The UK has recently had a well documented rise in childhood obesity, and we are fast becoming one of the unhealthiest nations on the planet due to our love of convenience, sugary foods and low activity levels. Training with your kids can be a great way to encourage them to exercise, teach them how to safely enjoy exercise and is an all-round great way to spend family time.
Isn't weightlifting dangerous for kids?
Youth training has been the subject to copious amounts of research over recent years, with many scientists studying safe training levels, optimal loads, injury risks and many more factors. The old myth that children shouldn’t lift weights has now been conclusively debunked, with both the UK and USA strength and conditioning associations putting out position papers stating their support for youth weightlifting when done under supervised conditions and ensuring solid technique.
What we don’t want to do is load dysfunction on an immature skeleton, but not loading dysfunction is a training no-no we should all be avoiding anyway. When you consider what a child does in their “natural habitat” such as a playground, it is not uncommon to see kids jumping off metre high slides or swings then jumping off at the top and sprinting off. These are all highly intense landings, some being pretty advanced plyometric movements!
All these landings elicit loads significantly higher than body weight. Weightlifting introductions will place significantly less stress through a child's body than these activities.
How can I start weightlifting training with my kids?
Introducing your kids to weightlifting should always be done under the guidance of a strength and conditioning professional to ensure they learn the skills correctly. Many gyms now offer parent and child training sessions with weightlifting incorporated into those sessions; these can be a great way of training together.
During these sessions things to look out for are a coach who’s session size does not exceed 3 or 4 kids to ensure proper supervision of technique, and also that the coach has appropriate accreditation, preferable with the UK strength and conditioning association (they will have ASCC after their name).
Once your children have been introduced to lifting techniques, make sure you are practicing at home! A broom or mop makes for a handy bar, and feel free to use everyday objects as a medicine ball to lift off the floor (pets may be a stretch too far!).
The benefits of youth training
Research has shown that children who frequently train demonstrate higher levels of self confidence, and ongoing longitudinal studies are seeming to suggest lower injury rates amongst childhood weightlifters in late teenage years.
Worried that your child may turn into a mini Michelin man? Don’t be. As they get stronger, children will develop a physique with more lean mass but simply don’t have the hormonal profile to put on significant amounts of muscle. Children who weightlift can go on to have lower levels of body fat as teenagers and are more likely to continue a structured form of exercise as teenagers. It seems clear that youth training has many benefits.
So enjoy some screen free time with your kids and get training! Enjoy it as an activity you can do together and watch them flourish.