5/28/15

Isn't He A Little Young To Lift Weights?

"Isn't he a little young to be lifting weights?"

Many parents have a fear that their young ones shouldn't rush into lifting weights. The thought of a heavy metal bar resting gingerly on the back of their child is terrifying. Not to mention parents hear that lifting weights can stunt growth, hurt joints, reduce flexibility, and lead to traumatic injury. It's like some parents think that their kids lifting weights is just as bad as them sneaking a cigarette during recess. Just imagine a bunch of 6 year olds trying to get your little one to smoke a cig before knocking out a set of back squats. That fear alone will keep most kids from entering a weight room until highschool when a football coach guesses his way through a squat workout. You could leave it to the guy who hasn't worked out since the 20th century, or you could get a head start and find them a professional.



Meet John, he's 11.

When John and I started working together we had to start at square one. And by square one I mean learning how to stand. Posture is a huge part of lifting, so before he could ever squat or deadlift John had to learn how to keep his back tight. Once his slouch was forgone we began learning how to squat - On his heels, back tight, below parallel, knees out, chest up, look forward, elbows up - that's a lot of information just to do an up-down movement. After putting all the puzzle pieces of a squat together, John was able to lift heavier weights and progress; and progress he did. In just a few months John went from being unable to keep his posture and squat below parallel with his body weight, to crushing a 135 pound PR.



At face value we can say that Johns squat improved about 135 pounds in a few months. But looking at this for just the face value is like judging a book by its cover. Don Quixote - a book about windmills and donkeys? What John really gained from lifting weights far exceeds the numerical value. He now has a healthy posture which will improve breathing and prevent spinal kyphosis. Learning how to squat deep without falling has allowed him to develop balance and flexibility. Putting all of the complicated movements of a squat together teaches John body autonomy (knowing how to move controlled through space). Finally, holding a heavy weight on his body has increased his bone density which will reduce his chances of breaking them. John isn't the only pre-teen that I train, but the number of kids who lift is far too few when you think of all the benefits that come from moving weights. You see, face value isn't what it's all cracked up to be. Don Quixote is much more than an old man fighting windmills, and lifting young does much more than make kids strong.

However, for some parents the list of guaranteed benefits may not outweigh the possible risks that come from lifting weights. It's an ironic twist when we think about all of the other things kids get to do without a single sweat drop beading down the forehead of their parents. Just look at how kids play at the park: jumping from swings, climbing monkey bars, hopping over logs. I for one broke my arm jumping from a swing when I was 4 - but at least I made it over that little tree in our backyard. Your kid is more likely to get hurt playing tag than he/she is lifting weights in a controlled environment (proper coaches and spotters).

The risk for traumatic injury in lifting weights is extremely low. The possibility that lifting weights will stunt growth is zero. In fact, the growth plates are affected more by diet and genetics than anything else. We see parents stuffing their kids face with french fries from McDonalds which has been shown to excite cardiovascular disease, but God forbid they touch a barbell. Let's also not forget that lifting weights through proper ranges of motion will actually strengthen ligaments and joints and improve flexibility (when done correctly). All together, lifting weights may be the best thing you can let your child do. Many of the reasons parents wont let their kids lift are simply fear fueled rumors.

"Of course not. He's plenty old enough train with weights!"

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About Me

My photo
BS, MS - exercise Physiology
EPC - Board Certified Exercise Physiologist

Published Thesis
The impact of three different forms of warm up on performance

Graduate from Midwestern State University, founder of Endunamoo Barbell Club, and Endunamoo Strength and Conditioning. Working to help athletes physically reach their goals and achieve scholarships while spiritually pouring into as many people as possible on all platforms.