Strength training: OK for kids?

Strength training offers kids many benefits, but there are important caveats to keep in mind. Here's what you need to know about youth strength training. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Strength training for kids? You bet! Done properly, strength training offers many bonuses to young athletes. Strength training is even a good idea for kids who simply want to look and feel better. In fact, strength training can put your child on a lifetime path to better health and fitness.

Strength training, not weightlifting

For kids, light resistance and controlled movements are best — with a special emphasis on proper technique and safety. Your child can do many strength training exercises with his or her own body weight or inexpensive resistance tubing. Free weights and machine weights are other options.

Don't confuse strength training with weightlifting, bodybuilding or powerlifting. These activities are largely driven by competition, with participants vying to lift heavier weights or build bigger muscles than those of other athletes. This can put too much strain on young muscles, tendons and areas of cartilage that haven't yet turned to bone (growth plates) — especially when proper technique is sacrificed in favor of lifting larger amounts of weight.

For kids, what are the benefits of strength training?

Done properly, strength training can:

  • Increase your child's muscle strength and endurance
  • Help protect your child's muscles and joints from sports-related injuries
  • Improve your child's performance in nearly any sport, from dancing and figure skating to football and soccer

Keep in mind that strength training isn't only for athletes. Even if your child isn't interested in sports, strength training can:

  • Strengthen your child's bones
  • Help promote healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Help your child maintain a healthy weight
  • Improve your child's confidence and self-esteem
Jan. 18, 2012 See more In-depth