With rising rates of childhood obesity, unrealistic body standards across age groups, and the limited scope of health education in the school system there is significant value in getting your child started in personal training. It is never too early to get started on a personalized fitness program if it is designed by a fitness professional that understands the developmental needs of children. The cognitive and physical development of children must be considered when developing a fitness program.
Fitness and Childhood Development
As a personal trainer who enjoys working with children, I have developed an understanding of psychological and physiological development across the life span. To prevent this article from being too long winded, I will be separating childhood development into two pieces, pre-adolescents, and adolescents.
When training pre-adolescents (pre-school and elementary age) I:
1.Focus on foundational movement patterns
Children in this age group are still developing their motor programs and body awareness. I make sure that they learn how to move their bodies in a purposeful and controlled manner BEFORE introducing any type of implement or resistance.
2.Keep my coaching cues/ instructions kid-friendly
Making instructions to complicated is never a good thing, especially when working with pre-adolescents. It is very unrealistic for me to expect a child to understand what I mean when I say “Load your hips, sit back and bend your knees as you descend” when coaching a bodyweight squat. However, they might understand “Now I want you to show me how a frog stands, then stand up to show me how tall you are.” This is something that a child can visualize and apply to their movement! Then I make corrections as needed, for instance, “Mr. Frog keeps his feet flat on the ground so that he doesn’t start to float away.”
3.Create an environment where fitness is based on ‘fun’
The last thing I want is for a child that I’m training to dread coming into our sessions because they are too rigid, school-like. This is their time to get active and have a blast doing so. I try to turn exercises into a fun game, have them pretend they are their favorite superhero or athlete, etc.
When training adolescents (middle school and older) I:
1.Talk to them about their personal goals and desires
At this stage of development your child has developed and connected with their identity and are searching for new ways to utilize their autonomy. As a personal trainer I need to make a program that is PERSONAL. If I do not express interest in their needs or validate their feelings, the program will not be successful.
2.Capitalize on their hormonal development
This stage of development begins at the onset of puberty. During puberty a variety of androgenic hormone concentrations increase. These include testosterone and human growth hormone. This is a very important consideration because their body is now more able to tolerate training. It is in this stage that I begin to move away from basic movement patterns to promote motor learning and body awareness to strength, muscle building, and sport specific training methods.
How Will This Help My Child?
Personal training presents numerous benefits for your child!
As your child gets taller, their limbs get bigger and there is a definite learning process to moving around with a larger body. Personal training will help your child to develop control over their body, so they are more able to reach their physical potential and avoid developing imbalances/injuries later on in life.
Exercise represents a challenge that can only be overcome with effort. As your child starts to learn new movements, get stronger, get faster, they build their self-confidence. They are putting in the work, feeling the results, and realizing they are a capable human being!
3.A Competitive Advantage
A lot of kids are involved in some type of sport, and parents like you want to see them do well. Getting your child started in personal training will help them to develop the physical attributes they need for sport performance.
Personal training is a great way to get your child involved in a healthy lifestyle that transcends physical performance. Here, at the Iron Bunker, we take pride in understanding the needs of ALL our clients and creating a plan that is appropriate for them.