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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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.
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
In general, teen weight lifters should avoid the Olympic-style weight
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.
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
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:
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".
- 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.
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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