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Is it okay for kids to lift weights?

Is it okay for kids to lift weights

Calling all super parents! Are you always trying to give your child the edge in whatever sport they compete in? Have you considered weight training or strength training?

If you answered no because you believe it’s ‘bad’ for kids then maybe reconsider and read on to be informed about how it could be beneficial for your child.

Weight training or strength training is a huge component of most sporting programs for adult athletes. It makes sense “train how you want to play,” “The better prepared we are the better we perform.” By improving the athlete’s strength and conditioning they are given the tools needed to improve their performance. Why is this not applied to children?

Does weight training stunt growth?

The notion that weight training could stunt growth started in 1986 when an article was posted in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. This detailed a 13-year-old boy who suffered a growth plate fracture after lifting a barbell above his head whilst unsupervised. A fracture to the growth plate usually results in reduced or stunted growth of the bone. This is not ideal, and you can understand why it led to the belief that weight training may stunt growth.

There is also a plethora of evidence supporting weightlifting in children and showing that it does not have an negative impact upon normal growth and development. In fact, quite the opposite. It has been shown to improve strength and muscular gains in children which is surely better then “normal growth.” Strength training advances the natural development of children!

What about the injury risk?

Would it surprise you to learn that the injury risk is far greater in common sports such as soccer, rugby, netball, basketball etc? It is extremely hard to find any evidence of weight lifting injuries if being properly supervised. In fact weight lifting has been shown to reduce the injury risk for athletes competing in those sports. And has been shown to help children who are injured recover quicker compared to their non lifting peers!

At what age can children start weight training?

Most organisations that support strength training in kids highlight the age of 7 as the youngest recommended to begin strengthening programs. It’s common sense that a child who is 7 is going to be far different then a child who is 16. This is why it’s important that the programs are detailed for the individual and supervised by a health professional.

It’s clear that weight training or strength training is safe and highly recommended for children of all performance abilities and all ages to some degree. When you really think about it – tummy time for babies is to help strengthen their necks and encourage crawling? So, maybe the exercises just get harder 😉

However, there is some precautions that are best taken;

  • Supervised by coach or health professional
  • Appropriate warm up/down
  • Techniques shown prior to lifts
  • Progress slowly and start light
  • Variety of movements and lifts
  • Accessory muscle training
  • Participation in other sports or hobbies

If you think strength training is something that will help your child reach their peak performance then please contact Burleigh Heads Physiotherapy Centre on 5535 5218 to make a booking and getting started.

Written by James Wotherspoon – Physiotherapist

References and Sources
1. Pierce K, Brewer C, Ramsey M, et al. Youth resistance training. Profess Strength Cond. 2008;10:9-23
2. Faigenbaum AD, & Myer GD. Resistance training among young athletes: safety, efficacy and injury prevention effects. Br J Sports Med. 2010 Jan;44(1):56-63.
3. Sadres E, Eliakim A, Constantini N, et al. The effect of long term resistance training on anthropometric measures, muscle strength and self-concept in pre-pubertal boys.
Pediatr Exerc Sci. 2001;13:357-72.
4. Malina R. Weight training in youth – growth, maturation and safety: an evidenced based review. Clin J Sports Med. 2006;16:478-87.


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