Youth Resistance Training: Should my child start weight training?

By Paul Alexander, Personal Training Director, Elite Sports Clubs-North Shore

Each year, a growing number of children join highly competitive sports. Three-year-olds are playing tennis. By age 8, kids are involved in select soccer. What’s next – golf for diaper dandies? With competitive sports on the rise, it seems everyone is looking for an edge. Parents are hiring performance and speed coaches and personal trainers in the hope their child will make a select team. The idea of competition is healthy, but is there a point of diminishing returns? Thankfully, there is research that suggests when children should begin serious training.

Youth Weight Training Questions

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is considered a leading authority on the science of resistance training. The organization defines it as “a specialized method of conditioning, which involves the progressive use of a wide range of resistive loads and a variety of training modalities (body weight, tubing, machine and free weights) designed to enhance health, fitness and sports performance.” NSCA’s research on youth resistance training focuses on risk factors, health and fitness benefits, and optimal procedures.

In general, children are more prone to injury while playing sports than they are while participating in resistance training. Only three minor injuries were listed in studies associated with resistance training. When followed properly, resistance training ranks lower in injury prevalence than football, soccer, wrestling and gymnastics. Resistance training injuries have often times been attributed to improper loads and/or progressions, poor lifting technique and lack of adult supervision.

There are a number of benefits to youth participating in resistance training, as long as proper protocol is followed. It allows children to build strength and improve athletic performance. When a child gains strength, he or she is more likely to perform well on such field tests as grip strength and long jump. The forces associated with properly prescribed resistance training are less than what occurs during competition itself. Other benefits of resistance training include increases in anaerobic capacity, mental health and bone quality. It also has been linked to decreasing the obesity epidemic.

The NSCA recommends all youth resistance training programs include instruction on proper lifting techniques, safety procedures and specific methods of progression. According to researchers, the ideal approach to resistance training incorporates it into a progressive conditioning program with the volume and intensity of training changing throughout the year. When coupled with individual effort and qualified instruction, strength training outcomes are generally positive. One key point: Children are adolescents – not adults. Adult exercise guidelines and training philosophies should never be imposed on youth.

General Youth Resistance Training Guidelines

There are a number of basic guidelines that should be followed to ensure proper youth resistance training. Exercise environments, for example, should always be safe and free of hazards. Training sessions should begin with a 5- to 10-minute warm-up period, followed by a series of light loads that emphasize correct exercise techniques. When a session progresses, a child can perform 1 to 3 sets of 6 to 15 repetitions of a variety of upper- and lower-body strength exercises.

A number of specific exercises should be incorporated into the program, including ones that strengthen the abdominal and lower back region and promote symmetrical muscular development and appropriate muscle balance around the joints. Cool-down exercises should emphasize static stretching and less intense calisthenics. Once a regimen is established, it can be tweaked with progressively more challenging exercises. One of the most important factors to keep in mind: support and encouragement from instructors and parents will help children maintain their interest in resistance training.

Elite Teen Health Program Ad

Teen Nutrition & Training is required for early entry into the Fitness Center (ages 10-14). Enroll your child in this special program, which teaches safety and Fitness Center etiquette, proper use of weights and cardio equipment, as well as exercise routines geared towards youth. Check out our full youth program & youth fitness at Elite.

Off to School (or Work) with a Safe Bag Lunch

By Rita Larsen, RD, CD, Elite Sports Clubs Dietitian and Nutrition Counselor

There is nothing more exciting than purchasing a new school lunch bag for the year!

Whether it’s off to school or work we go, millions of Americans carry “bag” lunches. Food brought from home can be kept safe if it is first handled and cooked safely. (Check out tips for safely cooking at BBQ’s & Tailgates too!) Then, perishable food must be kept cold while commuting via bus, bicycle, on foot, in a car, and on to the lunch table. After arriving at school or work, perishable food must be kept cold until lunchtime.

Labeled Lunches Office   Named Lunches

Why keep food cold? Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly in the “danger zone” — the temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees F. So, perishable food transported without an ice source won’t stay safe long. Here are safe handling recommendations to prevent food-borne illness from “bag” lunches.

Begin with Safe Food

Perishable food, such as raw or cooked meat and poultry, must be kept cold or frozen at the store and at home. Eggs should be purchased cold at the store and kept cold at home. In between, transport perishable food as fast as possible when no ice source is available. At the destination, it must be kept cold. Food should not be left out at room temperature more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees F).

Prepackaged combos, you know the ones, that are popular with your kids that contain luncheon meats along with crackers, cheese, and condiments must also be kept refrigerated. This includes lunch meats and smoked ham which are cured or contain preservatives.

