Too Soon? Kids and Weights

by Louise | February 1st, 2011 | Strength Training

When I visited my old middle school recently, I noticed some significant changes in the athletic wing. For example, one of the health rooms has been transformed into a weight room. It’s not a huge room, but it’s now jam-packed with machines and free weights. Seeing the room worried me; how can twelve-year-olds need 60-pound dumbbells? I saw not a room of weights, but a room of accidents and injuries waiting to happen.

Lifting programs are critical for many sports. I can see that my former middle school doesn’t want to “fall behind” the other teams who are providing weight rooms for their students. Many high schools care tremendously about their sports teams, and if grabbing the state title involves getting kids into weight rooms before the 9th grade, then so be it. Perhaps, with vigilant supervision, this could be a good idea. However, from personal experience I know that even high school students don’t always want, or even know how, to respect a weight room. I’ve seen kids bench without safety clamps and leave weights lying all over the floor, both extremely dangerous habits.

I’m sure that a great deal of thought went into creating the weight room for my former middle school, but I wonder if all of the right questions were raised and that the right answers were given. When is it safe for children to start lifting weights? I’ve heard that weight training has been proven to be safe for kids; when exercises are performed correctly, kids are no more likely to get injured than adults. However, the fact of the matter is that kids don’t always follow rules or proper technique, even when both have been clearly outlined.  Well, how much supervision should there be? Is having one adult in the room, as is often the case, enough to ensure that every child is properly performing each exercise? Kids often see large weights as challenges, and will try to have unsafe lifting competitions with their friends. When all is said and done will lifting actually benefit the athletics programs and will these benefits outweigh the risks?

The question of what age a child can start lifting does not have a clear-cut answer, and maybe that’s why my former school went ahead and created the new weight room. After all, the “right” age is probably unique to every child, right? But I’m curious, are elementary schools next?

  1. TK says:

    As a former coach, I can tell you that I am a huge advocate of weight training for anyone remotely interested in sports.

    And I would advise doing a weights program as early as possible.

    The faster that kids make it part of their learning and growing experience, the better they will be later on.

Comments on Too Soon? Kids and Weights

All health and fitness information is provided for educational purposes. Please consult with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.