It’s actually safer for kids to lift weights than it is for them to do many things their parents permit them to do.
I’m not talking 5-, 6-, and 7-year-olds. But many parents wonder if it’s okay or safe or worthwhile for kids ages 9 through 13 to work out with weights. As a personal trainer, I have a strong viewpoint on this.
Actually, it’s safer for your 12 year old to use strength training machines with proper training and supervision, than it is to hand him a shovel and make him shovel out a foot of heavy wet snow from the driveway.
Parents think nothing of having their children hoist around weighty, large clumsy garbage bags.
I’ve seen children dragging these down driveways, their bodies twisting and contorting along the way. I once saw a 6 year old boy struggle with grocery sacks.
These domestic activities are far more likely to injure a growing body, than is sitting at a weight machine and lifting a moderate load with control and tempo; or using small dumbbells.
I might also add that sports such as soccer, baseball, youth football, basketball, and the king of all injuries — kids’ gymnastics — are much less “safe” than working out with weights.
In fact, gymnastics involves near-continuous weight lifting: the child must maneuver his body weight in all sorts of strange directions and ways. Think about that for a moment.
In baseball or softball, a child is swinging a weight as hard as he could (a baseball bat).
Kids lift weights when they pick up and carry toddlers and preschoolers, plus dogs.
In wall climbing, he is pulling up his weight. And what about bowling? Geez, I see kids all the time at bowling centers, one side of their body being pulled down by the weight of the ball. And then they toss it out onto the alley. This, folks, is weight lifting.
So before you assume that “weight lifting” is dangerous for a growing body, realize that all along, your active child has been lifting weights.
Think about how they play outdoors. Children lift weights when they give each other piggy back rides.
When they wrestle on the ground, they are continuously resisting against the weight of their playmate.
At playgrounds, they lift weights by maneuvering their bodies on monkey bars and other climbing apparatus. When kids do pushups, this is an inverted bench press!
But many parents think it’s dangerous for a child to bench press a bar that weighs only one-third his weight!
So then, should you allow your preteen or adolescent to work out with machines at a gym?
Yes. It is physiologically safe for a preteen/adolescent to use weights. It will not stunt growth.
If anything will stunt growth, it’s smoking. A child who is encouraged to strengthen his body via weight routines, is far less likely to take up smoking, than is a kid who is discouraged from working out!
Poor nutrition will also stunt growth. Be more concerned about what your child eats or doesn’t eat.
Because with proper instruction and adult supervision, kids will acquire stronger bodies and stronger joints from weight routines.
This, in turn, will lower risks of injuries when your child goes skiing or plays soccer or tennis!
The weights needn’t be heavy. And kids cannot bulk up; they do not have enough testosterone nor muscle mass to grow into miniature Mr. Americas or Miss Olympias.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.