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Prime Time: T-Kids: Exercise & Diet

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Now that summer has arrived, my 6 year old daughter has been going to the gym with me more often. This week she performed strict pull-ups. She’s always been able to jump up to the bar or gymnastic rings and hold for an isometric, but I was surprised to see her do dead hang pull-ups, zero body english, then lower herself under control.

That gave me an idea for a Prime Time topic: training and nutrition issues for T-kids. Reply here and I’ll help out if I can. I invite other T-Nation experts to chime in as well.

Fire away!

Should kids under, say eight years old, only use body weight exercises?

When do you think it is an appropriate age to start “really” training?

interesting topic, whenever I train pre-teens 10-12 age bracket, it’s usually all bodyweight stuff and some running. Trick is you have to entertain them while giving them fitness. I did alot of med ball work with these kids, like chase the med ball then see how far you can throw it back, some simple plyos(jump over the box)

[quote]Lonnie123 wrote:
When do you think it is an appropriate age to start “really” training? [/quote]

i’d say 13 or 14

[quote]Lonnie123 wrote:
When do you think it is an appropriate age to start “really” training? [/quote]

That was my question. Is there an age at which they are too young to lift some weight?

Our 11 year-old daughter is in gymnastics. We had been working on her upper body strength. She does push-ups, pull-ups & dips. She also does pikes and sit-ups. She has improved in her strength quite a bit. Is it OK to start her on some light weights?

Thank you,
Jana

[quote]Dave2 wrote:
Should kids under, say eight years old, only use body weight exercises?
[/quote]

You know, every time I talk about kids and training, I can’t help but think about those little Soviet (?) kids that get pulled away from their parents practically at birth and trained hard until they win gold at age 14 or whatever. So I’m reminded that kids have a big capacity for training, bigger than we think… not that I’d put the average kid through what those Olympic hopefuls go through.

Anyway, I do like bodyweight work for younger kids. When weights are introduced, I never suggest training to or past failure (forced reps etc) or testing 1RMs. Heavy if fine for young teens, but 1RMs? Just not necessary for a 13 year old. But opinions vary there and it might be okay with the right coach, but I’d avoid it generally.

I’m also reminded of an old Charles Staley article where he talked about seeing kids playing on a playground. Get a couple of fat kids on the merry-go-round and spin it and it’s almost like pulling a car or running with a weight vest! Isn’t that resistance training to an extent? Climbing is too when you think about it.

My daughter does step-ups, sit-ups (100 at a time when the mood strikes her) pull-ups, lunges, rope climbs, push-ups, etc. She doesn’t have a “program” or a set schedule; to her she’s just playing and that’s fine for now. A few exercises in the gym are like games to her. Plus she plays a variety of sports and has been in gymnastics since around age two.

[quote]Lonnie123 wrote:
When do you think it is an appropriate age to start “really” training? [/quote]

Jana and Lonnie123,

Training with weights: Instead of just looking at ages, I’d also look at the kid’s development. An early blooming girl or seventh grade boy with a full beard might be ready for iron faster than other kids. Just a theory of mine, so I apologize in advance for not dropping 27 studies to back that up! If I had to put a number on it, I’d say 13 or just after puberty.

But again, I’d avoid intensity techniques/advanced techniques, training to failure and max singles.

My kiddo has weights already: five sets, going from a pound to five pounds. But really she just plays with them, likes to copy her parents. It’s like a little boy with a toy lawnmower. But when she copies me, I do show her correct form.

Play is the key of course. I’m more concerned with her staying active and eventually adopting a healthy lifestyle. Sometimes we go with what she enjoys the most rather than what’s “best” when it comes to exercise. Example: I want her to try bodyweight jump squats, but she’d rather have another burpee contest. Fine, we’ll do a burpee contest (see who can do 10 the fastest.) Whatever she enjoys the most. Most are fine exercises anyway.

I should also throw in my “opportunity for play” rant.

Kids under 13 or so really don’t need a “program.” All they need is the opportunity to play. Many parents just don’t provide this. They’re too busy or too lazy or just couch spuds themselves so they don’t even think about it.

Kids are programmed to “train,” to play and run and climb and throw. You almost have to make them NOT do it. But video games, TV-as-babysitter, absentee fathers, etc all conspire against this. But it’s really easy to fight back.

