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Should My Child Lift Weights?

Contributors: Barbara Gordon, RDN, LD
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In addition to playing outside and participating in sports, your kids may want to lift weights, join fitness classes or do some other form of strength training. But is this a good idea for children? Might it harm their growth and cause injury?

Strength, or resistance, training may involve free weights, weight machines, elastic tubes or the child’s own weight.

Strength Training May Prevent Sports Injuries

Strength training for kids 8 years and older is safe according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP. The AAP reports that strength training may help prevent some of the 3.5 million sports related injuries to children each year.

Strength training among youth does more than improve body composition and cardiac fitness. It also improves blood cholesterol, bone density and even mental health. And don’t worry that children will bulk up like miniature Hulks. The AAP says that youngsters will get stronger without increasing their muscle size until they hit puberty.

Is CrossFit Okay for Kids?

CrossFit is an intense strength and conditioning program. It focuses on extreme muscle actions such as jumps and Olympic lifts. In addition to weights, CrossFit uses sandbags, tires and kettlebells. So, is it okay for kids to participate? It's more suited to the advanced athlete who enjoys high intensity, vigorous activity and wants greater variety in a fitness program.

Less intense CrossFit classes conducted by coaches trained in child development can be fun and safe for kids. For example, climbing ropes is a great activity. But, kids shouldn't be doing strength moves such as the clean and jerk. Whether it's CrossFit or any other program, consider your child's safety and the trainer’s qualifications. Also, for strength training programs, kids need to be able to follow directions and have the desire to participate in the activity.

Best Strength Programs

A good program starts with active games, includes 20 to 25 minutes of weight training and ends with games focused on motor skills. Resistance bands, dumbbells and child-size machines help kids start low and add resistance as they build strength. According to the AAP, a well-supervised program has a coach-to-student ratio of 1:10 or less.

Children with uncontrolled high blood pressure, seizure disorders or a history of chemotherapy for prior cancer treatment should not participate in strength training programs.