Strength Training Guide to Adolescents: Part 2 Nervous System
Adolescents experience several crescendos of development during this crucial time. The nervous system has its final push towards completion. What does that mean?
As a child develops, the nervous system is the central default computer that drives everything. It impacts how they move how they think and how they problem-solve. As a child progresses from simple reflexes as a newborn to coordination in walking and finally to the complex action and patterns found in sports and dance, they are developing the part of their nervous system called proprioception. This is apparent in our adolescents. Since these systems are evolving into higher-level functions it is important to begin a strengthening program based on individuality.
As mentioned in Part 1 of the series, a child’s biological age is the basis professionals use to choose an appropriate strengthening program. One type of program may not be appropriate for another based on the complexity of the exercise. If a child does not have coordination, he/she may not be appropriate for an Olympic based strengthening program where many joints need to stabilize and coordinate in the techniques. They may be more appropriate for bodyweight exercise that is more familiar to them. For others, your professional may need to start strengthening using neuromuscular techniques to help the athlete’s awareness of muscle contractions during a movement and progress from there.
This important final stage should be guided with good form, appropriate weights, and a regime that targets their weaknesses but does not overstress their strengths.
The whole point is “safety first” and that each program should be tailored to the individual’s strengths and weaknesses. As parents, we want to see our children succeed and not get hurt. Proper testing, proper selection, and proper progression are the means to that end.
Physical therapists who work with adolescents can navigate through a strengthening program. Their testing defines the stages of development so that individuals can be given a program that meets their goals for success.
Paula Webster graduated in 1998 in the field of physical therapy from the University of Hartford. She also holds a certification in strength and Conditioning. Since graduation her clinical experience includes general orthopedics, sports medicine, adolescent strength training and adolescent spinal dysfunction. She is the founder of the Six Degrees of Freedom program for children with adolescent spinal deformities.