It is often thought that children who have reached the age of 13 will benefit most from weight-training, as it is at this age their nervous system and muscular development are at an appropriate stage for the rigorous training.
Pre-pubescent children will also experience some strength gains from weight-training, but these gains primarily stem from neurogenic adaptation (the recruitment of muscle fibres) rather than lean muscle mass, and it is, therefore, best to wait until they can gain sufficient muscle size, before maximising training intensity.
Indeed, prepubescent children lack the androgens (natural steroid-hormones like testosterone and androsterone) which assist muscular growth – these hormones are often cited as the key to weight-training success. However, there is no reason for children to wait until their bodies begin to manufacture androgens.
It has been found that children under the age of 13 can train with weights, and realise the concomitant benefits, as long as they train safely.
Furthermore, prepubescent children will set the stage for a smoother transition into more intensive training in their post-pubescent years if they adopt correct training habits early.
A retrospective review of injuries associated with weight training in prepubescent children found that weight training is, in fact, safer than many other sports and activities (Hamill, 1994). Other researchers also support prepubescent weight-training.
They say the highly technical manoeuvres and lifting techniques associated with its practice make it almost impossible to use too much weight too soon, as long as an emphasis is placed on the vital importance of qualified supervision, to limit the risk of injury (Faigenbaum & Polakowski, 1999).
Benefits of Weight-Training For Children
Strength-training, safely conducted, can offer many benefits to the younger trainer. It must be remembered that these sessions should be properly supervised, and the training is non-competitive.
If these Guidelines are followed, then they will receive these benefits.
- Increase in muscle size, strength & endurance
- Sports performance improvement.
- Better cardiorespiratory function.
- Helps to protect the child’s muscles and joints from injury associated with other activities.
- Stronger bones.
- A desirable body composition.
- Lowered blood cholesterol levels.
- An exercise habit which lasts a lifetime.
- The concept of goal setting
- The child may develop an interest in their health.
- Good nutritional habits.
A Suggested Routine
The following routine is designed for a child between the age of seven and 13. Sessions can be scheduled for after school, or on weekends. Ensure the child has eaten well throughout the day so they have adequate energy to do the session with.
A good breakfast is essential. Porridge oats with chopped bananas and milk works well for my children also eggs are great too
Suggested foods are a good serving of protein carbohydrates & healthy fats with every meal also ensure there is a mix of colour on the plate from vegetables.
Pre-training bananas are great for releasing quick energy.
Protein shakes made with 20g post-training are ok too as children tend to not enough protein throughout the day.
A good night’s sleep (10-12 hours) is also very important for the growing, training, child.
Note: With all exercises increase weight gradually as strength increases. However, always begin sure to begin the session with a very light warm-up set. Also, each session should begin with a thorough warm-up:
Start by mobilising with joint rotations followed by a Bodyweight routine of 20x Star jumps 10x Squats and 5x push-ups. This way we are warming the whole body up then perform a series of stretches 10 minutes should be a sufficient time period for warming up.
- Press-Ups – Three sets of 15-20 with bodyweight.
- Side Laterals – Three sets with a weight that can be easily lifted for 20-30 reps (a couple of full 425gram cans of fruit might be a good idea, to begin with).
- Shoulder Press – Three sets of 20-25 with about 1 kg in each hand.
Tuesday – Cardio Day
Get out Run Bike or Swim.
- Squats – Three sets of 20-25 with body weight (hands at side).
- Lunges – Three sets of 15-20 with body weight (hands crossed at chest level).
- Crunches – Three sets of 15-25.
- Bent Rowing – Three sets of 15-20 with one 1kg weight in each hand.
- Chin-ups – Three sets of as many as possible with bodyweight: be sure to hold child’s legs to stabilise them throughout the movement.
- Dumbbell Curls – Three sets of 15-20 with one 1kg weight in each hand.
Note: this routine can be done in almost any environment. If one does not have a weight set, full tins of food can be used as a substitute.
- Hamill, B., P.(1994). Relative safety of weightlifting and weight training. Journal of Strength Conditioning Research. 8(1), 53-57.
- Faigenbaum, A,. D. Kraemer, W., J. & Cahill, B.(1996). Youth resistance training: position statement paper and literature review. Strength Conditioning.18(6), 62-76.
- Faigenbaum, A,. D. Polakowski, C.(1999). Olympic-style weightlifting, kid style. Journal of Strength Conditioning Research. 21(3), 73-76.