Begin weight training at a young age to improve sports performance and
overall health. Research shows that kids can do technique-oriented
training as early as age 7 in order to improve motor control and neural
drive. The benefits include enhanced jumping, running, and throwing
ability as well as better postural control.
Two new studies show the benefits of incorporating weight training into
physical education classes. An 8-week study of 7 year olds had them do
15 minutes of weight training exercises at the beginning of gym class
twice a week. Results showed significant gains in abdominal endurance
and jumping ability that were much greater than those seen in a group of
students who participated in the gym class but did not weight train.
Researchers also tested what would happen to the physical performance
gains after an 8-week detraining period. Results showed the following:
• The kids experienced no detraining or performance decrease in
abdominal endurance, whereas they did regress somewhat in the single-leg
hop, but not back to baseline. Performance on a long jump test returned
to baseline after 8 weeks of detraining.
• Researchers think that the changes in performance during detraining
in youth vary depending on the complexity of the skill and the
musculature involved. For instance, endurance in the core is better
maintained, whereas power and strength in the lower body requires more
regular training stimulus.
• It is appropriate for youth as young as 6 or 7 to start doing
technique training with light loads and low volume. Neuromuscular
adaptations will occur and children this young will gain strength.
• Weight training can easily be included in gym classes to teach kids
technique, build coordination, and improve athletic performance. This
study shows 30 minutes a week of training will produce considerable
results and is a reasonable method of combating obesity.
A second study of older girls in 10th grade also showed significant
physical gains from training during a gym class for 6 weeks. Results
showed that a muscular endurance program increased abdominal endurance
by 23 percent, the number of push-ups that could be done by 27 percent,
and jumping ability by 8 percent.
Similar to the study of 7 year olds, this showed that the girls had
greater improvements in the core and upper body than in the lower body.
This may be due to the training stimulus (both programs were muscular
endurance programs rather than strength or power focused), age of the
trainees, short duration of the study, or some other unidentified
Rest assured that kids can start weight training at a very young age—as
early as 6 or 7—and they are highly trainable. Weight training is the
best method of preparing kids for sports and helping them avoid injury.
It can also help fight obesity and will likely give kids confidence and
better coordination. In addition, by starting to train at a young age
kids will accumulate training years and be able to progress to heavier
load, more challenging training earlier.