Is weightlifting okay for children? Benefits you didn't know about children and weight training
Children weightlifting? What? Doesn’t that stunt their growth?
9 year old Darcy practicing her squat technique with a Rogue War Bar
The involvement of children in weightlifting
The involvement of children (0-18) in weightlifting is continually questioned due to its safety yet British Weightlifting fully endorses weightlifting (Kite, Lloyd & Hamill, 2016) so which is it? The truth is, research has proven in the recent years that strength training for children is infact very beneficial! There are actually no reasons why children shouldn’t lift weights but there are a number of reasons why they should.
Over recent years, it has been sufficiently researched and proven that strength training practiced by prepubescent children is beneficial not only for children's muscle and bone development but also is beneficial for their socialization, mental development and confidence (Faigenbaum at Al, 2009; Kite eh al, 2016; Coskun & Sahin, 2014). Recent studies have also shown benefits to increased strength, overall function and mental wellbeing in children with cerebral palsy (Lee et al, 2014). In fact, Haff & Triplett (2016) state that children as young as 5 can benefit from weight training. Pride Performance offer Pride’s Barbell Cubs (6-11) and Pride’s Youth membership and classes (11-17). The youth membership includes three weekly classes; weightlifting x2 and strength and conditioning as well as opening up Olympic Weightlifting Club up to both youth and adults. Pride also offers half price personalised coaching for 6-17-year olds.
Hamill (1994) found two factors for the high safety level of weight training and weightlifting in children; a knowledgeable and qualified coach who puts in the time and effort to coach effectively and supportively (Faigenbaum et al, 2009; Kite et al, 2016) and the learning of skills with light weights to begin forcing the learning into a progressive approach (Keskinen, 2014) with correct grip and movements being learned with a stick prior to progression onto a barbell. At Pride Performance, both Heather and Andy are British Weightlifting qualified and we offer a range of equipment from Rogue War Bars which are essentially glorified PVC pipes with weightlifting markings, to 8kg and 12kg bars as well as technique bumper plates and progression is based on both abilities to lift the increased weight and on technique. In support of Kite et al (2016) who states that children who lift should be judged and scored on technique as opposed to weight lifted, Pride looks at both strength and technique when progressing a child to an increased weight. Even when a child / youth may be physically strong enough to lift an increased weight, they will not be allowed to progress if they don’t have their form and technique at the lower weight and will always decrease weight again if necessary.
Haff & Triplett (2016) also state that coaches should talk to children on a level which they understand and when children are learning to weight lift. With Andy being a primary school PE teacher and Heather holding a post-graduate degree in early childhood and a postgraduate in therapeutic play studies, as well as childcare and multiple SEN qualifications therefore holding the knowledge not only of weightlifting but also of children, how to communicate and how to teach effectively as well as being willing to demonstrate proper technique for the children which they are teaching as the visual display can teach the athlete more than a verbal explanation (Keskinen, 2014). During all Pride’s Barbell Cubs (6-11) classes and youth (11-17) classes, the session’s coach will demonstrate each movement both at the beginning of the movement and throughout the session where appropriate and will also use video footage of the movements to break it down further visually.
Haff & Triplett (2016) also state that the coach should promote fun physical activity which compliments the strength training and encourages children to be active in their accessories. Pride’s Barbell Cubs implements this through splitting the 45-minute sessions into two parts. We focus on some lifting movements such as Olympic weightlifting and we do this in progressive stages teaching movement by movement with very light technique equipment for the first half of the session and then we use fun obstacle courses to encourage children to move in ways which improve mobility, power and speed and strength. An example of one Cub’s obstacle course included an obstacle course where the children had to jump over the river so the crocodiles didn't get them (box jumps, lower body power), walk over the slithery snake (balancing), run away with the pirate’s treasure (tyre drags, leg strength) and throw the hot stone (med ball throws, upper body power).
"I love it, I love to squat" - Darcy, 9 year old cub's member
Keskinen (2014) state that it is crucial that adolescents move enough while they are growing and going through puberty so what better way is there to do this than weightlifting? They can benefit their bodies natural changes whilst learning a sport which is not only fun but also competitive at an Olympic level. Kite et al (2016) argue that Physical Education departments should look to actively engage with the sport of Weightlifting during extra-curricular and curricular time in order to further develop its associated benefits and provide a better quality of life to youths overall which further enforces the importance and benefits of weight lifting and strength training for both children and youths.
