Strength Training Guidelines for Children & Teens

More and more kids are gravitating toward weight training. In most cases, strength training is safe and encouraged for kids. However, when done incorrectly, whether too intensely or too early in life, it can lead to permanent damage. Fitness trainer and high school soccer coach, Joe Downie, explains how you can help your kids take advantage of strength training benefits without pushing them too far, too fast:
  • During the Initiation stage (ages 6-10), kids should participate in low-intensity programs, mainly having fun and trying to improve their motor skills. At this age, children's body tissues are susceptible to injury because they have a low tolerance to lactic acid accumulation (the burn you feel in your legs when you run an all out sprint). Emphasize multilateral development, maximizing the range of motion in multiple parts of the body.
  • In the second stage, Athletic Formation (ages 11-14), it's important to develop the core muscles (lower back, hips, and abdominals). Once children have this core strength, they can begin training the extremities with body weight or light weights (medicine balls or dumbbells) only. Balance and flexibility exercises are also important. Young adolescents can participate in moderate anaerobic training in the latter stage of this phase, but it should be limited to 80 meters when sprinting.
  • During the last stage, Specialization (ages 15-18), teens can start training for high performance development. Watch for progressive improvements and be careful of overtraining. Avoid maximum strength training (one-rep max lifts) to reduce the risk of injury.
One concept that kids and teens have trouble understanding is that muscles aren’t built up while they’re working out, but while they’re resting! So make sure to set up generous sleep and nutrition goals to help your child make the most of his or her training.