T Nation

Minimum Age to Start Lifting


Hey guys. First post, but been a follwer of T-Nation for some time.

Just a question for those out there working with student athletes. I was wondering what the youngest age anyone has got someone under the iron is? I would also like to know how it was done and what advice would you pass on?

Any comments or sources would be most appreciated.


I recommend that all my high school athletes begin hitting the weights, starting with grade 9's who are around the age of 14. I start them off with bodyweight exercises until they feel comfortable with push ups, sit ups, pull ups, bodyweight squats and then quickly have them introduced to free weights. I recommend having them keep their egos in check and not dick around with heavy weights beyond their capability just to show off and risk injury. Other than that, I have them stick with basics; squats, deads, bench, military, and let them have 15 mins at the end of their workouts for beach muscles to keep it fun


I'm with cally on this one. The old shit about stunting growth and what not from starting too young never really held up.

I'd say high school is perfect. Worry more about their attitude towards lifting than their progress at this point.

I've worked at sleep away camps and had the entire cabin doing push ups and random stuff with resistance bands from wal-mart and a lot of these kids were 12 or 13. While I can't vouch for all of them hitting the weights later in life, several of them now lift weights and I'd like to think that at least a part of it was being introduced to resistance training in a fun environment.


Yeah the program at my school starts on the boys at age 14. We've just got a couple of exceptionally talented 12 year olds at the moment and I was hoping to get people's views on that age group.

I agree with the basics with 10-15 mins of beach muscles after. Kids never seem to feel their Weights Training is complete without some bicep curls. Even some adults... Me included :wink:


As I said in my first response. We've got some amazing 12 year old kids in the program at the moment with the best attitudes I have seen. So getting them into some kind of structured resistance program would be well received by them.



rippetoes book starting strength has a positive look at this idea. and we see very young chinese gymnasts doing really well too. but i guess they dont weight train that much. watever u do, at the end of training, make sure ur youngsters do a dead hang from a bar, to relieve spinal compression.


I have a nephew who started at age 14. Kept him out of trouble all throguh his school and he has a great physique.


I would say it depends on the maturity level of the individual. My friends and I all started in Junior high and we all turned out ok. 9th grade to me seems a little bit too old to get started though.


did u just say too old??? 0.o
you get the best gains from 15-18years old-> why would u say grade 9 is too old to get started?????


Being ready to train seriously is an individual thing taking into account attitude, willingness to learn, desire, discipline, etc. Several strength and conditioning organizations teach coaches to start training kids as young as six, provided they are deemed ready by professionals. The key is to keep the weights submaximal until more physical maturity is attained. Look up some research done by Wayne Westcott, the NSCA, and the USAW if you want academic material. Weight training has been shown to be no more harmful than running or calisthenics provided it is done properly and with appropriate loading.

Personally, I have coached young weightlifters and athletes as young as 8 with safety and success. The way I do it is to use lots of skill work and developmental drills focusing on practice and technical mastery. Once this is achieved more traditional training can be used as long as you are careful and don't get too zealous for big weight. At 12 though, they should be ready for some hard training once they build a good base of skill and GPP.


I do a training group that is 4th to 6th-graders. It's pretty much all bodyweight stuff; a lot of coordination and reaction work; a lot of "games", etc. Remember that a 10-12 year old is not biologically capable (barring some exceptions of course) of adding significant muscle mass, so it's pointless to do a bodybuilding/powerlifting-style routine with tons of heavy lifting, but what strength training can help them do is have perfect technique, great movement quality, and muscle awareness far beyond most kids their age.

Most important above all is to make things FUN for the kids to help establish a lifelong love of fitness and physical activity. If anybody is interested in hearing some more specific details, I would be happy to share what I do.


My sis didn't waste any time getting my nephew started...no time is too early!


If you want some real information on training young athletes, you need to check out the International Youth Conditioning Association or send your kid to an Athletic Revolution training center. http://iyca.org. You can start introducing kids to external loading at any point because it is fantastic for health, nervous system development, and bone development, but hypertrophy training is absolutely useless until puberty because kids just don't have the hormones to get any type of muscle growth. Younger athletes (less than 14) are best served when they are infused with movement skills that they can build upon for the rest of their lives. There should not be any sort of meaningless repetition or bodybuilder splits. Fun but challenging is the best way to put it. Skills, not drills.


