Weight Training Fact Sheet
Should my kid be lifting weights? This is one of the most common questions we are asked as Sports Medicine physicians.
Here are a few key educational points to consider.
- Kids should be at least 8 years old before starting weight training. This allows them time to develop the crucial balance skills necessary for proper form.
- Kids and parents must have proper expectations. Kids will not gain muscle bulk / mass from weight training until after puberty. Instead, they gain neuromuscular “coordination” which essentially means that THEY CAN GET STRONGER as their body learns to fire more neurons to each muscle and increase the contraction… but, they WILL NOT GAIN MUSCLE BULK.
- All lifting should be supervised by a qualified adult—most injuries occur in an unsupervised setting. Have kids learn proper exercise form with NO weights. Once mastered, start with a weight low enough to lift 12 to 15 times. Advance to three sets as tolerated. Then increase the amount of weight slowly.
- All lifting should be done with equipment that can be tailored to the kids size so the machine must fully adjust to their height, or they should use free weights.
Strength training does not stunt growth….however, maximal lifting (highest weight amount you can lift one to three times) may put you at more risk for injury to the growing areas of a child’s body. Therefore, max lifting should be discouraged until after puberty. This includes discouraging competition in bodybuilding or powerlifting until puberty reached. Common max lifts include bench press, clean and jerks, snatches, and squats. If a child is not done growing, these exercises should not be performed as a max lift.
If you are taking the time to make your body stronger, it is also important to consider feeding your body the “fuel” that it needs to grow. This means it is very important to eat healthy, avoid junk food, and hydrate with water.
It is very important that a child builds in appropriate cardiovascular training, as well as a proper warm up and cool down session into their exercise plan. Cardio training can consist of walking, jogging, biking, swimming, elliptical, etc… it should be done a minimum of 30 minutes at a time, five days a week.
It is also important not just work out our big obvious muscle groups like biceps and pecs. Even more important is conditioning the muscles of our torso with “core strengthening”. Please refer to the Core Strengthening handout for ideas on how to do these simple exercises.