We are regularly asked “when should my son/daughter start weight training?” This is a common question surrounded by lots of urban legend and “somebody heard someone else say“ (insert your favorite wives tale here). Most of the commonly held beliefs surround the epiphyseal (growth) plates and the impact weight training has on growth. Studies have shown that young athletes who lift weights competitively have higher bone density and experience greater bone growth than children who do not use weights. From a biomechanics standpoint, daily activities such as running, jumping, hitting, etc., produce far greater forces on the musculoskeletal system than even heavy weight training. According to a study published by Journal of American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, kids aged 5 to 14 years are 400 percent more likely to be hurt riding their bike than they are lifting weights.
At CAMP, our training is based on functional movement, not just building muscles. If it doesn’t benefit the athlete, you won’t see us doing it. Our programs incorporate closed chain (engaging as many muscles as possible) movements with added resistance to increase the body’s ability to move quickly and forcefully. The combination of speed and force is what generates power and resistance training is the foundation of power development. With that in mind, it’s important to remember that adding resistance to a functional movement can incorporate weights, it can also mean that we use bands, gravity or a person’s own body weight as our tool for increasing functional power. With younger kids, we typically use these other tools while we build the foundation and proper technique of future weight training. Just like anything in life, the proper foundation is critical to future success. Shortcuts hurt long term development and have no place in training athletes.
Bottom line – as soon as kids begin training, we work to refine proper functional movement and add resistance once the technique is mastered. Resistance can take many different forms and is safe at very young ages if training is done properly.
Paul Campbell Director / Performance Specialist CAMP, Building Better Athletes LLC