First thing to do is make your living room or family room into a play area. (Yeah, get rid of the glass lamps.) My living room has a kid sized punching/kicking bag, soccer balls for foot drills, a Swiss ball to roll around on, and usually a medicine ball or two. I don’t have to tell my daughter to exercise, she just starts kicking on her TKD bag, lifting up the medicine ball and playing around.

Sometimes she’ll be watching cartoons and just hop up and start “exercising.” Of course, she doesn’t know that’s what she’s doing!

So it all comes down to providing the opportunity. And while spending money on toys, sports camps, martial arts, or gymnastics lessons helps, you don’t have to. Hitting the park instead of turning on the TV in the evenings is still free.

If a child only focuses on one sport for fitness and athletic skills, what should it be?

Speaking from experience,

I’m 16 now, and I was 13 when my sister’s boyfriend first got me into lifting. He didn’t pull any bullshit with me, which IMO is really good. That way you can find out if the kid (me) likes lifting. Well at that point I was 210 lbs and 5’6. I’m now 200lbs and 6’1, with about 15% less BF(around 11% probably.)

I’m agreeing exactly with Chris on this, all the parent has to do is give the kid the opportunity. If a kid likes it, then they will stick with it. Don’t force them(us?) to do anything, we don’t force you. I think its cool when I see kids lifting with their parents, but unfortunately, these same kids are probably not getting to play soccer with their friends, or go to the park whenever they want. The way my parents raised me is exactly what I plan on doing for my kids. My parents took me to the park, but didn’t force us to go and play. They encouraged us no doubt, but it wasn’t “josh get your ass out there I dont want to have to deal with you.” And they encouraged us to play sports (soccer and basketball and then later football) but again didn’t force us to do so.

my 2 cents.

[quote]Dave2 wrote:
If a child only focuses on one sport for fitness and athletic skills, what should it be?
[/quote]

I think it was Ian King who suggested gymnastics when I asked him the same question. But King also stressed what he calls “broad physical exposure.” (King started lifting weights at age 7, by the way.)

That’s a big issue: do you “cross train” the kid or try to create a little Tiger Woods by specializing from the delivery room onward?

I say cross train. Let the kid try as many sports as he wants. He’ll gravitate toward one as he grows and then maybe some specific sports training can be performed. But personally, I’m not trying to create a jock or pro-athlete with my kid. I just want her to be healthy and active. I provide a whole lot of opportunity but don’t push much.

Limit their soft drink intake greatly and provide opportunity for activity. That’s about the best thing parents can do besides modeling the good behaviors.

I seem to remember reading about kids in soviet training and I think Mel Siff in Supertraining stated some ages where they start to train the kids based upon the sports they would later compete in when older. I think somewhere else maybe Secrets of Soviet Sports Training that kids should play a variety of activities and sports until the beginning of their teen years. Usually at this stage they have developed a variety of coordination skills and balance, speed etc.

I remember the first time I met Ian King at a seminar years ago in L.A. that his daughter Summer was about 2-3 years old and he said he left different colored medicine balls varying in weight around his house and she would naturally pick the med balls up as she was able to. He didn’t coach her on the method, just let her do it and I also remember that we had to keep an eye on her during the seminar because for a 2-3 yr old she could run pretty fast. Must have been deadlifting med balls… :wink:

[quote]laquino1 wrote:
I seem to remember reading about kids in soviet training and I think Mel Siff in Supertraining stated some ages where they start to train the kids based upon the sports they would later compete in when older.[/quote]

This is a very important concept, especially nowadays. In order to become world class in certain sports where it may be advantageous to be young (e.g gymnastics, tennis to some extent), specialization must come much sooner. This contrasts with the traditional model of GPP almost exclusively in the “children must play” mindset. One thing that I think is important is to allow for a reasonably good adaptation in aerobic potential through experience with a variety of activities; it really sets the stage for adequate work capacity down the road. If you don’t have this by the time you’re in your late teen years, you’re way behind the curve, especially since VO2max increases with normal growth and development naturally (larger lungs - it’s pretty obvious).

Dr. Avery Faigenbaum from the College of New Jersey is the authority on this subject; I’ll dig up some of his stuff and post it when I’m on this Thursday.

