Don’t worry Mum and Dad. Your kids can lift weights.
Let’s start with some common Myths .
Resistance training will stunt the growth of children
No scientific evidence indicates that participation in a supervised resistance training program will stunt the growth of children or damage developing growth plates (the areas of new bone growth in children and teenegers) BMJ 2014. In all likelihood, regular participation in a well-designed resistance training program during the growing years will have a favorable influence on bone growth and development.
Resistance training is unsafe for children
Youth need to be at least 12 years old to life weights
Although there is no evidence-based minimum age for participation in a youth resistance training program, all participants should be able to accept directions and follow safety rules. Boys and girls younger than 12 years old have participated safely in supervised resistance training programs (A D Faigenbaum et al). Generally, when youth are ready for sport participation, approximately ages 7 or 8, they are ready for some type of resistance training as part of a well-rounded fitness program.
Girls will develop bulky muscles if they lift weights
Training-induced gains in muscular strength during childhood are primarily due to neuromuscular adaptations and skill development. Although boys may develop bigger muscles during the growing years because the effects of anabolic hormones would be operant, girls can get stronger throughout childhood and adolescence while gaining all the benefits from resistance training without developing bulky muscles (BMJ 2014).
Resistance training is only for young athletes
Regular participation in a well-designed resistance training program offers observable health and fitness value for all children and adolescents (BMJ 2014). In addition to performance enhancement and injury reduction, resistance training can improve musculoskeletal health, enhance metabolic function, and increase daily physical activity. Resistance training may be particularly beneficial for overweight youth who often are unwilling and unable to perform prolonged periods of aerobic exercise (Jordan J Smith, 2014).
It is important that youth resistance training programs should be supervised by qualified fitness professionals and consistent with the needs, interests, and abilities of younger populations. Fitness professionals should provide an opportunity for all participants to have fun, make friends, and learn something new, with the goal of improving muscular fitness (i.e., muscular strength, muscular power, and muscular endurance) ACSM 2016 .
Youth resistance training guidelines with progression based on each participant’s resistance training skill competency and muscular strength:
Resistance training skill competency and muscular strength (ACSM 2016).
- Set: 1-2 Repetitions: varied Intensity: < 60% 1 RM (Repetition Maximum)
- Exercises: Basic Frequency: 2/week
- Set: 2-4 Repetitions: 6-12 Intensity: < 80% 1 RM
- Exercises: Intermediate Frequency: 2-3 / week
- Set: Multiple Repetitions: < 6 Intensity: > 85% 1 RM
- Exercises: Advanced Frequency: 2-4 /week
Despite traditional fears and misinformed concerns associated with youth resistance training, new insights into the design of youth fitness programs have highlighted the importance of enhancing muscular fitness during childhood and continuing participation in strength-building activities throughout adolescence. Although factors such as heredity, training experience, and health habits (e.g., nutrition and sleep) will influence the rate and magnitude of adaptation, seven principles that determine the effectiveness of youth resistance training are the principles of (a) Progression, (b) Regularity, (c) Overload, (d) Creativity, (e) Enjoyment, (f) Socialization, and (g) Supervision (ACSM 2016).
Since today’s youth are weaker and slower than previous generations, the time is ripe to incorporate strength-building exercises into youth fitness programs (Mythbusting – ACSM 2020).
Strength training, when performed in a controlled, supervised environment, can help children and adolescents of all athletic abilities safely improve their strength and overall health and well-being. The health benefits of strength training far outweigh the potential risks, especially in today’s society where childhood obesity continues to rise (Sport Health, 2009).
RESISTANCE TRAINING FOR KIDS, Right from the Start – ACSM, 2016;
Position statement on youth resistance training: the 2014 International Consensus, BMJ;
Resistance training among young athletes: safety, efficacy and injury prevention effects, Br J Sport Med, 2010;
The health benefits of muscular fitness for children and adolescents: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Sports Med – 2014;
World Health Organization. Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health. Geneva: WHO Press, 2010. 58 p;
Strength Training in Children and Adolescents. Raising the Bar for Young Athletes? Sports Health, 2009.