of Strength Training for kids and teens
Kids and teens who follow a strength training and exercise program
cut in half their risk of sports injury and improve their sports
performance. Strength training also works to increase bone density
and strengthen ligaments and tendons.
And the benefits
don't stop with physical health. Young athletes typically also feel
better about themselves as they get stronger and meet the challenge
of learning new skills. Kids who strength train may even have higher
self-esteem and a lower incidence of depression.
Kids as young
as 5 and 6 can participate in strength-related activities (such
as push-ups and sit-ups) provided they can perform the exercises
safely and follow instructions. Seven- and 8-year-olds can strength
train with weights as long as they can follow the regimen safely
and know to be careful in a weight room. Even small weights can
cause an injury if dropped on a foot or if they are not lifted properly.
if your child is ready to participate in organized sports or activities
such as baseball, soccer, or gymnastics, he's ready for strength
This kind of
program should be implemented as a preseason conditioning regimen
prior to sports participation, says Avery Faigenbaum, EdD, CSCS,
assistant professor in the Human Performance and Fitness Department
at the University of Massachusetts - Boston. "Children today
are watching 25 hours of TV a week, they're spending hours and hours
on the computer, physical education is still seen as an expendable
part of the school curriculum, and childhood obesity is at an all-time
high," Dr. Faigenbaum says. "The physician gives them
the OK to play sports, but many are not physically prepared."
Is It Safe for
My Child to Strength Train?
As with any sports or exercise program, it's important that your
child visit his doctor for a physical exam before beginning a strength-training
regimen. Once your child's doctor lets you know it's OK for him
to strength train, you'll need to make sure that your child will
be properly supervised, using safe equipment, and following an age-appropriate
should not be adapted for children; these programs can be too strenuous
and monotonous for this young audience. Programs should model the
way kids play on a playground, typically 30-second intervals with
breaks between, with warm-up periods before training and cool-down
periods after training.
A common concern
associated with youth strength training is the belief that this
kind of exercise could damage the growth plates. Growth plates are
made up of a layer of cartilage near the end of a bone where most
of the bone's growth occurs. Although a few case studies have reported
growth plate fractures in children who lifted weights, most of these
injuries occurred as a result of improper training or unsupervised
weightlifting in which children were lifting too much weight.
plate injuries have not occurred in any youth strength training
study that followed established training guidelines," Dr. Faigenbaum
says. "In fact, recent findings suggest that strength training
during childhood and adolescence may actually make bones stronger."
erroneously associated with strength training is the use of anabolic
steroids. Some young and professional athletes abuse these drugs
to build muscles and improve athletic performance and appearance
even though the use of such drugs poses severe risks to physical
and psychological health and can be illegal. But steroids are not
a component of youth strength-training programs.