Strength Training as a Family Affair

New Times Health|Science Well Blog—July 24, 2012

One of the most vocal advocates of young people doing strength building exercises like lunges and jump squats and picking up weights — albeit light ones — is Dr. Jordan D. Metzl, a sports medicine doctor at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. A marathoner and triathlete, Dr. Metzl says strength training can begin as early as age 8, and is particularly important for helping young athletes prevent injuries on the playing field.

About 30 million children participate in organized sports in the United States; every year, three million to four million of them get injured. Dr. Metzl points to the rising number of young athletes suffering injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament — the main ligament that stabilizes the knee joint — as evidence of the need for greater emphasis on strength training in youth sports. Exercises like squats can strengthen the muscles around the knee joints, making them less vulnerable.

“A number of studies show that strengthening the muscles around the knee reduces the risk of A.C.L. injuries,” Dr. Metzl said. “Stronger muscles make you a better athlete, but also a safer athlete.”

“We want kids to play sports,” he added, “but we also want to figure out how to make them safer.”

* * *

Many of these movements are demonstrated in a video that Dr. Metzl and the American Academy of Pediatrics released this month for parents and adolescents, called “Home Strength Training for Young Athletes.”

The video looks like any other workout series, except the instructor — a buff Dr. Metzl, who is preparing for an Ironman race — leads a group of children ages 8 to 16 through a variety of exercises that can be done at home. The only equipment required is a set of light dumbbells.

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