When the topic of lifting weights is raised in regards to young people, the popular reflex is to not allow it and say that lifting will stunt their growth. Allow me to put your fears to rest because lifting weights PROPERLY will not cause young people to have any growth problems. I have heard stories about that person in the family that started lifting at a young age and ended up shorter than the others.
Then I see Olympic weightlifters and other guys that are huge and started lifting at an early age. So whatís the difference? It comes down to mainly the form they used along with Kid nutrition and sleep habits. Keeping all of these in check is what got the Olympic athletes where they are today. Proper form and a balanced regimen are the keys not only for young people, but anyone that is beginning to engage in weight training. When people, especially kids, try to impress others and put too much weight on the bar, injuries will occur. Young people are in the peak of their growing years so these types of injuries can severely hamper their normal growth processes.
This is why all beginning lifters should be monitored by an experienced and trained lifter to ensure that their form is right to build a good foundation. This foundation could ensure that they will end up lifting correctly later on, especially if they join a sports team that has mandatory weight sessions. Young people may not realize the importance of hitting all the different muscles to achieve better gains and keep their muscles balanced to reduce that risk of injury, so they should have their program designed for them, but using their suggestions to include exercises they like doing.
A young person should not start weight training by lifting weights. This may seem impossible at first thought, but not only is it possible, it is very practical. The first exercises that should be performed, and can be performed by children as young as 7 or 8 are bodyweight exercises. This includes various types of pushups, pull-ups or assisted pull-ups, sit-ups, bodyweight rows etc.
These are great exercises for young people to perform because they wonít get caught up on how much weight they are doing and focus on their form and doing quality reps. It is important to keep the workouts simple and short at this point as the child is just being introduced to the exercises. I would start lifting with weights when puberty sets in because starting before then would only have minimal effects anyway and gives more opportunity for injury.
Even at this point, it would wise to keep the weights low and go with higher reps for awhile to build the endurance of the muscles and not push them too hard at the start. Of course this age varies a lot depending on the individual, but it is an issue that should be decided on an individual basis, also taking into account the maturity of the person and their willingness to lift. Parents should not force their children to engage in any sport that they donít want to do and weigh training is no exception. If the child does not care about lifting, they are more likely to use poor form and become injured.
A weight training regimen could be very beneficial to young athletes. Many studies have shown the link between weight training and an increase in bone mineral density. This is a desirable side effect for people in all walks of life, but especially for athletes being that they are at an increased risk of breaking a bone. It is never a good thing for a child to break a bone during these years of growth, so this extra security is nice to have.
Females would benefit even more because they have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis later in life and increasing their bone mineral density early in life can delay the onset on this illness. With the childhood obesity epidemic that is plaguing the nation, all forms of exercise should be promoted and studies have shown that doing cardio and weight training lead to the greatest fat loss.
Performing a weight training program can also improve athletic performance. Lifting can lead to increases in strength, muscle endurance and cardiovascular health, all of which can lead to greater athletic performance. Promoting this type of exercise early in life can lead to the development of a healthier, more active lifestyle that will improve their quality of life.
In summary, children should be allowed to perform exercises involving bodyweight as young as those around 8, but weights should be held off until the child reaches puberty, wants to lift and can be supervised.