Kids Lifting Weights, Should they?

October 8th 2015

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To the non-gym user or parent, there is a common misconception that weight training for our younger generation is a bad thing, as most parents still tend to believe that any youngsters who conduct weight training are more likely to get injured and growth will be stunted due to damage to the bones.

​In the first instance a study by Hamill, 1994, clearly indicates that weight training and powerlifting has less prevalence to injury than the more common sports we see our youngsters playing, football, rugby etc. (See table)


Note – With the correct supervision from a suitably qualified coach weight training is a fantastic way to develop youth athletes without subjecting them to more injuries (Hamill, 1994)
​It is true that any young athlete that undergoes rigorous heavy loading with weights, could end up with an overuse injury, in particular where the growth plates at the end of the bones are subject to compression forces.

However, it may not be down to weight lifting and there are many reasons to why this may happen:

Blame the coach – The coach has increased the volume and intensity of the sessions by loading the bar before the athlete has reached the correct biological and training age and technical competency.

Blame the parents – Nutrition is key, if the athlete is deficient in certain minerals and nutrients from a shit diet, the bones will be weak and the damage could occur (vitamin D etc).

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To that end, If you decide to train any youth athletes, there are certain guidelines that need to be adhered to, in order to make sure the injury rate is kept low.

1.Bodyweight first
This is a good place to start, to ensure that your young athletes have the correct patterning in place, prior to adding any barbell or free weight work.

2.Weight lifting technique
Use dumbells and light barbells to hone the technique of your young athletes, prior to adding load to the bar.

3.Biological training age
This is a hard one to determine and needs to be adhered too, if you want to get the best out of the youth athlete, if you hit this right and have them moving well and coincide it with them reaching their Peak height velocity (PHV) age (Growth spurt), you could be onto a winning formula.

However the coach is to be mindful that this may also be the time that the he/she may need to work on more co-ordination of movement as the youth athlete learns to deal with their limbs getting longer etc…

Note – The PHV and biological age is different for everyone, with girls reaching it at an average of 12 and boys at an average of 14.  It is seen in youth development as an important part of their training journey, as this is the time when co-ordination of movement, relevant to the sport or weight lifting they undertake needs to be nailed down.


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Conclusion
If you hit it right and find the right coach, it is definitely worth it to have youngsters weightlifting/training bodyweight from an early age, even before PHV, as this will ensure they are able to display the essential motor qualities required in sport from this early age, including running, jumping, balance and co-ordination.

In order for the programming to be effective it would also be wiser to have the exercises performed with accuracy and technical proficiency whilst adding subtle changes in weight as they reach technical competence and maturation.

Sean Cole (AKA Fitness Dad
​Head Coach SC Vital Fitness