At what age should kids start doing weight training?

This question will most probably have been being asked a million times, but I am going to ask it again anyway. What is the correct age to have teenage girls start doing weights? In South Africa, where I am from, debate still rages on as to the age, with growth plates being mentioned more often than not. Most people I’ve spoken to are opposed to it before at least the age of 16, others not before at least 18.

I have fourteen year olds that I want to get into the gym, but I am not sure if it is safe, and whether it will negatively impact their growth and performance. They all train for 400m and intermediate hurdles.

The lifts I propose are:
Cable Pulls
Incline Bench Press
Upright Row
Back extension
Reverse Back Extension
Parallel Squats
Reverse Lunges
Russian Twists
Seated Rows
Vertical Press
Dead Lifts

I need some advice here please.

I think it depends on the child themselves. At 14 there are different levels of physical marturity but I see no reason not to get them in the gym. Work on their technique first without working to maximum. 8 - 10 reps should be fine, the only exercise I could see any potential problems with is the upright row (can cause shoulder probs if grip is too narrow).

If the weight is not too heavy I can’t see any problems with growth plates etc. I think everyone is getting too paranoid with these kinds of concerns, do we stop gymnastics, running, jumping etc. Weight training (properly supervised) is much ‘safer’ than what many children do everyday as part of ‘normal’ play.

I’ve been working with kids for years and what I’ve found is they can do a ton of stuff. They do have a hard time really focusing if they were to go heavy. I have a group of 14 year olds that I’ve been training for a year now and they haven’t gone below 12 reps unless it was nowhere near failure. I’ll drop them down to 8’s in a few months after they have a year straight of weight training under their belt.

You can teach them all the exercises and do as many different things with them. Train them to be athletes and not just good in one specific sport and things will come much easier for them later in life.

So in a nutshell, concentrate on their legs and their abs. Teach them how to stabilise properly and be able to feel all their muscles while they do an exercise. Also make sure their exercise technique is perfect as well as their posture.

Hope this helps

I think it depends on what you are aiming to get out of going into the gym in both the short term and long term. Are you looking to get strength and performance gains for the next season or to develop a good foundation for technique and a wide range of abilities?

I have had a few athletes who had done purely technique work and developed good posture/balance/coordination/spatial awareness and gym confidence with a decent emphasis on Olympic lifts going no heavier than a bar. They did this for 6 months and when they started to lift an actual weight above that of the bar it was easy to improve them and let the weight lead it. I didnt push it, the weight progressed naturally.

Like all other training based in developing ‘athleticism’ I think developing a wide range of skills and abilities will create a good foundation to work from and the progressions will come naturally.

Training for the 400m will hinder there pure speed performances later on in their development moreso than weights would. A rule of thumb is that you can start them on weights once they have started puberty. Keep the reps low and the weight low and make sure technique is perfect. Monitor how things are going on a daily basis. Core work is more important though. They should be doing a tonn of core work (sit-ups, crunches etc). I have had 13 year olds do weights with positive results. Going through a sequence like the following link demonstrates would be fine for a younger athlete. Just make sure the technique is good, and the weight is light.

Thanks everyone, the advice is really useful. I will definitely get them into the gym during the GPP with special emphasis on core work. I will post my schedule on here shortly.

Is three times a week in the gym during the GPP to much for 14/15 year olds?

I would say no. They aren’t really stressing their CNS too much so they should be able to handle it.

Also from your original post, I’d add in more ab work than you had listed there. Also more rotational stuff as well.


i would just have trhem do core workout type stuff with trhe medicine ball type stuff. I wouldnt get them on weights till at least 15 or sixteen.

I agree with all what you have said Plook, but I would drop out rotational stuff… As I posted numerous times, core should be able to resist motion and not to create it… After all, squats, DL and other whole-body activity with stress them in great degree… you can put some curls, but… my athleted are not doing any of this stuff (classical ab work), also nether am I, and BTW I got washboard abs (but at the moment covered with greater amount of fat - hey it is winter :slight_smile: ) and I dont have any pain/prbolems with my back, actually I “cured” them avoiding twisting, bending, flexing etc. Keep it neutral.
Also, I agree with mpgelsei that upright rows should be avoided… Find articles from Eric Cressey at T-nation about this issue! Grat read!

True about the upright rows, I stay away and my shoulder stays nice and happy with me.

I guess as far as running goes, rotational stuff doesn’t carry over that well but as far as most sports, most kids don’t know how to use their abs to turn or throw all that well. I teach them how to feel their muscles and show them what they can and can’t do. Lot’s of stading dynamic stuff with med balls not ballistic and not heavy. Hard contractions at the end ranges with a lot of emphisis on posture.

Plook, here is my experience and opinions:
I avoid doing medbals on the floor (russian twists), primary because athlete is not able to use their hips and legs, so he do it with spine (rotate it).
When doing standing medballs (chest pass, side pass etc.) I teach the “not to stick” feet on the floor, but rather to free them to be able to rotate with the hips and at feet, and keeping the core stiff - similar to boxing strikes.
I belive they should develop, as you stated, a “sense” of spine position (and other joints, as a subgroup of coordination ability), and I belive that there are small number of sports that need rotation in spine. So my advice is: keep the spine stable and rotate at hips! But, many people, many methods…

And as for girl “weight” traing, my teacher have great experience working with girls at 12/13 ages! People often confuse word gym with 200kg squat… gym is a place to exercise! It would be same as making the pool work synonim with 50m freestyle… it is a place where you can do various things!
I had experience with smaller number of reps when teaching squat, DL and other complex movements. Please do not confuse “small reps” with great weight… I do coule of sets of 3x5 reps (with short rest: 30sec) only with the bar (but even before that only with bodyweight)! If you force them to do 12-15 in a row, the last ones will be with poor form (especially with childern)… As my teacher Koprivica stated just yesterday, kids should be first loaded by volume and then with intensity. Volume doesn neccessary means larger number of reps in one set, but can also mean by larger number of sets etc. When they teach good form, you can try increasing number of reps for about 12, but only if the form is good. When they are able to lift same load for about 15 reps (with excellent technique, and NOT TILL FAILURE) increase the weight, so that they are able to lift it again 12 reps. But again this is my experince.
For good technique and cuing for teaching squat, DL, bench search the articles from Dave Tate, Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson at and article from Will Haskell at (articles).
I hope I helped… I wish you great succes when working with kids!

As my teacher said, the best way to become a coach is to work with women, and the best way to fail as a coach is to continue working with them :slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

That last quote from your teacher is friggin priceless. I’m gonna send that one to my buddy who just despises womens hockey and his other friend always ends up coaching the women. Lol.

As far as the rotational stuff goes, there’s only 2 that I give. Reverse woodchoppers and side-side woodchoppers. With both of these the heel is lifted just like in a baseball or golf swing. I don’t think they have the control yet to do it without. I’ve got a great group of Bantam hockey boys I’ve been working with for almost a year now. They weigh about 130-150lb and the lighter of the 2 did 205lb for 12 and the heavier of the 2 did 225lb for 12 a few weeks ago. Not even close to failure either. Real squats too. Down to parallel for sure. They are the funnest group I’ve ever worked with.


you got an exact link for the upright row post

Sorry guys, I was out of town and I was not able to connect to net…
nanny, is that a question? If it here is the link for exact article:

and here is the link to all Eric’s articles