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Training for Overweight Teen

Q: My 15-year-old son is on the chunky side. Would it be best to start with an aerobic base and get his weight down before focusing on weight training?

A: Short answer: No. I say that not just because weight training is a superior method of losing bodyfat but because an overweight young person is more likely to stick with a weight-training program. A useful study on using weight training for adolescent young men was published in 2006 in Medicine Science and Sports and Exercise (38[7]:1208-1215).

The study involved 22 subjects who lifted weights for 16 weeks. Although I found the workout to be rather lame, the average bodyfat loss was 7 percent, and the subjects increased their insulin sensitivity by approximately 45 percent, which is significant. What stood out, however, was that only one of the 22 subjects dropped out of the study. With our young people exposed to so many distractions, exercise adherence is an extremely important variable to consider when selecting a weight-loss exercise program.

Another factor to consider with overweight young people is that they can often use more substantial weights than their slender peers. Being stronger improves their self-confidence and motivation. As the authors of the study pointed out: “Overweight youth experience increased criticism during physical activities and sports, which may be related in part to decreased performance during weight-bearing physical activities compared with nonoverweight counterparts. However, overweight youth achieve greater scores during activities requiring muscular strength and thus may be more enthusiastic and compliant in resistance training programs.” Further, I’ve found that when overweight individuals lose bodyfat, they usually have exceptional leg strength because their muscles were working hard to carry around that additional bodyfat.


Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit Also, see his ad on page 147.   IM



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