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Dogma Debunked

Research shows that preadolescent athletes can improve their strength by as much as 50 percent after eight to 12 weeks on a proper lifting program.


John Balik with son, JustinFor decades doctors and other so-called experts have discouraged kids from lifting weights—something about stunted growth and premature bone-plate closure. Considering all the climbing, running and jumping that kids do—usually off of roofs and out of trees—that never made a lot of sense. Now studies are showing that the danger of strength training for youngsters was overstated.

According to Sports­Health­Journal.org, the latest studies show that “participating in even a short-duration strength-training program during childhood and especially during adolescence may not only improve one’s body composition, but also increase self-esteem and improve blood lipid profiles.”

Research shows that preadolescent athletes can improve their strength by as much as 50 percent after eight to 12 weeks on a proper lifting program. They also tend to improve bone mineral density and composition, balance and lipid profiles, according to co-authors Katherine Stabenow Dahab, M.D., and Teri Metcalf McCambridge, M.D., from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Their recommendations? “The goal is to perform two to three exercises per muscle group. Start with one to two sets per exercise, with six to 15 repetitions in each set. The participants should rest one to three minutes between sets. Appropriate weight should allow proper form, some fatigue, but not complete exhaustion.”

They also say that adult supervision is central to the strength-training program’s success or failure. Children, especially boys, can be misguided by ego and attempt dangerous lifts with improper form.

Nevertheless, Dahab concludes, “the health benefits of strength training far outweigh the potential risks. Strength training, when done correctly, can improve the strength and overall health of children and adolescents of all athletic abilities. That’s especially important in today’s society, where childhood obesity rates continue to rise.”

Amen, and a breath of fresh air. Time for kids to hit the gym instead of the video-game controller.

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