We work with a wide variety of athletes here at JB Performance. We’ve posted a few videos of Emma, our youngest client at 10 years of age doing squats and deadlifts. She’s a rock star when it comes to technique on both of those lifts. We also posted a video of one of our female athletes Jordyn deadlifting 270 pounds. She’s 14 years old and weighs 122 pounds. Needless to say she’s very strong. We had comments and questions from a few outsiders as to the merits and safety of kids lifting weights. I’ve been slacking on my blog posts so I thought this would be a great opportunity to give my opinion on whether or not kids should lift weights, and at what age they can start to do so.

The fitness community is fairly divided when it comes to this topic. One half believes they shouldn’t lift weights until they reach puberty. The other half says go right ahead. I side with the half that says lifting weights is a good thing.

For me it comes down to common sense. Unfortunately in the fitness industry, common sense isn’t all that common. But that topic is for a different blog. The biggest fear parents seem to have is whether or not lifting weights can damage their child’s growth plates.

Is this a possibility? Yep, anything is possible.

Is it likely? No. If you take your child to a competent trainer they will be just fine. The hard part will be finding a trainer that fits that description.

Another young female we work with sustained an injury to the growth plate in her shoulder while playing hockey. A player from the opposition fell on her outstretched arm. This doesn’t mean we should ban all kids from playing hockey does it? Accidents happen. It’s a part of life. The difference with the hockey game is there’s an element of outside chaos involved. In the weight room, everything can and should be controlled.

Running, jumping, and landing has 2-3 times the impact on the body compared to learning the proper squat or deadlift pattern. Kids should run and jump on a daily basis. Physical activity of any kind will help obtain maximal peak bone mass. [1] This will only help in later years where they are exposed to sports that involve physical contact. Later on in life it will also help offset the prevalence of Osteoporosis.

If something has 2-3 times the impact on the body and is good for it, I see no reason why kids of any age can’t learn proper mechanics when it comes to a deadlift, squat, or push-up. Watch a baby squat, it’s a thing of beauty.

Why can’t a 9 year old boy do the same?

Would I have him do a near maximal deadlift like we did with Jordyn? No, of course not. Jordyn has been training with us for the past 2 years. She’s earned the right to lift heavy because her training age dictates that.

The most important thing when training young kids is to develop a rock solid foundation. This foundation is your technique. It’s so much easier to add strength to an athlete when you do this. A great example is Dan, a 15 year old hockey player that we’ve had the pleasure to train for the past 3 years. Dan can deadlift 440lbs with perfect technique at a bodyweight of 155. He can also hammer out 10 glute-ham raises without pushing off the ground. To put that into perspective, I’ve seen 1 NFL player do the same thing. Dan is a freak of nature.

Adding strength onto dysfunction only results in more dysfunction. Adding strength onto function adds speed, agility, power, and proper deceleration. I like adding those items to my athletes’ toolbox.

Again, it all starts with proper technique. If developed at a young age you’re giving your child a distinct advantage when they get into their teenage years. Not to mention anything that gets kids moving and off the couch is always a bonus. Why not set them up for success later on in life?

I absolutely think kids should lift weights at a young age. Keep the load low and work on engraining the proper motor patterns into their brain. Proper repetition is the best way to learn a new skill. Find a competent trainer you trust and let your child develop these skills. You’ll be glad you did.

 

[1]{C} Rodriguez, G. How Does Exercise Affect Bone Development During Growth? Sports Med. 2006;36(7):561-9.

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