With such scrutiny on childhood obesity, you may be wondering if your child should be lifting weights in order to stay fit. Some kids who are involved in athletics and team sports might feel pressured to start lifting weights in order to improve performance. But it's important to make the distinction between strength-building exercises, which help kids build strength and may prevent injuries, and weightlifting or bodybuilding, which are normally done to build bulk. Children who haven't gone through puberty won't build big muscles, like bodybuilders would, no matter how hard they train. And children who haven't gone through puberty can hurt their bodies training this way. Heavy weights can put too much strain on bones that haven't completely hardened and still contain sections of cartilage, called growth plates. Resistance training with light bands and body-weight resistance exercises are best for kids. Light dumbbells are good, too.
Kids don't need as many sets as adults - one set of 12-15 reps is enough for each muscle group. Nor do kids need as many days of training per week - two or three days, with a day of rest in between - is sufficient. Proper form is the most important skill to teach kids who want to try strength training. The child can increase resistance or weight as he gets older, and proper form will keep him from hurting himself. Creating strength and endurance with weight or resistance training can benefit kids as young as 8 years old by preventing injuries while at play or while participating in sports. And it has the same benefits for overweight and obese kids as it does for adults - building muscle means the child is burning more calories, even at rest. Weight training can be a valuable part of a child's overall fitness, so if he's old enough, talk to your pediatrician about getting your child involved.