Many people express concern about their child’s growth when it comes to weight lifting. However, there are a lot of benefits for children who start lifting weights (moderately not for body building purposes) at an early age. In this article, we explore the correct age for children to start weight lifting, including the benefits it holds. According to experts, children are able to start lifting weights between the ages of seven or eight. This is usually the time when children understand how to follow directions – an important part of strength training or weight lifting.
Despite many parents’ beliefs that strength training will make their child resemble a bodybuilder, trainers describe it as “the method of conditioning that makes muscles stronger”. First, let’s shake the suspicions that lifting weights too early is bad for your children by looking at some physical and neurological benefits.
Weight lifting benefits for children
Lifting weights helps improve your child’s body composition and bone density without stunting their growth.
Strength training puts pressure on their nervous system. Over time, they adapt and their reflexes become faster. Children adapt and develop their reflexes much faster than adults do.
Until the age of 20, our brains continue to learn and evolve but those growing years of peak neuroplasticity is where our motor control becomes hardwired. The earlier a child starts strength training, the more fine-tuned their neuromuscular system will be by the age of 20.
Two important terms to understand when considering if you should let your child lift weights is long-term athletic development and training age:
Long-term athletic development (LTAD) is when you prepare children for their future years of sports by exposing them to strength training at an earlier age.
It creates the framework for kids in motor skill development, multi-sport sampling, and a focus on general health and well-being.
It also helps develop physical, mental, and psycho-social well-being for children.
Training age is a measure of how long someone has been strength training. For example, if you start strength training when you’re 10 years old, by the time you’re 16 you can handle a much higher load than someone who starts strength training at 16. This means that your training age is six years while the other person’s training age is 0.
Maximising a child’s training age is more impactful because they have more adaptive processes to capitalise on.
Between the ages of 14 and 16 years old, you have hormonal and neuromuscular factors converging. If you have a higher training age, there are more advantages for yielding higher adaptations. If your child starts lifting weights before puberty, they’ll have that solid foundation to explode off of when:
- Their legs and arms grow,
- Their centre of gravity changes, and
- Their hormones settle in.
How to approach lifting weights
When you and your child are ready for them to start lifting weights, include weight lifting three days a week as part of their recommended hour of daily exercise.
Here is how to approach it with your child:
- Appeal to their interest: Children won’t show much interest in the benefits of weight lifting. So tell them how much fun they can have and how much better they can progress at sport.
- Start lifting weights: Decide how you will integrate weight lifting in a consistent routine into their daily hour of exercise. Start with very light weights and gradually ease into it. Focus on helping them work every major muscle group and to establish good form. Provide consistent feedback and encouragement.
- Keep their interest: Children often have short attention spans or bore easily. Keep their interest by mixing it up and adding other weighted objects to lift, such as water bottles, canned food or bricks.
- Other exercises: Aerobic activity and bone-strengthening exercises are also an important aspect of a healthy fitness programme for your child. The bulk of their daily hour of exercise should consist of aerobic activity and bone-strengthening exercises. Running, playing tag, participating in sport and jumping should do the trick.