Agree. I have the IYCA cert and I think it is worth it. The information and presentations are really good. I thought the test should have probably been more challenging/interactive, but whatever.


If they have hit puberty they are ready. I have kids in 7th grade benching 175.

Other 8th graders are just starting.

I don't think it is too early to start working with free weight in JR. High. Obvious limitations to everything.


I have kids doing pushups, free-squats (no weight, just squatting down), jumps and sprints at age 8.

I wouldn't introduce any weight-bearing exercises till puberty.

There's nothing wrong with starting any kid, at any age, to eat right though. This is the one thing not taught to anyone by their parents, teachers, the school system, etc.

I also agree with everyone else, that when working with younger kids, keeping it "fun" and having you providing positive encouragement, are what will make or break them. The more time they have touching the weights/bars and doing the lifts the better - a little less talk and a lot more action...

When dealing with kids between the ages of 12-14, they need a lot of public and open encouragement. A good example is if you see a kid doing something right (even something simplistic), stop the group and have them watch the kid do the exercise. Explain to the group while the kid is doing the exercise, the key points that are making this kids' movement correct. Explain the benefits, etc. The kid that is doing the exercise is going to feel fantastic and the others are going to do their best to get the same kind of public encouragement. This is the kind of stuff that keeps this age group coming back for more and giving you their very best.


Yeah, I tend to agree with that age range. It’s always seemed ridiculous that kids can start soccer as young as 3 years old, but we have to hold them back until high school to lift. I know this is one hell of a bump to this, but I am researching this matter, as I have three sons, 14, 4, and 2 years old. One thing that seems interesting, is both my little guys picked up a large bag of potting soil the other day. I noticed their form, and both (without instruction), lifted with their legs, keeping their backs straight. Observing this made me curious whether kids are born with an innate sense of proper body mechanics. My 14 year old, on the other hand, doesn’t have the best posture. Makes me wonder if sitting around in school and the lack of exercise there screws their posture up. (I haven’t raised him since birth, so only in recent years has he been exposed to anything seriously physical.)
Now that I’ve re-opened this can of worms, anyone have some more input? Personal experiences? Know of any good recent studies?


Strong thread bump. Wow.

For sure it can. Add in computer time, sitting playing video games, and texting (forward head posture, neck/upper back stress, etc.) and it’s not a surprise.

Posture is a physical attribute just as much as it is a daily habit and skill. It can/should be practiced throughout the day.

I like starting kids with basic bodyweight stuff that I laid out in this article, starting pretty much whenever they can follow instructions, generally double-digits but depends on the kid’s attention span, coordination, and listening ability.

I’ve taught kids as young as 3-ish, but it wasn’t anything that could be called “exercise”, it was organized movement (“run over there, run here, jump up”, etc.) I’ve had 7 and 8 year olds that had trouble with the coordination of doing a simple jumping jack, and I’ve had 12-year olds that couldn’t hold a push-up position plank at all due to lack of strength and coordination.


Observing this made me curious whether kids are born with an innate sense of proper body mechanics. My 14 year old, on the other hand, doesn’t have the best posture. Makes me wonder if sitting around in school and the lack of exercise there screws their posture up.

I remember reading an article on here years ago about the squatting/strength ability of average joes in some 3rd world country. They were able to dramatically increase their squat weights in a short amount of time (they were new to training if I recall) and it was due to the fact that they never sat on the ground, but instead were always eating, talking, etc in a sitting squat position. Due to this they already had great hip flexibility. No coincidence that these guys weren’t office workers!

I’ve been working in IT for the past 15 years and my posture has gotten worse and worse. I’ve been working on it the last 2 years but its been a struggle. I have tight hips and a weak core and unfortunately didn’t realize how bad it had gotten until starting jiu jitsu. Its been humbling halving my weights to use perfect posture and even just walking and sitting. If I could offer one piece of advice it would be don’t let your kids get complacent with core and hip mobility. Working out and exercising is not enough if they spend the rest of the time slouching in front of their computers and phones!


Also, last year I bought an old Sports Illustrated and read this gem of an article. Look at the type of stuff Dan Gable was doing at 15 years old: https://www.si.com/vault/1972/06/19/613601/a-kid-who-doesnt-kid-around