Is Weight Training Safe for Kids?
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) contends that strength training for kids is both safe and beneficial and does not cause any bone-plate (growth) disturbances, provided that the program is properly designed and competently supervised.
Keep in mind that resistance training does not always imply lifting heavy weights. The purpose of resistance training is to strengthen the body to better prepare it for daily activities and this can also be done using your own body weight.
7 tips to keep in mind if you child is resistance training, after the jump
When you consider the types of sports and activities our kids participate in as early as six years old, the "dangerous stresses" placed on the body through a professionally-guided weight training program pale in comparison.
For example, the loads placed on a child's body while landing at the end of a tumbling routine in gymnastics, body-checking in hockey, tackling in football and sprinting in track and field are at least 3-4 times their body weight. In reality, resistance training can actually help prevent sports-related injuries by strengthening your child's muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones. Strength training has also shown to improve sports performance by enhancing motor fitness skills such as jumping and running.
In my practice, I start working with kids as young as six. I personally shy away from the use of weights until the age of 12 or 13 (depending on the child) for both boys and girls. With the younger ones, I focus on body weight resistance exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks and wall-sits. I like to keep it simple and fun as it is more about building the lifestyle habit as opposed to the specific exercises. At the age of 12 or 13 I start to implement light weights, medicine balls, stability balls and resistance bands. The pre-teens and teenagers tend to be more coordinated and are mentally ready to handle the importance of developing proper exercise technique.
Here are seven helpful tips to remember when your child participates in a resistance training program:
1. Safety is your first priority. Invest in some expert advice.
2. Work in small groups as partner exercises are fun for kids.
3. Show them the proper technique. Don't tell them. They learn best by visualizing the exercise.
4. All exercises should be completed in a slow and controlled manner until perfect technique is established.
5. Look for variations of the same exercise as kids have different strengths and weaknesses. For example, one child may not be able to do a push-up. Therefore, he or she can do push-ups from the knees or against a wall.
6. Progress by increasing the repetitions before increasing the resistance. For example, if 10 repetitions at 5 lbs becomes easy, progress up to 20-30 repetitions before going to 8 lbs or 10 lbs.
7. Workout yourself. Kids learn best by example.
One final note: Strength training not only builds strength but also self-esteem.
Reggie Reyesis a certified kinesiologist and personal trainer. He is the president and founder of pt4kids a company that creates specialized training programs for kids all ages and fitness levels.