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Is Your 7 Year Old Ready To Lift - December 1st 2019

At what age should an athlete get into the gym?

Before we get into when and the risks associated with lifting weights, we need to spend a few minutes discussing the “why”.

The number 1 reason to help your athlete get into the gym early in life has nothing to do with sports and everything to do with creating healthy habits that will stay with them long after they stop competing. From self-esteem at an early age to blood pressure scores later in life, the benefits of habitually visiting a gym speak for themselves.

So, your daughter is 7 years old and you want to get her into the gym. Great! The first question you have to ask yourself is how mature is your spawn? Can she pay attention and concentrate on a task or does she need to just keep moving?

If she can focus on a task, I would imagine it is safe to get her into a program that focuses on basic motor patterns that begin with learning how to squat, hinge, pull, push and maybe lunge. All without added weight until technique is solid enough to add a 1 lbs. dumbbell and progressing very slowly. Basically, they should be learning how to move their body through space with quality movement patterns.

If she has the attention span of my cat, you could look to enroll her in a program that emphasizes coordination, problem solving, creativity and teamwork. There are programs out there that resemble a ninja type of training where the kids are constantly moving, jumping over things, crawling under things and improvising. This type of program will help build motor skills, create a fun aura about going to the gym, and will tucker the little one out, which is a win for you! These training programs typically take place on soft, bouncy surfaces which makes them generally safe.

Personally, I set a minimum at sixth grade. At this age, they are physically and emotionally mature enough to grasp basic strength training principles. Now, just because they are physically mature enough to handle a squat or a deadlift does not mean we are going to throw as much weight as possible at them. It is all about overcoming a new stimulus. Lets say I have a sixth grader who has never touched a weight and I teach him how to perform a lunge. The simple act of performing a new movement pattern will improve his strength, stability, coordination and mobility. That right there, just teaching him a new way to move his body, was enough of a stimulus for improvement. He didn’t need to hold dumbbells or add a weighted vest, he just needed to do something he hasn’t done before. So, lets say I had him perform a set of 5 lunges today, next week ill have him try a set of 8 lunges and, if he does well, I will bump it up to 10 the following week. So, in three weeks he has doubled his volume of lunges. He has improved without needing to touch a weight. This is how you safely help young athletes develop.

Sprinting and movement technique must be addressed early in the athletes development. I wont bore you with the details of movement proficiency but I will say that the earlier and athlete learns how to sprint and move efficiently, the better she will be without even picking up a weight. I strongly believe that most athletes lack speed in high school because A) they were never taught how to sprint and B) they spent too much time running long distances in practice instead of spending more time on short sprints. You do not have to lift weights to learn the basic sprint mechanics. Strength training will help you run faster when your athlete is ready for it, but learning how to move your body is safe and does not require the use of heavy weights!

The gym is a great place for everyone! For some kids, 7 years old is a great time to get started. For others, it might happen a bit later on. Find a program that matches up with your athletes physical and emotional maturity and watch the love affair blossom!



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