Strength training for kids

Teenager doing a Dumbbell Bench PressWhen the topic training kids to lift weights or any form of strength training for kids comes up it is often controversial, usually  with a lot of members of the general public stating that “I heard it was bad for kids to lift weights” or “lifting weights will stunt growth” among others, a lot of this misinformation is pure myth

So what do some of the important peak bodies have to say on the matter of strength training for kids ?

The NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) note that the forces that children are exposed to in properly supervised 1 RM tests are usually lighter and of less duration than those experienced during sports competition. NSCA also recommends that children should, depending on the goal of the training perform 1-3 sets per exercise on 2-3 non-consecutive days under professional supervision.

The most recent meta-analysis, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that children who engaged in strength training using either free weights or resistance-training machines one to five times a week, for about 40 minutes per session, improved their strength by 20 to 40 percent. This meta-analysis also found that appropriate strength-training programs have no apparent adverse effect on linear growth, growth plates, or the cardiovascular system.

The perceived injury rate of weight training in children is also out of proportion to the actual rates of injury, again the above meta-analysis found that Most injuries occur on home equipment with unsafe behaviour and unsupervised settings rather than in  a setting with strict supervision by a qualified coach and done with proper technique. See also Powerlifting Injury Rates

Kids are involved in competitive weightlifting, and Powerlifting, research on weightlifting as a sport has revealed that children have participated with few injuries.

In all of these cases it is crucial to point out the expert nature of the supervision and the high level of technique training that was enforced before any significant weight was attempted.

(NSCA), which now recommends children, aged 6 and older, to incorporate strength training two to three times a week.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), 50 percent of pre-adolescent sports injuries could be prevented, in large part, by enrolling kids in youth strength and conditioning programs (ACSM l993)

supervised and age appropriate resistance training program for youths can:

  • enhance muscular strength and power
  • improve cardiovascular risk profile
  • improve motor skill performance and may contribute to enhanced sports performance
  • increase a young athlete’s resistance to sports-related injuries
  • help improve the psychosocial well-being
  • help promote and develop exercise habits during childhood and adolescence

Children and teens are certainly not the only ones who can greatly benefit from weight training. Strength training is an integral part of a well-rounded exercise program, and is recommended for all ages, including seniors.


Further reading

Weight training – Pre-adolescent strength training: Narelle Sibte – Strength & Conditioning Coach, Australian Institute of Sport
Brown, E., & Kimbali (1983). Medical history associated with adolescent power lifting. Pediatrics 72, 636-644

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