The best age to start lifting weights is often debated, but it is not as controversial as it was in the past. That doesn’t mean there aren’t questions to ask first.
Is it safe?
Will it cause problems?
There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer, but there are some basic guidelines we follow when evaluating the right time to introduce weightlifting into a youth athlete's fitness and/or athletic journey.
How young can you start weightlifting?
We are talking about resistance training specifically in this article, but speed and agility is still a factor in athletic development.
At this age, we are evaluating a child’s physical, cognitive, and social maturity.
A child will generally develop enough balance to begin training more athletic movement by this age.
During early childhood and adolescence, the primary activities are sports and games, but there is space for resistance training.
The goal is to develop coordination, balance, and flexibility.
That is why we really like tools such as the agility ladder.
Resistance training should be limited to body weight, bands, and very lightweight.
No matter how advanced you may think your child is, don't load up weight. In most cases, barbells and dumbbells are not appropriate for this age. The risk for injuries to joints and growth plates is very real.
Enjoyment matters for children of this age. Don’t overlook fun and games.
At this age, there is more independence, which requires attentive supervision in the weight room.
Guidance from certified fitness professionals is imperative to ensure safe and effective weight-lifting practices, especially for beginners.
The weight room can be more difficult to teach, which is why we will focus on this area. Even lightweight may still wobble with their limbs developing, but learning the movements and developing that coordination is very important.Schedule Overview:
Once we hit the junior varsity high school level - It’s go-time.
There will be some athletes that develop later and should still be handled with care. This is especially important for your larger athletes with longer limb lengths.
As individuals progress into late adolescence and early adulthood (typically around the ages of 16 to 18 and older), their bodies are more developed and are capable of handling moderate weightlifting.
Program design is critical here. The days of the week can mimic that of a varsity player, but the actual load in the weight room will be significantly less.
You need to listen to the body and have a balanced approach.
It's important to pay attention to the body's signals and avoid pushing too hard, too soon. Gradually progress in weight and intensity.
Weightlifting should be part of a well-rounded fitness routine that includes cardiovascular exercise, flexibility training, and adequate rest. Yes, I said rest.Schedule Overview:
Starting weightlifting during late adolescence to early adulthood allows individuals to build a strong foundation of muscle mass, bone density, and overall strength.
Increased muscle mass contributes to a higher resting metabolic rate, which can aid in weight management and overall health.
Strengthening muscles (and bones) can help prevent injuries, especially when engaging in other physical activities or sports.
Confidence and Mental Health
Achieving fitness goals through weightlifting can boost self-confidence and positively impact mental well-being.
Developing healthy exercise habits at a young age can set the stage for a lifelong commitment to fitness, and well-being and of course, will assist a youth athlete’s performance.
Remember, it's important to prioritize safety, technique, and individual readiness. Early exposure to proper form, guidance, and a balanced fitness routine can pave the way for a healthier and more active lifestyle.