Pump it Up: Strength Training New Trend for School Gym Classes

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strength training

Forget doing burpees, running a mile or learning about soccer. Today's tweens prefer weight lifting with their PE classes. Credit: Getty Images


Swimming, volleyball and track and field? As far as phys ed classes go, those sports are, like, so 1995. Today's kids who want to have fun and get fit in gym classes are chomping at the bit to lift weights and hit the strength building equipment.

"Pump It Up" is the new theme song among America's tween set who has discovered that muscle-strengthening beats football, soccer and other organized sports in the quest for ultimate fitness, the Wall Street Journal reports.

At a time when gym classes are waning in popularity as a mandatory grade school requirement, weight training is an elective on the rise, the newspaper says.

The trend is good news for public health care officials who say strength training helps control weight issues, improves motor skills, increases bone density, normalizes blood sugar and helps overall health, Stephen Ball, a University of Missouri exercise physiologist, tells the Journal. Plus, all that pumping builds confidence, too.

"In the past, PE teachers always emphasized aerobic programs that left bigger kids feeling like failures," Ball tells the Journal. "But the weight room is where those kids will develop a love of physical activity."

Even though kids are embracing weights and lifting, and it is becoming popular for kids at health clubs and private gyms, even the most enthusiastic health advocates say it would be difficult to make it mainstream at grade schools, the Journal reports.

That's because strength training equipment and weights need close supervision, the newspaper says, and weight equipment in schools typically is found in the athletic department and reserved for sports teams.

"That's the real challenge -- providing supervised opportunities for kids in the weight room," Boyd Epley, director of coaching performance at the National Strength and Conditioning Association in Colorado Springs, Colo., tells the Journal.

Also adding to the caution is the fact that injuries are common among children and adolescents using strength training equipment at home, according to a position paper issued in 2009 by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. The paper attributes such injuries to "unsafe behavior, equipment malfunction and lack of supervision." The paper cites the case of "a 9-year-old boy (who) died when a barbell rolled off a bench press support and fell on his chest."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.