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Should Kids Lift Weights?
by Dr. David Williams

I often get asked the question of whether or not children should lift weights. Weight training for children is a controversial subject and of great concern to parents, coaches and the medical community. It has long been believed that if kids lift weights they could damage the growth plates of their bones and stunt their growth.

Researchers have tested this hypothesis and have demonstrated that if performed correctly, weight training for children is very safe and not harmful to the bones of the developing child. Researchers have taken boys and girls as young as nine years of age and put them through an eight-week weight training program. Both sexes demonstrated significant improvements in strength, many by over 50%, with no adverse affects to their epiphyseal plates. Weight training will not increase muscle mass in kids because they lack adequate levels of circulating hormones, namely testosterone, until after puberty. The strength increases are a result of neurological adaptations occurring within the muscle. As a result of the training program, the kids are able to recruit more muscle fibers, which significantly improves their strength levels. So, they will not gain more muscle mass, but they will get much stronger.

Children can not only get stronger, but studies have shown that it will also cause them to run faster, jump higher, increase their endurance, and improve their agility. The children also reported that they had better self esteem and that they really enjoyed lifting weights.

Parents should never push their kids into a weight training program, but if children want to lift weights, they should be encouraged to do so. When children lift weights, it is very important that they follow certain safety guidelines. The National Strength and Conditioning Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have put forth the following guidelines for prepubescent strength training.

  1. All weight training programs should be under the supervision of an exercise specialist who has been trained and certified in youth weight training.
  2. The lifter should never perform fewer than 8 repetitions, stay light and do more reps.
  3. Competition between lifters should be discouraged.
  4. Children should not lift weights until they are psychologically mature enough to handle a weight room environment.
  5. Weight training should be performed in conjunction with a flexibility and cardiovascular exercise program.

Listen to Dr. Dave's radio interview regarding kids and weight training.

If you have any questions regarding fitness and wellness, please feel free to contact me at (817) 648-6999.

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