Keep Everything Clean

Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food. Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter-tops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item. A solution of 1 teaspoon of bleach in 1 quart of water may be used to sanitize surfaces and utensils. Keep family pets away from kitchen counters.

Cross-Contamination (Know what that means!)

Harmful bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, and counter-tops. Always use a clean cutting board. When using a cutting board for food that will not be cooked, such as bread, lettuce, and tomatoes, be sure to wash the board after using it to cut raw meat and poultry. Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for meat and poultry. That is a must!

Preparing a Bag Lunch

At lunchtime, discard all used food packaging and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause food-borne illness.

Now for the Packing

Pack just the amount of perishable food that can be eaten at lunch, that way, there won’t be a problem with storage or safety of leftovers.

It’s fine to prepare the food the night before and store the packed lunch in the refrigerator. Freezing sandwiches helps them stay cold. However, for best quality, don’t freeze sandwiches containing mayonnaise, lettuce, or tomatoes. Add these later.

Insulated, soft-sided lunch boxes or bags are best for keeping food cold, but metal or plastic lunch boxes and paper bags are fine as well. If using paper lunch bags, create layers by double bagging to help insulate the food. An ice source should be packed with perishable food in any type of lunch bag or box.

Keeping Cold Lunches Cold

Prepare cooked food, such as turkey, ham, chicken, and vegetable or pasta salads, ahead of time to allow for thorough chilling in the refrigerator. Divide large amounts of food into shallow containers for fast chilling and easier use. Keep cooked food refrigerated until it’s time to leave home.

To keep lunches cold away from home, include a small frozen gel pack or frozen juice box. These work very well! Of course, if there’s a refrigerator available, store perishable items there upon arrival. Some food is safe without a cold source. Items that don’t require refrigeration include fruits, vegetables, hard cheese, canned meat and fish, chips, breads, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, mustard, and pickles.

Keeping Hot Lunches Hot

Use an insulated container to keep food like soup, chili, and stew hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. Keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot- 140 degrees F or above. Few people use these containers anymore, but they work very well and can be a good addition to a lunch meal.

Microwave Cooking / Reheating

When using the microwave oven to reheat lunches, cover food to hold in moisture and promote safe, even heating. Reheat leftovers to at least 165 degrees F. What does that look like? Food should be steaming hot. Cook frozen convenience meals according to package instructions.

Microwaving a Lunch

Lunch at school or work needs to be a pleasant experience for your child and family members. If hot lunch is available, that is a good solution too. The primary goal for preparing lunches is to make sure that good choices are made for foods that children and adults need at that time of day, and that they are of the highest quality to withstand transportation and storage. Sometimes we can get carried away with bright packages and trendy new food products. Taking the time to provide the best foods possible from a variety of food groups and packaged safely should be the primary goal in good, safe school lunches.

What are your go-to meals for bagged lunches? Do you brown bag it, have a fancy insulated soft-sided bag, or rock a retro metal/plastic lunch box? Tell us in the comments!

Looking for more nutrition advice on healthy (and safe) daily lunches for work or school? We offer a great drop-in program called “Ask the Dietitian” plus other programs that allow you to meet with Rita, and learn the best ways to eat healthy! Not sure where to start? Let us help get you on track with a healthy diet plan!

Is your child the next Wimbledon Champ?


They can be… It’s no secret that today’s top tennis pros have been playing since they were old enough to stand. Athletic development is like learning a foreign language — in order for it to really stick, you have to start young, when the brain is at its spongiest. As a result, children who participate in sports are able to apply all they’ve obtained through athletics to their educational and career goals. In fact, studies have shown that young athletes have higher test scores! And that over 80% of female and male Fortune 500 Execs played sports in their youth!

We’ve put together a list of the benefits to playing tennis – and they just so happen to be the necessities for grooming your future tennis pro or CEO.

 The communication youth regularly encounter before, during and after playing or training for tennis allow them to become familiar interacting with other people and creating friendships. Networking is key to future career success, and to network you need exceptional socialization skills.

Cognitive Development. For success as a tennis player, they need to tap into their mental resources (perception, decision-making, problem solving, memory, creativity, etc.) to learn where and when to move during a match.  This means during their time spent playing tennis, they are also enhancing their cognitive abilities. Enhancing cognitive abilities will help children improve their grades.

Work Ethic and Accountability. Children will learn to be responsible for their development and success by being dedicated to lessons, practicing their skills and making accurate line calls during a match.  This reinforces the value of hard work and accepting responsibility, which will filter into their every day lives.

