Youth Strength Training?

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When Is It Safe for Children to Start Strength Training?

“We are urban dwellers stuck in hunter-gatherer bodies…that’s true for children as well as adults. There was a time when children ‘weight trained’ by carrying milk pails and helping around the farm. Now few children, even young athletes, get sufficient activity…If a kid sits in class or in front of a screen for hours and then you throw them out onto the soccer field or basketball court, they don’t have the tissue strength to withstand the forces involved in their sports. That can contribute to injury”

—Dr. Lyle Micheli, MD—New York Times—2010—

A few days ago, The Wall Street Journal published the article; When Is It Safe for Children to Start Strength Training? The author quotes Dr. Benjamin, a professor of orthopedic surgery and pediatrics and the director of primary-care sports medicine at the University of Chicago, for her professional opinion on what strength training is, its risks and benefits for children and adolescents, as well as when it’s safe to add weights.

Dr. B encourages children to learn the basics and good form before adding weight, at the same time however, she discourages children from participating in power lifting, body building or single-repetition lifts of very heavy weights. For the sole purpose of preventing injury, she suggests strengthening the core only with sit-ups or Pilates—no weightlifting necessary until around the age of 12 or after puberty.


 HPC can agree that “any age is a good age. But there does seem to be something special about the time from about age 7 to 12. The nervous system is very plastic. The kids are very eager. It seems to be an ideal time to hard-wire strength gains and movement patterns…A well-structured program can be so much fun that it never occurs to the kids that they’re getting quote-unquote ‘strength training’ at all”

—Dr. Faigenbaum—New York Times—2010—

A recent article, Overcoming Resistance: The Case for Strength Training in Children and Adolescents, offers evidence indicating that children as young as 5-6 years old can also benefit from strength training. Notably, an increase in muscle mass following puberty plays a significant role in developing and improving strength, whereas strength gains among children are driven primarily by neural adaptations (e.g., enhanced motor unit recruitment and synchronization) (Smith, 2017).


SMITH, J. (2017). Overcoming Resistance: The Case for Strength Training in Children and Adolescents. Sport Health, 35(1), 15–18. Retrieved from

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