It's understandable that you'd be hesitant if your child comes shows interest in weight training. Lifting weights has long bee proven beneficial for adults, but there are many concerns that the stress of strength training can be unsafe on the still-developing musculoskeletal systems of children.
Understand that weight training is a safe and beneficial activity for healthy children, provided that you take some precautions.
Is it safe for children to lift weights?
Weight training by a child is safe, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). There are some precautions, however, that all three organizations stress in order to reduce the risk of injury.
Make sure your child is old enough. Kids should be at least 7 or 8 years old before they begin strength training, because it's around that age that kids have the balance and coordination. Children need to be mature enough to listen to and follow the direction of training coaches. Children ages 13 or older benefit most from weight training, as their nervous system and muscular system are developed but starting younger can help kids master exercises more quickly.
Take your child in for a physical check-up before they begin weight training. Most healthy children can safely lift weights, but your child may have a condition that calls for certain training limitations.
A qualified trainer should always supervise workouts. Trainers will not only help ensure your child is performing each exercise correctly, but they'll make sure that your child doesn't overdo it in regards to weight used and workout volume. Workouts that involve maximal weights carried to failure, supersets and other high intensity strategies could be dangerous. The injuries that do occur to kid while they're lifting weights nearly always happen because of using too much weight and using improper technique.
As long as your child's workout is performed safely and under proper supervision, weight training will not adversely affect your child's growth.
Is weight training good for kids?
Weight training is beneficial for children at least 7 years old and teens. When your child is a preteen or teen, weight training will be effective for improving their strength and muscular endurance. However, they lack the hormone levels to put on muscle mass like adults.
Lifting weights can help improve athletic performance in kids that play sports. Also, it will help reduce the risk of injury to muscles and joints and improve bone strength.
Additionally, weight training can help improve children's self-image, body composition and posture. Weight training has been shown to lower body fat percentage, which makes kids feel better about their appearance. Beginning strength training at an early age increases the chance of building long-term healthy exercise habits.
A good weight-training workout for kids
Children's weight training workouts should include only bodyweight and free weight exercises. Weight training machines aren't a good option for children because they're designed for longer limbs. Begin with bodyweight exercises using no additional load. Once your child can do 8 to 15 repetitions of an exercise, add weight in increments of 10 percent. High volume and competitive weight lifting can be dangerous for children.
The primary focus of a children's weight training workout should be mastering technique. Also, exercises should be performed steadily and under control, rather than rapidly or explosively.
The workout should target all the major muscle groups, including the core, hips, thighs, chest, back and shoulders. A sample strength-training workout for a child includes one set each of:
- Body weight squats
- Tricep dips on chair
- Chinups or bent rows
Be sure the child begins every workout with a 10-minute warm-up and finishes each session with a 10-minute cool down.