There is an old saying about weightlifting. Don’t start unless you plan to do it forever.
Have you ever done it? And then stopped for a while? And then tried to re-start?
I’m there baby…
My son came to me about a month ago and asked if he could start weightlifting. He is 13. Now I know and have done research on weightlifting for teens and believe strongly that it is critical to do it the right way (teach proper form, use VERY light weights and higher reps, warm up, stretch gently, increase weight slowly, etc.) and also that each young lifter must be evaluated individually. What I mean by this is that from 12 (the absolute minimum age I would ever start a youth on a program) to 18, kids just mature at drastically different rates. I will give a comparison of my son and two of his friends as an example:
My son (Sam) is 13. He is also 5’7″ and about 150lb. He is solid, with good bone structure, balance, coordination and physical maturity. Cognitively he is also able to understand proper technique and follow instructions (better than most 13 year olds can…). He also understands and can verbalize back to me WHAT proper form is and WHY using bad form or too much weight is dangerous. He is ready to lift, IMHO.
Friend One is the same age as Sam. He is intelligent and can also verbalize the ups and downs of lifting. He gets the WHY. However he is barely 5′ tall with a small frame, poor physical development, small bones and little muscle development. Physically he is NOT ready for weightlifting. He could do isometrics, an “ups” workout (pushup, situp, chinup) but One needs some time for his body to catch up to his brain. In a year, he may very well be better stronger and faster than Sam, but not now. I trust him, but I don’t trust his body yet. See, the ends of young bones have active growth centers. These growth lines are attached (I’m being VERY general here) to tendons and muscle that, at this point, are capable of handling more stress than the bone can. Too much weight can not only snap them but cause even worse damage by “killing” that growth center and thus permanently prohibiting that bone from growing and causing a lifelong disability. Got it? Not good.
Friend Tw0 is the exact opposite. Physically, he is solid and strong. Not too tall yet but getting there. He has adequate balance and flexibility. But Two is as immature and undisciplined as they come. He doesn’t listen, won’t follow instructions and is constantly given to poor choices. In other words, a normal 13 year old… 😉 He, also, will be just fine and will eventually be able to lift without a problem. Right now I wouldn’t trust him on a gym floor lifting stuffed bunnies. He wants to prove how strong he is to his buddies and that he is better than they are. This bravado is dangerous in a weight room. Especially for youth.
Sorry for the long explanation but I want to emphasize that I have put much thought into this and would never put my son in a dangerous situation. I may not look it but I’ve got over 30 years experience as an athlete. Most of that was listening to coaches tell me how to do it wrong (“bounce that stretch!” “It will make you more flexible!” “You don’t need water you wuss! Get used to the heat!! …see what I mean?). I don’t claim to be an expert. People with lots more alphabet soup after their names on business cards get that title. What I have is experience. And as a dad I think in this case I am uniquely qualified to provide some guidance.
I know… I know… what’s yer point? I’m getting to that…
My point is… I, personally (remember, this blog is all about me…), haven’t lifted weights as a form of exercise in 3 years. And I was so focused on teaching and showing proper form, etc. that I forgot one really important thing. Weights are frickin’ heavy. And if you lift enough of them? You squeal like a 4 year old from the pain of trying to lift your arm over your shoulder. Yup… I’m there.
Sam, on the other hand, claims to be “a little” sore in his chest and shoulders and is enjoying teasing me about how sore I am. Karma, little bro… it’s a beyatch… I just hope I’m there when it catches up to ya…