When should a kid begin weight training or do any of the training I am constantly writing about?
A much-debated question, especially concerning weight training, but actually a very simple answer. The decisions I made about how and when to begin strength training were heavily influenced by my hero and authority on prepubescent adolescent resistance training expert Dr. Wayne Wescott. We have never met, but I read his research, which is extensive, and followed his recommendations on the subject for a safe training environment for young kids to learn how to train properly. Whether it is health and fitness or sports preparation, the program allows participants to train how to train and progress at a controlled pace.
Components of the program are not unlike adult training, it is the intensity and complexity that are reduced. Each of these components is implemented as needed or as a level of proficiency is achieved. The components consist of; strength training with bands, machines, and/or free weights. Conditioning, flexibility, simple coordination such as jumping rope or medicine ball throws, as well as, a vanilla program of mini-hurdles and ladder drills. There is always a certain amount of time before the program “kicks in” and the participant is comfortable and the body has adapted to training stress. There is no specific timetable to reach a certain level, however, remember, the point of the program is to train how to train. The principles taught will never change.
As far as what age to begin. It is our opinion that 8 years old is a manageable age to start, but only after staff evaluation.
First of all, we are emphasizing being active, learning proper techniques, and working in a structured environment. In addition, think about any sport or activity. Running, kicking, throwing, hitting (a ball) are all high-impact, physically stressful actions.
On the other hand, how many times have you seen a kid jump off a bed, stairs, or other height that makes you cringe? Our program comes in way under the stress level of most sporting activities. Furthermore, if our program is good, more is not better. Coming in as much as possible is not recommended. Stress is cumulative and we will be adding a stressor to the running, hitting, and throwing already being done throughout the week.
Significantly statistical improvements in the amount of weight being lifted are not important. What we realized over a period of time with resistance training was a noticeable improvement in limb control.
It is well known that early gains in strength when starting a program come from neuromuscular adaptations and what that means is in sports, the arms and legs have more control when running, using a bat, racket, golf club, and throwing. With the volume of sports activity kids are involved in, we hope that injuries may be prevented or at least reduced with the proper introduction of strength training. All of this is to say, no proper weight lifting will not stunt anyone's growth.