Teens, Kids and Strength Training with the Barbell

Teens, Kids and Strength Training with the Barbell

By Dr. Alison Shuman M.D. F.A.A.P
Director of Pediatric Hospital Medicine


Here’s the deal.
Exercise is good for you.
Strength training is really good for you.
This is true no matter what age you are.
So what does that mean? Strength training is actually good for kids, too.
I’ve been a practicing Pediatrician since 2003, with 2 years of training in Pediatric Critical Care and have been the Director of Pediatric Hospital Medicine at Community Memorial Hospital since 2012 and will be taking over as Chair of the Pediatric Department starting in January 2019.  I see on a daily basis the damage and consequences brought on by the obesity epidemic in America and how our diet and sedentary lifestyles are negatively impacting our youth.
While there has been concern in the past about injuries in children related to lifting weights, many studies show that children who engage in strength training on an appropriately supervised program do not have increased risks for injuries, and, in fact, can have multiple benefits.
Children’s balance and postural skills mature to adult levels by age 7 tp 8 years of age, so there is not reason specific strength training cannot be started at this time.  Initially, movements should be learned without a load and then, as movement patterns become perfected, loads can be incrementally increased safely. For gains in strength to occur workouts need to be 20-30 minutes long (minimum) and take place 2-3 times per week.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed a policy that supports pediatric strength training with appropriate supervision and the above approaches.  In addition, very few children need to have restrictions placed on their activity, so if you are concerned speak with your child’s physician so they can do a medical screening for these conditions ( they include things like Marfan’s syndrome, preexisting high blood pressure, or a history of having received certain types of chemotherapy, so all very rare things!)
Common myths:

Strength training results in loss of flexibility Research shows that strength training does not decrease flexibility and that incorporation of a stretching program has resulted in improved flexibility.
Strength training is dangerous to growth plates. Strength training is not harmful to the growth plates when done in supervised settings using low weight and high repetitions. In fact, research shows that it is safer than playing soccer, football, and basketball.
Strength training will not result in an increase in strength until puberty. Well-designed strength training programs of at least 8 weeks’ duration can increase strength by 30% to 50%. However, in young athletes, these changes happen by changing how the muscle works rather than increasing the muscle size.

The American Academy of Pediatrics endorses strength training for children with very specific guidelines, most of which I’ve already mentioned.  In addition, class sizes should be in a ratio of no more than 10:1 (student:teacher) and the coach should be certified.
Strength training isn’t just “ok” for kids, it’s great for them and gives them skills, both physical, emotional and social, that will help them succeed later in life, and will help guarantee that they have an early start on a road to lifelong health.  Anyone who has seen the kids and teens class at the gym has seen the amazing comradery, sense of accomplishment and enthusiasm it creates for the kids participating, and that is an amazing thing. AS a pediatrician, I couldn’t support the idea more!


Pregnancy, Birth, Postpartum and CrossFit – The Pregnant NICU Nurse: Part 2

I always knew having a baby would be difficult, but I always thought that it would be the delivery that would prove to be the most difficult aspect. After experiencing an unmedicated delivery that turned out to be much easier than I would have expected, and then facing the challenges of being the mother of a newborn (which I had expected would be easy due to my training as a NICU nurse), I have come to the realization that caring for a baby is the most difficult aspect of bringing life into the world. Why the discrepancy between the physical part that I thought would be difficult and the caring part, which I felt certain would be the easy part? I can say with certainty that the ease of my pregnancy and delivery experience can be attributed to that fact that I did CrossFit before and all throughout my pregnancy Before pregnancy I had been doing CrossFit for approximately a year and a half, so I would consider myself an intermediate athlete. I knew what I was doing, but also what my limitations were. I competed in the Beachside Beatdown last year, and shortly afterward found out I was pregnant (on an exciting side note, doing the competition, even though intense, did not in any way interfere with me getting pregnant, which was initially a concern of mine. It was nice to find out I was wrong!) I shared my exciting news with my coach in the early weeks and he immediately made the needed modifications to accommodate my growing belly while following doctor’s guidelines.

When I first became pregnant I was fearful that any working out would harm my developing baby. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, exercise is safe during pregnancy as long as there are no contraindications such as high blood pressure, anemia, cervical insufficiency, etc. Furthermore, exercise is recommended during pregnancy to relieve back pain, reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, reduce weight gain and more!

Having a good CrossFit coach is key! My coach worked with me every day I attended class and made modifications based on how I was feeling and what my body needed.

I actually worked out the day before I delivered, and, as it turns out, I was actually already (unknown to me) in labor at that time. I spent the next 24 hours thinking what would soon turn out to be my daughter was a set of bad gas pains…I guess if you want objective proof that CrossFit improves your threshold for discomfort, that would be it!During delivery the foundations of CrossFit came into play because I treated each contraction like I do any WOD. I knew they would only last a short period of time before I would get a rest. I could hear my Coach in my head talking about how CrossFit is measurable, observable and has repeatable results and I remembered why I worked so hard during pregnancy: to have a delivery I could tolerate. While neither pregnancy nor delivery is easy, CrossFit (and a good coach) is something that can give you the foundations for success while teaching you to push through the pain to achieve something you never thought you could.

-Jessica is a new mom to a healthy baby girl, a NICU Nurse and CrossFitter

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