How early is too early for lifting weights?

Professional recommendations list puberty as a safe time to participate in a regimented, moderate to high intensity weight lifting program. However, there must be consistent and knowledgeable coaching and supervision. The focus on youth weight lifting should fall heavily on the coach's shoulder rather than the athlete. Coaches could follow these guidelines to promote proper development of youth athletes:

  1. Spend the majority of the time doing calisthenics and body weight exercises. Coaches should alternate the exercise demands so the athletes are not performing the same exercises everyday, potentially providing stress to the same muscles or joints everyday. Calisthenics or body weight exercise can provide great stability, strength, flexibility, and exercise capacity by performing push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, etc.
  2. Technique is paramount - coaches should settle for nothing short of excellence. There is plenty of time to load the weight bar, but there is only a short window of opportunity to set a foundation of technique that can last a lifetime.
  3. Perform a large majority of exercises that are labeled as total body or multi-joint movements. Avoid body building (or extreme muscle gain) exercise programming until well into puberty if necessary.
  4. Keep the weights light and perform no more than three sets. These are considered safe parameters for youth athletes to begin weight training.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.