Teen Fitness – Weight Lifting
Being a coach and working with lots of kids and teens I get questions about fitness training for that age group. There have been beliefs that types of training are unsafe for kids and teens because they are still growing and could do damage to their bodies. There is some truth to that for all people. If you train incorrectly you can damage your body, no matter what your age or where you are at in your growth cycle.
More and more studies are showing that it is safe for teens and even young adolecants to lift weights, if done properly and under supervision of someone who knows what they are doing. Many of us who coach today still use techniques we were taught as we were young athletes, that is unfortunately part of the problem. As long as we stay up-to-date on training techniques we can help our students, athletes and kids use weightlifting as a safe and effective way to stay healthy and improve body mechanics for the sport they choose to be involved with.
I will go more in depth in future articles with references to research that I have found, so you can make the best decision for your kid as to the best training method. For now, let’s start with the basics.
Yes, growing teens should be aware that lifting too much weight can do damage. So Cross Fit is out until you are done growing! Each kid is different so I’m not going to throw out numbers, but technique needs to be the first priority for all weight lifters. If you lift wrong you are setting yourself up for failure. So my suggestion is to always start light and really figure out the proper stance. Know where your feet should be, where your knees and hips should be, your abs should always be drawn in toward the spine, shoulders are down and rotated backward. These are fairly generic, but with a few exceptions most exercises have these requirements for each major joint in your body. By placing the focus on joint placement you allow the body to get the most effective workout, and avoid compensation injuries.
The best way to figure out if you are lifting the right amount of weight is by trial and error. Generically, you want to be able to do 3 sets of 10-12 reps and struggle on the last set, but be able to complete it. I’m also a big fan of not taking a rest in between sets, I recommend alternating exercises like doing a bicep set then a quad set and once those sets are done doing triceps and hamstrings. This way you get a full body workout and by keeping your heart rate up you are also improving your cardiovascular system as well.
Remember to take a rest day, while lifting weights is recommended for teens, it is only recommended 3-4 times per week max. If you follow a plan like I have stated above you will get a full body workout in each time you lift so there is no need to do it every day. HOWEVER, that does not mean sit on your butt the other 3-4 days. Use the time off to stretch and build your flexibility or improve your cardio. All three aspects are needed if you want to become the best athlete you can be.