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How Important is Strength Training for Kids?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Should children and adolescents strength train? For years, many said "no", believing that it could damage a child's growth plates, thereby stunting their growth. The risks of injury seemed to outweigh any benefit that strength training could provide. But there is growing evidence that strength training is very beneficial for children and could be an important part of their exercise routine.

The latest review, published in the journal Pediatrics, looked at studies from the past 60 years related to kids and strength training. "The researchers found that, almost without exception, children and adolescents benefited from weight training. They grew stronger. Older children, particularly teenagers, tended to add more strength than younger ones, as would be expected, but the difference was not enormous. Young people of any age who participated in resistance training at least twice a week for a month or more showed greater strength gains than those who worked out only once a week or for shorter periods."

Early opinion was that lifting weights wouldn't make kids stronger, but research doesn't support that theory. Children don't gain muscle mass the way adults do, but rather experience neurological changes that cause their nervous system and muscles to interact more efficiently. So even though you might not see changes on the outside, there are changes happening on the inside for kids who strength train. Experts say strength training can help prevent injury in young athletes, provided they are doing it safely.

Strength training for children shouldn't involve hours in the gym lifting weights. In fact, it doesn't have to involve weights at all. Body-weight exercises like pushups, one-leg exercises and lunges can all provide the same benefits as a traditional strength training program. Children should always be supervised to make sure they are using proper form, but can perform these exercises without as much of a safety concern as traditional weight training workouts. According to one expert involved in this research, a good age to start regular strength training is between ages 7 and 12.

What do you think? Are you surprised by these recommendations? Do (or did) your children or adolescents strength train?

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PATRICIAAK 6/16/2021
:) Report
:) Report
1CRAZYDOG 4/15/2021
Thank you for this information Report
CECELW 3/12/2021
Lots of common sense Report
BLOND1E 3/12/2021
Good info Report
AZMOMXTWO 3/12/2021
thank you Report
Great article. Report
FERRETLOVER1 3/12/2021
Thanks. Report
NEPTUNE1939 3/12/2021
ty Report
MAREE1953 3/12/2021

Interesting article and comments (most of them anyway) Report
-POOKIE- 3/12/2021
As this article is 10 years old, are there any more relevant studies that are useful? Report
LIS193 3/12/2021
Thanks Report
JANIEWWJD 3/12/2021
Good article!!! Thank you for sharing!!!! Report
We have kids who live behind us who are always outside lifting weights. The dad seems to be encouraging them to do some serious lifting. With the pandemic, the kids never seem to be inside when the internet learning is going on. Hope when this is all over that those kids have learned at least a bit other than weight lifting. Sad. Report
NEPTUNE1939 2/5/2021
ty Report
BONIFIANT 1/7/2021
Some 75 to 80 years ago, we did not need to worry about strength training. We spent our recesses climbing on the jungle gym, walking the monkey bars, playing hop scotch, jumping rope, or showing off our cart wheels. Once we got home, we did chores and then we rode bikes, walked on stilts, jumped more rope, practiced our hop scotch skills, etc. Did I mention that we walked or roller skated to school? Report
PLCHAPPELL 11/5/2020
Good information Report
VHAYES04 11/2/2020
Ty Report
MUSICNUT 10/17/2020
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
PLCHAPPELL 9/30/2020
Start early Report
ERIN_POSCH 9/19/2020
thanks for sharing Report
I encourage my daughter to lift weights Report
😁 Report
I attended a lecture, and one of the groups speaking was doing research into brittle bone disease and why it affects women more then men. Their theory was that boys jump off things, bounce off things, and generally toughen up their bones. Whereas girls are taught to "get down", "stay off that" and "sit down" and thus their bones are softer. They were encouraging girls to jump, fall, and bounce just as much as boys. So I'm thinking, yes, kids, and especially girls, should lift weights. Report
Thanks for sharing Report
Good article - thanks. Report
Great Report
Great article. Thank you. Report
Good to know info. I will be sure to pass this on to my grandchildren. Report
As long as it's monitored and the weights are appropriate, I think it's good for them. Report
I believe their bodies are like ours. I believe they should do it but not lift the heavy weights. Report
I’m not sure about “training “ per se but no doubt it benefits Report
Great info! Thank you! Report
I have never liked the idea of kids lifting weights Report
Nope. Not weights. Bodyweight exercises, absolutely. Strength-training with weights? Not a chance. Maybe it's just a correlation that most of the guys I know who started lifting early never grew very tall. Or that I started lifting early and I had the same problem (I quit growing tall in 8th grade/ Starting lifting in 9th.) I vote give yourself (or your children) a chance to grow. Get a decent amount of sleep, and stick to bodyweight exercises and cardio (like running/ sports), but save the weights for when you're fully developed. (Although I think household chores, like moving 50 lb bags of cornfeed for the chickens, or whatever is fine. That isn't a weekly weight plan. That's just a momentary effort to get stuff done -- and everyone needs to pull their weight in a family. Literally and figuratively.) Report
I'm not sure working with actual weights would benefit a young child but bodyweight exercise absolutely. Just make sure their form is correct. Just like adults Report
Thank you! Report
I never even thought about letting the kids lift weights. They never really tried until they got in to high school Report
Thanks for the info. Report
this article is so surprising to me and I'm glad I read it. I actually remember when I was a kid hearing that kids should not lift weights because it can stunt their growth. or that they can develop hernias. I allow my kids to lift my light weights (5 lbs) but now this is helpful to know that I'm not hurting them. Thanks! Report
Kids at gymnastics are always doing pull-ups and push-ups... there's not much difference between doing weight bearing exercises like that and using actual weights. Report
The research findings do not surprise me given my experience as a child with pull-ups, push-ups and other weight bearing activities. Report
Traditional "strength training"? No, I don't believe young kids should be doing it. Why? Because childhood should be about getting out and having fun, exploring, playing, etc. Not following a 'strength training' program - they're supposed to learn at a young age that fitness is FUN.
Organized sports, following along with mom/dad while working out, playing tag, climbing, "helping" mom and dad in the yard by carrying buckets of dirt or water, etc are all great exercise options that include a strength component, but is not having them follow a pre-designed strength training plan.
My daughter is only 2.5, so is still too young to do most (or at least doesn't have the attention span to follow), but she DOES love climbing - she has incredible upper body strength. She's also very active in 'tot gymnastics', can easily do a dead-hang on the bars or rings, lift her body weight, balance, etc. But its FUN for them. Report
My 8 year old daughter is a competitive gymnast. She does not lift weights as part of her routine but there are definite weight bearing and resistance exercise in her conditioning workouts!!! I wish I could do half of what she does, or even 1/4. Report
I read before that children aren't supposed to strength train. But my 4 yearold has been wanting to join in my workouts for ages. I don't discourage her. I figure it's a great way to burn off some energy and repetitive movements help her focus. She's been doing my body weight workouts, squats, lunges, planks, push ups, crunches etc., and she loves it. I also figure she is learning good habits for the future. Watching mommy run and workout makes her think it's normal and what people are supposed to do. Report
My son has just turned 6, and for the last couple of years he's enjoyed trying to copy my workouts. We race and dance together frequently, and in the last 6 months he's started trying to lift weights and do body weight training with me. Due to his age his success in achieving good form and pumping hard metal is limited, but he enjoys it. It never even occurred to me that exercise could possibly be bad for him (with a couple of exceptions - I wouldn't let him run in the midday sun or try and do a weighted dead-lift for instance.) Report
I don't let my 9 years old lift wieghts but she does push-ups and squats Report