Weightlifting can be beneficial to kids

Ideal age range: 7 to 12 years old


ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Ashley Kent is a 15-year-old powerhouse. This 4'11 freshman lifts more than she weighs.

"I lift 135 pounds. I snatch 59, clean and jerk 71," Ashley said.

She is a member of the Lift for Life Gym in St. Louis. She now travels the country with team USA competing in weightlifting.

"I know how to make new friends, and like get along with others, and staying out of trouble," explained Ashley.

That's the goal of this place, to take kids off the streets and give them some place to grow physically and mentally.

"It's not just pushing yourself physically," Joseph Miller, Executive Director of Lift for Life Gym said. "It's about growing. Your character is growing and your communication skills are enhanced. You're setting goals and you're achieving them. You're learning that you can accomplish great things in life."

In the 1970's, studies said weight training would cause growth plate damage and stunt growth. But, a new major review published in Pediatrics suggest that in fact, kids who weight train grow stronger; their height was not affected. And when done correctly, lifting weights can increase bone mineral density, improve motor performance skills and reduce the risk of injury in other sports.

"It changed me a lot because since I've been going here. I have lost 25 pounds," said Jamika Wynn, a 12-year-old weightlifter.

"Hopefully together we can lift them up, provide them more opportunities and they can become future leaders in our own community," said Miller.

And what may seem like fun and games today could actually affect their future.

"He told me that no matter what just be strong and be confident," said 13-year-old Darianna.

"It helps you with your temper, it helps you with your life," Jamika said. "It helps you with school work."

"It gives you discipline like cause you have to listen to your coach to learn the moves. It makes you stronger too and then it makes your family proud seeing, see you doing something positive," said Antoine, who is 13 years old.

As for the ideal age to start weight training, studies show that while any age is good, getting kids involved around the age of seven to 12 may be more beneficial. Kids are eager to learn at this age. The nervous system is very plastic and more open to muscle memory.

Lift for life is a non-profit that's been around for 26 years. It's takes half-a-million dollars a year to keep the doors open and runs all on donations.

Additional Information:

With childhood obesity on the rise, weight training is a great alternative for children to learn better habits while improving their health. Weight training, or strength training, is different from other activities like body building and weight lifting. In weight lifting, the goal is to be able to build strength to lift heavier weights while in body building, athletes are encouraged to develop bigger muscles than their competition. These activities can cause unnecessary strain on the child's underdeveloped muscles and can cause painful injuries. By weight training with a professional, a child can learn how to control their movements and use light resistance to build strong muscles and improve their bone strength. Researchers have found that with proper warm up and cool down procedures, proper training and maturity, weight training is as beneficial as other adolescent sports. (Sources: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/tween-and-teen-health/in-depth/strength-training/art-20047758, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3445252)


BENEFITS:  Learning proper technique and weight training safety will help children develop discipline as well as improving their self-esteem. Some of the other benefits of weight training include:

  • Improvement in sports: Many professional sports include weight training in their off season conditioning to help keep muscles from atrophying over long periods of rest. Weight training in children can help develop them into stronger, more agile performers.
  • Enhance health: By engaging in a regular sport, children develop healthier habits and are more active than other children their age. These effects tend to carry over past puberty and help them develop healthier lifestyles.
  • Stronger muscles: Weight training is focused on developing strength, so there is not much muscle growth. However, with proper technique, the muscle begins to learn and becomes stronger over time. This muscle memory can help during puberty and with sports injuries. (Sources: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/24/phys-ed-the-benefits-of-weight-training-for-kids/?_r0&_r=0, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/107/6/1470.full.pdf)


GUIDELINES: Parents should keep in mind that weight training is not for all adolescents. A visit to their pediatrician and meeting with a coach trained in adolescent weight training is important before starting. Some health issues, including heart conditions and asthma, can prevent a child from participating in the sport. Doctors also recommend discussing the dangers of anabolic steroid use in the weight training community  with your child. A 2009 study found that 1.5 – 7.6 percent of adolescents had used steroids in youth sports. (Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3445252)