If your 10-year-old son wants to start lifting weights to improve his strength or boost his performance in sports, applaud him for wanting to get healthier. Kids who regularly strength train are more likely to build healthy muscles and bones and less likely to become injured, according to KidsHealth from Nemours. The notion of your child strength training may bring to your mind visions of him pumping iron at a gym, but rest assured that a strengthening program for kids is different than one for adults.
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Strength Training, Bodybuilding and Weightlifting
Strength training isn't bodybuilding or weightlifting. The later activities emphasize competition and progressively large muscle gains. Trying to lift heavier weights or gain muscle mass can strain your 10-year-old's tendons, muscles and growth plates. This is especially true if your child ends up trying to bypass safety rules and neglect his physical limitations in order to lift more weight.
Your child should be ready to learn some strength training exercises if he is developmentally prepared to participate in an organized sport such as gymnastics or school football. Your pediatrician should assess your child's physical readiness, emotional stability and mental preparedness to follow instructions before you sign your child up for any sport or strength training class.
Even the most prepared 10-year-old shouldn't participate in anything that is merely a scaled down version of an adult weight-training program, warns KidsHealth from Nemours. At age 10 your child is still likely to enjoy game play, which can be incorporated into his exercise sessions. For example, his instructor may assign a strengthening exercise to each number on a pair of dice, allow your child to roll the dice and then instruct him to do the exercise that corresponds with the number he rolls.
Your son's strength training coach should focus on gradually helping him gain strength and encourage him to pay close attention to safety and technique. Each session should start with at least a five to 10 minute warm up to reduce your child's risk of becoming injured, include exercises for all areas of the body and end with some gentle stretches. The coach will also start your child out with light weights as he learns to lift properly and increase the weight in small increments after he can easily perform about 15 repetitions of an exercise, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Another important aspect of strength training is giving muscles time to rest and build, so exercise sessions should occur no more than about three to four days a week.
Although your son may want to see physical gains as a result of his efforts, he won't gain muscle in the same way adults can until he goes through puberty, according to the Hospital for Special Surgery. Explain this to him in advance and emphasize that getting stronger and increasing his athletic performance are more important than having bigger muscle fibers.