Strength Training: How Young is Too Young?


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When a kid is seen at an adult gym, the perceived judgment by most people is “get this kid out of my gym, he’s going to get injured or hurt someone else” or ” what are they doing here, they haven’t even hit puberty yet.” I must say I was one of those people because I believed it was a waste of time and space for someone to workout at such a young age. I didn’t believe a child could actually get stronger. I have been going to the gym since 7th grade and didn’t really start seeing real results until the end of freshman year high school. During this time period my mom wasn’t exactly “excited” I was started to get bigger because she didn’t think I was ready to develop my body.

Strength training among young children has been a common controversy ever since the 1970’s when Japanese researches studied the height of juvenile children. They concluded that the kids were extremely short due to a substantial amount of physical labor and carrying heavy objects. The anecdote on this issue is people thought working out will stunt their growth because of potential tears to growth plates.  If that was the issue kids and teenagers wouldn’t grown to their maximum potential height and could even develop abnormal development in the specific tendon. Another misconception is that working out wouldn’t even lead to muscle mass and strength because the lack of testosterone flowing through their body. In reality both views are speculation, in reality strength training is one of the most beneficial activities for kids who are athletes or not.                                                                                        Image 2


Kids can workout to, the only difference is there are more guidelines they must follow in order for it to be healthy and safe. If a kid wants to workout they must be supervised, taught proper form, use low weights or even objects like medicine balls or elastic bands, and go for high repetitions. The Institute of Training Science and Sports Informatics studied over 60 years of children and strength training data from boys and girls ages 6-18. The results showed that the kids who worked out 2-3 times a week developed more muscle strength then those who worked out once a week. In a study composed in Clinical Sports Medicine they discovered a wide variety of benefits that go hand in hand with kids who are strength training at such an early age. The first thing is their bone mineral density will actually increase. This is important because it makes your bones stronger which will prevent future injuries especially osteoporosis. Now when that child grows up they won’t be as fragile and can actually absorb a fall or hit because their bones are a lot stronger. Strength training also benefits these children because their neuromuscular activation improves which means their motor skills will increase. When neurons are working simultaneously, their muscles and nervous system will work better which depicts a better athlete. Timing, speed, and reflexes ultimately improve which helps a kids in sports as well as in everyday life. If a kid is strength training they are usually a step ahead of their competition and are better prepared for the sport they want to excel in. This gives them the advantage in sports and will allow them to prosper in the sport they participate in.

There is a huge difference when a kid puts on strength than how an adult does. Since the bodies of adults are far more developed when they are working out and lifting heavy weights for a longer time period they are able to put on muscle mass and size at a fast rate, this process is known as hypertrophy. Exercises displayed by kids are much different, according to Dr. Feigenbaum, and it is more beneficial to use their own body weight by doing exercises like push ups, wall sits, and pull-ups or when they carry and maneuver every day objects. This doesn’t necessarily increase the size of their muscles but actually improves their strength. Being able to maneuver their own body weight is crucial for a young athlete because they become more flexible as well as adroit in any activity they do.

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img_6258-1024x629Not only is it healthy for kids to strength train but it is cruel for the development if their body as well as their nervous system. If they are exercising  the correct way, following the recommended guidelines there is no reason why a kid shouldn’t be allowed to workout. The null hypothesis on this topic is it will destroy chances of growing to maximum height but there is no evidence detecting growth defects if a child is working out and training the right way.


3 thoughts on “Strength Training: How Young is Too Young?

  1. Thomas Tatem Moore

    This is a very interesting topic. I have met many people who started working out at a very young age, even into the early elementary school years. Me personally, I didn’t start lifting until eighth grade, and even then felt I was at a little of a time deficit. I’ve always heard of the detrimental effects of lifting to early in life, and that children should steer clear of them until they have matured. I tend to agree with this, as some of the lifting techniques are necessary, and could hurt a kid in the long run if performed wrong. Here is an video that shows the dangers of lifting to early in life.

  2. Christopher Ronkainen

    I found this topic very interesting! As a child growing up my dad was strongly against me working out and lifting heavy weights throughout middle school. He stated it was for the same reasons that you mentioned, that it could stunt your growth or potentially hurt myself due to proper form. It wasn’t until high school when I started a power lifting type program. All my workouts before that with sports were with body weight which you said they recommend. While researching your topic I found a cool Livestrong article that I think you should take a look at!

  3. Hannah Margaret Mears

    Your post had my mind flooding with comments because I can deeply relate to this topic. I was always involved with sports at a young age and began lifting in 5th grade. I know it seems young, but once I saw my brother and cousins lifting I felt like I needed to fit in. I never really saw negative impacts of this because I never lifted heavy enough to hurt myself, however I do believe that strength training too young can have negative impacts that you listed above and I probably would not force my child to begin lifting too young. However, I do think exercise benefits children at a young age. For example, children need to be exposed to activity at a young age to keep their minds stimulated and bodies active to promote healthy habits. A question also popped into my head that could potentially fix this problem of young strength training. Shouldn’t children do more physical therapy activities at a young age to prepare their bodies for strength training later down the line? I think a test following children over the years that did this physical therapy preparing their muscles to take on strength training compared to children that started with strength training right off the bat would be beneficial to perform. You could find two randomized groups of children to do this experiment on and compare the results when they begin truly strength training. You could also collect data and anecdotes along the way to see if the children were preparing muscle better if they started with physical therapy before strength training. This physical therapy would hopefully build up smaller muscles surrounding larger muscles that will be worked later to help athletes prevent injuries in a weight room. I found a LINK that describes the benefits of physical therapy in general that can relate back to the point I am trying to prove as to why kids should start out knowing about what their bodies can do before they actually work their bodies in a strength training environment. Also, did you ever wonder that if promoting healthy eating habits at a young age can better prepare a body for physical exercise and strength training later? I think this is another question to think about in relation to your blog.

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