Kids’ fitness week: What age should kids start lifting weights?

Many adults have a good knowledge about fitness for themselves, but when it comes to their own kids they don’t make the grade. This week I’ll take a look at some fitness tips for kids, continuing today with the answer to one of the biggest questions about youth fitness: What age should kids start lifting weights?

So you not only want your child to be active, you want them to lift weights also. But what age should kids start pumping iron? And did you know there’s a difference between lifting weights and strength training?
Here are my thoughts on strength training and lifting weights for youths based on my own personal experiences and numerous discussions with trainers, coaches and doctors:
* Basic strength training is done without weights. Exercises such as pushups, sit-ups, dips, and other movements with light resistance exercises such as using strength bands or power tubes can be done by youngsters in grade school and it’s actually recommended.
* A grade-schooler who builds their muscles using strength training can look and feel better, increase their strength and endurance, protect their muscles and joints from injuries and even improve their mood. It should help them sleep better, too.
* It will also improve their performance in sports, but even if they’re not on a team a good physical fitness regimen is highly beneficial. It can help them start on a life’s path to being physically fit.
* Light machine weights can be used or dumbbells 10 pounds or lighter once kids are around 9-12 years old, but it’s recommended to do 20 reps or more for each exercise. The emphasis should be on endurance and flexibility rather than lifting as much weight as possible for youngsters.
* Most doctors say the onset of puberty, around age 12 or 13 for many kids, is the time when it’s OK to start weightlifting.
* When first hitting the weights, the complete focus should be on getting proper instruction, using proper techniques. Have an experienced spotter nearby.
* Start with very light weights and controlled motions to reduce risk for long-term injury.
If athletes start trying to lift too much weight before their bodies are properly developed, it can put too much strain on them. They shouldn’t compromise form to lift as much as their friend or older brother.
Many trainers and coaches I know start athletes into weightlifting programs in sixth or seventh grade, but as I stated above they’re careful to monitor technique and how much weight is used.
By the eighth grade step it up some more and once high school arrives, it’s full-go ahead for weightlifting.

At Home Fitness consultant Aaron Dorksen’s blog deals with a variety of fitness topics, ranging from workout tips, motivational ideas and feature stories on how exercise impacts people’s lives. E-mail him with comments, questions or ideas for future blogs at