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Weight Training for Children and Teens

What is weight training?

Weight training, or strength training, means doing exercises that build muscle strength. There are many ways to build muscle:

  • Use bodyweight (such as push-ups, pull-ups or sit-ups)
  • Use resistance bands
  • Lift free weights
  • Use weight machines

Strength training makes muscles stronger by asking them to do more than usual. Strength training must be done gradually and carefully, but can be done at any age.

Is it safe?

The American College of Sports Medicine, the American Medical Society of Sports Medicine, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all said that weight training is safe for children as young as age eight.

How do we get started?

Check with your child's healthcare provider before your child starts a weight training program. This is very important if your child or teen has a health problem such as asthma, diabetes, or a heart problem.

  • Make sure that your child is old enough to follow instructions. Your child should enjoy strength training, but not fool around. Safety must always come first. Make sure that your child will be supervised by a certified adult. The instructor must make sure that your child has correct form on all movements and exercises.
  • The area where your child trains should be neat and tidy with open space.
  • Your child should warm up before each training session with 5 to 10 minutes of walking, jogging in place, or jumping rope. This helps prevent injury. Stretching after workouts helps to relax the muscles and reduce soreness.

For children who are weight training:

  • Teach proper warm-up exercises.
  • Start with exercises that use the child’s own bodyweight first. They can work with weights as their strength increases. Bodyweight exercises include:
    • Jumping rope
    • Jumping jacks
    • Push-ups
    • Running drills
    • Abdominal crunches
  • Keep workouts short and change the routine often to keep children interested.

For teens who are strength training:

  • Do bodyweight exercises, such as:
    • Agility ladder drills
    • Pull-ups or chin-ups
    • Dips
    • Squats and lunges
  • For weight training, focus on correct form. It’s usually best to do more repetitions (reps) instead of lifting heavier weights. The coach or trainer can guide teens to prevent injury.

What are the risks and benefits?

There are few risks if:

  • There is proper supervision.
  • Your child learns correct form and does not try to lift more weight than is safe for them to lift.
  • They train in an area that is not too crowded or too cluttered.
  • The exercises are matched to their level of ability.

There are many benefits. Weight training can:

  • Create lifelong interest in health and fitness
  • Teach healthy habits at a young age
  • Help prevent overuse injuries in sports
  • Increase endurance and strength
  • Decrease the risk of obesity during childhood and as an adult
  • Increase bone strength
  • Improve self-esteem
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-12-28
Last reviewed: 2012-12-28
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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