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CrossFit is my sport of choice after spending years playing volleyball, basketball, softball, and even doing cheerleading once! I have been lifting since age 11. A common question I heard as a coach, was when should my kid start lifting? Here’s my opinion:
When I was a girls basketball coach, a common question I would get was, when should my kid start lifting?
I started lifting at age 11 (6th grade). I haven’t had any broken bones or major injuries, and haven’t torn my ACL.
I have always been strong so lifting light weights didn’t seem to affect me as it may other young growing teens.
I first learned how to lift using body weight exercises, then slowly worked into light unconventional lifting (jugs of water, medicine balls, weighted objects, etc.) until I was able to actually pick up a barbell with the boys in sixth grade.
Kids Should Start with Body Weight Exercises
In my professional opinion, kids should start exercising at any age- using their own body weight.
This will promote a sense of accomplishment for young kiddos and begin to teach better body awareness.
Kids that are able to sit on a toilet, should able to squat.
Kids that are able to pick up a bag of groceries, should be able to deadlift.
Kids that are able to toss a bean bag on the top bunk, should be able to push press.
… catch my drift?
Body Weight Load Progression to Light Lifting
A child’s ‘body weight’ is exactly what they weigh currently.
So, to begin teaching proper lifting forms, a kiddo should start with their current body weight. Exercises like:
- Air squats
- PVC Technique Work
All of these exercises are examples of “body weight” exercises. These movements require no extra weight, but can teach kids the basics of exercise and lifting.
“Light” Load Examples
“Light” loads can be:
- Kids’ Bar (35#)
- Jug of Water or Milk
- Kids’ Bar + Small Plates
- Medicine Ball (4#, 6#, 8#)
- Light or Heavy Textbooks
- 5-10# Dumbbells
- Weight of a Basketball, Volleyball, etc.
Why is Weight Training for Kids Important?
If your kiddo doesn’t necessarily plan to plan sports, you may be wondering why weight training for kids would be important. There are many benefits to weight training that go beyond improved sport performance.
Exercise for kids is important to help build confidence, prevent disease, improve academic performance, and thrive independently.
Kids that lift properly build stronger bones and stronger muscles.
This means less trips to the ER for a broken bone or an ACL tear.
This means less sick days.
This means more independence and future interest in health (if promoted as a positive experience).
Don’t get me wrong, injuries can still happen and kids that lift still take sick days sometimes.
However a kid with strong, balanced muscles will be happier and healthier overall.
Building Confidence is KEY. Slow and Steady = Progress.
A common mistake I see coaches and parents make when teaching weight lifting to kids is to rush a kiddo too soon to add more weight.
Coaches should be patient.
Kids should be patient.
Kids need time to build confidence and make real gains (even ‘baby’ gainz) in weight training.
Kids also need to understand that exercise is not something that you can do once or twice then forget about for weeks.
Successful weight training programs can take several weeks, months, even years.
And those weeks, months, and years, must be strung together consistently and patiently to see big results.
Kids Should Start Lifting NOW.
If done right, kids can start “lifting” right now.
Ask them to put a textbook to the top of a book case (overhead press)
Have them lift a pen off the floor (one-arm snatch)
Ask them carry out the trash (one-arm front rack position)
Have them pick up a watermelon and put it on the counter (full clean)
These are all daily movements that kiddos should be able to do without pain, without stress. The stronger the kiddo is, the easier his or her chores and ‘dailies’ will be.
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Ok, What Exercise Will You Ask your Kiddo to Try?!
What body weight training workouts will you have your kiddo try? Share in the comments below so we can all try it!
My comments above are based on my personal experience with weight training, health science education, and recommendations from the Certified Strength and Conditional Specialist (CSCS) required reading.