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Healthy Living

Weight Training and Lifting

Somehow, something got lost in translation when muscles changed from being used for gathering food to being a way of life and look.

It is so standard to look a certain way that strength is not always an issue; simply how you appear seems most important. Young kids are exposed to the “beautiful people” so much that it is normal now for junior high and high school boys to pump weights and shave their body to get that magazine-model look. Until a decade ago, those rituals were reserved for those involved in bodybuilding and swimming (the price to pay for wearing a Speedo). But now, appearance is so paramount that kids want muscles—just because!

It is astonishing to know what is going on in our schools. The use of anabolic steroids is increasing to levels we don’t even know among junior high and high school students. Some are athletes succumbing to the pressure of doing anything to win. Some are not athletes at all, but use such dangerous drugs just to look good. Go figure. Who could imagine that young teens addicted to steroids would become the cover article of Newsweek? This is a terrible situation that is growing out of hand. The news frequently shows prominent sports figures and teams getting in trouble with steroid scandals. Youngsters rarely know the side effects and as usual, even if they do, they think the bad things will never happen to them.

Desiring muscles for more strength and power, athletic superiority, or even a ripped body is not necessarily abnormal. However, if the desired end result is one built from pressure to perform, a distortion of what a healthy body really is, or a disregard for personal safety, that is a problem. Some youth think muscles are the answer to everything, and they will go to dangerous lengths to develop them.

Other youth just see muscles all around them and think they should have them to avoid being different. Muscles are important, but they are not the end all and be all for participating in activities or sports. There is so much more that contributes to the complete package of improving sports skills and expertise. We have been discussing all of the different factors that develop over time to benefit ability. Strength is just one of them.

Let’s put the steroid craze and muscle mania aside and talk about strength training as it applies and contributes to your child’s various sporting endeavors and how development plays a part. So what about lifting weights? It may be easy to think that the sooner your child starts lifting weights, the quicker he will be able to run faster, jump higher, and throw farther. Well, think again. Maybe that is why none of the infant stores carry any beginner baby weight sets in pink and blue. When considering the question of when Johnny can start lifting weights, there are several issues that must be addressed.

Among the more important issues are

  • Age
  • Level of development
  • Reason for interest
  • Level of sports skill already achieved
  • Risk of injury
  • Availability of equipment and adequate supervision
  • Reality of gaining strength (and size)
  • How strength training works in a young body
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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