Competition. Tennis teaches how to compete fairly with opponents. Children learn to win graciously and lose with honor. Learning the value of achievement, and the dedication it takes to obtain a goal. Gloating after a win or making excuses for a loss will not work in life.

Self Esteem.  Healthy feelings of enjoyment, competitiveness and physical challenge are inherent in tennis. Increased self-confidence on the court will increase self-confidence in the classroom, office and more.

Healthy Living. Children who participate in tennis beginning at a young age learn the importance of staying fit, healthy eating and exercise. People who have had healthy habits instilled in them are more likely to maintain these habits as adults.

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So where do you go from here? Come on in to one of our Elite Sports Clubs locations or register here. We will get you and your child on track by providing the right tools from the very beginning, keeping focus on the fun, active and lifelong benefits of tennis.  We offer programs tailored specifically to your child’s needs and age group. Check out our 10 and Under Tennis: A Parents’ Guide for more on the benefits, programs and even your role as a tennis parent.


Member Stories: Elite Kids-New friends in the pool & on the courts!

We’re extremely proud of our members (of ALL ages!) Over the years their work out agendas and sporting endeavors serve as healthy examples of how it feels to be “Elite,” and how exercise not only adds years to your life, but life to your years! Today we’d like to highlight another member’s accomplishments:

Elite Kids-Joshua KlossHi! My name is Josh Kloss. This year I will be a fifth grader at Wilson Elementary School in Mequon. I spent this summer participating in the Mequon Elite tennis and swim programs. I enjoyed competing at the swim meets as well as making new friends in the pool and on the tennis courts. During swimming this year, I was supported by coaches, friends and family, knowing that when everyone swims, everyone wins! I look forward to participating in the fall tennis tournaments and upcoming swimming meets as a member of Elite Sports Club.

Way to go Josh! We’re so glad that you had fun in Elite’s summer tennis & swim programs. Looking forward to seeing you again this fall at the club!

Check out our website for more information on Elite Sports Clubs extensive swim lessons, swim club (available at our Brookfield, Mequon, and River Glen locations), and tennis programs (available at all Elite Sports Clubs).

Hey all you other Elite Kids! Don’t let just the grown ups share their stories. We’d love to hear from you about what you enjoy doing at Elite Sports Clubs too! Submit your story here (with help from your parents).


9 Everyday Tips for Healthy Bag Lunches & Snacks

By Rita Larsen, Elite Sports Clubs Registered Dietitian & Nutrition Counselor

Guidelines for Healthy Eating and Snacking on a Daily Basis

Whether the kids are headed off to school or you are brown bagging it to work, many of us prepare and pack our own snacks and lunches every day. Use the tips below to help you be mindful of your food choices not just during lunch, but all day long!

  1. Not all foods are created equal! Pick out foods that are best for your normal day, every day.
  2. Plan to emphasize what is most important in your diet. For example, high quality protein, fiber, and fulfilling daily fruit/vegetable requirements.
  3. Make a schedule for yourself and include times, places, and content of what you will be eating for the day to hold yourself accountable.
    • 10:00am Snack: Fruit
    • Noon Lunch: Entree, salad, milk (school lunch)
    • 3:00pm Snack: Popcorn
    • Also have an idea of what your night time dinner will be like and what time you plan to eat (so the whole family can attend & you can give yourself enough time to prepare)
  4. Drink plenty of fluids, including water throughout the day.
  5. Be aware of the salt content of most snack foods.
  6. Make comparisons of packaged food items–making sure you have selected the best in terms of calories, salt, and fats.
  7. Remember, too many calories and fats can lead to feeling sluggish and tired in the afternoon.
  8. Keep your eye on the caffeine in beverages–too much soda or caffeinated beverages cause you to feel jittery later in the day and actually take away from your energy base.
  9. Choose foods that provide the most energy throughout the day.
    • Whole Wheat Toast vs. Sweet Roll
    • Baked Potato vs. French Fries
    • Fruited Yogurt vs. Chocolate Cake

Try including the following recipe in your next bag lunch as a snack with tortilla chips or compliment to your entree (such as a chicken breast or fish).

Quick Easy Black Bean Salsa

Quick & Easy Black Bean Salsa

1-15oz. can Black Beans
1-11oz. can Shoepeg Corn
1-16oz. jar Salsa with Cilantro
1 medium Red Pepper, chopped
1 bunch Green Scallions, chopped
Lemon juice, cumin, and minced garlic to taste.

Mix all ingredients. Best if prepared the day before.

1/3 cup = 75 calories

Looking for more nutrition advice or other snack and lunch recipe ideas? We offer plenty of ongoing group & private programs with Elite’s own Registered Dietitian. Just let us know a little about yourself and your goals to get started!