I’m going to guess from just reading the title you will have instantly formed an opinion or be leaning heavily towards one side of forming an opinion.
I think for most parents, they would be favouring the no side.
Why? The same reason as parents we usually so no, we want to protect them right! And weight training for children is dangerous…
Weight training regarding children has so much mis-perception, misunderstanding and misinformation associated with it that we really need to clear the murky training waters, so we can have a better idea of what we are concerned about.
So what is weight training?
Firstly Weight training is usually used as a very broad term to describe an array of activities which would be more accurately described as Resistance training.
Well what is Resistance training then?
Resistance training can be the resisting of an object that has weight against gravity.
It can also involve activities that require you to resist or move an external force such as an elastic band, or bearing force against an object, i.e. pulling or pushing something along the ground.
If your child has ever given someone a piggy back then they’ve engaged in some serious resistance training. Your children using the lounge as a backdrop to their wresting exploits are doing a resistance workout that would leave most adults exhausted after a minute.
Running, walking, jumping, swimming, getting up out of a chair are actually all forms of a resistance activity.
No one is going to have a problem with their child doing a push up or a plank right?
So where do we draw the line with what we think is safe resistance training for our children?
Here’s my answer. The weight is not the relevant factor.
The only thing I concern myself with when I train children is their movement pattern.
Meaning how well can they do a given exercise.
If it’s a squat. Do they do the movement evenly or are they favouring one side.
Do they have adequate control of their knee alignment?
Do they have an acceptable range of movement.
If they can do all that well can they then do it numerous times without their movement pattern suffering?
When they check all those boxes it is 100% safe, in fact necessary to then provide them with some form of resistance to continue to stimulate them and get stronger.
So I give them a weight…usually a whopping 2-3kg and off they go again having to tick each and every box again with their added weight.
And wallah, your child is now weight training.
The other thing about kids and resistance training is they are great self -determiners of how much they do simply through how much enjoyment they get from an activity.
For the most part primary age kids don’t find doing a set of push ups or lunges the most stimulating activity in the world (Go figure) In a 45min U12s session the kids I train would do one, maybe two sets of less than a handful of strength exercises, the rest of the time I’m finding ways of incorporating some of those exercises into games and other more enjoyable activities. Training in disguise really.
Whereas when they hit high school, they often have an extrinsic motivation to be doing the training, e.g. improving a sports performance or just feeling in themselves they are getting stronger. Either way the extrinsic goal allows them to willingly do a more formal type of training program.
So to wrap up, Weight or resistance training for children is perfectly safe IF it is supervised and administered the right way.
Today I’ve focused more on way it is safe for children to do resistance training.
Next I’ll explain why for most kids it is also quite necessary.