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Is Your Child Too Young to Train Like a World Cup Athlete? June 27, 2019

North Bethesda, North Bethesda
Is Your Child Too Young to Train Like a World Cup Athlete?, North Bethesda, Maryland

Now that the Women’s World Cup is in full swing, children –and their parents – all over the world are wondering if they have the athleticism to compete in sports on the world stage.

It is great to aspire to become a World Cup champion, but how old should a child be before beginning athletic training?

As a Certified Athletic Trainer and the founder of Fitness for Health, a therapeutic, exercise facility working with children through senior citizens - and professional athletes such as Jerome Couplin III, formerly of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams - in the Washington, DC, area, I am routinely asked, “When can my child begin lifting weights/strength training to prepare for sports season or the World Cup 2022?”

“Resistance training,” “strength training” and “weight training” all relate to the use of free weights and/or weight machines to increase muscular strength and muscular endurance. Weight lifting involves the use of free weights (usually heavier than those used in weight training). It is very important to remember that lifting weights can cause injury, especially if the athlete is not physically mature enough to handle the movement and/or weight. Proper technique is also very important for injury prevention and for maximum results — no matter your age.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that:

  • Children be well supervised by qualified adults.
  • Any weight training program be appropriate to the child's stage of maturation and assessed objectively by medical personnel. (Proper bone development is one of the key factors to assess.)
  • Children avoid weight lifting, power lifting, bodybuilding and the use of maximal amounts of weight until they have met certain developmental criteria.

The biggest indication of whether children can lift weights is their physical maturity. Using weights or excessively exercising at a young age can impair their growth permanently. Although it’s true that exercising strengthens your muscles and bones, doing too much too soon and improper form can lead to damaging muscles and bones with injuries. Extra care is needed for teenagers with an interest for weight training - whether for sports or personal health.

Speak to a physician before allowing your child to begin a strength or weight training regimen. To give yourself peace of mind, consider working with an athletic trainer who has a degree in kinesiology or physical education and has experience working with children and teenagers.  Or, register your child in a program at a children’s gym where he/she will receive one-on-one instruction in a workout specifically designed to meet his/her individual goals.

Encouraging kids to be physically active is important at any age. In fact, kids who are active at a young age tend to stay active later in life — and have a lower risk of becoming obese and developing heart disease. But, it is also important to ask your child why he/she wants to begin a more formalized workout program.  Is it to lose weight to increase self-esteem? Improve athletic skills? Begin bodybuilding? Your child’s answers will give you an indication whether he/she is emotionally ready and also clue you in if any problems may exist. For example, if your child is being bullied, he/she may want to “bulk up” in order to feel safe and secure.

About Fitness for Health:

Do you or your child want an athletic edge for fall sports? Want to train like a professional athlete?

Try EDGE Training - Athletic Performance Development to improve hand-eye coordination, visual reaction time, peripheral awareness, agility, balance, proprioception and athletic conditioning utilizing the latest in exergaming technology.  All are areas that will make the difference – and give you the EDGE during game time. 

Call 301-231-7138 to register for a FREE tour or attend our Open House on this Sunday, July 7, from 5pm – 6pm.

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