If you think that “pumping iron” is only for “manly men,” think again!
Those days are long gone, and professional trainers, as well as health professionals, recognize the many health benefits of strength training for everybody – men, women and even kids!
There was a time when it was debatable whether kids should weightlift and strength train. The controversy stemmed from the fact that the epiphyseal plates or so-called growth plates, that allow a child to grow, are not closed completely in children and youths. The open distance in these plates is what allows for growth and the thinking was that weightlifting and certain other forms of physical activity can close these structures prematurely, and impact a child’s growth and development. Recent studies have shown that there is no clinical evidence that indicates that weightlifting in children causes growth plate injuries. In fact, today, most personal trainers and family physicians agree that weightlifting and strength training is beneficial to children.
Weightlifting and Childhood Obesity
Obesity, especially obesity in children is rampant in this country. Weightlifting fights fat, we know that. Building lean muscle mass is the best way for children or anybody to get rid of fat. Weight training and weightlifting provide a routine and discipline that many children crave and need. Weightlifting in children builds not only muscle but also self-esteem. It teaches children at an early age, respect for their bodies and sets in motion good nutrition and good health habits for a lifetime.
Speaking from personal experience, this former proverbial “98-pound weakling” who was the target of many a schoolyard bully, never had his lunch money stolen again after I began weightlifting and strength training in the 5th grade, at the advice of my grandfather, a former Golden Glove Boxer.
The American Society of Pediatrics recently issued guidelines for strength training and weightlifting in adolescents. The report concluded that weightlifting indeed presents no harm to adolescents (other than the same general risks of injury to any weightlifter) and in fact, it does lead to increased strength and muscle growth in adolescents and pre-adolescents. The guidelines went on to say that teens and preteens should not lift to their maximum to avoid potential injury to growth plates and that they should lift a weight that they could comfortably do 12 –15 repetitions with on a given weightlifting exercise.
At What Age Can Kids Start to Lift Weights?
Now no one is suggesting that your child, especially a young one, start training like a powerlifter. However, studies have shown that children as young as 8, who do a little strength training — about 100 minutes a week — not at the maximum weight, but at that 10-12 rep range, saw a drastic increase in strength. It was reported that children in the study, which monitored 8-12-year-olds, also showed improvements in eating habits.
And interestingly enough, parents in the study also reported a noticeable improvement in the behavior and attitude of their children!
Weight Lifting for Woman
For many years it was believed that weightlifting was only an activity to be done by men. And even then only by a special breed of males, who wanted to become superhuman examples of human perfection.
Over the past few decades, even as it has come to be generally accepted that weightlifting is something that has benefits for men other than just the muscle beach crowd, still it has generally been looked upon as a male activity.
Women fear weightlifting. They think it will make them look too big, or “like men,” They think weightlifting is only for the most athletic of women. Not true. Indeed there is a sport of female bodybuilding – but these women will be the first to tell you that they need to work extremely hard, probably twice or three times as hard, to gain that kind of physique as their male counterparts. Why? A simple biological fact – women do not make enough testosterone to build muscle as big or as quickly as men do.
So don’t worry about it ladies. You can work out with weights and get phenomenal health benefits like losing weight and looking younger – yes I said “losing weight” and “looking younger” – by weightlifting!
Lean muscle burns calories. Lean muscle is sexy. There is absolutely no reason why fitness conscious women, and I think today most are, need to restrict their workouts to just cardio and aerobics. Women can benefit from lean muscle mass as much as men.
Biological fact number two – we lose muscle mass as we age. If you do something to replace it, you will lose strength and tone and look and feel older. Most Women also know that they are more susceptible to bone density loss than men, so they take calcium supplements. Weightlifting strengthens and builds not only muscle but bones. Studies in women have shown that resistance training such as weightlifting cannot only prevent but in some cases can reverse the effects of osteoporosis.
Ladies, you want shape – you want a figure – building up the muscles of your shoulders and back will make your waist look smaller. And let’s not forget about what weightlifting can do for the old Gluteus Maximus. You really want “Buns of Steel”? – Pump iron!
Trainers do not suggest that women give up aerobics altogether. In fact, a workout regimen that combines traditional cardio-aerobics and weightlifting is ideal. However one more point to note, a recent study following women age 24-34 conducted by the Jon Hopkins University found that women who lifted weights continued to burn calories sometimes up to 2 hours longer after the exercise than women who did a comparable period of aerobics.