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STEPHANIE OAKES

Coaching Anchors Teen Weight Training

February 19, 2001|STEPHANIE OAKES

Question: My teenage son wants to start lifting weights to get in shape for upcoming soccer season. Is this OK? Should I be concerned about injuries?

--SHANE IN BURBANK

Answer: The majority of kids can begin some weight training at 15. By this age, their growth plates usually have closed, which helps with resistance training and decreases the risk of injury. Of course, kids develop at different rates. I recommend your son have a full physical and doctor's approval first.

Some kids begin lifting weights in junior high and, by the time they hit high school, have developed a limited range of motion, especially in their shoulders and elbows. This occurs because many teenagers (usually guys) want to increase the size of the muscles in their chest and arms, so they perform biceps curls constantly. They ignore their triceps, developing a limited arm extension (due to loss of flexibility). The injuries are not from lifting weights, but because they had poor form or an unbalanced fitness program while doing so.

It all starts with proper fitness education. Because parents usually don't have time to hang out at the gym to correct and spot their kids, a personal trainer may be the solution. I used to be opposed to teenagers having personal trainers (it seemed so spoiled), but I now realize that certified trainers can provide fitness assessments and instruction that can be valuable throughout a teenager's life. Or you could ask a neighborhood coach for specific ways to complement your son's soccer exercise. Simply said, the more information we give the kids, the easier it will for them to meet their fitness goals injury-free.

Stephanie Oakes is the fitness correspondent for Discovery Health Channel and a health/fitness consultant. To submit a fitness-related question, e-mail stephoakes@aol.com. She cannot respond to every query.

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