Building Strength in your Tween or Teen

Is it safe for my 14 year old to strength train and lift weights? This is a common question for a parent to ask. My answer is YES! Strength training is a vital part of a balanced fitness program. Strength training is not only for child athletes. Everyone should incorporate strength training into their exercise program. The better question to ask is what strength exercises are most suited for my 14 year old, 12 year old, 16 year old? I will answer it the same way I would if I was evaluating an adult.

Most trainers will assess the mechanics of a person when meeting them for the first time. Most trainers use basic body weight exercises as a tool. Keep in mind, that body weight exercises like pushups, squats, step-ups, etc.. are strengthening exercises. The question for trainers to ask, 'Is the movement patterns for these foundation exercises poor?' If so, then the more advanced strength training exercises like squat thrusts, weighted lunges, Olympic lifts are not suitable. The exception to this are the many nautilus, plate loaded machines. These are very easy to use and really only require the gym's floor supervisor to teach the set-up. This is not to say that you can't get hurt on these machines, but the machine offers so much structure/support, that as long as you know how to properly adjust the seats, most teens will quickly become independent.

As a gym owner whose training environment offers more functional equipment than conventional health club equipment, I prefer to see everyone start with body weight exercises. This is often thought of by the consumer as 'free-weights.' I do believe that even tweens can use 'free weights.' This includes a 4 pound medicine ball, a battle rope, a beginner kettle bell and even 8 pound weights. However, if the movement pattern for a squat requires a lot of supervision and assistance, then you would not add a set of dumbbells to the movement. Everyone regardless of age should begin mastering these exercises:

  • squats
  • split squat
  • walking lunges
  • push up (all styles)
  • pull up / chin up / dips
  • planks
  • sit ups
  • leg lifts
  • bridges
  • step ups
  • side lunges

Once you have a list of exercises for your tween or teen here are a few other basic guidelines:

  1. Do not attempt maximum loads
  2. Always warm up and activate the various joints and muscles to be included in the movements
  3. Reinforce proper technique.
  4. Draft some very basic goals and programs. Having structure will help avoid injuries.
  5. Tweens will need supervision. Unless the young person has worked out for a few years and over the age of 15, I believe supervised training is safer than independent training
  6. Eat properly to support the workout.

Here is a great video of my friend's gym in New Jersey. This is one of his teen clients.

Surge 360 in use at Parisi Speed School in Fair Lawn NJ - Video submitted by Craig Stoddard at Parisi Speed School in Fair Lawn, New Jersey featuring a 14 year old baseball player using the Surge 360. Surge makes machines for total body functional training and rehab that combine strength, cardio, and flexibility into every movement and exercise.

POW! Kids

310 South Racine Avenue,

1st Floor South,

Chicago, Il 60607

Phone. 312-829-7699