When Is It Safe for Kids to Start Lifting Weights?
One question we often get from parents is whether or not their kids should be lifting weights.
This is certainly a legitimate worry as there has been quite a buzz surrounding the topic over the years.
Will it stunt their growth and damage their growth plates?
It is dangerous?
The short answer to these questions is no.
Before we go on, it's important to define lifting weights. What is it?
Lifting weights or resistance training is a mode of exercise using external resistance, most commonly in the form of dumbbell, kettlebell, barbell, and body-weight exercises.
There are many benefits to lifting weights such as:
Increasing core and total-body strength
Increasing speed, and power (better athletic performance)
Decreasing injury (ACL prevention, bone strength, overuse injuries, etc)
Improving cardiovascular health and performance
Let's get into why a well designed, age-appropriate strength and conditioning program is not only safe for our youth but extremely beneficial.
There are a couple flaws when it comes to the belief that lifting weights can stunt growth (damage growth plates) and is dangerous for children.
Our bodies, especially our bones do not mature at the same rate.
For example, your growth plate at your elbow can mature by the young ages of 10-15. On the other hand your clavicle and shoulder blade may not mature until you're 22.
If this is the case, should we keep our athletes away from lifting weights until they're in their 20's?
In fact, injuries to growth plates come as a result of a trauma, like falling or the repetitive stress of athletics.
A well-designed strength and conditioning program can actually help bulletproof our athletes against these issues.
So, we now know a balanced strength and conditioning program won't stunt your child's growth.
The next question is whether or not lifting weights is safe for your children?
Did you know kids experience forces of 4-6x their body weight when they sprint and jump?
These forces far exceed any amount of weight they would be using during their training.
The key to keeping our kids safe in the gym is to make sure they are always supervised by strength and conditioning coaches and are completing exercises appropriate for their age and ability with proper technique.
To do this, our coaches make sure the kids we train can demonstrate the exercises with great technique and strength before adding weight to it.
We start by building a great foundation of strength, mobility, and proper technique.
We do this by starting our athletes with using just their body-weight as resistance with movements like squats, push-ups, chin-ups, planks, and lunges.
We then slowly increase the weight and intensity of each exercise over time, aiming for gradual progress, not maxing-out with poor technique.
The is perfect movement with a slow increase in resistance.
So, when should kids start?
We start our athletes as young as 10 years old with a well-rounded training program that focuses on mastering the basics and having fun!
From there, the exercises and workouts they complete grow with both intensity and focus.
Now that we've debunked the myths surrounding kids and weightlifting, let's get into 4 reasons why all kids SHOULD be lifting weights.
1| Creating a healthy lifestyle
One of the great benefits of getting our youth involved in strength and conditioning at DSC is that it's a great way to set a foundation of lifelong health.
Not only do we teach kids how and why it is important to exercise, we also make it fun!
Providing kids the education on how to properly lift weights and exercise as well as making it fun and something they look forward to creates a powerful combination leading to longterm health and fitness habits.
This is what we are most proud of as coaches:
Helping kids, both involved and not involved in athletics, create a life of health and have fun doing it!
When it comes to running faster, jumping higher, a quicker first step, it all comes down to force production.
How much force can an athlete apply into the ground with each step, in the shortest amount of time to get themselves moving?
The stronger an athlete is, the more force they will be able to apply and the faster, quicker and more explosive they will be.
Without lifting weights, athletes are only going to be as strong as their genetics allow.
By working on proper technique and slowly increasing the resistance on strength exercises like squats and lunges, athletes can gain a real competitive advantage over their competition on the field, court or ice.
Is your child thinking of playing their sport in high-school? Maybe in college as well?
If so, lifting weights and conditioning will be a HUGE part of their program and success.
Imagine showing up and already being familiar with all the movements the team is doing in the weight room.
Imagine being one of the stronger, more fit athletes on the team.
This will give your child a MASSIVE advantage on day one and beyond!
In fact, the most successful athletes on the field, court, or ice tend to be the hardest working and most consistent athletes in the gym.
3| Injury prevention
There is an epidemic amongst our youth athletics.
That epidemic is the rise in sport-related injuries.
Over 3 million kids under the age of 14 will be injured each year playing their sport.
These numbers continue to rise as our youth athletes are competing more and more, specializing earlier in one sport, while spending less time developing their overall strength, flexibility, body mechanics and fitness levels.
The good news is, a well-designed strength and conditioning program is the perfect way to bulletproof our youth against injuries.
Building strength, stability and muscle aids in helping to support various joints of the body against injuries caused by collisions, falls, landings and cutting during athletics.
Getting stronger is especially crucial for preventing lower-body injuries like ACL tears.
4| Boosts confidence
I still remember when I made the connection between strength training and results on the court. Our basketball coach implemented a preseason strength and conditioning program after a disappointing two seasons. We all really dedicated ourselves to the program and the next season, we won the Eastern Maine Finals! Our speed and strength had increased to the point where the whole tempo of our play was higher and no one could beat us down the court!
Seeing kids put in the work and watch themselves do something they once couldn't, like bust out 5 chin-ups or push a heavy sled across the turf is something special and something they'll remember for a lifetime! :)