although children can begin weight training earlier, they don’t usually build muscle until they hit puberty and hormones make it possible to increase muscle mass. weight training is different from weight lifting, bodybuilding and power lifting. weight training focuses on improving musculoskeletal strength and total fitness, dr. brehm-curtis says. middle- and high-school students should train to increase their strength and improve their physical fitness, body composition and sports performance while reducing their injury risk. parents should be alert if their teens are using weights to achieve a “superhero’s body,” says dr. brehm-curtis. before a teen embarks on a weight-training program, he or she should get a physical exam. the teen should warm up with calisthenics and stretching before weight training and cool down with stretching afterward, dr. brehm-curtis says.
training programs should begin slowly and increase gradually. a beginner should start with body weight exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups. two to three sessions a week on alternating days should be enough to strengthen and tone muscles. training programs should be individually designed for each adolescent. training should be noncompetitive and fun. teens should feel comfortable with the weight-training program and look forward to it. “strength training isn’t a substitute for games, school sports or outdoor recreation, such as riding a bike or swimming,” says dr. brehm-curtis.
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