Interesting topic! I’ve signed my 4yo up for his first official hockey program this coming winter. It’s just a “learn to skate” program at his age. Hockey is pretty popular around here and I’ve played all my life, so I hope he likes it - but I’m going to try to tread very lightly and be very low-key about it.

I was thinking about some sort of martial arts class for him and wondered what people thought a good age to start that might be and if there are any tips for picking the best class (I know nothing about martial arts).

PS - Chris, your daughter is a cutie-pie!

Hey Chris,

Could you please check out the thread called Prime Time - SOY BABY in the Supplements and Nutrition Section?

Or if you’re feeling lazy:
Overweight mom with bad diet decides not to breastfeed her newborn baby boy (3 months old). Doctor says baby is allergic to milk based formula they had been feeding it, and has recommended they use a soy based formula instead.

I’ve already received a ton of great info, but… its always good to know more! What do you think?

Thanks

I read some reports recently about some of these sports-groomed kids: repetitive stress injuries, burnout by age 12, etc. It’s tricky for a parent. You want your kid to be prepared, mine is in an FC Dallas soccer camp this week working with MLS coaches, but it’s a slippery slope.

Some families go into debt financing the coaches and travel expenses. Some move to be closer to the right tennis or gymnastics coaches. Sometimes you end up with a world class athlete, and sometimes you end up with an anorexic kid with blown knees at age 13. Or a son who, after $65,000 in private training, says, “Dad, I’d rather play the guitar.”

But as mentioned above, it takes that these days to get a “star.” I spoke with the mother of a volleyball player for a large Jr. high school. Her daughter basically didn’t have a chance in hell making the high school team unless she played and traveled all summer on a “pay team.” And this volley ball – not exactly a big money sport unless you look like Gabby Reese does in a bikini and like beach volleyball. So this woman is working overtime just so her daughter can play on the travel team to have a small shot at playing for the high school team. The competition is just that fierce.

Tricky, tricky issues for parents. Sometimes it’s fine if the kid is all for it, and sometimes you can see where it’s daddy trying to live out his failed sports dreams through his kid.

[quote]Chris Shugart wrote:
Sometimes she’ll be watching cartoons and just hop up and start “exercising.” Of course, she doesn’t know that’s what she’s doing!

So it all comes down to providing the opportunity. And while spending money on toys, sports camps, martial arts, or gymnastics lessons helps, you don’t have to. Hitting the park instead of turning on the TV in the evenings is still free. [/quote]

I know exactly what you mean. Our daughter will get up during the commercials and do cartwheels, and round-offs, and all those tumbling things. Kind of neat to watch them ‘train’ when they think they’re just goofing off.

What happens to that energy when you get older?

[quote] Jillybop wrote:

I was thinking about some sort of martial arts class for him and wondered what people thought a good age to start that might be and if there are any tips for picking the best class (I know nothing about martial arts).
[/quote]

Martial arts are great for kids. Age 5 is a good time to start. Younger than that would be tricky. (I spoke to some pro-soccer coaches about that too, and most agree that age 5 is perfect but age 4 is difficult, at least for organized play.)

Some kids who don’t excel at team sports will explode in martial arts. Mine got her yellow belt in TKD at age 5 but then the local facility closed. We decided to put off getting her back in until we have a facility that’s doesn’t require a 45 mile drive!

Personally, I think any martial art is fine. I’ll leave it to the martial artists to argue over which flavor is best. Mostly, pick by the location and quality of the facility and instructors. Visit several places. Most offer a free first visit.

Thank God she took after her mother because I’m hideous.

[quote]enterthedojo wrote:
Hey Chris,

Could you please check out the thread called Prime Time - SOY BABY in the Supplements and Nutrition Section?

Or if you’re feeling lazy:
Overweight mom with bad diet decides not to breastfeed her newborn baby boy (3 months old). Doctor says baby is allergic to milk based formula they had been feeding it, and has recommended they use a soy based formula instead.

I’ve already received a ton of great info, but… its always good to know more! What do you think?

Thanks[/quote]

Sorry, it’s been so long since my daughter was an infant I’ve forgotten all the stuff I knew about formulas.

Generally, breastfeeding is best, if possible, even if only done for a couple of weeks. I don’t remember what formula we used after breastfeeding, but I do remember trying to avoid soy. Usually though, you go with whatever makes them cry the least and get the least gas!

And I remember sipping some pumped breastmilk once. Yeah, I’m weird.