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Jacksonville, NC 28540
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Why Your Child SHOULD Weight Lift

There is an all too common misconception that weight lifting can be detrimental to an adolescents’ and teenagers’ (ages 8-15) growth and development. Through extensive observation and investigation, that myth has been put to rest. The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) has endorsed resistance exercise for children, noting its safety and efficacy when performed properly. It is likely that the forces a child’s joints experience during sporting activities (soccer, football, basketball etc..) are significantly higher compared to the forces experienced during weight training. Resistance exercise is effective at building muscular strength; especially when the training program and exercises are designed to match the maturation level and movement skill of the child.

The physical and psychological benefits of resistance exercise are well documented in the scientific community. Resistance exercise is an excellent opportunity to introduce your child to physical activity; where they can explore movement, gain self-esteem, learn positive body image and most importantly; have fun! Physically, resistance exercise can help combat childhood obesity, can enhance muscle strength and promote excellent long-term bone health. Scientific evidence supports that children have the ability to make positive strength adaptations above natural maturity with a professionally designed training program. For kids participating in recreational and competitive athletics, resistance exercise is a critical component of the off-season conditioning program, with participation in an organized and professionally monitored strengthening program having positive effects on athlete durability and protection from ‘overuse’ injury. However, resistance exercise is only one piece of the overall conditioning program. Children could benefit from a combination of resistance, cardiovascular, balance and coordination exercises.

Just like any physical activity or sport, there are risks associated and there is no guarantee one will not experience any injury. When guidelines are followed appropriately and a training program is designed to match the maturation level and training age (experience in lifting) of the child, the risks are reduced considerably. These are a few considerations when your child is going to start a resistance training program:

 

  • Children are not ‘little adults’ and should not be trained like adults.  
  • The focus of the resistance exercise program should NOT be on competition.
  • Prior to performing any formal exercise program, your child should be evaluated by a medical professional trained in assessing movement competencies and who can provide skilled instruction on lift performance.
  • The resistance exercise program should be created by a trained professional. Look for the credentials ‘CSCS’ or ‘USAW’ in any personal trainer you may employ.
  • If a professional is unavailable, begin with minimal to no resistance and gradually progress the resistance. Do not overshoot and start children off with heavy weight.
  • Children should not perform high velocity or heavy overhead lifting unless they have sufficient baseline strength, movement skill and are under direct supervision of a CSCS or USAW professional.
  • During periods of rapid height growth, bones are weaker and muscles are stiffer; the exercise program should be modified to prevent exposure to overuse injuries.
  • There is no such thing as growing pain. Continued pain with lifting should be assessed by a medical professional.

Justin Losciale, PT, DPT, CSCS

Physical Therapist

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