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Resistance Training and Kids

It’s so hard to break through popular perception. Last night, I asked a high school freshman if he lifted weights. He’s a strong kid playing varsity for a good program, but he lacks core strength. He said he did not lift because his dad said it would stunt his growth. I and another father explained “the truth” and we talked about using resistance training to improve his offensive moves, defensive quickness and flexibility.

At the gym today, I listened to a “certified personal trainer” tell a father that his 12-year-old daughter was too young to lift weights. Instead, she could sign up for some “get fit” program. I looked at the outline for the program, and it discourages kids under age 16 from using free weights. Instead, 11-13 year olds cannot lift weights at all, and 13-16 year olds are put on weight machines.

This is such a backward approach to resistance training. And, it hurts a young athletes’ goal of becoming more athletic.

First, weight lifting, statistically, is a safe sport. Second, in terms of stunting growth, which activity is harder on the joints and bones: an explosive clean or constant running and jumping on a hardwood floor? Third, why do “certified personal trainers” assume weight training machines designed for adults are safer than free weights for children? Finally, the high repetition, low weight workout on machines like a leg press actually inhibit athletic development as much as they help it: the old mantra “you have to train fast to get fast” is violated in these slow, controlled, hypertrophy workouts.

Weight lifting, if taught correctly and supervised, is safe. Free weights are safer and more effective for athletic development. Athletes need to build explosiveness. Unfortunately, outdated information continues to affect modern day training and “professionals” exacerbate the situation.

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