Strength training for juniors is supported by organizations such as the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Each of these organizations encourages children's participation in appropriately designed training programs as long as they are competently supervised.
Many research reports conclude that juniors can benefit from strength training programs through the improvement of motor fitness skills, self esteem, overall strength and physical and emotional well being.
For those juniors who are anxious to get an early start with strength training as a perfect compliment to their golf game, let's review the importance of form, function and good nutrition. These principles serve as the foundation for junior fitness and a lifetime of health and wellness for your young athlete.
Form. Each exercise we perform has a specific method of set up, instruction and properly executed form for each movement. There are muscles which stabilize while other muscles activate. Each plays a role in an exercise. When we compromise on technique or what is considered good form, injuries occur. When we place inappropriate loads on unsupported bodies, we no longer create an opportunity for growth, but rather continue to place unnecessary stress on our bodies. Take the time to learn proper form and lifting techniques. Once your child learns the basics, make sure they are properly supervised as they learn about their bodies and their new found capabilities. Remember these principles will serve as the foundation for their future so take the time to help them understand the importance of safety and appropriate lifting techniques.
Function. Once you set safety and proper form as your priority, it's time to choose an appropriate exercise program. Many young players ask about the right number of sets and reps for their age. Just remember that young players are not aspiring weightlifters or bodybuilders, but rather strength builders. Junior golfers should begin with body weight exercises that place an emphasis on many muscle groups and movement patterns which mimic real life movements such as pushups, pull-ups, and multi directional lunges. Weights can be used, but the focus should be light weights and higher repetitions. Simply choose 5 or 6 exercises and perform 15 to 20 reps while continuing your concentration on good form and technique. Never compromise on the quality of your movement in favor of increased repetitions. Begin with only a few repetitions until you master an exercise. Parents or instructors should provide clear instruction and close supervision.
Good Nutrition. As role models, parents have the responsibility to educate their children on the importance of proper nutrition. I'm sure, as adults, we've often wondered how different we would have viewed food if our parents had spent more time with us. Regardless of their age, it is not too late to teach them about fueling an athletic body and powerful mind. In the end, food fulfills three basic requirements. These are to provide fuel for their bodies, regulation of their metabolism and to support new tissue growth. Children who golf need an abundance of nutrients in the form of variety, balance and moderation. In the absence of proper nutrients, you sacrifice their growth as well as their future golf performance.
Susan Hill is a CHEK Golf Biomechanic, Sports Nutritionist and President of Fitness for Golf. For exercises and articles specific to junior golfers, then visit http://www.fitnessforgolf.com.