Muscle-Strengthening Exercises in Children: Everything You Need to Know

Children and adolescents may want to do muscle-strengthening exercises to improve sports performance, as well as to treat or prevent injuries. Is it safe for children?
Muscle-Strengthening Exercises in Children: Everything You Need to Know

Last update: 01 July, 2021

Muscle-strengthening in children helps build fiber and strength through the use of weights, resistance bands, bodyweight exercises, or machines. But is it really good for children?

Actually, it is feasible for children to perform strength and muscle-strengthening exercises, as long as we adapt to certain guidelines for their pediatric age and observe their physical and health condition.

Muscle-strengthening exercises in children

Before continuing, it’s important to make something clear. As the Mayo Clinic team reminds us, strength training shouldn’t be confused with weight lifting or bodybuilding.

In fact, trying to build large muscles can put too much stress on young tissues, tendons, and areas of cartilage that haven’t developed into bone yet. With this in mind, it’s best for children to use light resistance, with special emphasis on techniques for safe, controlled movement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children and adolescents get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, including aerobic exercises, as well as those that build muscle and strengthen bones.

Along these lines, specialists recommend that children engage in moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity every day of the week, as well as skeletal strengthening exercises at least 3 days a week.

A boy with a soccer ball.
Sports in childhood should be encouraged in order to promote healthy movement habits.

The importance of this modality in children

Why is it important for children to do muscle-strengthening exercises? The main reason is that strength and endurance are essential for children to perform everyday functions, such as using fine and gross motor skills.

In addition, strong muscles help maintain proper posture throughout the day. This is key, considering that children spend many hours sitting in non-ergonomic chairs and many of them still have to carry or drag heavy backpacks.

In addition to this, improving strength and endurance contributes to a high metabolism. This increases caloric expenditure, both during physical activities and at rest, which reduces the risk of obesity.

It’s also worth noting that children with strong muscles tend to have strengthened ligaments and tendons as well. Good joint health prevents the risk of injury, not only during sports activities, but also in everyday life.

Lastly, it’s important to keep in mind that muscle strength is necessary for general activities and helps reduce weakness and fatigue. Strengthening activities require children to work against a stronger form of resistance.

Combining diverse and varied muscle-strengthening activities will help children develop different fiber groups.

Benefits of muscle strengthening for children

Considering the above, we can say that the most important benefits of muscle-strengthening exercises for children, provided they’re done correctly, are the following:

  • An increase in the child’s muscular strength and endurance
  • Increased protection of muscles and joints against injuries of all kinds, especially if high-risk sports are performed
  • Improved performance in almost any sport
  • Development of proper movement and posture habits that can be applied to all aspects of life
  • Bone strengthening
  • Improved body composition, strength, aerobic capacity, and anaerobic capacity
  • Healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels
  • The maintenance of a healthy weight
  • Benefits for mental health, self-esteem, and self-confidence

Children’s games and activities with muscle strengthening

Kids in a pool.
Swimming is one of the most recommended activities for the pediatric age group due to its various benefits for the body.

The best muscle-strengthening activities for children are the following:

  • Tug-of-war type games
  • Resistance exercises with bodyweight or resistance bands
  • Climbing trees or ropes
  • Rock climbing
  • Some forms of yoga

Other variants of physical games and activities that promote muscle development include circuits and obstacle courses that include varied exercises, moving objects and throwing, as well as swimming. The latter is a full-body activity that develops strength and endurance.

Supervised training for good results

Strength training should be part of a total fitness program. It shouldn’t be overlooked that, as reported in an article in Sports Health magazine, this type of exercise, when performed in a controlled and supervised environment, can help children and adolescents of all athletic abilities safely improve their overall well-being.

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