Building Strength and Esteem in Children

With proper design, instruction and supervision, weight trianing is a safe way to improve fitness in prepubescent boys and girl, according to the consensus of a workshop sponsored by the American Orthopedic Society of Sports Medicine, which included eight major sports medicine groups. However, there is an important distinction between “weight training” and “weight lifting.” The objective of a weight training program is to improve total fitness, whereas weightlifting is a form of competition to see who can lift the most weight for one repetition. And, it’s important to note that weightlifting is not for children.

There are many fitness machine manufacturers that have developed a line of strength equipment for kids. I am often asked by parents if it is safe for their children to lift weights. My answer is always “yes it is safe for children to lift weights if done properly.” Regardless of whether your working with children or adults, form is critical. If an exercise is not done correctly, it is dangerous. Emotional maturity is an important factor in the safety of the child. Kids that are not able to handle the responsibilities of weight training and fool around trying to lift too much or perform exercises that are too advanced will most likely get injured. It is important for the child to go through a fitness evaluation protocol with a professional strength and conditioning coach to have their fitness level tested. The children must show that they will concentrate on form before they are allowed to increase the workout intensity. Once the child realizes that they won’t move up in weight if they don’t use proper form, they begin to take the program more seriously.

There are many great benefits from weight training at a young age: improved self esteem, greater growth patterns, stronger muscles, enhanced endurance, greater flexibility, improved athletic ability and stress management. Having a professional trainer instruct and design the appropriate weight training program is essential for the child’s success. Failure to follow a safe program will promote negative results and possible injury.

Daryl Conant, M.Ed