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Kids and Weightlifting

Expert Pediatrics Q&A


Updated January 13, 2007

Q. Can kids lift weights? My 11 year old son, who is very athletic, wants to begin lifting some free weights to help get more fit.

A. While the American Academy of Pediatrics is against weight lifting, power lifting, and body building, they do approve of strength training programs for children and teens.

What is the difference?

Both weight lifting and power lifting are considered competitive sports that emphasize 'maximum lifting ability' or lifting as much weight as you can.

On the other hand, strength training involves 'the use of resistance methods to increase one's ability to exert or resist force. The training may utilize free weights, the individual's own body weight, machines, and/or other resistance devices to attain this goal.'1

The AAP also recommends that kids should be able to complete 8 to 15 repetitions in a set and remember that the goal is not lifting as much as you can. Instead, kids can slowly begin adding weight in small increments as they are able to easily finish their sets.

Other recommendations include:

  • having a medical evaluation by your pediatrician before starting a strength training program
  • being sure to include a warm-up and cool-down routine to all workouts
  • aerobic conditioning and all major muscle groups should be included in the strength training program
  • workouts should be about 20 to 30 minutes long, 2 to 4 times a week
Most importantly, make sure your child is well supervised as he starts lifting weights, especially if he is doing it at home and won't be supervised by a trainer at school or a gym.

1AAP Policy Statements. Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness. Strength Training by Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics 2001 107: 1470-1472.

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