as an exercise routine for children. You can find his recommendation at

The benefits of training children are great. Not only will it enhance the health of the child, encourage them to have a healthy lifestyle, but it will also increase the possibility that the child will be active for the remainder of his or her life.

My next posts will focus on another mentor of mine, Zach Even-Esh, as well as training programs that I have found to produce great results.