Weight Room No Longer Off-Limits to Kids
Strength training is an important part of physical conditioning for adults, along
with aerobic exercise and stretching for flexibility. But what is OK for kids to do
when it comes to strength training?
Although experts once thought that kids should not train with weights, that attitude
has changed. Experts now say that strength training is fine for kids, as long as they
are supervised and don't try to lift too much weight.
One reason that doctors discouraged children from lifting weights in the past was
a concern that kids' growing bones would be damaged. The rate of growth plate fractures
have not been reported in programs designed by experts with appropriate supervision.
Benefits of strength training
Strength training builds muscle strength when done properly. It builds bone density
and strengthens ligaments and tendons. It also improves athletic performance and can
help young athletes avoid injuries. It can help a child who is overweight lose extra
A child who is strength training can use:
Strength training focuses on using lighter weights through many repetitions. It is
unlike weight lifting and power lifting which are competitive sports that focus on
lifting heavy weights.
Kids should not participate in weight lifting or power lifting. They also should avoid
bodybuilding which focuses on building muscle mass. This is because their muscles
will not increase in size until after puberty.
How old is old enough?
A 5- or 6-year-old may be able to do exercises that use the body's own weight, such
as push-ups and sit-ups. These should be introduced only when the child is old enough
to follow directions and use proper form. A child of 7 or 8 may be old enough to use
free weights. But he or she should know to be careful with them and lift them safely
A general rule about readiness for strength training is as follows. When a child is
old enough to participate in organized sports, then he or she probably is also old
enough to begin training with weights.
A big part of any strength training program for kids is enjoyment. Kids should have
fun doing the exercises. They should be given breaks in between the exercises, as
well as time to warm up and cool down.
Here are some suggestions for a safe strength training program for kids:
The primary focus should be skill development and having fun.
Strength training can be done two to three times a week, but with at least one day
of rest between sessions.
The program should include all major muscle groups and go through a full range of
Each session should begin with a warm up and end with a cool down.
A typical program might have one set of 10 to 15 repetitions for 6 to 8 different
A trainer or coach should be present at each session to make sure that the child is
following proper form and to act as a spotter.
The workouts should change so the child doesn't become bored with the same drill of
exercises each time.