Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


January 31, 2013

On fitness column: Should kids weight lift?

Question: Is it safe for preadolescents and adolescents to lift heavy weights? Why or why not? What is safe?

Expert: Cara Green

Member Advancement Director

Andover/ North Andover YMCA

Answer: Lifting weights, or strength training, helps muscles grow stronger and become more efficient. It also promotes good health and positive body image. However, extreme heavy lifting, especially in adolescents, is unnecessary and can cause injury.

It can also promote the closing of growth plates before they are developed and put too much strain on young ligaments and tendons.

However, I feel that if a child is old enough to participate in organized sports, they are ready to strength train with an experienced trainer who can teach proper technique and safety guidelines. Children, under proper supervision, should start a strength routine using their body weight. Once proper form and technique is learned, it’s OK to start adding resistance.

Expert: Tony Ferrao

Manager of Get in Shape for Women

Former director of Andover/North Andover Y

Answer: Preadolescents don’t have the circulating hormones that allow for anabolism to occur above and beyond genetic childhood development. The focus for this age group should be practicing skills and movements that challenge the nervous system with balance and coordination.

Weight lifting is warranted with supervision and coaching. What should determine when the preadolescent starts training is cognitive age; the ability to follow instructions and take coaching points. Focus on the form, execution and techniques involved in various sports and lifting moves, but lighter weights that allow for practicing form should be used.

Expert: Jamey Lachiana

Yang’s Fitness Center

ACSM certified, local exercise physiologist since 1996

Answer: Whether pre-adolescent and adolescent kids should be lifting weights or not is a somewhat complex issue and a question I am often asked. Studies can often be misleading. The most recent study conducted used athletes such as gymnasts and dancers, who tend to be short. Kind of defeats the purpose of the study if the kids used are likely predestined to be shorter than most to begin with, wouldn’t you say?

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