Whether you are a concerned parent or a youth yourself who is interested in beginning weight training, we will tell you upfront that you should find this article encouraging!
For decades, there have been unfounded concerns keeping parents wary in the past concerning kids and weight training, such as if there was a risk of stunting their growth by affecting their growth plates, and/or if weight training might increase their kids’ risk of a bone fracture. According to The Human Performance Laboratory for the Division of Sports Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, these concerns should not keep kids from beginning weight lifting especially if guided by a professional trainer; weight lifting at a young age can strengthen muscles and so prevent injuries, actually.
First and foremost, regardless of your age or condition - you should always consult your physician in-person prior to beginning a strength training regimen. Only a licensed physician can give you qualified medical advice on any limitations or constraints you may have when it comes to weight lifting or strength training in general.
Most studies have shown that from about the age of 7 or 8, or at the age when a child can follow instructions from those supervising, children can begin to work on their form in the movements of a bench, squat, or lift. The goal at the start of weight lifting for youth is not to be big and bulky, but rather to focus on gaining coordination and general strength. Training prior to the start of puberty ensures that when their legs and arms lengthen, and their center of gravity changes and all of their hormonal changes take place, they can retain and build on that foundation of coordination and strength. Again, we remind that any form of strength training for youth should be vetted through a physician prior to starting.
Considering weight lifting has benefits for bone health, cardiovascular health, mental health, and protecting against type 2 diabetes in all ages, starting young makes a lot of sense. Beyond the more obvious musculoskeletal benefits, weight training at a younger age has neurological benefits - children learn faster, and form will become second nature. Also, there are psychological benefits such as building confidence. Much will depend on each child’s initial strength, balance, coordination, and temperament as to how far they can go. There is a concept called the training age of youth, and the idea is to track their progress by taking into consideration how long they've been lifting and factoring this aspect in when looking at how much they should or can lift.
Ideally, for steady progress, children should do weight training a minimum of two days per week, but it is recommended that they take two to three months a year "off" because growth plates and joints do need a break. Some gyms and fitness centers often offer programs designed for youth to begin weight lifting that is very useful in ensuring a professional who specializes in working with youth is available for your child, in a class form or one on one. For maximum benefits, it’s recommended they start before training for specific sports and playing sports.
As you can see, the earlier the better applies to weight lifting, for the most part. The proper gear can offer support and even prevent injuries.
Some great options for those looking to introduce youth to strength training are pull up to assist bands and resistance, loop bands. The pull up assist bands can help youth develop the muscle and correct form to perform pull-ups even if starting out they cannot complete a single pull up on their own. Resistance loops bands can be used in a variety of ways that can develop muscles without heavy weights and equipment that might seem intimidating or even dangerous when introducing youth to training programs. Resistance loop bands allow you to start with low resistance and work your way up to higher resistance. The best and most affordable pull-up assist bands and resistance loop bands can be found on Physix Gear’s website. Consider purchasing a set for your family as you introduce your children to the world of fitness!