Teens Who Want to Weight-lift
Many teens start getting interested in weightlifting around the ages of 14 to 18. The reasons are varied; to look better, feel healthier, get stronger or to improve their performance in sport. But is Strength Training a positive influence and safe? Also, how should teens eat to support their health and fitness goals?
There are many benefits to weight training for teens as well as adults. One of these benefits is a psychological one. Lifting weights and being active brings positive thoughts. It increases confidence and can treat depression according to a Harvard study that found that ten weeks of weight training reduced depression symptoms more effectively than counselling. Doing hard physical tasks like weightlifting can increase a teens resilience. There are also physiological health benefits to weightlifting including:
- strengthened bones
- strengthened muscles
- increased athletic performance
- disease prevention
- lowered blood pressure and controlled blood sugar levels
Should Teens Train Differently
Teens should train under supervision especially at first and if they are immature. Adults and teens alike should emphasise proper form and technique over weight lifted or repetitions perfo
rmed to majorly reduce injury risks.
For young teens they may be unable to use machines due to their height and can instead focus on free weights. This should be supervised. Most gyms do not allow under 16’s to use free weights unsupervised, due to immaturity rather than physical ability.
According to Dr. Kowal-Connelly from healthychildren.org, when a teenager goes through a growth spurt one of the side effects can be a loss of balance and co-ordination due to their centre of gravity and limb length changing. This could potentially mean teens could lose their ability to execute a lift with the correct technique. It is recommend that if a loss in balance or co-ordination is noticed then a teen should train with a lower weight than they usually use and record. A good coach will adjust a movement and watch their form until they can work their
way back to their usual weight with good form.
Young Teenagers may or may not have the desired testosterone levels to elicit muscle growth the teenager might instead choose to focus on strength gains rather than muscle growth.
Nutrition is just as or more important than your training regime depending on who you ask, and teenagers are no exception. Teenagers will have to eat a lot of food to support their fitness goals due to their fast metabolisms and a more protein rich diet than they were probably used to. The Healthline web-page suggests a protein intake of 1.6 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body-weight for active people. This protein should come from animal sources to ensure a complete amino acid profile (a complete source of protein). Combining plant sources can also create a complete amino acid profile, for example peanut butter and wholegrain toast.
Weight training while statistically it is low risk, (a review of 20 studies by Keogh JW and Winwood PW found that for every 1,000 hours of training one injury occurred noting that most injuries tended to be minor). Weight training can be dangerous for teens when they are uneducated and unsupervised. Possible serious injuries like herniated disks and bone fractures may occur. These injuries can be avoided with correct supervision, proper technique and avoiding lifting beyond capability.
There are concerns with teen weightlifting and stunted growth, fortunately this is mostly a
myth. Jeff Cavaliere a well-respected physical therapist has made an in-depth video and description about this topic. He writes “The truth is the growth plates at the ends of the tibia, femur and humours are not going to be impacted by the forces present in normal, controlled weightlifting. In no way does the squat, bench press or deadlift for example provide the type of forces and stresses to the bones that leads to growth plate injuries. These are almost always incurred by asymmetrical distorted forces to the bones that comes from falls or accidents on skateboards, snowboarding and contact sports like football and basketball.”
Weightlifting in the teenage age range has a few complications. In my opinion the positives massively outweigh the negatives. If you can take home anything from this blog, let it be that weight training for adolescents in the teenage age range is safe provided the teen has proper supervision and training. Emphasis on form and technique should be a priority and lifting heavy weights or/and high volume should not be a focus for the adolescent.
By Jaden Johnson
Lossiemouth High School and Fort Four Team Member