A Moment of Science

Kids and Weight Lifting

Your kid wants to lift weights. You want your kid to be physically active, but is weight lifting safe for kids?

a little girl lifts a large fake dungbell above her head

Photo: Michael Cramer

Strength training is as good a way as any for kids to improve their fitness.

Your kid wants to lift weights. You want your kid to be physically active, but is weight lifting safe for kids?

It depends on what we mean by weight lifting. The term weight lifting is often used interchangeably with strength training, but they’re not the same thing. Weight lifting or power lifting entails lifting as much weight at one time as possible. The rate of injury for kids with weight lifting is high as a result of poor training and/or poor form. Even kids who have been trained properly injure themselves because of the peer pressure in sports like high school football to lift more than good form allows.

Strength training, however, isn’t geared toward lifting as much as possible, but instead at building strength. In addition to free weights, strength training might involve weight machines, elastic tubing, or an individual’s own body weight. Strength training involves sets of repeated movements with intervals of rest.

Kids in America are largely in poor physical condition. Strength training is as good a way as any for kids to improve their fitness. Keep in mind though that children, as well as adults, need aerobic exercise, which strength training alone isn’t going to adequately provide. Also, a kid shouldn’t strength train with the primary goal of bulking up. This attitude can lead to poor form and injuries.

Before beginning a strength training program, your kid should see a pediatrician, and should receive proper instruction. Many sports coaches are not trained in strength development and might pass on the same poor form that was taught to them. Someone with appropriate credentials in strength training, athletic training, or therapy is essential.

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