Hitting the weight room can be intimidating for anyone, especially your teen who is only beginning to build his or her exercise habits. Throwing around weights doesn't seem like the safest thing to do, but if done properly, it can be very rewarding to your almost-adult.
Most experts agree that lifting weights as an adolescent is a very good choice. Now, that's not to say your kid should try to join the 300-pound deadlift club right away (click here to see why you should deadlift!). In fact, the actual "weight" part of weight lifting doesn't matter when you're a teen. Instead, the focus should be on form, technique, frequency and enjoyment — all of which adults should focus on as well. Above all, the number one priority is safety.
"In younger teens that are still growing, the biggest concern is with injuries to the growth plates of the bone since the growth plate (called the physis) is often times the weakest part of the joint," explained John Martinez, MD. "Lifting too heavy of a weight, or a quick and forceful movement could injury the growth plate and potentially cause the bone to stop growing. Therefore it's important that teens that start any weight-lifting program start at low weights and learn proper technique."
As a parent, you're responsible for knowing what your kid is doing, including his or her programming in the weight room. Whether it's attached to a school sports program, physical education class or outside training, ask questions. Maybe you're not a weight lifter yourself, but there's no need to fear the unknown.
"As with any activity there will always be some risk of injury no matter how cautious you try to be," said Maurice Buchanan, Owner of UGO1 Fitness. "But the benefit of lifting weights far outweigh the bad. With lifting weights there is little to no impact. Just a healthy stress put upon the joints and muscles."
In order to feel better about your teen picking up a barbell, here are some easy qualities to look for:
- A good coach: There should a method to the madness; something you can easily interpret. "A good coach won't shy away from questions and will basically be an 'open book;' there to teach as much as train," said Chandler Stevens, CPT. "They'll be knowledgable on form and have a definite process, not simply picking and choosing exercises at random."
- A happy kid: Your teen should look forward to training sessions, or at least not dread them. Even if your kid isn't an athlete training in the off-season, he or she can really benefit from a weight lifting as a source of self confidence.
- Short and sweet: Not only does your teen have school full-time, but friends, maybe a job, and other extracurriculars. Gym time should be kept under an hour. "Most teens benefit from just two short sessions per week, even 45 minutes is enough for an organized session," said Stevens.
If you're still not sure, sign up for class with them (or maybe a different time slot to avoid crushing your teen's cool). Weight lifting is something teens can do now and continue to do for decades to come.
>> Read more: 8 Reasons You're Absolutely Crazy Not to Lift Weights