When teens take to the gym


Nicolas Amp
Nicolas Amp

Nicolas Amp, 33, had his first workout in a gym when he was just 13. It helped launch a life-long passion for sports, including baseball, swimming, judo, basketball, rugby and most recently bodybuilding. The certified personal trainer from France has come full circle since then. Along the way, he's put some serious thought into how the gym can help teenagers.

"For kids, training in a gym can be beneficial for both conditioning and self-confidence," Amp says. He adds that while Gold's Gym where he works has programs for 16 to 18 year olds, training - even resistance training - under professional supervision can be good for those as young as 12 or 14."It depends on their bodies; some grow big at an early age," he says." But I wouldn't train kids just for the sake of lifting weights, only as conditioning for sports - and no overhead lifting."

As with adults, Amp says the first step is to consult a doctor: "If the doctor says yes and the parents find a professional they trust it's a mater of developing a sports and training program. A good one should consider what kind of sports kids are doing, what their level is and what competitions they're in."

Parents may balk at the idea of their adolescents - still struggling to fit into ever-changing bodies - being turned loose at a gym. But Amp argues such concerns can be unwarranted. He refutes the "famous myth" that training, such as with weights, will stunt young teens' growth. As for concerns about injuries, he says that's what a trainer or other trained professional is for.

"It's important to avoid overtaxing young kids to avoid fracturing bones and injuring joints that have not fully developed," Amp cautions. Adding that since young bodies also haven't yet acquired their full ability to bounce back from intense exercise, "Workouts should be very minimal. You have to be right behind them and assist them every step of the way."

Then there are parents on the opposite end of the spectrum who are eager to get little Kenji tossing around weights at the local gym. Amp indicates personal drive is key: "My wish is that it be the kids' own motivation rather than their parents'. But if parents want it for their kids it should be only as conditioning for sports, not for skinny kids to get big muscles." But he also cautions parents to take a look at why their teens might be eager to get in shape.

"Kids may feel bad about their body image," Amp says. "This can lead to eating disorders like Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge eating and compulsive overeating as well as the unnecessary use of supplements. It's due to media images of thin models and muscular men that girls or boys compare themselves to. The first step is to have them accept the image of their own bodies. Exercising in a gym can help with that.

For more information about Nicolas Amp visit: http://www.nicodojo.com/. Learn more about Gold's Gym where he plies his trade at: http://www.goldsgym.jp/golds/ggot/omotesando_e.html

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