As an adult, we all know the benefits of strength training, but when it comes to the youth we are hesitant to believe that the same benefits apply. Regardless of age, the appropriate time for anyone to start strength training is as soon as possible! First and foremost, strength training will not stunt your growth when done correctly. This is a common myth that probably came from the concern of kids damaging their growth plates when lifting weights due to improper form. Growth plates are the cartilaginous areas of growing tissue at the ends of long bones, which hardens when young people reach physical maturity but they are softer during development and more susceptible to damage. What we have to understand is participation in any recreational activity carries a risk of injury to growth plates. Therefore, “lifting weights” will not your stunt growth. Injuries from any extracurricular activity may play a role. Furthermore, height is a genetic thing but that’s another conversation.
UNDERSTANDING STRENGTH TRAINING
When we talk about strength training we are not talking about bodybuilding or powerlifting. We are just talking about developing a base foundation of strength with simple movements. I’ve seen kids training with resistance as young as 5 years old! If a kid express interest in strength training they are cable of reaping the benefits, as long as they are at an age where they can follow instructions and focus while controlling impulsive behavior during the length of a session. It is important to teach kids the proper way to train at a young age to create good habits for the future. When programming for kids it’s not about how much weight they can lift. It’s all about learning proper movement patterns and correct technique when performing lifts.
Things to consider when training the youth:
- Proper supervision – There should always be a qualified coach demonstrating and instructing kids how to safely train.
- Adequate warm up – Kids should properly be warmed up prior to strength training.
- Begin with body weight resistance – Once kids understand how to control their body weight then introduce exercise balls, light dumbbells, or training bars.
- Make it fun – Proven fact if a kid enjoys an activity they’re more likely to stay consistent.
Benefits of Strength Training When Young
Done properly, strength training can:
- Increase balance and coordination.
- Increase overall strength that will improve recreational activity.
- Increase bone strength index which will decrease the risk of injury.
- Increase overall self esteem, making them feel strong and confident.
- Additionally most kids have no mobility limitations which is key when learning proper mechanics.
In conclusion, strength training is only one part of a total program. Kids should also get at least an hour a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, including aerobic activities. Also, be sure your child drinks plenty of water and eats a healthy diet for better performance and recovery.
If you are interested in a strength training program for your child please contact us!
-B.S. Exercise science
-Minor in nutrition
-BPS Level 1