I’ve been a personal trainer for about 10 years and I have worked with all different types of people. When training children it’s a much different approach than personal training for adults. When you build a training program for kids the goal is to build something that they will stick with and that’s fun for them. Working with 8-year-olds is different than working with someone that’s 12 or 16. One of the main things to keep in mind is the mindset of the different ages that you’re working with. I’ve put together some guide of what to expect when you hire a personal trainer for your child.
One on one personal training
One on one training is more suited for kids that are 14 years or older. Younger kids don’t enjoy working one on one with a personal trainer. Keep this in mind when you’re looking for a personal trainer. One on one training is not the best bet for younger children. When training one on one we can focus on building strength and agility for a certain sport. Getting an older child ready for a sports team is the main reason that I’m hired. Some parents will hire me to get their child active but compliance is usually not high when they don’t have outside motivation like a sport.
Group training for kids
For kids of all ages group training is the best bet because they can entertain each other during the session. Having peers around can build a sense of teamwork and children will at times compete to beat their peers. When setting up a group session it’s important to match the children’s age within a couple of years. Keeping the kids close to the same age will allow the kids to do the same training program during the session allowing the trainer focus more on form. When you have kids of different age groups you the trainer will have a lot more work to do and the session will be less effective. Group training is a more cost effective way of training which is an added benefit.
Parent child personal training
I’ve worked with parents and their children during the same session. During the workout, there is mixed results and this depends on the relationship with the parent and child. If the child acts out around the parent it will cause disruption during the training session. I would recommend having the child workout in their own session if they aren’t on the same page. Sometimes the child and the parent work well together and have great time during workouts. If this is the case I would encourage doing the session together because it promotes bonding between the parent and child. The best age for pairing a child with parent is between 13-17 years of age.
Personal training younger kids
When I design a program for younger kids I like to add games into the workout. Broad jump challenges, medicine ball tosses and other kinds of races. The idea is to keep things fun and to keep the group interacting with each other. If the children enjoy the training sessions, they will keep coming back. The youngest I will start training kids is around 8 years old, this is when kids start to take sports a little more seriously. When training children for sports I like to work on balance, agility and a little strength. Strength is less important for younger kids because they don’t have the hormones for major changes. Equipment like speed agility ladders, agility cones and light medicine balls are great for young kids. The focus should be on developing motor skills rather than strength.
Flexibility and young kids
Young children don’t need to focus on flexibility much. Most children are overly flexible and this is something personal trainers look out for while they’re doing strength training. If a child is doing weights on their own more than likely they will suffer over extend muscles and may cause an injury. They are very loose and this leads to poor form while lifting weights.
Personal training for kids 12-14
When I am training kids that are in this age range I will start to add things like box jumps, kettle bells and some barbell work. This is the age when the body starts to get bigger and stronger. I won’t focus on heavy lifting at this age but I will build a foundation for later. Children in this age group tend to see the value of training more than the younger kids. They see how a training program can make them better at the sports they’re playing and this keeps them motivated. Children in this age group will benefit from doing squats, deadlifts, bench press and pull ups. I try to keep the rep range around 8-12 for this age group unless the child is experienced.
Personal training for kids 15-17
In this training age, all bets are off. We can focus on almost anything that an adult is doing. The focus usually is on strength and conditioning to improve sports but we see some children that have weight loss goals. With older teens, we focus on improving maximal strength, speed and agility. Our goal is to make them faster and stronger than other people on in their sport because this will give them an edge over other players.
Most team sports have a strength program built in but they don’t focus on individual needs of the players. It’s important to have a child work with someone one on one to see major results.
Example of strength training results
For the last year, I have been working with a 16-year-old girl named Mary. She plays basketball and Irish dance. We focused on deadlifts, shoulder press, core and conditioning. She saw a huge increase in deadlift strength from 135lbs for 2 reps to 235lbs for 1 rep in 3 months of training. During basketball games, she is now able to overpower other players and keep them from taking the ball. We are now working on conditioning for Irish dance to help her with stamina.
Nutrition for kids
When it comes to nutrition for kids I try to refer them to nutritionist or RD because it can be complicated. Most children are still growing and need to be eating a lot of food rather than cutting calories like an adult trying to lose weight. I usually give parents one tip. Focus on whole foods that are not processed. Children and adults benefit from a diet high in fruits, veggies and nuts. If your child is struggling while weight talk to your doctor and find them a nutritionist that works with children.
Personal training for kids can be a great way to get them in shape. The training programs are different based on the age of the child. Having a parent workout with a child can work sometimes but more than likely it will not work well. Nutrition should be reserved for a nutritionist not a personal trainer because nutritional planning is complex and out of the personal trainer’s scope of practice. Strength training programs shouldn’t be the focus for young children but are great for older kids that are into sports.
Here is our guide to maximal strength training