Hey there! I’m Brett McNeil, the fitness consultant for FitMinutes. Throughout the month, I’ll be answering a few questions from our readers. This week, it’s all about the little ones. Read on to find out what I think about kids and weight training.
Q: My son is 13 and plays hockey. I am looking to start him at a gym, but… is he too young to start lifting weights?
A: Not at all! In fact, kids can start strength training even earlier than this, around the ages of 8-10. There is a huge misconception out there that kids lifting weights at a young age will hamper their growth and put them at risk for injury. This has some merit to it, however, just like a full-grown adult who has never been to a gym before, no one is asking a child to press 250-lbs over their head the first day they walk through the door. My suggestion is to make sure they are working with a qualified professional who will make sure they don’t over-do it—one who understands that form and technique needs to be perfected before adding weight to their lifts.
Q: I saw a gym offering hockey specific training. Would this be the best place for him, considering he’s a competitive hockey player?
A: If he has no previous experience with weight training or strength and conditioning in general, the answer is simply no. I have found as the years go on, people become more and more enticed with sport specific training and less with basic strength training. Don’t get me wrong, sport specific training has its place and can be an extremely useful tool as you progress through your chosen sport. However, a young kid would benefit from developing basic strength before progressing to specific movements. If we try and develop strength in the form of specific movements, without truly developing basic strength, we are setting the child up for failure. We need to train kids in the most basic and general physical capacities—strength, endurance, speed, power, flexibility. etc. Failure to do that before adding specificity to movements is like trying to run before you can walk.
Q: What are the advantages of youngsters starting weight training?
A: The first thing, and one I think is a huge advantage if started at a young age, is body awareness. It’s a massive issue among adults, as some just don’t have the control over their own bodies that they should. If we can put kids on the right track in terms of having more awareness of and control over their own bodies, I believe you are putting them in a position to be safer with everything they do in life, whether that be playing with friends at the playground or helping mom with the groceries. They will get stronger, not just in their muscles but in their bones too. They will develop healthy lifestyle habits from a young age and may even develop a long-term interest in health and fitness. Win-win.
Q: So where do we start?
A: Find a coach or trainer who is certified or at least has previous experience training young kids and pre-teens. Make sure your child will be eased into strength training, and that the trainer has a very strong emphasis on technique and safety. They should keep it simple and focus on the basics first. Once a base level of strength and conditioning is achieved, then new, more complicated movements can be introduced. The advantages of young kids strength training is incredible, it just needs to be done in a controlled and safe environment.
Have a health or fitness related question for me? Or just want to say hey? Reach out in the comments below!