Children and Weightlifting

I wanted to share this post from artofmanliness.com which discusses the benefits prepubescent children can obtain from weightlifting.  I was inspired to discuss this topic after three of my nephews and my niece, all ranging from 7 to 10 years in age, invaded my home gym during my dad’s memorial dinner and begged me to show them how to lift weights. I obliged, all the while monitoring their form and also making sure they were lifting a reasonable amount of weight.  They enjoyed the session so much, they have asked their parents to let them have a sleepover at Aunt Stacey’s so they can train, and play with the cats, and have fun in an environment other than their own homes.

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Image ID : 50131018

Original post can be found here: Art of Manliness Article

Brett and Kate McKay • March 1, 2018 Last updated: March 24, 2020

When Can Kids Start Lifting Weights?

vintage young boy lifting dumbbell teachers look worried

Maybe you’ve been following a barbell training program for a while now. Maybe you do your workouts in a garage gym at home, and your curious kids have been hanging out with you while you exercise and cheering you on for getting swol.

Maybe they’ve even wanted to imitate you, and would like to start lifting weights just like Dad. You start letting them hoist an empty bar a few times, and they feel like they’re ready for more.

But your wife catches wind of what you and the gang have been up to and starts raising Mom concerns. “Is it safe for kids to lift weights? Doesn’t it stunt their growth?”

Bless Mom’s heart, but she needn’t be worried.

Below we deconstruct the myths about kids and weightlifting and discuss how to safely get your kiddos started with pumping a little iron.

The Myths About Kids And Weightlifting

Weightlifting can stunt a child’s growth. This is probably the most common fear surrounding kids and weightlifting. Supposedly, if a child lifts weights it can stunt their growth in a couple of ways.

First, there’s concern that weightlifting will cause the growth plates in a child’s bones to fuse together prematurely, which will in turn hinder their overall growth.

The other concern is that weightlifting can somehow fracture growth plates, and consequently stunt growth that way.

But no proof exists that either of these worries are valid. According to Jordan Feigenbaum and Austin Baraki, who are both medical doctors and strength coaches, no evidence exists that suggests weightlifting inhibits a child’s growth. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Further, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, a growth plate fracture from weightlifting hasn’t been reported in any research study. In a Barbell Medicine podcast on this topic, Dr. Feigenbaum explained that growth plate fractures are extremely rare and require a severe amount of trauma, more than a child would ever experience lifting weights safely.

So don’t worry about weightlifting stunting your child’s growth. It’s a myth.

Weightlifting is just dangerous. Okay, weightlifting may not stunt a kid’s growth, but doesn’t the activity carry other dangers? Couldn’t children hurt their back, pull a muscle, injure their rotator cuff, damage their tendons, etc.?

In fact, your kid is more likely to get injured playing soccer or baseball than they are lifting weights. Contrary to popular belief, weightlifting is one of the safest physical activities to take part in, for folks of any age.

In my podcast interview with Dr. Feigenbaum, he highlighted research that shows that the injury rate for weightlifting injuries per thousand participation hours pales in comparison to injuries in other supposedly kid friendly sports. For example, one study found that the injury rate for weightlifting was .013 injuries per thousand practice hours. For soccer it was 1.3 injuries per thousand participation hours. So your kid is 100 times more likely to get injured playing soccer than lifting weights. Yet despite the prodigious injury rate for soccer, you don’t see parents keeping their kids from taking the field.

Bottom line: when done with proper form and supervision, weightlifting is an incredibly safe activity for your kid to do. 

At What Age Can a Child Start a Serious Weightlifting Program?

So weightlifting is safe for your kids — it won’t stunt their growth, and they won’t kill themselves doing it. That means you should definitely start your eight-year-old on the Starting Strength program, right?

Wrong.

According to Feigenbaum and Baraki, while it’s perfectly fine to let your kids do a few sets of deadlifts or squats with some light weights, you shouldn’t put them on a regimented, progressive training program (where they’re increasing the weight every session) until they’ve reached Stage 4 on the Tanner Puberty Scale. When a teenager is in Tanner Stage 4, they’re basically in full-blown puberty. Pubic hair is adult-like in both males and females. Females have almost fully developed breasts; males have larger testicles and penis, and their scrotum has become larger and darker. Males in Tanner Stage 4 will have underarm hair and the beginnings of facial hair growth, and their voice will also be deeper.

The reason you don’t want to start regularly weight training a child until they reach Tanner Stage 4 is that before then, they just don’t have the hormone levels (specifically, testosterone) to drive progress and recover from session to session.

