The Right Age to Start Weight Training

The Right Age to Start Weight Training

What are the pros and cons of young boys weight lifting and at what age is it safe for a guy to start lifting weights? Is weight training safe for young boys?

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Lots of experts say that under proper supervision, when a child is old enough to begin participating in organized sports, he or she is old enough to start "strength training" by doing bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups and similar exercises.

The Right Age to Start Weight Training
By Mike Westerdal

Did you know that there are body building competitions for boys as young as 13 years old? Is this too young to be bodybuilding or training with dumbbells?

As with just about any other issue, there are plenty of people with strong opinions on both sides of the issue.

Thare are some experts who say that age 13 is too young to start a weight training regimen while there are other, equally-qualified experts, who see no harm in it at all.

Wo, what are the pros and cons of each side and at what age is it safe for a guy to start lifting weights?

Many experts say that, under proper supervision, when a child is old enough to begin participating in organized sports, he or she is old enough to start "strength training", doing bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups and similar exercises. For the purpose of this discussion though, I want to focus specifically on "weight training", that is, the use of free weights, and/or exercise machines, for physical training, and NOT the regular middle school or high school gym class or PE stuff.

While everybody is different, boys usually start taking an interest in improving their bodies about the time they hit puberty (12-13 years old). That shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, that's when they start to develop masculine characteristics, their bodies begin to change and grow and they become interested in girls! Prepubescent boys (before puberty) lack the androgens...the body's natural steroid hormones such as testosterone or androsterone...that trigger and control the development of the masculine characteristics.

Understanding the fact that, in prepubescent boys, production of natural steroid hormones has yet to ramp up, it would seem to make sense that boys who haven't begun puberty would probably not really benefit from weight training because their body lacks some of the basic building blocks necessary to gain lean muscle.

Looking a little further, however, we find that several studies have indicated that even prepubescent boys can achieve gains in strength through weight/resistance training. These gains are attributed to the nervous system and motor learning rather than hormones-in other words, they'll usually experience a gain in strength but muscle gains will be minimal.

Some people say that adolescent boys (about 13 years old) should not be weight training because they believe the risk of injuries is too great and that it can even result in stunted growth.

Dumbbell Exercise Routines I researched this idea and didn't found any credible sources to validate it. The research I've found indicates that, provided the youth engages in a supervised, appropriate weight training program, there is no danger of stunted growth. Furthermore, experts say that the risk of injury from a properly supervised weight training program is no worse than that of participating in any ordinary sporting activity.

An adolescent who is going to embark on a weight training program should not just jump into a watered-down version of an adult workout, however.

The central nervous system in young athletes is still developing, so their coordination and balance are not going to be as capable as in adults. So, instead of focusing maximum weight or the number of lifts, the emphasis should be on executing each exercise in its proper form. Only once the proper form has been mastered should the weight or resistance be increased.

A good rule of thumb is to underestimate their physical abilities rather than overestimate and risk injury.

The regular exercise will still benefit them in terms of strength, coordination, and confidence, even if they are not "pumping iron" at their maximum.

In general, teen weight lifters should avoid the Olympic-style weight lifting movements.

Many of these require a great deal of skill and, if done improperly, can result in lower back or even spinal injuries. Interestingly, some experts believe that adolescents should avoid machines in favor of free weights. They say that because machines are designed for adults, improper setup-even just a little-could result in injury. It should also be considered that the use of free weights not only keeps the young lifter within his or her capabilities, but also provides an overall fitness benefit, such as core strength, which an all-in-one exercise machine may not.

Similarly, the adolescent lifter should certainly not be training five or six days a week-at least not initially.

The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine recommends that teens around the age of 13 should stick to about two to three 20-30 minute training sessions per week. Again, as their mastery and strength improves, the length and frequency of training can be increased.

As is found with adult exercisers, post workout recovery should be an integral part of any teen's weightlifting program. Injuries from overuse or overexertion can lead to chronic problems later on in life. Young lifters should always be certain that their body parts/muscle groups have the opportunity to fully recover between training sessions. In addition, teen workouts should begin and end with warm-up and cool-down periods.

Overall, the consensus seems to be that boys should hold off on embarking on a weight lifting program until they reach puberty at about the age of 13. Even then, certain considerations should be taken, including:

  • A medical evaluation should be performed first
  • Proper adult supervision is essential
  • Form needs to be emphasized over weight or reps
  • All major muscle groups should be addressed
  • Any sign of injury should be evaluated before continuing the training regimen.
Mike Westerdal is the creator of illustrated guide called, "Dumbbell Routines & Exercises". Visit his site to get a free eMail course entitled, "Getting Started With Dumbbells".

If you need more information about weight training with dumbbells childrens fitness you will find a very informative website at Dumbbell Routines and Exercises.

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Right Age for Weight Training
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Page Updated 9:16 AM Saturday 10 February 2018