Research has shown that strength-training can be both safe and effective for most youth when age-appropriate training guidelines are followed.
For decades youth strength training was widely discouraged, as many people viewed this type of training as dangerous, believing that it would stunt children’s growth by causing damage to their bone growth plates. From that misconception, resistance training was presumed to be a high risk activity, in which injuries were quite prevalent.
Studies have shown a low risk of injury in children and adolescents who follow age-appropriate strength training guidelines. In fact, when considering the injury rates among adolescents reported in other sports (such as football, gymnastics, and wrestling), resistance training actually proves to a safer option, and poses no greater risk of injury than many of the sports and activities that youth regularly participate in.
As with most activities, there is some degree of inherent risk of musculoskeletal injury. However, when it comes to strength training that risk is very manageable and can be decreased by having youth participate in strength-training programs which are appropriately designed following established guidelines, and are properly instructed and supervised by a qualified professional, who holds an NCCA-accredited fitness certification, has extensive experience working with youth, and is extremely knowledgeable regarding the unique physical and emotional needs, abilities and interests of children and adolescents.
What about age?
There is no minimum age requirement to participate in a youth strength-training program. For the most part, if your child is ready to participate in some type of athletic activity, he or she may be ready for strength training. This can occur as early as 7 or 8 years of age if your child possesses the emotional maturity to listen to and follow directions.
What about equipment?
It has been shown that bodyweight exercises and exercises that utilize various types of equipment (e.g., dumbbells, medicine balls, child-size weight machines, etc) are both safe and effective for youth.
If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, I’d recommend checking out ACE’s book Youth Strength Training for evidence-based responses to some of the most common myths on the subject, in addition to six full-body workouts.