April 21, 2024

Should Kids Lift Weights? By Brett Klika C.S.C.S.

“How old should my child be to lift weights?”

In working with a large number of youth, this is one of the more common questions I get from concerned parents. Urban legends of stunted growth, fractured growth plates, and prematurely inflated physiques have made parents, and society for that matter, reticent to involve youth in weight training.

The fact is, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that there is a perfect chronological age to start weight training. Research has not demonstrated any negative health consequences for weight training in youth, assuming proper movement is introduced and enforced concurrently with appropriate progressive increases in training load.

Despite what myths have been created around the subject, the current data suggests youth weight training injuries are primarily due to equipment accidents (weight falling on them, tripping in the weight room, etc.) or overzealous coaching rendering improper program introduction and progression.

Proper resistance training in youth has been demonstrated to improve fitness, favorably affect bone density, improve movement ability, and decrease the likelihood of athletic injury. Weight training is merely loaded movement.  More simply put, it’s challenged movement.  If basic movement becomes easy, we can challenge by adding something extra to continue to provide a training effect.

If a child can do a squat pattern perfectly for repetitions, holding a 2- pound medicine ball adds additional load.  Once they can overcome this load with proper movement, they can hold a 4- pound ball.  All semantic hubbub aside, this is weight training.  One doesn’t have to be lifting barbells and dumbells to be training with weight. If a child can’t do a squat pattern perfectly, adding additional load would make no sense.  They have demonstrated they do not need any additional challenge.  The movement pattern itself has provided enough load.

The critical questions in regards to youth and weight training become:
1.    Are they able to focus on the proper execution of task?
2.    Are they able to execute and repeat an unloaded task with proper movement and cadence?
3.    Are they mature and coordinated enough to respond to coaching cues?
4.    Are they interested in weight training?
5.    Is the person in charge of their program experienced and knowledgeable about movement and progression?

If the answer to any of the above is “no” it doesn’t matter the age of the human, they are not ready for weight training.  In this case, I would focus on merely learning how to move properly through a variety of movement patterns without additional challenge or load.

The best answer to “When should my child begin lifting weights” is “when they need to.”  When a child is able to focus on an organized training in which they execute and repeat all of the involved skills and drills correctly, add a challenge and slowly progress over time.

Brett Klika C.S.C.S., Director of Athletics at Fitness Quest 10 and founder of www.brettklika.com, is a world- renowned human performance specialist, motivational speaker, author, and educator. He uses this knowledge and experience to motivate individuals and audiences around the world through his writing, speaking, DVD’s, and personal correspondence. For more information and video on exercises, programs, and any other information on losing fat and creating the body you have always wanted, check out The Underground Workout Manual – Exercise and Fat Loss in the Real World at www.undergroundworkoutmanual.com.

Ask A Pro by Maggie Ayre

Question: What is a healthy way to introduce competition to my 7 year old daughter?  Do we keep score, reward winning etc?  -Carol from New York City.

Answer: By the age of 7 some children thrive on competition and show great enthusiasm for sports where there is a chance to beat an opponent or the opposing team. You’ll see 7 year olds coming out of swimming lesson proclaiming; “I was swimming the fastest” or finishing a game of soccer; “we beat them, we got 4 goals to their 3.”

Other 7 year olds have no interest in the competitive side of things and are more interested in perfecting their ability.  They are more likely to make comments such as; “did you see me dive?” or “I did a fantastic pass.”

By the age of 7 I suspect your daughter understands the concept of competition. Schools introduce the concept through playing games such as Duck, Duck, Goose where children race each other around a circle, or Tag where you are trying to be the last person tagged. All these seemingly “just for fun” games have educational elements to develop skills and introduce the concept of competition. It may be worth talking to your daughter’s teacher to find out what games they play at her school.

By all means introduce the concept of more structured competition but if she’s not interested then my advice is not to push it. Time spent perfecting her skills without worrying what other people are up to will stand her in good stead for winning future competitions when the time is right.

One of the most effective ways to introduce your daughter to competition is to take her to the park by herself and set up an obstacle course. How quickly can she complete it? Can she beat this time? This also works in the swimming pool, with ball skills etc anything where she has to cover a distance or complete the task a particular number of times and can be timed.

You could also sign her up for a team sport. Most will include training sessions, for developing skills, with mini-competitions for putting them into practice to beat the opposition. Definitely use rewards. But divide your rewards into three; reward for effort, reward for ability and reward for success in competition. Without the first two the third will be far harder to achieve.

Maggie Ayre is the UKs leading Fitness Coach for Young People.  As well as one-to-one and small group nutrition and fitness work with teens she has developed Nutrition and Fitness Plans specifically for teens (www.nutritionplansforteens.com) and the 3G Program designed to be run at schools as part of the PE curriculum.  She also offers mentoring for PE departments on how to re-engage teen girls with PE and has recently published her third book; “Nutrition for Exam Success – A Parent’s Guide” which is now available as a Kindle and paperback at Amazon.