Is Your Son or Daughter Ready to Lift Weights?

12 Questions Every Parent Should Answer Before Allowing Your Child to Start Weight Training

When I was growing up very few teens lifted weights. As a matter of fact, most coaches discouraged lifting fearing that it would stunt a child’s growth or make them “muscle-bound.” If you played football, you probably did some lifting on an old Universal machine. The high school weight room was often a converted broom closet or unused room in the lowest level of the school. Swimmers, soccer players, baseball and track athletes probably could not even tell you where the weight room was in their school. Girls did not lift weights.

Times have changed. If you are participating in a high school sport, you lift weights. The Universal machine has been replaced with racks, barbells, dumbells, kettlebells, benches and specialized equipment to make athletes bigger, stronger and faster. The myths about stunting growth and becoming muscle-bound have gone in the same trash heap as the Thigh Master and Bullworker.

Strength training has become mandatory for participation in most sports and children are starting younger and younger. Strength training has been used to help children lose weight, gain muscle and improve sports performance. Almost every high school and junior high school has a weight room manned by a “coach.”

But how can we be sure that our children are getting proper coaching in the fundamentals of a strength training program. How heavy should my child be lifting? How can I tell if the weight room is properly supervised?

Having a good understanding of what strength training is and what goals are best for youth will help you choose the right training facility for your child. Here are ten questions you should have the answer to before allowing your child to participate in a strength training program.

1. What is strength training?

Strength training involves more than just lifting weights. Strength training, weight training and resistance training are just a few terms that people use to describe ways to increase strength and muscle size. Strength training is any exercise program that progressively challenges muscles, joints, bones and the nervous system using resistance to increase muscle strength, size and/or performance.

Exercise machines, bodyweight, free weights as well as kettlebells, medicine balls, sandbags and other specialized equipment are a few tools that are used in strength training programs.

2. What is the goal of strength training for youth?

The main goals of a youth strength training program should be to instill an ongoing interest in fitness while teaching proper form in a safe and properly supervised environment. A good strength training program should also improve strength of the muscles and bones and be part of a total fitness program that includes aerobic conditioning, flexibility and agility.

A good strength training program will set the foundation for lifelong health and athletic performance as the child grows into maturity.

3. What are the benefits of strength training?

  • Increase muscular strength and endurance

  • Improves power production

  • May also play an important role in effective weight loss strategies.

  • Provide an opportunity to enhance motor coordination

  • Improves confidence in their perceived abilities to be physically active

  • Improve sports performance

  • Improves Body composition

  • Improves insulin sensitivity

  • Better balance

  • Enhances psychosocial wellbeing

  • Improves speed of movement and coordination

  • May decrease risk and severity of injury in sports

  • Improves cardiovascular risk profile

  • Increases bone mineral density

4. How young can my child start strength training?

Strength training can be started at any age provided that the child has the emotional maturity to listen to and follow directions and understand basic safety rules. If you child already participates in some form of organized sports, they can also start strength training.