As a physical educator and personal fitness instructor I often get asked as to whether strength training is good for our youth. The answer is, of course it is! However one must differentiate between strength training, weightlifting, and bodybuilding.
With proper supervision and instruction of proper form, strength training is healthy for children and adolescents who are mature enough to follow directions. It has many benefits such as ligament, tendon, and muscular development. Strength training often starts during active play in children, before introducing any formal exercise program at all. Such activities include climbing, hanging, and jumping on and off of playground equipment. As active play develops, kids improve body-spatial awareness, along with balance and control. Later on in the regimen, activity may get more sophisticated, leading to more formal routines with body weight exercises. These may include push-ups, pull-ups, and squats, progressing to using loads with weights, and using light loads with high repetitions. These exercises can also help with proper corrective structural development in youth and adolescents.
Weightlifting tends to connote the development of strength for competition in powerlifting or strength events. However, this type of development is not advantageous to bone, ligament, tendon, and muscle development in youth or adolescents. Bodybuilding is also associated with developing hypertrophy (the increase in the size of skeletal muscle) and the rapid breakdown of muscle to increase bulk and shape; usually to show off one’s body in competitions. This type of training is also not developmentally sound for youth and adolescents.
Strength training, weight lifting and bodybuilding are healthy activities for teenagers and those whose development have reached a proper maturity that will not disrupt growth and development. At this stage, bulking up, preparing for contact sports and/or to increase performance, exercises in overloading principles can be highly effective, if done with proper form and with regularity.
Most pediatricians agree that strength training is safe for youth as young as eight years old if done properly. The American Academy of Pediatrics even recommends it and studies show that it does not stunt growth. The best way to start training is to seek proper instruction. Learn to warm-up and cool down properly. Keep the weight load light with high repetitions. Stressing upon proper form and technique, maintaining proper supervision, resting at least one full day between exercising muscle each group, and most of all, keep it fun.
Elite Fitness Israel is the vehicle to help you with all your fitness goals, working with youth, adolescents, teenagers, adults, and seniors. We can prepare you for an active life and walk you through the process. Give us a call!