Time to dispel some more myths – and this is a biggy.

Everyone’s heard that lifting weights stunts your growth, right? That making kids lift anything in the gym before they’re fully grown will tear their limbs asunder and leave them vertically challenged for life. At best it’ll turn them into image-obsessed, eating disordered mini-Arnies.

Like SO much to do with health and fitness, and gyms, and lifting weights, it’s nonsense.

The benefits of strength training, or weight training to be more general, apply as much to kids as to adults. Confidence, body image, self-reliance on the outside, and pretty much every single health marker on the inside.

And here’s the thing: just like adults, weight training needn’t involve weights. Certainly not at first. Your body, your bones, tendons, muscles; none of them know what they are lifting. Every time you stand up, you’re weight lifting. Every time a kid plays football, or sprints, they are shifting weight at speed – weight lifting! Pick up that heavy school bag? Help carry the shopping in? That’s weight training. It really is no different.

So what CAN kids do? And what are we calling ‘kids’?

Realistically, they need to be teachable. So, for much the same reason as most sports-based clubs don’t start with kids until they’re 5, it’s probably not much use teaching the average kid to squat etc much before 6 years old (although, yes, that’s my 5yr old daughter merrily lifting her own bodyweight for fun after watching all her ‘gym friends’ doing it!)

Training the smaller muscles happens in schools at 5! Lots of work is done on finger and grip strength via play to help with the motor skills for writing and drawing. PE at that age focuses on play, with games based around running, jumping and changes of direction. Many schools will even include basic yoga moves and poses – and as anyone who’s done a decent yoga class can attest to, yoga is strength training.

To get any real structure going, and to get real involvement from children, we’re probably looking at 10/11 to put a couple of times a week strength scheme in place that doesn’t involve play – and look towards 13 or 14 before there’s any real need to involve significant additional weights. Prior to that? Lots of body weight squatting, lunging, press ups, light band work etc. There’s certainly no need to be looking to max out (to be honest most adults don’t need to either, but that’s another article)

We’ve had loads of experience training younger clients at RWF (one of our coaches is a school-based Strength and Conditioning Coach for under 16s) and it’s great seeing them develop their skills, strength and confidence in a gym setting. No decent training should involve “beasting” or getting clients to max out all the time, and kids are no different. They need encouragement, micro-loading, confidence building and FUN!

And yes – parents should always be encouraged to be present and understand what their kids are doing and why, and any coach should be only too happy to explain.

If you want your child to get into safe, effective gym work, get in touch for a chat and a look around the gym. Even if you’re nowhere near us, hopefully some of this has helped allay fears about what your kid can get involved in safely.

 

 

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