During the last decade or two there has been a significant increase in teenagers interested in strength training worldwide and in Hong Kong. Some dream of becoming professional athletes while others are interested in a better and healthier physique. No matter what the reason for your teenager is, there are a few things every teenager and parent should be aware of.
There have been some concerns regarding this topic since strength training puts extra stress on growing bones and the tendons and ligaments that attach to them. On the other hand, because the teenage body undergoes numerous hormonal and physical changes there is great potential to maximize athletic performance during this period and pave the road for a great athletic future.
If your teen is interested in serious results, he or she should always work out under professional adult supervision using correct techniques, and avoiding lifting maximal amounts of weights. This way the risk of injury is significantly lower while the athletic performance gets increased. If done properly the benefits of weightlifting for teens are just the same as for adults: increases in muscle mass, tendon and ligament strength, muscle endurance, flexibility and coordination.
How often should your teen train?
The growing teenage body needs time to recover from each session. Balance is very important to avoid injuries and allow the muscles to develop. However, too many days in between strength training sessions can lead to a loss of progress. It’s recommended that young athletes train 2-3 times per week.
There is great debate about how many reps a teenage athlete should do. The general recommendation is anywhere between 6 and 20 reps. Keep in mind that it is safer to do more reps using a moderate load than performing fewer repetitions under a heavy load. This has also been shown to be more effective at increasing the athlete’s strength. As long as the program continually challenges the athlete to perform a greater amount of work, strength gains will be made.
How much weight?
Determining the amount of weight is a pretty simple process. A safe and effective way is starting with a weight that can be lifted 13-15 times with little difficulty and then increasing the weight until it can be lifted no more than 13 to 15 times. If the weight is too heavy there is danger of injury or the athlete may have a tendency to use improper technique to lift the weight. Once the athlete has increased his or her strength to a point where they can lift more than 15 times, they should increase the weight by 2 ½- to 5-pound (1 to 2.5 kilograms) increments.
How many sets?
Although the number of sets can vary, the general guideline is 1-3 sets of a variety of single- and multi-joint exercises and 10-20 sets during the entire workout. Each set should be performed with maximum intensity. If the athlete is unable to perform with maximum intensity, it is generally a good idea to complete multiple sets of an exercise.
The general guideline for rest between sets is 3-5 minutes. A shorter time period may not be enough for the muscles to recover properly before the next set which may lead to a less effective workout.
There are several types of exercises are effective for teenage athletes. These include free weights, weights machines, body exercises like push-ups and pull-ups, rubber tubing, and plyometrics. Keep in mind that professional adult supervision is of great importance when using weight machines and free weights.
A strength training program for young athletes should include every major muscle group in the body. Of course, some sports will focus more on a particular body part, but generally speaking no major muscle group should be overlooked. Some sample exercises include the bench press, bent-over rows, lateral raises, biceps curls, triceps extensions, machine leg presses, calf raises and abdominal crunches.
It is important to include core strengthening exercises because they have shown to decrease injury by strengthening the muscles most commonly injured in youth sports. These include exercises that strengthen the muscles of the lower back, abdomen and hips.
Every strength training program for young athletes should also have a proper warm up routine that includes stretching some aerobic exercises and one to two sets of light resistance exercises. An effective way to expand energy is organizing the workout so that larger muscle groups are worked before smaller muscle groups.
If your teenager is serious about a professional sports career, the best thing to do is to seek out professional counsel and guidance. Even if it might only be just a short term interest in achieving a better physique, a professional will lead your teenager through the whole program in the most effective way while keeping him or her safe from injury. EPT offers professional services and programs specialized for teenagers looking to increase their sports performance. You can visit us in our studio in Aberdeen, Hong Kong where our trainers will be happy to help you out.