Should kids lift weights?
Should kids lift weights?
Written by: Paul Kochoa, PT, DPT, OCS, CKTP, CGFI
You’ll stop growing. Your bones will break. You’ll hurt yourself. You’ll poke your eye out.
These are some of the myths associated with weight training for kids and adolescents. Most people believe that because of their bone structure and continued growth of long bone end plates, that weight lifting for children will stunt their growth by inhibiting the long bones from growing.
A study in Pediatrics states otherwise. They think that weight training for children is safe and may even be essential. The study is pretty extensive, the researchers looked at evidence over a sixty year period covering children from 6 to 18 years old. They reported that weight training for children is safe when supervised and that it does not stunt growth or damage end plates.
But before you take junior and shove him in the basement with a bunch of metal weights, take care. The study states that the ideal weight training program for children doesn’t need to involve weights at all. Researches state that the body doesn’t know the difference between a barbell, a weight machine, a medicine ball, elastic bands, or even your own body weight. Using any type of resistance is sufficient; lunges with broomsticks, push ups, medicine ball passes, skipping, or jumping all count as resistive exercise when it comes to children.
The ideal age to start is between 7 and 12 years old. This is the time when the nervous system is very plastic and acceptable to the stress and changes that accompany weight lifting. This also brings up another point: bulking up.
When an adult trains with weights, you’ll notice the hypertrophy of the muscles, the bulking and increase in muscle mass. But size does not always equate to strength. The other half of being strong is the neurological component, the ability for a motor nerve coming from the central nervous system to connect to a muscle fiber or multiple muscle fibers and make them contract sufficiently and strongly enough to result in a limb being moved or a weight being lifted. This is the key component with weight lifting in children.
Children rarely bulk up, they don’t generate power or muscular strength like an adult. Their changes occur neurologically, their nervous systems become more efficient at recruiting muscle fibers. They tap into the innate strength of their muscles without adding the bulk.
Generally, children end up sitting in front of the television, playing video games, staying indoors, and losing all their neurological strength in their muscles. Breaking this pattern seems all the more important in light of how we are turning into urban-dwelling couch potatoes. It’s essential that we instill the importance of physical activity, movement, and weight lifting in our children.
If you would like more information, please call Professional Physical Therapy and Training at 973-270-7417. Our offices our located within the YMCA locations in Madison and Summit, NJ. You do not need to be a member of the YMCA to visit with us.Image courtesy of PictureYouth / FreeDigitalPhotos.net