Generally, children enter Tanner Stage 4 between ages 11 and 17. It’s different for each child. You might have a 12-year-old who’s in Tanner Stage 4 and physically ready to train when they’re in sixth grade. But you also might have a child who’s a late bloomer and won’t be ready to train until they’re a junior in high school. Don’t try to rush it. Let your child’s physical maturity determine when they start a dedicated training program.

My Prepubescent Kid Wants to Lift: What Should He Do?

Until your child reaches Tanner Stage 4, they don’t need to follow a set program; just let them lift weights in a sporadic and playful way.

The goal with weight training in prepubescent children isn’t to crush PRs, but rather to learn the movement patterns for the lifts and cultivate a lifelong love of fitness.

Research shows that prepubescent children can get stronger following a supervised weightlifting program, but the strength they gain comes from an increase “in the number of motor neurons that are ‘recruited’ to fire with each muscle contraction.” Basically, as your kids practice the barbell lifts, their motor neurons become more efficient, and they’re better able to display strength. Your kids won’t start packing on real muscle from strength training until they reach Tanner Stage 4 puberty.

Here are a few guidelines on how to guide your prepubescent children in weightlifting:

Don’t force weightlifting on your kids. If they express an interest in lifting, encourage it. But don’t force them to do it. That’s a surefire way to instill a dislike for exercise later on. They’ve got the rest of their lives to be serious with their workouts. Most of the professional, super strong dudes I know who have kids have never proactively tried to get them to lift weights. For example, powerlifter Chris Duffin makes his living being strong and teaching people how to be strong. But he has a policy of not actively encouraging his kids to lift. If they want to, he shows them how, and he keeps the session light and fun.

Keep the weight light. Your kids shouldn’t be grinding out super heavy singles when they lift. The focus should be on form, not weight lifted. Most adult-sized barbells will be too large for a child. Get a bar specifically made for kids from Rogue. They weigh about 11 lbs.

Standard barbell weights should be just fine for kids. They probably won’t be using the 25-45 lb plates for a while, but most kids should be able to lift a barbell with 2.5-10 lb plates depending on the lift. My four-year-old daughter, Scout, can press the Rogue kid’s bar with 2.5 lbs on each side 5 times without any trouble. That’s 16 pounds total.

If you’d like to have your kids lift even lighter weights, consider buying some microplates. They allow you to make .5-2.5 lb increases in load.

Keep weightlifting sessions fun and playful. The primary goal when kids start lifting weights or doing any exercise program is help them get the movements down and to instill a love fitness in them. Also, a lot of young children just don’t have the attention span to follow a regimented program yet. Just let them play with barbells and provide feedback on form. With my kids, when they come down to “train” with Dad, they put some weight on the kid bar and bust out a few sets, then they go play with something else, before maybe coming back to do another set. It’s not structured at all.

If your kid wants a program, keep the reps high and increase weight gradually. If your kid really wants a program, create one for them but keep the reps high, and increase weight in small increments over a long period of time. One study that looked at youth weight training found that 1 to 2 sets with 6 to 15 repetitions per set was ideal for young children.

Start kids with a weight that they can lift 10-15 times, with some fatigue but no muscle failure. Then gradually make small increases in the weight. Once your kid can easily do 15 reps of an exercise, you increase the weight by 5-10%.

Your kid should always be able to do 10 reps without much strain. If they can’t, then the weight has gotten too heavy for them.

If the weight is kept light and you’re not increasing it every session, letting your kids do 2-3 sessions a week (on non-consecutive days) should be fine. Even just one a week may satisfy their nascent curiosity and interest.

Even If Your Kid Is Following a “Program,” Mix Things Up

Even if your 10-year-old is following a semi-structured weightlifting program, make sure they mix in other exercises. Kids should be exposed to as many physical movements as possible when they’re young. Specializing at a young age can be detrimental to athletic performance later in life, so make sure they throw medicine balls, swing a kettlebell, do pull-ups, and perform simple bodyweight movements and MovNat exercises.

Bottom line: Weightlifting is perfectly safe for your children to do. It won’t stunt their growth and they aren’t likely to injure themselves doing it. Before your kid hits puberty, let them practice the movements as much as they want with a light bar made for children. Don’t introduce regular training that progressively adds significant load to each session until they hit Tanner Stage 4 puberty. Keep on being a good example of fitness until they’re out of the house (and beyond!).

