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Is Weight Training Safe For Kids?

July 25, 2012, 6:06 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Is Weight Training Safe For Kids?

Football, cross country and volleyball seasons begin in just a few weeks. So your child might want to get ready for the season by lifting weights.  But is it safe for kids?  And if so, at what age should they start?

Freeman High School senior Shaun Becker and Sioux Falls Roosevelt Highs School senior Jordan Wetering hope to have a strong year in sports. That's why they're hitting the weight room.

"I've been doing it since the summer going into seventh grade and I feel like it's helped me a lot and it's contributed to a lot of success in sports," Becker said.

Wetering also started lifting in seventh grade.  But should children that young really be in the weight room?

"Back in the 60s and 70s they weren't really sure about strength training for youth.  But now the exercise scientists have taught us that's what they need, but it has to be a good program," Sanford Senior Exercise Specialist Steve Bliss said.

Bliss starts working with children who are 12-years-old.

"There are some people who have kids start at six, but I don't think they have the maturation mentally for that. We all know how six-year-olds are.  But six-year-olds can start with running and body weight things," Bliss said.

Children, like adults, should also make sure they exercise properly. If they don't use the correct technique and form, they could get hurt.

"Maybe they're not doing an exercise right; using their back rather than their legs can strain their back muscles," Bliss said.

But children and adults should not lift weights in the same way. They should be supervised by a trainer or other adult who knows what they're doing and not lift extremely heavy weights.

"The adult program would be more aggressive, so you'd use heavier loads and with the frequency, some adults I train go four days a week. With the youth I go two to three days on nonconsecutive days," Bliss said.

But if kids lift properly, Bliss says they'll see many benefits. It can prevent injuries, improve self-confidence and help with sports.

"It definitely pays off. It's hard work. There are times when you want to quit.  But you just have to keep going 'cause you see results," Becker said.

"I think I'll still come to the Wellness Center even when I'm done with high school sports because it's a good idea to come," Wetering said.

While research shows children can safely lift weights, bodybuilding or powerlifting can put too much strain on young muscles and tendons.

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