Updated: Feb 18, 2019
Strength training, not weightlifting
Don't confuse strength training with weightlifting, bodybuilding or power lifting. These activities are largely driven by competition, with participants vying to lift heavier weights or build bigger muscles than those of other athletes. This can put too much strain on young muscles, tendons and areas of cartilage that haven't yet turned to bone (growth plates) — especially when proper technique is sacrificed in favor of lifting larger amounts of weight.
For kids, light resistance and controlled movements are best — with a special emphasis on proper technique and safety. Your child can do many strength training exercises with his or her own body weight or inexpensive resistance tubing. Free weights and machine weights are other options.
For kids, what are the benefits of strength training?
Done properly, strength training can:
Increase your child's muscle strength and endurance
Help protect your child's muscles and joints from sports-related injuries
Help improve your child's performance in nearly any sport, from dancing and figure skating to football and soccer
Develop proper techniques that your child can continue to use as he or she grows older
Keep in mind that strength training isn't only for athletes. Even if your child isn't interested in sports, strength training can:
Strengthen your child's bones
Help promote healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
Help your child maintain a healthy weight Improve your child's confidence and self-esteem
When can a child begin strength training?
During childhood, kids improve their body awareness, control and balance through active play. As early as age 7 or 8, however, strength training can become a valuable part of an overall fitness plan — as long as the child is mature enough to follow directions and practice proper technique and form.
If your child expresses an interest in strength training, remind him or her that strength training is meant to increase muscle strength and endurance. Bulking up is something else entirely — and most safely done after adolescence, when your child has reached physical and skeletal maturity.