What age should kids start lifting weights

It seems like athletes are being pushed into organized athletics at younger and younger ages and more and more of their “play” is supervised by adult coaches.

Whereas my friends and I played limited schedules on local baseball and football teams in grade school when everyone made the squads, today many kids are trying out for elite travel teams before they reach junior high.

I’ll reserve judgment on how serious coaches and parents should take grade-school sports for another day, but talk about another aspect of youth athletics today: Strength training and weightlifting.


Many people wonder about these questions:

* At what age should kids start strength training?

* What about weightlifting?

* Wait a minute, what’s the difference between the two?

First of all, basic strength training is done without weights. We’re talking about pushups, sit-ups, dips, and exercises with light resistance exercises such as using strength bands.

These exercises are fine for youngsters in grade school and actually recommended. Strength training at a young age can make kids 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, 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.


* So when is it OK to start lifting weights?

Many doctors say that at the onset of puberty, around age 12 or 13 for many kids, it’s OK to begin weightlifting. It’s highly important to get proper instruction and use proper techniques when they begin weightlifting and to 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 aaron@athomefitness.com