Strength training can help kids and teens build healthy muscles, joints, and bones. With a properly designed and supervised program, they can improve endurance, total fitness level, and sports performance. Strength training can even help prevent injuries and speed up recovery.
Strength training is the practice of using free weights, weight machines, and rubber resistance bands, or body weight to build muscles. With resistance the muscles have to work harder to move. When the muscles work harder, they grow stronger and more efficient.
Strength training can also help fortify the ligaments and tendons that support the muscles and bones and improve bone density, which is the amount of calcium and minerals in the bone. And the benefits may go beyond physical health. Young athletes may feel better about themselves as they get stronger.
The goal of strength training is not to bulk up. It should not be confused with weight lifting, bodybuilding, and powerlifting, which are not recommended for kids and teens. In these sports, people train with very heavy weights and participate in modeling and lifting competitions. Kids and teens who do those sports can risk injuring their growing bones, muscles, and joints.
Generally, if your child is ready to participate in organized sports or activities such as baseball, soccer, or gymnastics, it is usually safe to start strength training.
A child's strength-training program shouldn't just be a scaled-down version of an adult's weight training regimen. A trainer who has experience in working with kids should design a program for your child and show your child the proper techniques, safety precautions, and how to properly use the equipment.
Kids as young as 7 or 8 years old can usually do strength-training activities (such as pushups and sit-ups) as long as they show some interest, can perform the exercises safely, and follow instructions. These exercises can help kids build a sense of balance, control, and awareness of their bodies.
Specific exercises should be learned without resistance. When proper technique is mastered, small amounts of resistance (body weight, band, or weight) can be added. In general as kids get older and stronger, they can gradually increase the amount of resistance they use. A trained professional can help your child determine what the appropriate weight may be.
As with any sport, it's wise to have your child visit a doctor before beginning a strength-training regimen. If the doctor signs off on the idea, you'll need to make sure that your child will be properly supervised, using safe equipment, and following an age-appropriate routine.
Muscle strains are the most common form of injury, and the lower back is the most commonly injured area. But these injuries usually happen because the child has not used the proper lifting technique or is trying to lift too much weight.
As long as your child is using the proper techniques and lifting an appropriate amount of weight, strength training shouldn't have any effect on growth plates, the layer of cartilage near the end of the bone where most of the bone growth occurs.
Strength training should not involve the use of anabolic steroids. Some young and professional athletes have abused these drugs to build muscles and improve athletic performance and appearance. But these drugs, some of which are illegal, can pose severe risks to physical and psychological health.
In general, kids and teens should tone their muscles using a low amount of weight and a high number of repetitions, instead of trying to lift a heavy load one or two times.
The amount of weight will depend on a child's current size and strength level. But in general, kids should be able to lift a weight with proper technique at least 8 to 15 times. If they can't lift the weight at least 8 times, the weight is too heavy.
Preteens shouldn't be concerned about adding muscle bulk, which won't occur until after they have passed through puberty. Even then, it's important to focus on technique so that they can strengthen their muscles safely.
The focus of each training session should be on proper form and technique, with qualified instruction and supervision.
Here are some guidelines when considering strength-training programs:
It's important to remember that strength training is one part of a total fitness program. It can play a vital role in keeping your child healthy and fit, along with aerobic exercise such as biking and running, adequate hydration, and healthy nutrition.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013
|American College of Sports Medicine This site has tips on staying safe while playing sports and exercising.|
|American Council on Exercise (ACE) ACE promotes active, healthy lifestyles by setting certification and education standards for fitness instructors and through ongoing public education about the importance of exercise.|
|Is It Safe to Lift Weights? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Will Lifting Weights Harm My Bones? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Feeding Your Child Athlete All kids need to eat balanced meals and have a healthy diet. But should that balance change for kids who play on a sports team or work out?|
|Fitness and Your 13- to 18-Year-Old Kids who enjoy exercise tend to stay active throughout their lives. Learn how to encourage fitness in your teen.|
|Be a Fit Kid A lot of people talk about fit kids, but how do you become one? Here are five rules to live by, if you want to eat right, be active, and maintain a healthy weight.|
|Why Exercise Is Cool Exercise can help keep a kid's body fit and healthy. Learn more about what exercise can do for you in this article for kids.|
|Nutrition & Fitness Center Want to know more about eating right and being active? This is the place!|
|Nutrition & Fitness Center Visit our nutrition and fitness center for teens to get information and advice on food, exercise, and sports.|
|Steroids Get the facts about steroids, their side effects, and what can drive kids to try them. Being aware of the kinds of pressures kids deal with in sports can help you make sure that your child isn't at risk.|
|Sports and Exercise Safety Playing hard doesn't have to mean getting hurt. The best way to ensure a long and injury-free athletic career is to play it safe from the start. Find out how.|
|Kids and Exercise Besides enjoying the health benefits of regular exercise, kids who are physically fit sleep better and are better able to handle physical and emotional challenges.|
|Strength Training Is working out with weights safe for teens? The best way to build muscle tone and definition is to combine aerobic and flexibility exercises with the right kind of strength training.|
|Nutrition & Fitness Center You know the importance of exercising and eating nutritious foods, but do you know how to raise a healthy and active child? Get practical advice and tips.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.