I have parents and coaches come to me quite frequently asking what is the appropriate age for kids to start lifting weights? I always say when they are mentally, emotionally and physically mature enough thats when they should start. I have had boys and girls as young as 11 years old start to lift weights, and have had to push a 15 year old out the door because he was more into goofing off then wanting to put forth the effort in working out.
One of the training myths out there is that weight training stunts growth. There have been many recent studies done by the National Strength and Conditioning Association that found strength training can maximize bone mineral density reduce injuries and have no negative side effects regarding stunting of growth, you just need to work with a competent trainer. In adolescents over the age of 13 the most common soft tissue injury is the lower back and trunk. Researchers suggest this is due to excessive loads, improper technique and lack of coaching.
National studies have been presented over the years stating that weight training when performed right is the safest sport when it comes to Injury risk. Sports like football, rugby, and basketball have high ratings when it comes to injuries. So your kid playing a sport is in more danger of getting injured than if he or she would partake into a weight lifting program under the supervision of a well trained coach.
1.Training should be fun! If you are working with a young athlete that has not trained before keep to the basics, work on building a solid foundation by doing exercises that will address posture and neuromuscular development. Most kids will have issues with posture because of sitting in school all day and carrying heavy backpacks on one shoulder.
2.Start Resistance training when applicable!- Studies have shown that resistance training can help prevent non sports related injuries. By working out consistently (2-3x a week) helps to develop the neuromuscular system, provides a good base of support and aids in increasing bone density.
3.Add dynamic stretching before workouts or into everyday life! Dynamic stretching also known as movement based warm ups can help reduce injuries, increase local circulation and prepare athletes for sports participation. Even if you don’t participate in a sport this is valuable to perform everyday. There is evidence based research that shows dynamic stretching is more valuable than static (Holding stretch) due to the fact that you can actually tear muscle fibers that are restricted and tight when they are cold vs, if they are warmed up.
4.Add plyometrics and running activities- Kids naturally want to run, skip, and jump but for obvious reasons stop doing so when they enter middle school. They get more absorbed by video games, texting and playing on the computer. We as a society are now more sedentary and as a result present many health issues such as, poor circulation, high blood pressure decreased lung volume poor posture and musculoskeletal pain. Implementing developmental base movements such as bounding, leaping, skipping and jumping activities is a great and fun way to get athletes moving and build strong bones, increase proprioception, circulation and reduce injuries.
5..Add Olympic lifting when the athlete has built a solid foundation– Olympic lifting involves exercises like the snatch and clean and jerk which are complicated movements that take years to perfect but are highly explosive and highly transferrable to sport if done correctly and at the right times of the season. All to often young athletes are rushed through resistance training programs and into olympic lifts because they look cool and are challenging. Deadlifts, cleans and overhead squats should be perfected first and foremost.
6. Add recovery time to your programs- probably the most important portion of this program design is the athlete needs down time. Injuries rates will significantly be reduced if volume, intensity and rest are varied. All to often athletes work out at school then go to the gym then to practice play 2 games a week and continue this process throughout the year. Programs need to be periodized throughout seasons in order to avoid injuries.
7. Watch supplement intake- Athletes naturally want to find the easiest and quickest way to get bigger and stronger, so they take a friendly trip to their favorite supplement store. The problem is most of these supplements are crap! You should always read what is on the label and understand the ingredients before taking supplements. If the athlete would just eat healthy and often they wouldn’t need supplements. Most of the products contain either high doses of caffeine or have a series of additives that make you question their efficiency of absorption. In general athletes need protein within 1 hour after a workout since the body is already repairing itself. Whey protein powder mixed with milk and fruit is the best source for quick absorption and effect.