Many people often wonder what the appropriate ages are for their children to start training for sports. Every child, of course, is a little different. When it comes to being active, it’s pretty much always a green light. The question is, what age is it beneficial to start technical training and what’s a safe age to begin strength or resistance training?
Looking at general guidelines for physical activity, starting at age 6 and up, it is recommended that children get at least an hour of moderate exercise per day. Children under 6 should be physically active throughout the day to maximize their development, coordination, and balance. Focusing more on general movement and play up to age 4-5 is good to keep them active and engaged. From a developmental standpoint, ages 4 – 8 are part of what we call an introductory or fundamental period, where sport-specific skills are appropriate to be introduced along with free play. During the fundamental period, it’s about gaining familiarity and comfortability with the ball, interaction with other players, developing a range of motion while still having fun using creativity and imagination. General agility and foundational moves are worked on at this time, but very little tactical training needs to be added until the Developmental period which starts around 9 years.
How do you know if your child is training too much?
First and foremost watch your child and see if they are enjoying the activity. Another general guideline is for children to practice less than their age in hours per week. For example, a 7-year-old should have sport-specific practice less than 7 hours each week. If your child wants to “play” more than that, encourage free play.
What about weight(resistance) Training?
Resistance training can help prevent injuries, strengthen neuromuscular connections and build bone strength. If children can build strength pre-puberty, they will then have a more solid foundation to grow into. It is said to be safe for children to be safe to begin incorporating basic resistance training around 7 or 8 years old.
Bodyweight is a good place to start, as all major and core muscles can be strengthened while improving balance and coordination. Bunny hops, crab walks, bear crawls and frog hops get children moving in all directions and slowly begin to build muscle. Once basic movements like squats, lunges, and presses are mastered and they are able to listen carefully, follow directions and use proper technique and form, then it is safe to add weights with adult supervision. It’s important to take into consideration what muscles are being worked and to have a well-rounded routine so no imbalances develop.
With any type of training or sport, you want to introduce children to it in an enjoyable environment. If they fall in love with the sport, their passion to be better will drive everything else.