In Kids

November 22, 2013

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What if everything we “know” about resistance training for children is based on myth? Chris Cooper investigates.

In 1842, England’s Children’s Employment Commission observed a disturbing trend: children working in coal mines were notably shorter than other British children. This was cause for alarm. In their rudimentary version of the Sickness-Wellness-Fitness Continuum, 19th-century British scientists used height as a primary indicator for health. A short child was, by definition, unhealthy.

The commission blamed the laborious nature of coal mining for stunting the growth of its child workers. The heavy loads, it rationalized, permanently compressed the skeleton. To achieve “normal” height, therefore, children should remain unburdened by external load until they reached physical maturity.

Though now thoroughly discredited by sport science, stories like these from child-labor hotspots worldwide resonate with parents, coaches and nervous onlookers alike. Position papers from leading scientific authorities now advocate resistance training but still shy away from “heavy” or “repetitive” lifts. All espouse the benefits of a “properly designed training program” implemented by an “expert,” but none seem confident enough to actually recommend a program.

So what do we really know about resistance training for children? What’s best for our kids?

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2 Comments on “No Squats for Coal Miner’s Daughter”

1

wrote …

Great article with great research. It's going to be interesting to see the results of youths doing CrossFit and adopting resistance training early, and how that will contribute to the decades of research that have been conducted regarding childhood development.

2

wrote …

Fantastic article. Its still a shame that some high schools here is Australia will not let a kid pick up a barbell just because of his age without even asking what experience he has, it may be that the coaches/staff are not trained who knows. My son has being doing CrossFit since he was nine and if they still use the "it will stunt there growth" excuse they have it all wrong. Correct coaching and supervision is the key (and also keeping the kids ego's in check too). Kids all develop both physically and mentally, so often a coach will have his hands full but to see the joy on a kids face once they master something is a joy to watch.
I have three kids who all do CrossFit to certain degrees and they all love it for what THEY get out of it.

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