Should kids lift weights?

Weightlifting is bad for children, right? How old should kids be before beginning a strength training program?  I field questions like these all the time…

Have a child do push-ups, and no one would think twice about it.  Take that same child, turn them on their back, and have them do a bench press and all of a sudden it’s reckless, harmful and inappropriate.

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But here’s the thing – It’s the same muscle group(s) and range of motion!

The decision to start a (pre-pubescent) child on a strength training program is an individual one – there’s no absolute right or wrong.

It is dependent on factors such as: awareness, expertise, experience, familiarity, and comfort level. There are, however, some facts and clarified misconceptions that can help facilitate a better understanding of youthsStrength training and its application.

There is plenty of research supporting the safety and potential benefits of youth strength training:

– Improvements in Strength, Speed and Power (with proper training).
– Maximizes bone density in children, when combined with a calcium-rich diet.
– Protection against injury.
– Resistance training does not appear to “stunt” growth (resistance training probably has a favorable influence on growth at any stage of development, as long as appropriate guidelines are followed).
– Improved neuromuscular coordination (neuromuscular coordination improvement in children has been linked to repetitive practice of the specific skill, regardless of the skill investigated).
– Enhanced self-esteem.
– Weight loss and improved body composition.
– Weight training is inclusive.  It can be non-competitive; any participant can improve performance and experience success.

youth strength training_2Below are several recommendations for youth strength training, based on available medical and scientific data:

– Weight training programs for youth should be conducted by well-trained adults.
– Trainers should be certified to coach Strength training and in first-aid.
– Ensure that the certifying authority you choose is backed by an organization with professional membership and that the certification examination is rigorous.
– The exercise environment should be safe and free of hazards.
– Proper technique should be taught and observed, at all times.
– Program should be appropriately designed by a qualified, experienced professional.
– Program should be competently supervised by a qualified, experienced professional.
– Program should be intensity-appropriate (based on age, physical maturity, and technical proficiency).
– Youth sport coaches should participate in educational programs to learn more about Strength and Conditioning for children.

Proper supervision cannot be overemphasized!

Although not without risks, strength training has been found to be a safe and effective means for helping youth build strength, among other added benefits.

It can take the form of lifting weights, using resistance bands, or using body weight exercises.  Any child who engages in a strength training program should be under direct supervision at all times by a professional.

In conclusion

To the questions “Should kids lift wight?” and “Is weight training bad for children?” the answers are a Yes and a No. There are great benefits as set out above. But those benefits, physical and mental, are based on the right approach also listed here in this article.

If everything is properly in place then there is no reason to believe that strength training is a bad thing for kids. Quite the opposite. Strength training is for everyone regardless of age, gender and sport.

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