Guidelines for Weightlifting for Kids
Is Weightlifting Safe for Kids?
The short answer is yes--Weight training is safe for kids when done correctly. The notion that weightlifting for adolescents is unhealthy or will stunt their growth, is unfounded.
Research shows that weight training is in fact safe for adolescents when done correctly, and important to incorporate into a routine program for general health and prevention of injury.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has found strength training for children and adolescents to be safe and beneficial, helping prevent injuries, improve sports performance, rehabilitate injuries and enhance long-term health.
Both physical activity and strength training have beneficial effects including but not limited to:
Blood lipid profiles
Improved mental health
Multiple studies have found that strength training can increase strength in both pre-adolescent and adolescents with proper technique and supervision. In addition to building strength, appropriate training programs have no adverse effects on linear growth, growth plates, or the cardiovascular system. However improper programs can lead to injuries instead of reducing them.
What Age is it OK for a Kid to Start Lifting Weights?
Growth and development are constant in children--their balance and postural control continuing to improve until adulthood. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, strength programs should not start before the age of 7 or 8 due to the lack of proper balance and postural control.
Once skills are proficient in the sport or activity the child is participating in, then strength training can have some potential value. Strength training with one’s own body weight is recommended most for this age group.
Should Middle Schoolers Lift Weights?
Adolescents that are middle-school aged will benefit from strength training with free weights or dumbbells, as these can be light in weight and help to focus on balance and postural control. Strength training machines are not recommended for this age group as the machines are designed for adult sizes and the weight increments are too large for this age group.
Strict supervision is imperative, as well as following proper technique to prevent injury. Explosive and rapid lifting techniques such as “snatches” and “clean and jerk” are NOT recommended according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Is Weightlifting Good for a Teenager?
Once proper form and technique is achieved, along with growth and maturity, a progression to heavier weight is appropriate in high school aged adolescents. It is important to maintain supervision from coaches or trainers to ensure proper form, especially with adding weight.
Any program should begin with light weight or resistance at a recommended 3 sets of 8-15 repetitions. Once proper form is achieved, increasing weight at an increment of 10% is appropriate. Strength training workouts are recommended 2 to 3 times a week for 20-30 minute sessions. A proper 10-15 minute warm-up and cool-down session with emphasis on both static and dynamic stretching should also be included.
It is important to remember that strength training is only a small part of an overall fitness or sports program, and should be added in conjunction.
Let's Clear up Some Common Weightlifting Myths:
Resistance training will NOT stunt growth of children
Resistance training IS safe for children under proper supervision
Children of ALL ages can benefit from resistance training with programs adjusted to their abilities
Girls will NOT become bulky if they lift weights; they will improve muscle strength and all the benefits of resistance training without becoming “bulky”
We hope this helps with understanding the ins and outs of weight training for both preadolescents and adolescents and helps to ensure your children stay safe and healthy on their weight training journey!