At What Age Can Youths Start Weight Training?
If you have a young athlete in your family, you have probably wondered if they should start lifting weights at some point. You probably know that resistance training makes athletes stronger, less prone to injury, and generally helps sports performance. Or perhaps your teenager simply wants to get in shape and asked you for some advice, or maybe even a set of weights.
The good news is that weight-lifting is perfectly safe for youths of any age, and research shows that even children can benefit from it. A long-standing myth around resistance training has been that it stunts growth. Absolutely no evidence has been found for this. In fact we have good counter-evidence. Eastern bloc countries start kids early on in Olympic weight-lifting, possibly the most demanding form of resistance training there is. Children who participate in these programs grow up to be normal sized and healthy (and exceptionally strong and athletic) adults.
Girls additionally benefit from resistance training. Lifting weights builds bone density, and research shows that any extra density built during the younger years sticks around into our adulthood and is great at helping reduce the risks of osteoporosis and it's associated ills, such as hip fractures. Since resistance training develops strength and co-ordination, it greatly helps reduce the risks of knee injuries, which is highly prevalent in the female athletic population.
A big benefit of resistance training for young people is it develops all-around athleticism. All sports benefit from being stronger and less injury prone.
I believe that no matter what type of exercise one does with children or youth, the focus should be on developing form, good habits and only very slowly increasing the difficulty. The foundation starts with body-weight exercises such as squats, lunges, pushups, pullups and similar. Then you move on to simple dumbbell or barbell exercises (back squats, for example), followed by more complex movements that may have a ballistic component, such as cleans or kettlebell swings.
If you have a young person in your family who is curious about weight-training, or looking to upgrade your athletic teenager's performance, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can help with setting up a detailed, progressive program, educate you and your child about the benefits and risks of weight-lifting, and make sure their fitness journey starts off on the right foot!