Junior Student’s Corner
Hopefully as Junior students at the WKFA you’ve come to realize there are benefits to training Kung Fu beyond learning fun new things like Forms, kicking sequences and blocks. You should also have noticed an increase in your cardio-vascular fitness, flexibility and strength. While we encourage you to train all aspects of Kung Fu outside of class, it’s important to be careful—especially when it comes to strength training.
Back when I was young (many years ago), the conventional wisdom was that adolescents shouldn’t do a lot of strength conditioning. It was fine if you got stronger as a result of whatever sport you were playing, but to try specifically to build muscles was considered a bad idea. The fear was that muscles and tendons that still have growing to do are more likely to get injured—and that you could possibly stunt your growth by straining them too much.
Nowadays those beliefs have mostly fallen by the wayside. In fact a lot of current studies suggest that strength training can be valuable for people who haven’t reached physical maturity yet. Aside from the obvious benefit of improving your overall health,
strength conditioning also increases bone density, making you less prone to certain injuries.
That said, there are some things to be aware of. The articles I read suggested that rather than lifting free weights (like dumbbells) or using fitness machines, kids your age should stick to exercises in which your own body weight provides the resistance. Examples of such exercises include push-ups, crunches, bicycles, squats and lunges—in other words, exactly the kinds of things we do in class.
If you’d like to supplement your strength training at home, it’s important to start slow. To develop upper body strength, for example, try doing 10 good push-ups, three times (with a break in between). As you get stronger, increase the number of push-ups and the amount of times you do them—building up to, say, 15 push-ups, four times.
Always remember to warm-up before starting strength training (stride jumps are a good way to get the blood pumping). Also make sure to take a day off every three or four days to give your muscles a chance to recover. If at any point you feel pain or think maybe you’ve strained a muscle, stop right away and tell your mother or father.
Also be aware that kids your age should not use exercise equipment meant for adults. While it may be tempting to try out your parents’ elliptical or Bowflex, or some of the intriguing contraptions in the WKFA weight room, those machines are designed specifically for the needs and strength levels of adults. Younger athletes who use them risk the chance of injury.
Again, hopefully you’re getting stronger just as a result of what you do in class. But if you’d like to develop your strength further, stick with exercises you know and always remember to be careful.