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 Lessons Learned in 1998  
 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Keeping Fit by . View all columns in series
Dr. Westcott During the past year our research studies at the South Shore YMCA have produced a lot of valuable information for professionals, practitioners, and participants in the field of fitness. On behalf of our instructional staff and research team, let me first thank every man, woman, boy and girl who enrolled in one of our research classes in 1998. Your exercise efforts have contributed to a better understanding of the conditioning process and the training results.

This year's studies included the following areas of research: (1) strength training protocols for preadolescent youth; (2) effects of physical conditioning on golf performance; (3) optimal order of strength training and endurance exercise; and (4) general effects of sensible exercise in sedentary adults and seniors. Let's take a brief look at our findings and conclusions in each of these projects.

Strength Training Protocols for Preadolescent Youth
Most people mistakenly believe that boys and girls should not do strength building exercise because it might result in bone damage or growth retardation. Fortunately, nothing could be farther from the truth, and there is absolutely no medical evidence to support these misconceptions. In fact, since a landmark consensus meeting in 1985, major medical and professional organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Sports Medicine, have encouraged preadolescent strength training and even published performance guidelines for childrens' strength exercise. Basically, these recommendations call for 2 or 3 training sessions per week, 1 to 3 sets of each exercise, and 6 to 15 repetitions per set.

Working with Dr. Lyle Micheli of Children's Hospital and under the direction of Dr. Avery Faigenbaum from the University of Massachusetts, we have researched all of these training variables. In past years, we have determined that children respond about the same to twice-a-week and three-days-per-week training programs, and that single set and multiple set exercise protocols produce similar strength gains in youth.

This year, we compared training with relatively low repetitions (6 to 8 reps per set) and training with relatively high repetitions (13 to 15 reps per set). That is, we examined the effects of using fewer repetitions with heavier weightloads and using more repetitions with lighter weightloads.

Our results indicate that children seem to increase muscle strength more with higher repetition training than with lower repetition training. Especially with respect to upper body strength development, the youth who trained with 13 to 15 repetitions made greater improvement than those who trained with 6 to 8 repetitions.

Of course, from a safety perspective, performing higher repetitions with lower weightloads reduces the risk of injury. We therefore recommend that boys and girls train twice a week with one set of 13 to 15 repetitions per exercise for safe, effective, and efficient strength building experiences.

Effects of Physical Conditioning on Golf Performance
Until recently, few of the 25 million golf enthusiasts in this country spent much time in physical conditioning activities. They were particularly reluctant to perform strength exercise, as they thought this would lead to tight muscles, impaired coordination, and reduced driving distance. Beginning in 1995, we have conducted several studies on the effects of golf conditioning programs. On average, our golfers have added 4 pounds of muscle, lost 4 pounds of fat, gained over 50 percent greater strength, and reduced their resting blood pressure by almost 5 mm Hg. More important to them, they have significantly increased their club head speed and driving distance.

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 About The Author
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the......moreWayne Westcott PhD
 
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