My Child Has... Article

My Child Has...


Weight Training for Children and Teens

What is weight training?

Weight training, or strength training, means doing exercises that build muscle strength. There are several ways to build muscle:

  • use bodyweight (such as push-ups, pull-ups or sit-ups)
  • use resistance bands
  • lift free weights
  • use weight machines

Proper strength training makes muscles stronger by asking them to do more than usual. The body responds to this challenge by getting stronger. Strength training must be done gradually and carefully, but can be done at any age.

Is it safe for children and teens to weight train?

The American College of Sports Medicine, the American Medical Society of Sports Medicine, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all said that weight training is safe for children as young as age eight under the proper conditions.

What are the proper conditions for children and teens to weight train?

Check with your child's healthcare provider before your child starts a weight training program. This is very important if your child or teen has a health problem such as asthma, diabetes, or a heart problem. Here are the conditions that are needed:

  • Children and teens should warm up before each weight training session with 5 to 10 minutes of walking, jogging in place, or jumping rope. This helps prevent injury. Stretching after workouts helps to relax the muscles and reduce soreness.
  • Children and teens must be supervised by an adult certified as a strength and conditioning specialist, personal trainer, or physical education teacher.
  • The instructor must make sure that children and teens have correct form before increasing the weights used. Children must have the correct form on all movements and exercises.
  • Children and teens should enjoy the strength training, but not fool around. Safety must always come first.
  • The area where children are training must be neat and tidy with open space.

For children who are weight training:

  • Make exercise fun. This can lead to a lifetime interest in fitness.
  • Start with exercises that use the child’s own bodyweight first. They can work with weights as their strength increases. Bodyweight exercises include:
    • jumping rope
    • jumping jacks
    • push-ups
    • running drills
    • abdominal crunches
  • Teach proper warm-up exercises.
  • Keep workouts short and change the routine often to keep children interested.

For teens who are weight training:

  • Keep the workouts fun.
  • Teens should also do bodyweight exercises, such as:
    • agility ladder drills
    • pull-ups or chin-ups
    • dips
    • squats and lunges
  • For weight training focus on correct form. It’s usually best to add more repetitions (reps) rather than quickly increasing the amount of weight lifted. The coach or trainer can guide teens to prevent injury.

What are the risks and benefits of weight training for children and teens?

There are few risks if:

  • There is proper supervision.
  • Children and teens focus on form rather than trying to see how much weight they can lift.
  • They train in an area that is not too crowded or too cluttered.
  • The exercises are matched to their level of ability.
  • The program is designed correctly.

There are many benefits. Weight training can:

  • create lifelong interest in health and fitness
  • teach healthy habits at a young age
  • decrease risk and prevention of overuse injuries in sports
  • increase endurance
  • increase strength
  • improve sports performance
  • decrease the risk of obesity during childhood and as an adult
  • increase bone density
  • improve self-esteem

Written by Lee Mancini, MD., CSCS.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-01-07
Last reviewed: 2011-01-07

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

Copyright © 1996-2016 The Children's Mercy Hospital