T Nation

Kids & the Gym


My 11 YO wants to go to the gym with me when I go to lift. I hope she is just curious to see what it is I am upto. Anyone have kids they are taking to the weight room with them and if so what if any types of stuff can a munchkin this young do?

I know she is going to want to copy what I am doing. She is heavy into swimming and biking so she isn't one of America's obese children, she is real lean.


Good question,

I have a 9 y.o. cousin who's my height (5'9) already and is phenomenal at basketball NOW. He wants to start lifting so that he can dunk by the time he's 13-14...

I'm hesitant to start him on any training program at that age. I'm not going to bust out the chains and squat rack right now :-p

So far I have him doing higher rep bodyweight stuff and jumping rope.


My 5 yr old (yes, 5) is the same way. So far he's still going to the daycare there! I just don't know where to begin.


As a matter of fact, I have 3 boys who have different needs, but are always looking for activity.

My eldest, near 20, goes to the gym with me now. He is heading into the Air Force shortly. Skinny, but wiry and fast.

The next one, 14, has a heart defect, and cannot lift heavy...so he is the champion of sit ups and pull ups. He does alot of dips sometimes also. He's a real show off, and does so during his gym class, destroying all opposition.

The "baby" of the family, 11, loves lifting a 50 lb sandbag, which I keep next to the one I lift. He does other things also, but the sandbag is his favorite. Go figure!

I've wondered aloud for years about why gyms have not created programs for kids, which are actually interesting and fun.

Not all kids are interested in team sports, which is a religion in my area, and that leaves a huge number of kids with nothing physical.

I have some ideas, but I am looking at the ISSA Youth Fitness Trainer program before I implement them.


She can do most anything you do as long as she can take direction (for good form) and you don't do any maxes on non-technically limiting lifts.

By that I mean the olympic lifts are safe to try to go heavy on (with good form) because form is going to limit the weight used more than strength.

NSCA guidelines say don't go for a 6RM or fewer with kids, though 5 reps and up is safe.



My 6 year likes to train with me sometimes. We will jump rope, do push ups, pull ups, do some dumbbell work and run some sprints.

It is not really a structured workout, but it is full speed and quite tiring.


I kind of have a problem with this, let me explain before you flame. At the gym I work out in we have these women who take the earboics classes in the morning and when the classes let out they get their kids from the sitter and the kids wind up jumping on the machines, I've seen a boy jump on a treadmill and hurt himself I've seen mothers walk out of the gym and leave a kid on a nautilus machine, I'm actually shocked no child has gotten hurt yet. As far as kids excerising I think its great, just not at a gym at least until they can learn how to work the machines


Shugart started a really good discussion on this awhile ago. Not sure if it's in his weblog or somewhere. Sorry about that.


I agree with this, they need strict supervision..

I remember a gym I worked out in when I was a kid. The owners 5 year old son would come in and work out. They had a broom stick with some empty plastic weights.. They painted it all up to look like an olympic bar. He would stand infront of the mirror and yell while he deadlifted and stuff.. It was great. Keep in mind this was a very small gym with maybe three adults lifting at a time. This could not happen at the gym I lift at now, nor would it be allowed.

If you buy a membership for them they might allow it..


Naaah. That's not a "training kids" issue; that's a "training parents" issue. It's not a reason to develop a policy against kids at gyms. The other posters above are obviously talking about their kids TRAINING (not playing) WITH them (not running around unsupervised).

Speak to the management at your gym and point out the liability issue if/when kids get hurt, or just the obnoxiousness quotient for the other clients.


Kids in the gym I work at are not allowed to use the weight machines till they are 13 and the free weights till they are 16. I think kids eight ad up can do some exercises to help with strength and quickness, but one must remember they will not see large amounts of strength or muscle size till they reach puberty.

Starting kids young is fine just make sure they learn how to perform the exercises correctly, but I agree they should not be using weights in a gym alone or just iwht a parent they should be supervised my a qualified fitness professional if they are. Also ACSM instructs that any child should be able to perform 8-12 reps of a given weight anything less is too heavy a weight.


Superpimp is right. Kids don't belong in a commercial gym. We play, I mean train at home.


My 8 year old really wants to join me at the gym. The problem is (and likely is with most gyms) that insurance regulations for the gym forbid anyone under 14 years old from using the facility. They aren't even supposed to be allowed in the weight area. At the gym that I used to work out in, they had the same regulation, but the owner let me bring Dylan along because he knew that I would make him mind and behave.

Unfortunately, that gym moved to a location about 45min from me, so I went back to a closer gym.
911girl, you may want to check with the gym management on the insurance regulations before you get them in trouble or, worse yet and heaven forbid, your child gets hurt and the gym's insurance doesn't cover it.


Sounds like its time to build up a home gym -- power rack, bench, and so on. And remember, an Olympic bar is 45 lbs already!


Hi 911 girl

I am a competitive strength athlete-meaning I have done powerlifting-totaled 2000 and strongman comps...I am 37 and have 3 kids-a four year old and two year old twins-I take my oldest with me to my buddies gym-cause he has kids too-and they play together when we train heavy on saturday monrings and then thursday evenings-on mon and tues i work at home in my garage-with at times all 3 kids there-I just let me them play as they want=just remember one things about kids-their back(extensor) muscles are 700 times stronger than their felxors-stomach muscles-so we do some stability ball sits up as I teach them to count etc-

remember the expression-the apple doesn't fall far from the tree-if mom or dad has passion for exercise-the kids will too...it's simple...here's my son at one of my meets...he tried to lift 733 just like daddy did-he had no idea he couldn't-I love to train and i love my kids-so I combined the two and I laugh when other guys think they are too hardcore to combine the two...they can't lift like I can and then play in between with my kids-it's all about priorities and what matters to you....good for you 911


Here 911, I'll return the favor, and offer what advice I can. :slight_smile:

When I was teaching Phys. Ed. for an elementary school, I set simple enough goals for the kids: Your age in full push-ups from the toes (and knee push-ups are not called "Girl push-ups" in my class), your age in rock bottom free squats, 15 seconds pull-up hang (for grades 1-3) 2 dead-hang neutral grip pull-ups (grades 4-6), 1 nonstop minute of jumping jacks. I'll admit, the numbers are a bit arbitrary, but probably 85-90% of the kids hit their goals by the end of the school year.

Once your kiddo can do those with no problem, you could either do some SUPER-basic dumbbell moves (as has been said, I'd keep the reps above 8, nowhere near failure), or work on sandbag/odd-object lifting. I had my older kids (grades 4-6) do bear hug carries and overhead lifts with either a 35-pound bag of dry dog food, and a 20-pound bag of dry cat food (there was an incident once with a bag tearing open, and one of the kids taking a bite of the dog food, but, no big deal.)

The biggest thing of all is that she has fun. It's just playing around, and as long as no one gets hurt and she doesn't lose interest, it's worth it.


My two girls 6 & 7-1/2 love to work out with me in my home gym. They climb all over my dip/chin stand. Consequently, my eldest was tops in girls and boys in the 50 meter and rope climb.

The only real downside is concentration. They know they must not distract me when I am attempting a lift.

Kids will imitate whatever you do.
If you exercise, they will too. If you sit in front of the tube everynight, so will they.


right on. I started thinking kind of negative about kids at the gym but after reading your post I can't wait to bring my kids, now only 4 and 1, in on the fun.


Thanks for all the replies. Kids are allowed in the weight room with supervision. Given I am usually there in the early morning hours and alone I am pretty certain we would disturb anyone. Now I just need to have her out of bed in time to go, she is not a morning person.