• Thomas Wheeler

Children - how your future champions should exercise to be fit, healthy and happy.

It's 2019.... and the chances are your son or daughter have seen/asked/or have been asked to start resistance training - however, you're sceptical... you've heard stories where kids have 'stunted their growth' from doing so... well, let me fill in some of the blanks for you!


FMS - fundamental movement skills

SSS - sport specific skills

PHV - peak height velocity

MC - metabolic conditioning

Hypertrohpy - building of muscle tissue

This is something called the "Youth Physical Development Model" (see it here). This model does a fantastic job at explaining time-based physical competencies , or in other words, what your child should be good at/focusing on at specific age intervals. Now this is where I will say, EVERY COACH WORKING WITH CHILDREN SHOULD UNDERSTAND THIS MODEL , and I will explain why;

1. Children aren't like adults. While this seems so logical, it often falls on deaf ears. In the presence of social media, it is incredibly easy to follow elite athletes on Instagram and see what their training is like. I get it, I really do.. "If the guys in the (insert elite sport) are doing this exercise/training, if I start now I'll be just like them. WRONG. They have been training for YEARS, have the support network around them tracking every aspect of their training (nutrition, psychology, exercise, rehabilitation ect.) and do this (most often) as a job. If you can't copy their entire routine, don't copy any. Your body won't be ready and you'll be doing yourself more harm than good.

2. Skills are time-dependant. The above models (blue = boys, pink = girls) state clearly what physical attribute should be focused on, at each critical time point - e.g, for males, during their PHV stage (the stage when the body grows the most in a period of time ~13yrs to 16yrs), you should maximise this window of optimal train-ability (more here) by focusing on agilty, speed, power, strength and endurance. Conversely, for females, this same window of optimal train-ability occurs at around ~11yrs to 15yrs. FOR ALMOST (I use this word blanket-like) every age group under your PHV, the main focus should be on fundamental movement skills (learning to move - catching, throwing, balancing, jumping, landing ect.)

3. Too much structure makes sport/exercise boring/hard. "Current estimates in Australia suggest about 20% (1 in 5) children are overweight or obese" (source). This is alarming. There are far-cry's that there is a building relationship between sport participation and obesity.. now you can argue that overweight kids don't want to play sport (self-conscious ect.) but there are many other factors - here of which, are some reasons for dropout;

"Perception of sport clubs wanting competence for competition"

"Competing time demands"

Adding to this, 57% of athletes who dropout are female.. and the average age of total dropout is 13.9yrs (source). Heading back to the YPD model, this is the most ideal time for "windows of optimal train-ability", the time when you can give the athlete the most competitive advantage... BUT this is where so many of us get it wrong... at this point I ask you to re-read point 1... Children aren't like adults! Keeping training/sport/exercise fun is the key...

4. Early sport specialisation. This is the condition (I believe it is) where the youth athlete specialises in their sport at too young of an age... This means too much of one specific means of training/sport in a 12 month period. Take a look at the graphic below...

The findings? Early specialisation lead to non-elite performances compared to late specialisation athletes... let that sink in... More is not always better, however, there are a few sports (such as swimming and gymnastics) that fall just outside this conundrum which require earlier initialisation of sport-specific skills.

Injury risk...

I could go on, but the findings do it for me! Moral of the story, let your child play multiple sports throughout the year (not all at once, however) and allow them to reap the benefits.

So, some take-aways;

1. Keep it fun

2. Make it maturation-specific

3. Play the long game

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