Ask The Trainer #100 – Kids & Weight Training

Ask The Trainer #100 - Kids & Weight Training

QUESTION:

Hi. I was wondering what you thought about children lifting weights? My son is 10, and he wants to lift weights with me, but I’ve always heard that lifting weights at too young of an age may stunt a child’s growth, or cause damage to them. I would appreciate your insight on this. Thanks,

Michael


ANSWER:

Hi, Michael,

Your question has been the subject of controversy ever since I can remember. I started weight training at the age of 11. My parents were extremely skeptical about my decision to do this. They had always heard that preadolescent weightlifting would stunt a child’s growth. Plus, with all of the idiosyncrasies of my body mechanics, I was much more vulnerable to injuries than normal kids.

I know of some orthopedic specialists who claim preadolescent children should not participate in weightlifting. They claim it may cause premature bone fusion, or (epiphyseal fusion), which would result in permanently stunted bone growth. Additionally, most of these same specialists believe that structurally and hormonally, a child’s physiology is not equipped to tolerate the stress of lifting weights.

Now I would tend to agree with this, especially if a child was planning to engage in the same highly intense, ‘do or die’, ‘take no prisoners’, ‘beast mode’ sort of training I engage in. In fact, if a child were to take such an approach to a lifting regimen, I can pretty much guarantee that would be a disaster waiting to happen! This is exactly what happened to me.

Since I had severe scoliosis, my spine was already compromised. So when I decided to engage in rigorous, heavy lifting at age 11, I paid a hefty price. I ended up with 4 torn disks in my spine and 3 bulging disks. The condition of my spine was so severe orthopedic specialists wanted to perform a complete spinal fusion on me. However, I would not go along with that, and thankfully my parents supported my decision. Even though certain specialists said I’d never lift weights again, I ended up recovering. I resumed some light weight training after about 1 year of regular chiropractic treatments. I learned a hard lesson.

Now, imagine if we could go back to my first days in the weight room at age 11. I believe the injuries I sustained could’ve been completely avoided if I had the guidance of a reputable trainer or coach who really understood my physiological limits. He would have guided me through a regimen that consisted of performing controlled movements with lighter weights, with a special emphasis on safety and proper lifting technique. Had I been granted that luxury, I believe I would have avoided lots of pain and injuries.

This is very IMPORTANT! It’s imperative your son has the guidance of a trainer or coach who is competent, and knowledgeable. He must have a thorough understanding of proper lifting form, and the physiological considerations that must be implemented when a child engages in a weightlifting routine.


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Such a trainer or coach would likely have your son abide by the following guidelines:

  1. Consistent supervision of your child during every weight training session.
  2. Avoid powerlifting. Instead, a good portion of your child’s exercise regimen should consist of bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups, chin-ups, dips, core exercises, etc. Avoid sets with less than 10 reps.
  3. Vary your child’s routine to prevent overstressing any particular muscles or joints.
  4. Practice proper form on every exercise. No swinging or jerking weights. Smooth and controlled movements only.
  5. Limit workout sessions in duration and frequency. Remember, the body of preadolescent kid doesn’t yet produce any significant natural steroid hormones, like testosterone, or androsterone. Therefore, a child’s muscles will not recover nearly as well as those of a young adult. DOing too much, too frequently will be asking for an injury. Limit weight training sessions to no more than 45 minutes. Also, train all of the major muscle groups over the course of 3 nonconsecutive days throughout the week.

Of course, these protocols may vary based on your child’s current level of development, body mechanics, and other physical activities. That’s why you should meet with a qualified trainer to assess your child and to determine suitable volume and frequency protocols for him.

If you follow all these guidelines, I think weightlifting can be a very healthy, valuable activity for your son. He’ll have stronger muscles and bones. It will help relieve anxiety and improve his mental well-being. It will help strengthen the immune system. He will build confidence and discipline as he learns how to appreciate intrinsic rewards.

I hope this helps answer your question. I wish you and your son all the best of success with your health and fitness goals!

Prove ‘Em Wrong,
Chad Shaw

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