For parents of young Hong Kong tennis players, deciding when to start strength training can be tough. At some point, kids need to develop the physical tools to succeed, but at the same time, it is important not to expose them to too much too early.
As coaches, we often get asked about strength training for young tennis players and below we have gone through some of the more common questions and given some hopefully helpful answers.
WHAT IS STRENGTH TRAINING?
Strength training is resistance training designed to strengthen the muscles, joints, tendons, bones etc by applying force/pressure.
IS IT BODYBUILDING?
This is asked often, and easy to answer: no (or at least, no as far as tennis is concerned). Powerlifting/bodybuilding is a form of strength training used for bulking up and consists of lifting heavy weights to build big muscles.
Strength training for tennis does not even require weights – push-ups, pull-ups and other exercises that use body weight for resistance are great.
DOES STRENGTH TRAINING WORK?
Strength training is not going to turn your six-year-old into Lebron James or Serena Williams, but it can help with a number of things, including bone density, strength, coordination and, if done safely, injury prevention.
IS STRENGTH TRAINING SAFE FOR KIDS?
It can be, but it can also be dangerous. It’s important to use caution when helping young tennis players with their strength training. The National Strength and Conditioning Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have both deemed strength training safe, provided it is done with a qualified coach or trainer.
It is commonly thought that strength training damages kid’s growth plates, but the truth is that improper strength training damages kid’s growth plates.
HOW CAN WE MINIMIZE RISK?
Stay safe. Children should not be lifting heavy weights or lifting weights over their head.
If you are using equipment, make sure it is appropriately sized for kids. If the machine cannot be adjusted to suit the child, it’s a safe bet that he or she is not quite ready.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY CHILD IS READY?
This is a tough one because all children mature differently, so it is difficult to pinpoint a specific age. On top of that, it is also important to ensure that a child is ready mentally, as well as physically.
Pay attention to your child and listen. If they are not mature enough to handle complex exercises or strength training they will let you know through their behaviour.
MY CHILD IS READY. WHAT KIND OF EXERCISES SHOULD WE FOCUS ON?
Body weight exercises are a perfect starting point. Push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, squats – all of these use body weight as resistance. They are safe, simple and don’t cost a thing.
These exercises help develop the core and are great for young tennis players. When done correctly, simple bodyweight exercises and stretches can help kids take the next step in their tennis development and reduce the risk of injury.
MORE STRENGTH TRAINING QUESTIONS?
Stop by one of our Hong Kong tennis facilities and ask an ATA coach in person!
Want to put those tennis muscles to work? For kids between the ages of 3 and 18, our Mid-Term Camps provide a great way to stay active over the school holidays. Learn more and register here.