Children weight training – Myths
There is a long-running debate on the topic of when kids should take up strength training; specifically, weight training. Articles and opinions have varied on the subject, and for a long time the general consensus was “it’s not safe for kids to lift weights.” However, more recent research is starting to show that that’s not the case. In fact, a growing body of scientific reports and other evidence has shown that weightlifting can be both safe and beneficial to young athletes.
Contrary to popular belief, weight training can be safe and good for children, and does not make them short, dumpy and susceptible to weak joints and injuries for the rest of their lives. An article published in the medical journal Pediatrics and written by researchers from the German Sport University Cologne (Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln) shows that resistance training can not only be safe for children, it is also beneficial, some would even say essential.
Strength training in children, in combination with plyometric and/or agility training, has become an increasingly popular tactic for athletes to gain a competitive edge during the off-season. Relevant studies on strength training in children and adolescents were reviewed (PubMed and MEDLINE from 1980 through 2012).
Children can improve strength by 30% to 50% after just 8 to 12 weeks of a well-designed strength training program. Youth need to continue to train at least 2 times per week to maintain strength. The case reports of injuries related to strength training, including epiphyseal plate fractures and lower back injuries, are primarily attributed to the misuse of equipment, inappropriate weight, improper technique, or lack of qualified adult supervision.
Youth athletes and non-athletes alike can successfully and safely improve their strength and overall health by participating in a well-supervised program. Trained fitness professionals play an essential role in ensuring proper technique, form, progression of exercises, and safety in this age group.
They found that in virtually every case, weight training benefited the children. They added that the older ones gained slightly more strength compared to the younger ones.
Researchers were surprised to find that gains in strength did not suddenly shoot up after puberty, even though testosterone levels would be high for the boys at that point in their maturity. Consistency was closely linked to strength gain. Those who did weight training twice a week or more developed more strength compared to the children who just trained once a week.
Experts say that children’s nervous systems start acting more efficiently when they weight train regularly. The addition of muscle bulk happens more quickly in adults, it seems. Some sports science researchers have said that the added nervous system benefits, plus gained strength reduces the risk of injury for children, rather than increasing it.
Weight training does not necessarily mean the use of weights. Examples include chin ups, push ups, and lunges. So, does weight training stunt a child’s growth? No. However, children should be supervised when weight training and have a sports professional devise a program of exercise.