As a parent, if you're questioning whether weight training for your 15-year-old is healthy and safe, the answer is simple: Yes, as long as your teen is responsible about it. This entails using proper technique, having adequate supervision, warming up and stretching beforehand, using the right equipment and starting slowly, all to prevent injuries.
Weightlifting as a teen can be healthy, safe and wholly beneficial, provided that she lifts the appropriate amount of weight and practices proper lifting techniques.
Before Starting Weightlifting
Before embarking on a strength-training program of any kind, teens should undergo a formal medical evaluation, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). This is crucial because it can help identify certain risk factors for injuries and provide an opportunity to talk about any medical conditions your teen may have along with possible training goals and techniques.
According to the AAP, there are some conditions that may prevent your teen from lifting weights, such as a history of childhood cancer and chemotherapy, uncontrolled hypertension and seizure disorders.
Above all, you should find a weight-training instructor who understands the physical needs and capabilities of adolescents and knows what type of weight equipment is safe for teens to use.
Safe Strength Training for Teens
To successfully prevent injury, it's important to implement safe strength-training techniques and protocols. Some guidelines to take note of include:
- A trained, capable adult should always be in the room with your teen. There is simply no excuse for unsupervised weightlifting by teenagers.
- According to Stanford Children's Health, weight-training programs should focus on the individual and early lessons should focus heavily on safety and proper technique.
- Warming up and stretching beforehand are important.
- Teen weight-training programs should work different muscle groups on different days, says Stanford.
- Beginners should start with body-weight exercises, like situps and pushups, and then gradually work their way up to weight machines and free weights.
Additional Muscle-Strengthening Activities
There are plenty of other muscle-strengthening activities for teens to try, either instead of or in addition to weight training, to help vary their workouts. For instance, Dr. Bradford Landry of the Mayo Clinic recommends that teens try body-weight training. Exercises like tree or rope climbing, pushups, lunges, squats, or swinging and doing pullups on bars are great for this.
A final, critical note: According to Dr. Landry, muscle strengthening shouldn't be the only type of workout that teens do. Incorporating aerobic activity into the fitness regimen is important too. As Landry notes, high-impact aerobic activity (like swimming, hiking, running, soccer or basketball) can help teens build bone strength, which is crucial.
When done properly, lifting weights as a teenager can have several benefits: It can help boost bone density, reduce the risk of sports-related injuries, improve sports performance and strengthen tendons. Plus, it's an enjoyable way to build strength and tone muscles. Just remember that strength training isn't a substitute for sports, outdoor recreation or other healthy forms of physical activity that teens should be engaging in.