Youth Weight Training: Is It Safe?

Have you been wondering if it’s safe for your child to start lifting weights?  I have seen a lot of teenage athletes lately, both girls and boys, who have had questions about lifting.  More teenage boys are into weight training than girls…especially if they’re on the football team.  Every local football team seems to have a weight lifting program, so why shouldn’t all the other sports?

I asked one young athlete if he did any squats or deadlifts.  He said no.  When I asked why not, he said that his father was afraid to let him because he had hurt himself lifting and he didn’t want his son to get hurt too.

The simple fact is that it is safe for kids to weight train.  In fact, it’s actually a good idea.  If you start them early, they learn proper techniques at a young age that they will continue to use as they get bigger and stronger.  This will help prevent them from injury while weight lifting as they get older.  It also gives children a sense of purpose and makes them feel good about themselves.

When I say weight lifting, I don’t mean learning how to do a bicep curl.  Sure, that will be included, but I mean performing big lifts like squats, deadlifts, cleans, and jerks.  In order for this type of youth weight lifting to be safe, some important guidelines need to be followed.   Hopefully this article will answer some of your questions.

At What Age Can My Child Start Weight Training?

There are a couple things to consider here.  First of all, the child needs to show interest.  If they are not interested in lifting weights, they won’t pay enough attention to learn the proper techniques to prevent injuries.  If your child is not interested, they are not ready.  Don’t try to push them into weight lifting.

Second, your child needs to be able to follow instructions.  If they are too young to understand what they are being told to do, then they’re not ready.  In many cases, they need to be able to follow multi-step directions.  They can usually do this around 7 or 8 years old depending on the child.

Will My Child Bulk Up?

Children who weight train will not build muscle size until they go through puberty and the proper hormones are in place.  And that’s just the boys.  Girls will not bulk up by weight training.  However, all children can build strength prior to puberty.  This happens because the nervous system makes changes in response to the weight lifting that result in increases strength, but not increased size.  So, if you’re expecting your nine year old to get big muscles, it’s not going to happen.

How Do I Get My Child Started?

As I mentioned above, first they need to show interest and be old enough to follow commands.  If they meet these criteria, they are ready to start lifting weights.  Then you need to find a strength training coach and facility that is comfortable with training young people.  You need to make sure that the coach has experience with training children.

Some coaches even have extra certifications or training to make them more appropriate to work with young kids.  This isn’t necessary since the coach may have tons of experience with this age group anyway, but sometimes it’s nice to see.  Once you find the right person, you meet with them and set up a plan.

How Much Supervision Will My Child Get?

The younger the child, the more supervision they will need.  When your child is first starting out, no matter what age, they should have the coach supervising them at all times to make sure they are doing the lifts perfectly.

With older children, once they have the technique down, the coach might be able to step away some.  With younger children, the coach should be with them all the time no matter how many times they’ve done the exact same lift with proper technique.  You never know when a young child is going to get distracted and do something wrong.

How Much Weight Will My Child Lift?

When a young child is first starting out, they may not lift any weight at all.  The coach should spend a lot of time teaching them proper technique.  This is often done by having the child lift a piece of PVC pipe or something similar just to get the moves down.  Once they have the right technique, then they start using the barbell without any weight on it.  Then, as long as the technique is perfect, they will begin to lift more weight.

The amount of weight they will lift depends on the child.  They will not be allowed to lift any amount of weight that they can’t do safely.  Volume will initially be kept low to let their body adapt to the training, then increase accordingly.  As the boys hit puberty, they will be able to lift more and more weight safely.  The girls will keep increasing weight also; they just won’t see the strength gains that the boys will see.

So, there’s a small look into the world of youth weight training.  It can be very beneficial for kids to lift weights.  It gives them something to do and it can help with self esteem and body image issues.  It also prepares them for the weight training they will probably do later in life if they continue to play sports.  Training with proper technique will make your child stronger, which will help to prevent injuries on the field.  I hope this article cleared up some of the questions and concerns people have towards youth weight lifting.  Have a great day!

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