When Should A Child Start To Weight Train?


Question

What age should a child before he starts to lift weights?

Answer

Good question.

Strength training has been proven to have many benefits for both adults and children ( pre-adolescent, and adolescent).

We know that strength training improves strength and muscle tone for adults but what about children?

According to a study done by Falk B, Tenenbaum G - entitled “The effectiveness of resistance training in children. A meta-analysis”.

Sports Med 1996; 3:176-186 found that overall strength increased when children engaged in a strength training regime.

Of course, the frequency, type of training, intensity, and duration all played a major role in the structure of the program, but the study concluded that overall strength levels increased when children strength trained.

In another study done by School of Physical Education and Athletics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, 13 boys aged 9 to 11 years of age were asked to participate in a strength training experiment to see what effects strength training had on muscle size and function. A weight training program using a progressive resistance system was performed 3 times a week over a 20 week period.

In the study, strength raining greatly increased the 1 repetition maximum bench press by 35%, the one repetition maximum of the leg press by 22%, isometric elbow flexion by 37% and knee extension strength by 25%.

The study concluded that strength does indeed improve muscle strength and function as well as improving motor skill co-ordination.

Over the years, we’ve all been told that weight training and children don’t mix. I’m sure you’ve heard how weight training can stunt a child’s growth or how a child will stop growing if he/she does weight training.

We now know that’s not true. In fact, strength training may help with a child’s strength levels as well as motor skill co-ordination. Additional research has shown that children as young as 6 have been shown to benefit from appropriate strength training programs. However....

You have to remember, they are children and don’t have the same mental and physical capacity of adults. Children just don’t have the inner body awareness it takes to perform super high intense strength training sessions.

Therefore, it’s not recommended that children do one rep maximum sets. Also, I think the first thing you have to ask yourself is if your child is emotionally developed to understand why they may be strength training in the first place.

Use common sense when thinking about employing strength training for children. It’s very important that you explain what weight training is all about and why they may want to do it. Once they have an understanding of what weight training is, incorporate that into a healthy lifestyle including other cardiovascular activities (sports and the such) and a healthy diet.

I strongly recommend that you don’t push strength training into a competitive realm. This has a way of spoiling it. Also, safe weight training practices apply to both adults and children. A light weight can still injure a child so make sure you go over the do’s and don’ts of weight training. Never allow your children to exercise alone.

A knowledgeable parent should be on hand at all times. I also recommend you talk to a professional about the type of weight training that should be used with children.

Keep it fun and safe for both, you and your child and you should both benefit from weight training. Here are some resources you may find useful:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/strength-training/hq01010

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/drobson38.htm

All the best,

Blake









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