When is it Safe for Kids to Start Strength Training?
Getting children active early is an important step in setting the tone for a long, healthy lifestyle. But beyond ensuring your child gets enough physical activity, parents may be wondering about another issue: When is the right time to start strength training?
First, talk to your child and make sure their goal is to get stronger, not bulkier. Focusing too much on getting big muscles may increase injury risk if done with excessive weight or improper form. That said, improving strength can have several benefits for your child, including improved sport performance, elevated self-confidence and reduced risk for high blood pressure and cholesterol. Making strength training part of your child’s exercise routine, if done properly and safely, can also reduce sport-related injury risk by up to 50 percent.
Before your child starts strength training: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it’s generally safe for children to start strength training around eight years old, after they have mastered basic balance and body movements. As each child develops physically at a different rate, it’s also a good idea to bring your child in for a check-up to discuss and receive a sign-off from your doctor.
Creating a safe strength training program: Start with bodyweight exercises like push-ups and squats. These types of exercises emphasize proper form and measure a child’s base levels of balance and coordination. As children perfect their form and gain strength, you may be able to introduce light weights or resistance bands to help gradually improve strength.
A word of caution: Even with light weights, make sure to emphasize high-repetition exercises over high-weight lifts, which can put kids at risk for injury. Completing between eight and 15 reps per exercise helps ensure kids are using the proper weight and will help keep them focused on form.
While following this advice will help your child stay safe while strength training, it’s also beneficial to consult with a licensed physical trainer who has specific experience working with children.
Photo credit: CJ Anderson