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Kevin D’Aversa does a pull-up at the Yano Fitness Center. Trainers give the children advice on weight selection, form and repetitions, and teach them weight-room etiquette.

Kevin D’Aversa does a pull-up at the Yano Fitness Center. Trainers give the children advice on weight selection, form and repetitions, and teach them weight-room etiquette. (Rick Chernitzer / S&S)

Kevin D’Aversa does a pull-up at the Yano Fitness Center. Trainers give the children advice on weight selection, form and repetitions, and teach them weight-room etiquette.

Kevin D’Aversa does a pull-up at the Yano Fitness Center. Trainers give the children advice on weight selection, form and repetitions, and teach them weight-room etiquette. (Rick Chernitzer / S&S)

Brittanie Williams, a participant in the Youth For Power program, performs a dumbbell row exercise while Vincent Allen watches her form at the Yano Fitness Center at Camp Zama.

Brittanie Williams, a participant in the Youth For Power program, performs a dumbbell row exercise while Vincent Allen watches her form at the Yano Fitness Center at Camp Zama. (Rick Chernitzer / S&S)

Nathan Sherman lifts a pair of dumbbells while watching his form in a mirror at the Yano Fitness Center.

Nathan Sherman lifts a pair of dumbbells while watching his form in a mirror at the Yano Fitness Center. (Rick Chernitzer / S&S)

Kevin Joell, a participant in the Youth For Power program, lifts a pair of dumbbells as he's spotted by Nathan Sherman at the Yano Fitness Center.

Kevin Joell, a participant in the Youth For Power program, lifts a pair of dumbbells as he's spotted by Nathan Sherman at the Yano Fitness Center. (Rick Chernitzer / S&S)

Nathan Sherman lifts as he’s spotted by Kevin Joell.

Nathan Sherman lifts as he’s spotted by Kevin Joell. (Rick Chernitzer / S&S)

CAMP ZAMA, Japan — Stefan Thompson walked around like a drill instructor. A personal trainer at the post’s Yano Fitness Center, Thompson oversees weight-training programs to make sure folks lift safely and effectively.

As he walked around a group of trainees, a lifter, grimacing, wielded a 15-pound weight with one hand over his head.

“Very good. I like the face,” Thompson said as he inspected the lifter’s form.

That form — what there was of it — signaled that Thompson was dealing more with pint-sized powerhouses than with the usual group of muscle-bound palookas.

The junior Charles Atlas wannabes were taking part in a monthly program called Youth For Power, sponsored by the Torch Club.

The Torch Club is a leadership club for children ages 11-13; it’s chartered by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Vincent Allen, who heads the Camp Zama Torch Club, said the group meets every Tuesday and works on community projects or some type of leadership and self-development program. Weight training has been once a month, but the group recently voted to do it twice a month.

“They like it that much,” he said.

Allen, a self-proclaimed avid weight lifter, said when he was growing up, “We didn’t have anybody to show us what to do. We just jumped in and did it. But our main goal is to show them how to stay fit throughout their lives if they choose, and how to do it right.”

Thompson volunteered to supervise the weight training: showing the kids techniques and giving them advice on weight selection, form and repetitions. He also wants to make sure they know how the exercises strengthen their growing bodies.

After a squat-lift demonstration, Thompson quizzed the group.

“OK, what part of the body does this exercise work? Anyone remember?” Thompson asked.

A couple children call out answers, none of them correct.

“C’mon,” Thompson said. “When you go to KFC, you get a breast and a what?”

Eyes light up.

“Thigh!” they all exclaimed.

Thompson said the growing rate of obesity among today’s children emphasizes the importance of getting kids into fitness early.

“We’ve become a generation that sits around and plays video games,” he said. “Yet we’re quick to label our children as having attention deficit disorder. I’d be labeled that way, too, if I had no way to let my energy go.”

The program also teaches the children good weight-room etiquette, he said, so when they’re older and using the weights on their own, they’ll be confident and respectful of other lifters.

“We teach them things like wiping down the equipment after using it, having a towel with them while they lift,” he said.

Despite past studies that discouraged weight lifting for growing youth, Thompson said, more recent research has proved “you’re never too young to work out.”

“It helps get your body in shape,” said Brittanie Williams, Torch Club president. “Plus we learn how to do the exercises right, so we don’t hurt ourselves.”

Wilberto Badillo said working out is one of the coolest things he’s done with the club.

“I could do this every day,” he said.


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