Weight Lifting for Teens: Age-Appropriate
Bob Silber can still recall as a teen visiting his father's
health club. "I'm sorry," he remembers the manager
telling his father. "The age limit for working out is
18." The manager went on to explain that lifting weights
can permanently damage growing bones and muscles.
That was 25 years ago. Today Bob owns his own health cluband
his two teen sons, Ron, 16, and Max, 14, are welcome. "This
is not to make up for my own disappointment at getting turned
away," Bob says. "Times have changed. Health experts
say that weight-lifting for kids is in'."
Pumping Up Safely
Bob Silber is right. A study on teenage strength training
recently appeared in the Journal of the American Academy
of Orthopaedic Surgeons. According to the study, a properly
designed weight-training program carries little risk of injury
for teens. In fact, the report notes, with proper precautions
weight training can be effective exercise for children as
young as 7.
What is a properly designed weight program? Experts say it's
one that takes into account the age of the child, as well
as his or her size. Two more parts of the equation are experience
and the sport the individual is training for.
Yet another important factor that is too often overlooked
is supervision. As Bob Silber can tell you, it's not enough
to simply go out and buy resistance-training machines for
a school or commercial gym. A qualified individual must be
on hand to:
- Teach the basics of weight training. Like most sports,
weight lifting has rules and is guided by principles. Most
fitness experts today agree that good technique is more
important than the amount of weight lifted. A trainer might
be your coach at school or an experienced neighbor.
- Be sure instructions are followed. This is especially
important in home gyms. In a professional setting, there
is a trainer. There should be a responsible adult to take
on this responsibility in a home gym.
Weight-training experts also advise teens to have a physical
checkup before starting a weight-lifting program. It is important
for you to be both physically and psychologically ready.
Ready, Set, Lift
Teens serious about weight training will, of course, have
to shoulder some of the responsibility for their own safety
and well being. Here are some tips to remember.
- Start slow. Don't try to lift too much at first.
- Set realistic goals for yourself. If your goal is to strengthen
your shoulders so you can hit a baseball farther, expect
your progress to be slow but steady. Making changes to your
body takes time.
- Stay within your abilities. Always use weights that are
comfortable for you to lift. To pros this means weights
you can lift 8 to 12 times for each of three sets without
totally exhausting your muscles.
- Increase weight gradually. Add no more than 1 or 2 pounds
of weight at a time.
- Avoid power lifting and squats. Working muscles in back
of the legs while holding a barbell behind the shoulders
creates too much of a strain. These activities are dangerous
even for adults.
Remember above all else that strength training should be
fun. If it's work, you're less likely to stick with it. One
way to make the experience enjoyable is to work out with a
Just the Facts
- Identify at least three characteristics of a well-designed
- What pointers should teens themselves keep in mind when
beginning a program of resistance training?
Beyond the Facts
- Compare and contrast the view of weight training today
with the view held when Bob Silber was a teenager.
- The article mentions that teens should have a physical
checkup before starting a weight-lifting program. Why do
you think this piece of advice is important? For what kinds
of individuals and/or health problems might resistance training
be a poor choice?
Applying the Facts
Speak with a physical education teacher in your school or
a professional trainer about alternatives to weight training
that can be done with little or no equipment. One possibility
is isometric exercises. These are movements in which one muscle
group is pitted against another. An example of an isometric
exercise is pressing the palms of the hands together with
all one's might for a count of 10. Learn proper technique
for one such exercise. Demonstrate the exercise for your class,
and describe its benefits.