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Weight Training: Availability of Equipment and Adequate Supervision

These 2 external factors play a significant role in the safety of strength training for kids. If the equipment is not readily available, is not the right kind of equipment, or is in an unsupervised setting, participation in that location should be reconsidered. Most gym equipment is made for adult-sized bodies, so it is too big for kids; the arm and leg lengths are too long, and the weight plates increase a large amount at a time. Fortunately, machines that are built in sizes for children do exist in some places, but are certainly not widespread. In that case, free weights can often be used more safely and effectively because they are readily available and portable, can replicate many different sports-specific moves and positions, and can start out very small and only increase by a small amount of weight at a time. Of course, good, mature posture and balance control are absolutely necessary before starting to use free weights.

In addition, low-weight, higher-repetition exercises need to be done correctly. Proper form and technique must be strictly guided and supervised by a trained certified professional or coach who has knowledge about strength training for children. This is of enormous importance. Supervision is not an older high school student who just passes through the gym every now and then during his free period. Supervision means a knowledgeable adult who has devoted time to help teach proper form and observe the child to prevent injury. Because of the high risk of dangerous injury, lifting heavy weights with bad technique and bad supervision is only asking for disaster. Even when done properly with appropriate supervision, an injury can happen, but the many scientific studies investigating strength training in 8- to 11-year-olds show that injury rates have been virtually nonexistent when training is done correctly with strict supervision. Are you getting the picture here? The word supervision was used 5 times in just 1 paragraph. It must be important.

Let me say it again. Regardless of development or sports expertise, strength training for young people must be carried out with correct technique and strict supervision. One word, 4 syllables—sounds like supervision.

Paul R. Stricker, MD, FAAP
Last Updated
Sports Success Rx! Your Child's Prescription for the Best Experience (Copyright © 2006 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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