Unsure whether your child’s old enough to lift weights? Let us tell you why they are…
At Pegasus Weightlifting Club’s recent competition, we watched two talented youth weightlifting groups annihilate some very difficult lifts.
And this got us thinking about questions parents have asked us:
1) Is my child too young to start weightlifting?
2) Will weightlifting stunt their growth or cause damage to joints or bones?
3) When’s the best time to start?
4) How can we make it safe?
1) Is my child too young to start weightlifting?
As you’ll see below, The NGB of weightlifting (British Weight Lifting) holds competitions for children below age ten.
* Under 10 years: 0-10 years of age
* Under 12 years: 10-12 years of age
* Youth Under 15: 12-15 years of age
* Youth Under 17: 12-17 years of age
* Junior Under 20: 15-20 years of age
This video from YouTube channel Olympic shows a youth training camp at USA Weightlifting.
The answers to the questions below will help answer why weightlifting is suitable for any age group!
2) Will weightlifting stunt my child’s growth or cause damage to joints or bones?
Weightlifting facilitates both physical and psychological growth, with benefits like:
Benefits of Weight Lifting
* Improved body composition with a reduction in body fat
* Greater muscular strength, power and endurance
* Improved motor skills
* Increase in vertical jump height
* Better flexibility
* Improved cardiovascular health
* Better bone health
* Reduced rate of sporting injury
* Increase in self-esteem, discipline and sporting mindset
* Increased IQ compared to sedentary peers
So don’t believe the myths.
There’s no scientific evidence of resistance training negatively impacting the growth, or maturation, of children and adolescents.
But there’s certainly evidence of its strength-building capabilities:
Short resistance training programs of between 8-20 weeks can produce a 30% increase in muscular strength. Gains of up to 74% have been observed to occur in previously untrained youths.
And compared to other sports, the chance of injury whilst weightlifting is both minimal and preventable.
Studies show that sport related injuries occur most frequently in youths who:
-- Do less than 5 hours of physical activity
-- lack muscular strength
-- have poor overall conditioning
It’s also been found that pre-season resistance training with proper technique and movement instruction, dramatically reduces an athletes chance of injury.
And if you’re worried about your child's unfused growth plates, fear not.
Studies show no sign of epiphyseal plate fractures in young weightlifters.
The traction and pressure stimuli associated with weight lifting actually improves bone formation in children, reducing risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures in later life.
And since young children have stronger cartilage than adolescents, their risk of joint and bone damage is also reduced.
3) When is the best age to start?
During childhood, the central nervous system develops at an accelerated pace, meaning a higher rate of synaptogenesis, and greater potential for skill acquisition.
In an ideal world, one would master locomotive, stabilization and manipulation skills, before synaptic pruning begins.
Synaptic pruning is when the brain replaces old, unused synapses, with newer, complex structures - - keeping only what you've strengthened. Once synaptic pruning begins, it becomes harder to learn specific motor skills.
Skills such as:
Specific athletic motor skill competencies
* Lower bilateral
* Lower unilateral
* Upper body push
* Upper body pull
* Anti-rotation and core bracing
* Acceleration, deceleration and re-acceleration
* Throwing, catching and grasping
* Jumping, landing and rebounding mechanics
The main Olympic lifts, such as: the snatch, squat, clean, jerk, as well as their derivatives,
are multi-joint exercises that all require complex motor control.
They’re great for muscular development, spinal, bone, tendon and ligament strength, not to mention the production of superior neural activation patterns.
4) How can we make weightlifting safe?
* Ensure Sessions include 8-10 exercises using all major muscle groups with 2-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions. Do this two to three times a week
* Ensure exercises are performed with good form and full range of motion
* Add weight in ten percent increments, only when technique is optimal
* Avoid maximal hypertrophy workouts before physical maturity
* Eat a Balanced diet with high fluid intake
* Ensure warm-ups are thorough
* Ensure you have a good coach
Food for thought:
On December the 7th 2018, the BBC published an online article discussing under-activity in children – as many as one in three.
Adequate physical activity is vital to a child's physical and emotional well-being.
For children aged 5-17 an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise daily is recommended. For three days of the week, exercise should focus on muscle and bone strengthening. Off days should focus on cardiovascular activity such as: swimming, running, dancing, or whatever gets the heart pumping.
We live in a fast paced, over-bearing world that wreaks havoc on our minds and bodies. so whether you lift weights, play football, or head out for a walk, ensure that you and your children exercise regularly.
You could do it together.
And if you fancy giving weightlifting a go, pop down for a chat at Canterbury Strength. We look forward to meeting you.
Authors: Canterbury Strength Team with Phillip Nash
*Urso. A (2018) “Why young athletes must do weight training”. EWF Scientific magazine Number 10
*Swisher. A (2016) “Setting the record straight on youth weight lifting”. EWF Scientific magazine Number 14
*Urso. A (2018) “Youth and sport”. EWF Scientific magazine Number 9
*Lloyd. R. S, Oliver. J.L (2014) “Strength and conditioning for young athletes: Science and application”. Routledge, London & New York.
*(PDF) Youth Resistance Training: Past Practices, New Perspectives, and Future Directions. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/258431143_Youth_Resistance_Training_Past_Practices_New_Perspectives_and_Future_Directions [accessed Jan 01 2019].