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?
My personal view is that for children and adolescents lifting weights is very important for strength, bone density, coordination and self confidence.
I feel less than 10 repetitions is unnecessary and counterproductive since the majority of (kids) that are lifting are for a sport that involves massive amounts of repetition to properly learn the movement, just like weight training.
If the weight is too heavy to reach 10 repetitions, then less weight should be used to aim for 10 to 15 repetitions.
Proper form should be stressed more than weight amount when dealing with children as well. The better their form becomes, the stronger their core muscles grow, and the more weight they will be able to lift as they grow older.
It takes 3,000 to 5,000 proper repetitions of a movement for it to be ingrained into muscle memory.
Starting with a slightly higher repetition max as a kid only puts people ahead of the game for when they are working out as a teen or adult.