I don’t want children — stop telling me I’ll change my mind | Christen Reighter

I absolutely love this TED Talk by Christen Reighter, who talks about the resistance she met with when attempting to obtain approval for tubal ligation. There are two statements in particular which struck me:

“I’ve always believed that having children was an extension of womanhood, not the definition.”

“I believe that a woman’s value should never be determined by whether or not she has a child, because that strips her of her entire identity as an adult unto herself.”

The resistance which Ms. Reighter encountered during her consultations for tubal ligation was unfounded in both my opinion as a woman, and also as a physician. It’s astonishing how medical colleagues refused to hear her argument for the ligation, and how her primary doctor kept insisting that she would change her mind at some point. What infuriates me even more was that the doctors abused medical paternalism, infusing their own beliefs about what a woman might be feeling about the idea of motherhood, and essentially stripping this woman of her rights.

Similar to what Christen Reighter believes, I have never bought into the lie that it has been my duty as a woman to have children. I have always bristled when people would try to pressure me to start a family. I have received this pressure from my family and feel that this is appropriate, but I have also been pressured by friends, patients, acquaintances and complete strangers. What is with the intense societal pressure to create progeny?

I have never experienced anything more than a brief and passing curiosity about the idea of having a child, and now that I am post-menopausal, I no longer have to concern myself with it. I don’t feel that I am incomplete or less of a woman because I chose not to have a mini-me. I essentially chose to be childless for a number of reasons, and I had the right to make that decision regardless of what anyone else thought.

Bravo to Christen Reighter for proclaiming her strong beliefs and standing her ground.

Childhood Quirks

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Copyright : Yael Weiss

My mom taught me how to blow bubbles with bubble gum when I was 5 years old, sparking a years-long obsession with gum.  I loved trying different flavors of gum: orange, grape, strawberry, Fruit Stripe (anyone remember this?), lime, bubble gum flavor, you name it.

I was so obsessed with different flavors of gum that I developed a rather odd and disgusting habit which sounds so horrific to me now.  When I found an especially tasty morsel of gum, I would stop chewing it before all the flavor left, then stick the wad on the underside of a small card table I had in my room.  At any given time, I would have between 6 to maybe 10 wads of chewed gum under that table.  When I wanted to experience the flavor of a gum again, I would pry the gum off the underside of the table, then go to the bathroom sink and run the gum under steaming hot water until it softened up.  Once the gum was heated up, I’d pop it in my mouth and chew happily away.

I definitely doubt that the water was hot enough to disinfect the gross little clumps of gum, and I think it’s a miracle that I didn’t become ill from that unsanitary habit!

Is anyone else brave enough to admit to a strange or gross habit they might have had when they were children?

 

The Days Of Trick Or Treating Are Over

42308248 – children in fancy costume dress going trick or treating

Halloween was always my favorite holiday, because I could dress up as anything I wanted to be. It was always such a blast to think of what I wanted to be for Halloween, and my mother always obliged, albeit begrudgingly at times when she wasn’t thrilled with my choice or had to put together a costume for me. That being said, there were only two years in which she took on the task of putting a costume together for me: in fifth grade, when I went as Cleopatra, and once in seventh grade when I went as Princess Leia.

Year after year, I used the same hard plastic trick or treat pumpkin which my mother bought me when I was five years old, and I always managed to get that Jack O’ Lantern filled to the brim with candy when I went trick or treating. Back then, parents were concerned about apples containing razorblades, so I was instructed to never accept apples, but I could accept all the candy I wanted, as long as the wrappers were intact. I had my favorites, like Snickers Minis and Dubble Bubble Gum, but I was such a polite kid that I was happy to get any candy when I approached front doors and made that request:

“Trick or Treat!”

The Halloween I celebrated in sixth grade was characterized by trick or treating with several friends in Bel Air, an upscale community in Los Angeles. When we knocked on the doors of the beautiful homes there, we didn’t get Dum Dums or candy corn. Instead, we received things like full sized Hershey bars and little boxes of Godiva chocolates. One house we went to handed out $5 bills, which was a sizeable amount to a ten-year old in 1976!

Things have changed dramatically over the years, with parents opting to take their children to the mall or to scheduled events in lieu of knocking on doors at dusk. I completely understand why, since the hazards of walking around after dark and accepting candy from strangers can be just like playing Russian roulette. In the eleven years that I have lived in the same community, I have only had four groups of children trick or treating. It’s a dying trend.

