Welcome back to part 4 of my ”most frequently asked fitness questions” blog. Within these blogs I answer some of the most commonly asked fitness questions. With so many different opinions and voices it’s hard to make out what is true and what isn’t. With these blogs I hope to clear up any uncertainty or false information that is out there. I will do my best to focus on facts first and then incorporate any personal experiences I have gained over the past decade of being involved with fitness.
Today we’ll shift our attention to: should children be lifting weights? Where you should start off if you want to lift weights?
Let’s get into it
Should children lift weights?
Before I start explaining why they should or shouldn’t, let’s define what age we’re talking about here. When talking about this topic I am keeping children between the age of 8 to 15 years old in mind. We usually see that parents are looking to commit their kids to some type of weightlifting or fitness training within these 2 age groups.
I understand that letting kids lift weights is a very controversial topic, but why is that? It is widely believed that lifting weights can hurt the natural growth of a kid. However, we have to look at what type of weightlifting we’re talking about here. Are we talking about clanging and banging biceps curls and triceps extensions? Or are we talking about natural movements like squats, deadlift and overhead presses? There’s nothing wrong with letting your kids perform natural movements like a squat because it’s what they do all day long, they squat up and down their chair all day, they pick up objects off the floor (a deadlift) multiple times a day and they grab objects that are located above head height (an overhead press). Doing these natural and daily movements better will only help them develop better movement patterns and habits.
Having said this, obviously all of these movements need to be controlled and maintained by a well-educated coach/trainer. ”Weights need to be earned” is the standard we want to live by. For some kids, lifting weights means lifting a pvc-pipe for 1 or 2 years before they pick up an actual weight. This way they’re building sound foundational movements first without relying on weight. This way there’s no risk of injury or decline in growth development.
Short answer: yes, kids can lift weights. How you go about doing this is what determines whether that’s a good idea or not. I would always recommend combining this with team sports so they learn to communicate, rely on others, amongst other different life-skills.
Where do I start if I want to lift weights?
The first thing we need to consider here is what your baseline is, what level are you starting at? Are you a complete beginner or have your worked out in a gym before?
Not just for beginners but for experienced lifters as well, it’s highly important to drill fundamental movements before lifting heavy. Doing squats without weight or deadlifting an empty bar might not be the “cool” thing to do but it will save you from injuries/pains down the line, on top of that, good technique will make you lift heavier too. Why is that? By having better technique, you waste less energy on the lift (more efficient), you can spend that energy to actually lift the weight in the right bar path.
So, for a beginner it’s important to focus on fundamental movements like squats, deadlifts, overhead presses and bench press. But before you even think about adding on weight make sure your technique and mobility to get into these positions is sound.
It’s easy to get sucked into doing all the biceps curls and triceps extensions, however, they don’t add nearly as much to your strength and physique as those foundational/ compound movements. The smaller movements like curls and triceps extensions have a place in a fitness program but not the main focus. It doesn’t take a big effort to get these smaller movements right so make sure you spend more time on the big lifts that we talked about earlier.
IMPORTANT: If you don’t know how to perform these movements you have to find a coach that you trust and someone who knows how to coach these well. It is way easier to learn a new skill well than it is having to re-learn something in a different way. By making sure you do things right the first time around will save you a lot of problems later on. From personal experience, I am still trying to fix some movements patterns that I taught myself over 5 years ago.
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