On occasions we have parents enquiring about whether their child can join Warwick Workout. Our policy is that our minimum joining age is 14 years old if always accompanied by a parent. For children 16 and over parents can sign consent to allow their 16 year old to come into the gym (note that Warwick Workout is always manned so there is always a degree of supervision).
So that’s our policy but it still doesn’t really shed much light to answer question: “Should children workout in the gym?”… Over the years there has certainly been controversy over whether children should be undertaking resistance training. In short it’s ok for children to workout in gyms bearing in mind the following (based on a wealth of research*):
- It’s imperative that children have expert supervision to ensure early adaptation of good technique (including maintenance of natural lumber spine curvature) with well-thought through progressions in exercises.
- It’s not uncommon for children to do silly things! So ensure there are no more than 10 children per trainer. When injuries do occur in a gym it’s often due to basic safety issues.
- All children are different with various emotional maturity levels, independent of age. Essentially, to workout children need to be mature enough to be able to accept and follow direction e.g. if they are able to participate well in structured sport they are likely to respond ok to training.
- Children should be at least 6 years old and, as a guide, until 15 years of age the focus of exercises should be increasing joint stability and establishing sound movement patterns.
- It’s not advised that children perform maximal lifting efforts as they have reduced intramuscular coordination compared to adults. To assess strength use a 10 repetition test.
- Compared to other sports, resistance training is not dangerous, in fact a well-structured, expert-supervised programme can reduce injury risk in sport.
- Ensure children have adequate energy intake with 55% carbohydrate, 25% protein, 20% fat. In the vast majority of cases there is no need for supplements.
By Dr Laurence Houghton (PhD Sports Science)
*These precautions are based off recommendations from “Resistance Training for Children and Youth: A Position Stand from the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association (ASCA) 2007” and “The National Strength and Conditioning Association Position Statement on Long Term Athletic Development” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2016.