When teenage girls sign up for extracurricular activities, many don’t think twice about choosing sports such as cheerleading, volleyball or basketball. But when it comes to lifting weights, hesitations often arise at the thought of standing in front of a squat rack or free weights at the gym.
Weightlifting for teen girls, however, doesn’t need to be viewed this way. John Rowley, bestselling author, certified trainer and ISSA Director of Wellness, is a firm believer in the benefits of strength training for teens.
“Children of both genders and in their teens can benefit from using weights as part of a well-rounded exercise program,” Rowley says. “Weightlifting shouldn’t be the only source of exercise, but it can add to any school-organized or club sports a child may already be participating in.”
The Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital also notes that weight training is a highly accepted way for people of all ages to get into shape. If the rate of injuries seems to be going up, it’s possibly because popularity is also increasing.
For children and youth, the CIRP says it’s important to “carefully plan [the] weight-training program with guidance from parents, coaches and doctors.”
Before a Teen Starts Lifting
There’s no specific age that’s “correct” for teens to start exercising.
“It is fine as long as their doctors give them the green light to participate in sports,” Rowley says.
When it comes to adding weight training into the mix, it’s important to ask a doctor, as well. Before a teen starts lifting weights, though, they should have the proper tools and supervision.
“It’s important they learn proper form if they do venture into weightlifting,” Rowley says. “Not using the right technique can not only foster bad habits, but can cause potential injury.”
It’s beneficial for teen girls to begin with simple bodyweight exercises as they learn correct form and posture. This will also keep them from using too much weight, too soon.
When girls lift weights, the benefits are worth the work.
“Strength training and weightlifting are great for teens,” Rowley says. “Not only will this type of exercise build strength and improve overall health, but it will also develop self-discipline, increase self-esteem, improve self-confidence and foster a healthy self-image.”
Lifting weights can also complement sports that teen girls are already participating in. It can help build back and shoulder strength for a stronger spike in volleyball, build a solid core that will aid cross country runners and even help with hand-eye coordination, which is important in several sports.
Keeping Teen Girls Safe Around Weights
In its last report, the CIRP found that boys and girls aged 13 to 24 years old sustained the largest proportion (47 percent) of weight training-related injuries that lead to emergency rooms visits. Much of this can be attributed to the increase in the popularity of lifting weights among teens.
Many of these injuries were sprains and strains, which can be avoided with proper training and technique.
“The most important thing to watch for is that they learn and use proper weightlifting form and techniques from day one,” Rowley says. “It would be wise to utilize a trainer or coach for a while until proper form is learned.”
Because teen girls are still growing, these sprains and strains can be due to their developing bones, tendons and ligaments. Rowley adds that weightlifting, however, can help build the right muscular foundation—if done correctly. Starting with body weight exercises and then progressing to light weights with high repetitions can help reduce the chance of injury and ensure that teens are starting out in the safest way possible.