Nope, I Really Don’t Want Kids

I do not want kids
People are continually amazed when I reveal my utter lack of desire to have children. Though I have found myself pondering the concept of having children while in relationships (including my most recent one), I find that as a single woman, I truly don’t see myself ever pursuing an opportunity to have a child. I have felt this way my entire life, even when I was married, and knew in my heart that unless a man swept me off my feet and somehow convinced me that having a child would be a great idea, that I would never willingly sign up for motherhood. Yes, I have come very close to agreeing to the whole kid thing, and I think I am probably still at risk of being somehow convinced that the idea might fly, but I would never make such a decision on my own. I have NEVER been the kind of woman who has watched children playing, or has seen babies in a nursery, and thought, I want one! I don’t yearn for the mother-child connection, and I don’t feel the need to create a mini-me.

There are a multitude of reasons besides my general lack of interest in the concept of having children which support my decision to remain child-free, but the three main reasons are:

1. KIDS ARE EXPENSIVE: Raising a child is unbelievably expensive. Be prepared to spend $245,000 to raise a child in the United States from birth at 2013 up to age 18. Here is a reference article so you can see the breakdown of costs:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/08/18/raising-child-cost-2013/14236535/

This is insane to me. I can barely get by as it is, and cannot imagine dealing with the financial burden of raising a child. No thank you.

2. TOO MUCH ON MY PLATE: I have so many projects that demand all of my time and focus, and am well aware of the fact that ALL of that would crumble if I were to have a child. Since I have no intention of redirecting my attention, no children will come into the picture. I certainly would never want to be a neglectful mother, and that is why I would relinquish all of the activities (EXCEPT gym time and eating clean!) that consume the bulk of my time and energy. I am not selfish enough to rob a child of all that he or she should experience, and would make every sacrifice to send the child to the best schools and provide everything possible. That would mean the end of all that I have known in my life as an independent woman.

3. I VALUE MY FREEDOM: It is pretty liberating to be able to leave at a moment’s notice (provided it doesn’t conflict with my work schedule) to go out of town, pop over to a store to run an errand, go out with friends from time to time, or just take a rare nap in the middle of the day. If I had a child, I would have to plan EVERYTHING in advance, arrange for child care, or take the child with me, along with diaper bag, formula, etc. I would feel so incredibly encumbered that I know my spirit would suffer.

i-cant-wait-to-have-kids
For those of you who wonder if I feel any sadness over being childless, I can tell you without hesitation that I value my freedom far more, and as a result, couldn’t be happier about the fact that I have no children. People still seem so shocked by that, as if an adult is supposed to feel some type of longing for parenthood. Society often regards people who choose not to have children as somehow inadequate, which is ridiculous, since those of us without children often have schedule flexibility which people with children can usually only fantasize about, and we have just as much value despite the lack of progeny.

I also find it extremely irritating and condescending when a WOMAN asks me if I have any children, and upon my negative reply, says, “Oh, yeah, that’s why you look so good.” This only prompts me to bust out photos of women in the fitness industry who have borne as many as SIX children and who rock washboard abs and fantastic muscularity and conditioning throughout their bodies. The desire to keep my body in its best shape ever has been a minor factor in my decision to avoid having children, but it by no means has been a primary reason. Fit women have proven over and over again that it is possible to bounce back into great shape after having children.

If you’re worried about me being child-free, remember that I love the flexibility and freedom in my life. I have pets whom I love dearly, and I have incredible friends. I don’t perceive any hole in my life because I never bore a child.

Not Everyone Is Meant To Have Children

BabiesIt has always bothered me when people have pressured me to start a family. I have received this pressure from my family and feel that this is appropriate, but I have also been pressured by friends, patients, acquaintances and complete strangers. What is with the intense societal pressure to create progeny? I have never understood it and will never allow ANYONE to pressure me into popping out a kid. It is NOT my duty as a woman. Besides, I joke that the dairy section is getting stale, when in reality, it isn’t a joke. The medical risks associated with pregnancy in women over the age of 35 are considerable and not something I want to sign up for.

On another note, I have noticed that the older I get, the less interested I am in being around babies and children. I tolerate them and simply do not imagine my life colored by the incessant responsibilities and time requirements of child-rearing. Let me be the aunt or honorary aunt and observe from a considerable distance and for brief snippets of time. It’s not that I don’t like children. I think they are cute enough, but I don’t experience the ache that many childless women describe when seeing an adorable child.

Perhaps someone will sweep me off my feet and change my mind about raising children, but it is highly unlikely. I love my life and my freedom and do not feel that I am incomplete because I don’t have children. If I want to feel more rooted to my homebase, I will get a dog.

Woof.

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