by Pär Karlberg, M.S., CSCS, USAW, CISSN
Have you ever seen some buff dad at the gym with his preteen next to him lifting more than a third of his body weight? In that moment, did you question this father’s ability to keep his child safe? You may have heard that young children should not lift weights because it could stunt their growth— but this is simply not true. And if you think you’re raising the next superstar athlete, strength training is a necessary thing for young kids to be involved in. Even if you’re not raising the next star athlete, strength training is an important aspect of you and your child’s fitness for a lifetime of improved health.
When children see their parents working out they immediately want to join in on the fun. Start early to encourage the good habits of exercising and nutrition, something that will help both you and your children. Even the youngest athlete can complete strength training in the form of light resistance and body weight exercises.
To begin, be sure to consult a trained weightlifting coach on form. After consulting with a professional, be sure to monitor your child’s activity to ensure proper technique. Strength training can have many benefits for both young children and grown adults including developing proper technique that can prevent injury, increasing muscle strength and endurance, and, of course, improving performance in any sport (as strength training transcends sport). Other key benefits include maintaining a healthy weight, improving confidence and self-esteem, and strengthening bones.
Do be sure to incorporate proper warm-ups and cool-downs including foam rolling, dynamic movements and aerobic activity. Supervise your child to ensure proper technique, and better yet, do the workout with them!
Lastly, remember when getting your child involved in a strength-training program, or any fitness program, to make it fun for them. If they’re not having fun, they won’t want to keep up this essential-to-your-health activity. There are many different movements and exercises that can be done. Listen to your child and find out what they like and don’t like and move forward with what they enjoy. Working out together should be a fun activity for both you and them.
Here is a list of strength training exercises that you can draw from when starting your strength training program. All can be done with or without extra weight. However, the ones with a (W) work best with weight. Don’t have weights? Children can try a couple of cans of food to start out!
Focus on the legs:
Squats (single leg, front, back, jumping)
Focus on the arms/pecs:
Shoulder press (W)
Focus on the abs:
Romanian deadlift (W)
Pär Karlberg is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, USA Weightlifting Coach, Sports Nutritionist and graduated from Florida State University with a master’s degree in exercise physiology. He currently works as a coach at Ernie Sims Big H.I.T.S. Performance.