sk ten different weightlifting coaches this question, and you’ll get ten different answers. Many coaches will not quote a specific age, but rather state that a child must be mature enough to focus, follow directions and handle the disappointment of a failed lift.
Weightlifting coaches are generally in favor of a younger start since kids lose mobility as they age. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends waiting until age 8 to begin strength training.1
The best age for your child depends on a number of factors, including your coach’s preference and your child’s maturity level. The following questions may be helpful in determining whether your child is ready for weightlifting:
- Is your child interested in weightlifting?
- Does your child have time to devote to weightlifting?
- Is your child willing to listen and take instructions from his coach?
- Does your child have the attention span required for the scheduled weightlifting practices?
- Is your child comfortable in a sport where the focus is on individual effort?
And, if you decide that your child is not yet ready for the demands of weightlifting, you might consider a foundational sport, such as gymnastics, until your child is older.
Finally, if your child does participate, below are a few helpful guidelines to follow:2
- Provide qualified instruction and supervision
- Ensure the exercise environment is safe and free of hazards
- Start each training session with a 5 to 10 minute dynamic warm-up period
- Begin with relatively light loads and always focus on the correct exercise technique
- Perform 1 to 3 sets of 6 to 15 repetitions on a variety of upper and lower body strength exercises
- Include specific exercises that strengthen the abdominal and lower back region
- Focus on symmetrical muscular development and appropriate muscle balance around joints
- Perform 1 to 3 sets of 3 to 6 repetitions on a variety of upper and lower body power exercises
- Sensibly progress the training program depending on needs, goals and abilities
- Increase the resistance gradually (5% to 10%) as strength improves
- Cool-down with less intense calisthenics and static stretching
- Listen to individual needs and concerns throughout each session
- Begin resistance training two to three times per week on nonconsecutive days
- Use individualized workout logs to monitor progress
- Keep the program fresh and challenging by systematically varying the training program
- Optimize performance and recovery with healthy nutrition, proper hydration and adequate sleep
- Support and encouragement from instructors and parents will help to maintain interest
(2) Feigenbaum, Avery . “Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position Statement Paper.” National Strength and Conditioning Association Journal, January 9, 2009, 4.