Update on Physical Program

The students here at KeNako are all so competitive!  The term is almost over and it’s great to see the students are still going at it 100%.  I am very satisfied with the diligence and positive attitude thus far in the gym throughout the term.  The next fitness testing will be done on all students within the next 2 weeks before all the students take a well-deserved 2 weeks break.  

Students need to remember that it is also important to give their muscles an occasional good break and not to overdo it, because our muscles only grow and recover when we sleep or rest!  Good nutrition will also play an important key role for good results in the next testing that we do, but I am curious to see how some of them have improved on their muscular strength and fitness.

During the first term I’ve focussed quite a lot on general strength and fitness. We did a lot of compound movements which involve doing exercises/movements where more than one joint in the body works simultaneously.  Focus has been on the correct technique and safety, because my motto has always been to strengthen the joints first with the help of functional training before moving on to more advanced and heavy weight exercises.  These compound movements automatically cause the body to burn more calories, due to the fact that we always do more than 20 reps and more than one muscle is always recruited for the specific movements I’ve designed for them.  Any student who is participating in the physical program will relate the same message – that they have never previously sweated so much, done so many reps and worked as many muscles simultaneously in their gym sessions as they have now done!!  This automatically causes the body to grow and strengthen as a unit and I really believe that this is the fastest and most effective way to train anyone who is interested in conditioning their bodies, whether it is for sports or just general fitness.

Gym and Teenagers

It’s wonderful to see many of the students at KeNako being proactive and taking their health into their own hands at an early age.  We all know sports are competitive and the golf program at KeNako is no exception!  It’s wonderful to see the students competing against each other but also being positively driven and supporting each other to the hilt!  Besides wishing to compete successfully, scholarships and sponsorships in their future lives will become important and the physical training program may give the KeNako students an extra edge – besides looking physically good, they could have more muscle, flexibility, speed and overall muscular strength than peers who never enjoyed the privilege of a KeNako Academy program.

This raises the question: How young is too young to start lifting weights and following a cardio or proper exercise program?  Will exercise at a young age lead to problems for the students further down the line in their careers or will it give them an advantage?

When Do Children Mature?

The biggest indication of whether children can lift weights is when they mature physically.  Using weights or excessively exercising at a young age can permanently impair growth. It’s true, working out strengthens one’s muscles and bones, but over enthusiasm, improper form and too much too soon can lead to damaging muscles and bones with consequent injuries. Extra care is needed for teenagers with an interest in weights and cardio, whether it’s for sports or personal/general health.

Boys and girls physically mature at different ages.  The endocrine system plays a critical role, but hormonal changes start the process of reaching maturity.  Most girls start to physically mature around 10-12 years old while boys tend to wait until 12-14 years of age to start. Teenagers may think they’ve peaked at a certain age when they actually have a few more years of growing to go.

Muscle and bone strength needed for working out and lifting weights are still changing and maturing into the late teenage years.  Youngsters also need to understand that our bones also have to grow properly before strengthening the muscles.  Girls may reach full height earlier than boys – even by the age of 13 – but boys will continue growing until 15, 16, 17 and beyond.

However the final stage of skeletal growth, when the bones fuse themselves permanently, is 17 for girls and 21 for boys.  During these years any damage done to the joints could be irreversible, so the KeNako students need to understand that training with heavy weights could be risking their future professional careers….

What Weights and Exercises Do I Recommend?

The benefits of working out far outweigh the pitfalls, even for teenagers.  Increased performance in sports; building up a good immune system; prevention of injuries; and positive long term health benefits are just a few good things that young people will experience if they train properly.  According to the American Academy of Paediatrics, teenagers need to focus on correct movement and proper form over increased weights or long cardio sessions. Specifically with resistance training, low to no weights with 8-15 repetitions should be mastered with proper form before adding more weight. This is why I tend to focus more on body weight exercises during our gym sessions with the younger students.

Cardio recommendations for teens are the same for adults; 30-60 minutes per day, 5-6 days a week is a great place to be. More than that usually means a teen is involved in a sport that needs supervision with a coach or trainer to keep their fitness levels safe.

What Should Teens Avoid?

When teenagers begin strength training and take on too much too soon, damage to the bones can occur.  Excessive cardio can lead to muscle injuries also along with a “burn-out” situation with a sport they might love.  Epiphyseal injuries, an injury to the growth plate in the bone, are common in the wrist and spine in teenagers due to heavy weights and improper form.  The American Academy of Paediatrics also states that while there may be no real damage to the bones in the long term, improper lifting techniques and unsupervised weight lifting is what causes most of these injuries in teenagers.

This is why I always try to make sure that the KeNako students train properly because it’s important for the growth of their bodies and the progress of their workouts.  Teenage boys and girls who want to work out, to look and feel their best, should be encouraged.  In many countries of the world including most First World countries, teenagers do not engage in enough physical fitness, much like adults today all over the World.  Although many teens participate in sports, more than 50% of teenagers around the world do not engage in any daily exercise.  Disease prevention, positive body image, socialization and several other benefits, can all begin with an exercise routine.  We just need to make sure our teens are not doing too much too soon!!



Jan-Harm Venter