I’ll often get ideas for articles from questions that I receive from people. The questions usually come from someone I train, from one of my social networks, or even the contact page from this website.
A lot of times as I’m putting together my reply, I’ll think to myself that there are probably other people with the same questions. Today is one such example.
Reader, Sarah B asked: What do you think about kids doing kettlebells?
The reason I am asking is that I caught my 9 yr old daughter doing it. Our doctor’s only concern is her dropping it when swinging it. What do you think? I hate to tell her no, but I don’t want her to get hurt either. Submit your own fitness question!
My first reaction was to say “no”, weight training for someone that young isn’t safe. Then I realized that I don’t have any experience training anyone that young, so I could not say that with absolute certainty.
Expert Opinion on Children and Weight Lifting
I dug a little deeper and found these informative articles about weight training and kids workout.
This New York Times article focuses on several recent studies that show children actually do benefit from weight training.
Strength training … can reduce (young adults’) risk of injury, not the reverse. The scientific literature is quite clear that strength training is safe for young people, if it’s properly supervised. It will not stunt growth or lead to growth-plate injuries. That doesn’t mean young people should be allowed to go down into the basement and lift Dad’s weights by themselves. That’s when you see accidents.
The Mayo Clinic is a trusted source of health information, and this article resembles the Times’ sentiments on strength training for children.
Strength training can: Increase your child’s muscle strength and endurance; help protect your child’s muscles and joints from sports-related injuries; and improve your child’s performance in nearly any sport, from dancing and figure skating to football and soccer.
Keep in mind that strength training isn’t only for athletes. Even if your child isn’t interested in sports, strength training can: Strengthen your child’s bones, help promote healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, help your child maintain a healthy weight, and improve your child’s confidence and self-esteem.
The Los Angeles Times presents a similar story…
In 2001, the physician’s group (the American Academy of Pediatrics) released a policy statement that emphasized the safety and benefits of strength training for adolescents and pre-adolescents to “improve sports performance, rehabilitate injuries, prevent injuries, and/or enhance long-term health.”
Avery Faigenbaum, a pediatric exercise scientist and professor at the College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J., is quoted in the article as stating “if children are old enough to participate in sports, they’re old enough to lift weights. It’s safer for them to play sports if they engage in preseason weightlifting: Kids shouldn’t go straight from the couch to the playing field, or they could get hurt.”
The International Sports Sciences Association also weighs in on this topic.
Studies show that a moderate intensity strength training program can help increase strength, decrease the risks of injury while playing sports, and increase bone density in children.
Kids Workout, Children and Kettlebells
So after reading about expert opinions on children and weight lifting, here is my take on a kids workout or allowing kids to use kettlebells…
While all of these articles support that weight training may be beneficial to growing children, I would still say “no” to the kettlebell – at first.
Moving the kettlebell around does require some skill, and coordination. While I believe that someone as young as 9 could learn to handle a kettlebell, I would not just let them pick it up and swing it around without first having the proper instruction on how to handle it correctly.
I suggest showing them basic bodyweight exercises, or perhaps getting them a light pair of dumbbells.
If you have a kettlebell that is not too heavy for your child to handle safely, teach them the proper mechanics of the kettlebell 2-hand swing. This way, they will not feel excluded. Make sure that they can demonstrate spectacular form before teaching any additional exercises.
Take their training slowly, and make sure it’s always supervised. Avoid any exercises that require overhead pressing, until you are absolutely sure that they can handle the weight, and perform the more grounded exercises with poise and strength. Also, a kids workout should be fun so that they don’t develop negative associations with fitness.