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We have been inundated with statistics quantifying the percentage of children that are obese. Typically, these values are stratified by race, gender, socioeconomic status, place of residence, or various other demographic variables. Regardless of which statistic is most impactful to you, the take home message is that childhood obesity is a growing health concern; not a dwindling one. Children need to eat better and exercise more, we all know this. The key is getting them to adopt this lifestyle.In the field of strength and conditioning, terms like long-term athlete development (LTAD), training age, and functional movement are often used when talking about youth resistance training. These are important aspects of youth training, but focusing on confidence, simplicity, and fun might make more of an impact.
Confidence is difficult to measure but usually results from achieving goals.
Confidence is difficult to measure but usually results from achieving goals. Strength and conditioning coaches can motivate overweight and obese children by helping them set SMART goals, or those that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Improving strength and decreasing body fat are examples of goals that are SMART. In support of these positive outcomes, McGuigan et al. found that eight weeks of resistance training was able to reduce body fat and improve measures of strength in a group of overweight and obese children aged 7 – 12 years old (3). If children are able to physically observe changes in strength and body weight, they can gain confidence that a specific mode of activity is working. Furthermore, resistance training can be a driving force to get kids active in other recreational activities. Although not measured in the aforementioned study, several parents noted that their children began an organized sport following the resistance training program (3). Organizing a resistance training program for overweight and obese children can be difficult and unfamiliar for some coaches. However, a simplistic approach is usually the best solution. As a general rule of thumb, resistance training intensity should include multi-joint exercises, performed 2 – 4 days per week, with an intensity of 50 – 85% 1-repetition maximum (1RM). Rest intervals of 1 – 2 min should be incorporated between sets and exercises should be performed at moderate velocity (1). It is important to note that overweight and obese children may have some barriers to certain exercises and their progressions might occur at a slower rate than some of the other children. Coaches and physical education teachers need to be aware of these trends and make the appropriate exercise modifications for each child. Refer to Table 1 for exercise progression descriptions for children.
Bodyweight – 50% 1RM
50 – 70% 1RM
60 – 85% 1RM
1 – 2 sets x 10 – 15
2 – 6 sets x 6 – 12
Rest Intervals (mins)
1 – 2 min
1 – 3 min
2 – 3
2 – 4
Derek Grabert, MS, CSCS,*D is an Education Content Coordinator for the NSCA. He holds a master's degree in nutrition and has experience as a university instructor for human nutrition, anatomy, and physiology classes. He has coached high school athletes, special populations clients, and general fitness enthusiasts on the health benefits of strength training, aerobic training, and the integration of proper nutrition.