Last year, I began weight training with my two sons.
My family often makes friendly wagers on football games. In this case, I had a bet with my older son, Chase, about Peyton Manning’s performance with the Denver Broncos when he returned from neck surgery. My terms were simple. For two months, Chase would accompany me to my weight lifting sessions.
I won the bet. Three times a week, Chase and I (along with my younger son, who came along for moral support) awoke at the crack of dawn and worked on the major power lifts. Chase was 13 and Dane 11, so they used very little weight to start, barely enough to challenge them, as we worked on squats, dead lifts and bench presses.
At the end of two months, they absolutely hated it – and me, when I woke them with a hug before dawn. Chase fulfilled his payoff of the bet and I retuned to doing the early morning routines solo.
Several days ago he asked me if we could get some weights for the house. I tried to contain my smile, but it burst through. The introduction to lifting didn’t land at the time of my introduction, but that’s what being the leader of men is about. He believes it’s his brainchild to start weight training now, about a year later, and I love that.
For eons, people have believed that weight training for children was a bad idea. A study in the 1970s of Japanese child laborers found them to be shorter than their peers; researchers assumed that moving heavy objects day after day had stunted normal growth.
New research shows the exact opposite. From the New York Times:
But a major new review just published in Pediatrics, together with a growing body of other scientific reports, suggest that, in fact, weight training can be not only safe for young people, it can also be beneficial, even essential.
In the Pediatrics review, researchers with the Institute of Training Science and Sports Informatics in Cologne, Germany, analyzed 60 years’ worth of studies of children and weightlifting. The studies covered boys and girls from age 6 to 18. The researchers found that, almost without exception, children and adolescents benefited from weight training.
Children in the studies didn’t bulk up the same way that adults do. Instead, the changes happen on the neurological level. Children who participate in strength training are able to use their muscles more efficiently, a benefit that does not occur when beginning weight training later in life.
The studies also discovered that children who participate in sports and also do strength training exercises are at a lower risk of injury, due to strengthening their muscles, tendons and ligaments.
This doesn’t mean we load up the bar and throw it on their back; quite the contrary. Nor do I think we should force children into massive workout regimes for which they are not ready or interested. However, by introducing the process safely and sensibly, they will often begin to make healthy lifestyle choices on their own that will benefit them for years to come.