Weight Lifting for Kids

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Growth plates be damned! Here is my 10 year old daughter lifting the 900lb dumbbell.

Our gym is located in the suburbs so naturally, the bulk of our clients have kids. Now that summer is here we see several of these youngsters for general fitness or sports performance training. Parents seem to be on side or another when it comes to weight training.

Parent A wants little Jimmy to squat 800lbs by September because his middle school coach (who is also the music teacher) makes them train this way at school.

Parent B doesn’t want Jimmy even looking at a weight for fear that his growth plates may explode just due to his proximity to iron.

Actually, they are both right- and wrong. There is nothing wrong with kids lifting as long as the load and form are appropriate for the individual. Some of the loads and form that we see from the school training is seriously disturbing and these poor kids are just buying their time before getting injured. Conversely, most of the kids we see are not nearly stable enough to perform at their best so they definitely need more strength.

The question then is this- What is the definition of strength training? If you stick to a few simple rules, you can stay on track.

1. Body weight before external resistance- I can’t even remember last time we had a 12-16 year old come to the gym who could initially perform 20 perfect push-ups.Yet, this same guy/girl is writhing around under the bar on the bench press three days a week. Do not add weight until you can control your own body weight.

2. Do it correctly or don’t do it- Once kids reach the tween years they can entertain adding some resistance to their movements. But, form has to be the number one priority. If you do squats and dead lifts with a rounded back, you are going to get hurt! It’s just a matter of when not if.

Here are a few exercises that are very effective for any age group. They will establish strength, balance and stability. Once kids can master a few sets of 15-20 of each of these moves, it is time to consider adding a little weight to the routine. Otherwise, don’t bother.

Rick Mayo


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