When Should Kids Start Training?
One of the most common things we hear parents say about lifting is that it may stunt growth and that kids should not begin training or lifting until after puberty. I don’t want to say that parents should not be careful about where they send their kids and what activities they do, I would be worried if they weren’t. The important thing is that parents are accurately informed on what is beneficial and what can be harmful to kids training and lifting at a young. To highlight some key points parents should be aware of, I am going to summarize parts of a research review published in the Health and Fitness Journal by Myer et al.
The researchers address the question of what age is too young to begin training in kids. One of the first points they make is that the actual age of a kid is not as important as the developmental stage they are in including physical maturation, mental attentiveness, and training age. It is important to realize is that there is a wide definition of the word “training”. Often parents see grown men and women lifting very heavy weight and are worried about there 9 year old child doing the same sort of things, rightfully so. However they should also know that being involved in youth sports, or simply playing in the backyard could also be considered “training”, as it is developing motor skills as well as the muscular and cardiovascular systems. Training can range from a kid running around the yard to an Olympic lifter clean and jerking 400lbs. The key is that each individual client is performing exercises that are developing their neuromuscular systems in a way that will improve the movement of whatever sport or activity they are involved in.
Training age is a critical idea to understand, and is usually more important than the actual age of the athlete. Just as an 8 year old kid who has been playing basketball for 2 years constantly might be more accurate making shots than a 12 year old that has never touched a basketball in his life, that same 8 year old could have been lifting for 2 years and be able to squat 60lbs very efficiently, where a 12 year old is unable to squat the bar without falling over. That 8 year old is now not only stronger and more powerful, but with more musculature and a more efficient nervous system, they will be able to absorb impacts from landing a jump, cutting on the field, or accidentally running into another kid, decreasing the chance of getting injured.
Having a greater training age at a young age will improve how an athlete responds to puberty as well. Often times little muscular imbalances or tightness in a kid is multiplied through puberty. Addressing those issues earlier through training can prevent them from getting much harder to reverse once the body is move developed. The key for any trainer working with a young kid is cater to their training age. For parents, it is good to realize that having a kid play a youth sports just as or more dangerous than starting a training program that is catered specifically to the developmental stage the the kid is at. Also that by training at an early age will decrease the likelihood of injury during youth sports.
See the article here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3793204/