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Workout for young athletes

By Lorne Goldenberg and Peter Twist

When learning how to integrate strength ball training into an exercise program, you have various considerations depending on the user. Not everyone is an adult fitness participant. Young kids cannot be treated as miniature adults. They all go through various phases of growth and maturation, which require specific types of training. As kids age, they grow taller and then later fill out, adding more muscle mass. But before their bones lengthen at a fast rate, their nervous systems develop. Prepubescent children (younger than 12 years) go through a phase of peak maturation of the nervous system. This is a stage in which their coordination, body awareness, and athleticism can be improved by training with complex exercises, during which they must solve the puzzle of coordinating each exercise. Of course, training with balls is playlike and well received by children.

Children aged 8 to 12 can complete one exercise for each body part and three or four core stability exercises to begin to build strength through interesting activity that improves their neural networks. You can give kids aged 7 and younger minimal direction while turning three or four exercises into fun game challenges. Make sure the room is safe: Make sure the area is carpeted or padded, and clear the surrounding area of clutter for safe exits from the ball’s surface. Then just let the kids have fun and find their own way around the ball. Most home users and gyms have 65- or 55-centimeter balls. Prepubescent children fit better on a 45-centimeter ball that accommodates their height and allows them to use the ball constructively. Young children should avoid weighted medicine ball throws until they have the core and posterior chain strength to safely handle catches, as well as the emotional maturity to pay attention to the structure needed when throwing and catching weighted balls.

Pubescent-aged kids going through a peak skeletal growth phase, typically a period of awkward growth, can use strength ball training as a complete workout to help them become accustomed to their new height and weight and regain coordination. The low-impact nature of strength ball training frees kids from other high-impact training and activities that commonly cause injury during puberty when bone levers have elongated but muscles have not grown in length, size, and strength.

Postpubescent kids have the circulating hormones to capitalize on anaerobic and weight-loaded strength training, which stimulates adaptations in muscle growth. At this stage of growth and development, strength ball training becomes a part of their workout as they also engage in lifts with heavier free weights.

Childhood obesity is a growing challenge . . . make that an epidemic. Overweight kids need calorie-burning and health-promoting activity, but it must be a fun and positive experience or they will be turned off. Obese children often have less coordination and are more challenged by movement. They can do better by using selectorized weight stack machines, the one activity in which they might outperform average-sized peers. Weight stack machines require little coordination, but they make strength development safer and more achievable for obese children. If the children have success, they might continue. After initial improvement, add in a small volume of simple strength ball exercises to improve their coordination and help them move more skillfully. Strength ball exercises produce higher heart rates and activate more muscles, thus causing an expenditure of calories. Therefore, it helps people win the battle of calories in versus calories out.

This is an excerpt from Strength Ball Training.

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