"Pride Performance coaching had me achieve 4 north west powerlifting records in my class so, their dedication, passion and intelligent training is proven. And more importantly a joy to train with" - 16 year old youth member & North West Powerlifting Record holder, Max
Research has identified that weight training and weightlifting can provide children with both physical and psychological benefits including the reduced risk of injury and increasing muscle strength and power (Kite et al, 2016) with it actually being less dangerous than many other sports for high school age pupils (11-18) (Hamill, 1994) such as gymnastics, Taekwondo and even football. Weightlifting develops all athletic qualities needed in the majority of sports due to the variety of the movements and the muscle work which is needed to execute them (Keskinen, 2014). Strength training in youth football players induces performance improvement such as an increase in jumps and sprinting speed as well as a reduced rate of injuries (Zouita et al, 2016; Faigenbaum, 2009).
What better way for your child to;
Help your child stay active
Help your child maintain a healthy weight
Increase your child’s confidence and self-esteem
Increase positive mental health through increased confidence in self
Improve overall fitness
Increase your child’s concentration in academic studies
Than allowing them to take part in an Olympic Sport which is fun, different and beneficial both physically in health, growth and other sport performance and psychologically in self-esteem and confidence?
“Strength training has made me feel strong & confident in myself as not only part of a supportive group of people, they have helped me to achieve my goals which I couldn’t have imagined reaching a year ago. I love what it has done to my confidence” - 17 year old youth member, Becky
"Within a short period of time, taking up weightlifting has helped me to increae my confidence and my strength. It is also really fun" - Pride youth member, 15 year old Matt
Pride’s Barbell Cubs (6-11) Saturday 4:15pm - 5pm, Monday 4:15pm - 5pm
Youth Olympic Weightlifting Class (11-17) Tuesday & Thursday 4pm – 5pm
Free when a youth member
Youth Strength & Conditioning Class (11-17) Friday 4pm – 5pm
Free when a youth member
Weightlifting Club (open for youth and adults) Sunday 3:30pm – 5:30 pm & Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 7:30pm – 9pm
Coskun, A., & Sahin, G. (2014). Two Different Strength Training and Untrained Period Effects in Children. Journal of Physical Education and Sport. 14(1), 42-46
Faigenbaum, A., Kraemer, W., Blimkie, C., Jeffries, I., Micheli, L., Nitka, M., & Rowland, T. (2009). Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position Statement Paper from the National Strength & Conditioning Association. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 0, 1-20.
Haff, G., & Triplett, N. (2016). Essential of Strength Training and Conditioning, 4th Edition. United States: Human Kinetics
Hamill, B, P. (1994). Relative Safety of Weightlifting and Weight Training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 8 (1): 53-57
Keskinen, M. (2014). Strength Training & Olympic Weightlifting for Children aged 12-15. University of Applied Sciences.
Kite, R., Lloyd, R., & Hamill, B. (2016). British Weightlifting Position Statement: Youth Weightlifting. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Rich_Kite/publication/321039287_British_Weight_Lifting_Position_Statement_Youth_Weightlifting/links/5a0a1dda45851551b78d2ef9/British-Weight-Lifting-Position-Statement-Youth-Weightlifting.pdf 23/04/2018
Lee, D, R., Kim, Y, H., Kim, D, A., Lee, J, A., Hwang, P, W., Lee, M, J., & You, S, H. (2014). Innovative Strength Training Induced Neuroplasticity and Increased Muscle Size and Strength in Children with Spastic Cerebral Palsy: An Experimenter-blind Case Study – Three Month Follow Up. Neuro Rehabilitation, 35(1), 131-136
Turner, A., & Comfort, P. (2018). Advanced Strength and Conditioning: An Evidence-based Approach. New York: Routledge Publishing
Zouita, S,. Zouita, ABM., Kebsi, W., Dupont, G., Salah, B., Fatma, Z., Zouhal, H., & Abderraouf, B, A. (2016). Strength Training Reduces Injury in Elite Young Soccer Players During One Season. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 30(5), 1295-1307
Written by Pride Performance's British Weightlifting Coach Heather Flannery, May 9th 2018