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Flexibility & kids exercise advice
One important topic that has come up with regards to training younger individuals is flexibility and kids. How much is too much when it comes to this aspect of training.
If you've ever walked into an intermediate level gymnastics class, you've likely seen boys and girls in the eight to twelve range performing a variety of very intensive stretching exercises. It is not uncommon to see them having one leg up on a box while in a full split position. It is commonly said that adults should be paying more attention to stretching during their workouts but what about flexibility and kids? Do they need to worry as much?
First off, when it comes to flexibility and kids, their muscles are usually slightly more elastic to begin with. For this reason, they are naturally going to be able to move across a wider range of motion than an older individual would.
The big program however is that since they lack the muscular strength still, if they allow themselves to be pushed too far, the muscles may not tense up the way an adults would and prevent them from becoming overstretched. This could lead to injuries such as torn muscles or ligaments.
The next big concern will be that of the back. No one, including children, should be performing intensive back bends on a regular basis as it can eventually lead to spine compression and back problems. Gymnastics unfortunately promotes this as those athletes do put themselves into very unnatural positions. While the individual may be able to tolerate it fine without pain while they are young, when they grow to be an adult this may encourage severe back problems.
It definitely is important to stress stretching at a young age however because of the fact the muscles are looser and can therefore handle it better. Secondly, if one develops a good range of motion when they are young, it is much easier to then maintain this as they get older rather than trying to increase the range of motion starting from scratch at a late age.
In doing so however, be sure to have the children performing a thorough warm-up before hand to reduce the chances that something is torn and then also be sure that they are closely supervised so that they are not letting themselves stretch too far.