When teenage girls sign up for extracurricular activities, many don't think twice about choosing sports such as cheerleading, volleyball or basketball. But when it comes to lifting weights, hesitations often arise at the thought of standing in front of a squat rack or free weights at the gym.
Weightlifting for teen girls, however, doesn't need to be viewed this way. John Rowley, bestselling author, certified trainer and ISSA Director of Wellness, is a firm believer in the benefits of strength training for teens.
"Children of both genders and in their teens can benefit from using weights as part of a well-rounded exercise program," Rowley says. "Weightlifting shouldn't be the only source of exercise, but it can add to any school-organized or club sports a child may already be participating in."
The Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital also notes that weight training is a highly accepted way for people of all ages to get into shape. If the rate of injuries seems to be going up, it's possibly because popularity is also increasing.
For children and youth, the CIRP says it's important to "carefully plan [the] weight-training program with guidance from parents, coaches and doctors."
Before a Teen Starts Lifting
There's no specific age that's "correct" for teens to start exercising.
"It is fine as long as their doctors give them the green light to participate in sports," Rowley says.
When it comes to adding weight training into the mix, it's important to ask a doctor, as well. Before a teen starts lifting weights, though, they should have the proper tools and supervision.
"It's important they learn proper form if they do venture into weightlifting," Rowley says. "Not using the right technique can not only foster bad habits, but can cause potential injury."
It's beneficial for teen girls to begin with simple bodyweight exercises as they learn correct form and posture. This will also keep them from using too much weight, too soon.