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Ask an Expert - Kids and Resistance Training

Should kids perform resistance (weight) training?

Bryan Christensen, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, NDSU

Absolutely! Youth can gain many benefits from performing a properly designed and supervised resistance training program.
The benefits include increased bone mineral density, increased strength, improved sports performance, weight control, enhanced self-esteem and a reduced risk of injuries.

Despite all the benefits, some people still believe youth should not be involved in resistance training. This belief usually is due to worry about the kids getting injured while resistance training. The main concern is damage to the growth plates of bones.

Although any physical activity carries some risk, the rate of injuries while resistance training is much lower than the risk
from many common sports that young people participate in, such as football, hockey, basketball and soccer. In fact, resistance training leads to increased strength of not only the muscles but also the bones, ligaments and tendons, thus reducing the risk of injury during sports participation. The majority of the few injuries that occur during resistance training usually are due to improper and unsupervised resistance training, which results in improper technique, using too much weight and dropping or walking into weights.

When thinking about resistance or weight training, most people think of machines, dumbbells, barbells and weight plates. However, resistance can be provided by a youth’s own body weight. For many kids, using their own body weight, such as during push-ups and pull-ups, will provide enough resistance. If weight plates or dumbbells are being used as resistance, youth should use a weight with which they can complete six to 15 repetitions. Resistance training can be completed by youth two to three days per week on nonconsecutive days.

The youth’s maturity, interest and enthusiasm should be taken into consideration when getting a young person started with resistance training. Resistance training is a lifetime activity; therefore, it should be fun so that youth will want to continue the activity throughout their life. The benefi ts will lead to an improved quality of life for decades to come.

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