The other day, my son and I were talking about how he has difficulty hitting a ball out of the infield while playing baseball.
“I have no strength,” he said.
He is at an age where he is all arms and legs, which act more like rubber bands than body parts. He’s an active kid, but in most sports, kids need to have flexibility and strength.
This is not about weight lifting. While it is an excellent form of resistance training, it is not recommended for younger kids. We do some dumbbell lifting at home, closely supervised.
Kids should be encouraged to take advantage of the simple exercises they learn at school: push-ups, sit-ups, etc. However, remember that these exercises, too, need to be done properly to get the maximum benefit from them, but also to prevent injuries. Lunges and squats should never be done with the knee extended over the ankles, since this can cause damage.
Some good exercises for strength training include:
Push-ups. We aren’t talking about Marine push-ups. The easiest way to begin is to press your hands against the wall and your feet far enough away that when you extend your arms, the elbows are straight. As the child builds up arm strength, he or she can move to modified push-ups, where they balance on their knees rather than toes. And make sure your back is straight!
Sit-ups. Lay down with the small of the back pushed down toward the floor and knees bent. The trick is to make the ab muscles do all the work, not the neck. My aerobic instructors suggest letting your head go limp in your hands and stare at the ceiling. Get the shoulders off the floor. Do them at a steady pace — slower is better than faster.
Jumping exerices. Never jump in bare feet! I damaged my legs because I’d get lazy about putting sneakers on when I wanted to jump rope. Also do some light leg stretches first. Jumping rope and jumping jacks are great for strengthening leg muscles.
Squats. A good one is pretending to sit down in a chair. Stand with legs shoulder-width apart, lower your bottom until it is about even with your knees, then pull back up straight again. This is great for upper thighs and butt.
Back Stretches. Stomach on the floor and arms stretched out in front, first lift the arms slightly above the head, then lift the legs slightly off the floor. This is great for the lower back.
Start off small and continue to build repetitions. These exercises are not only great for kids, but also for parents to do with their kids.