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When to Start a Child Lifting Weights? 5 Years Old?

Hey everyone. I have a 5 year old who shows much interest in weight lifting. He is about 50 inches tall without shoes and over 80lbs. He’s very, very broad and strong. He is also autistic (like myself) but is extremely hypersensitive to sound. He has always liked pressure and we think that weight lifting can be therapeutic for him. My wife and I have agreed to a decent size budget to put together a gym next year after we build our home. As his father, I just want him to find his passions, but I do think that this is something that he will be very good at. So what does everyone think? Maybe get him doing very low weight to work on form and fundamentals for now? When is it ok to really push it moving forward.



Above are pictures of my boy that just turned 5 2 months ago.

Thats a kid, man. He doesnt have a clue to what his passions are or will be.
Most people who are good at something and started very early, were just pushed by parents and we dont really know how did they feel back then.

Gym is too much for his age. Can he do a CORRECT push up? A pullup? Can he do a few different patterns on agility ladder?
There are many cool things that would make a solid athletic base without weight.
I am not an expert in this but if it was my kid, he would be doing bodyweight stuff for reps until he is like 12-14 at least.
It will be a challenge to get him do 10 strict pushups for now.

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My daughter is 5yrs, 42lbs and ~42 inches tall. I don’t have her lifting weights despite her interest (because kids want to do what their parents do). I don’t see the benefit of having a child lifting weights while they still cannot master their own bodyweight. My daughter can’t do a pushup with good form, has inconsistent form with crunches, and can almost do a pull up. When she can do these things, along with squats, deads, lunges, etc with a faux bar (we plan to use a a PVC pipe to simulate) and good form, only then we will have her start lifting true weights.

I agree with it being a good outlet, furthermore I agree with teaching kids how to train, but they have to be ready. It’s like teaching a child about gun safety: you don’t do it until your child is ready to learn and retain the information properly.

My daughter is also in gymnastics and has been for ~2 years. Full disclosure, I may be integrating her into lifting a little early but it will compensate her gymnastics skills with her small(er) size.

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Depends on the kid. Mine was a hockey nut already at 5. That was definitely all him. Hockey is the last sport I’d have picked, but it’s the sport he gave 100 percent to, so hockey it was.

Sure, we could have snuffed it out and never fed the interest. Maybe he moves on to another interest, maybe not.

That was 16 years ago. He was just out on the pond scrimmaging with our local high school team last week.

Lifetime hockey nut. Fishing too.

I will say that even as a young kid, I remember watching the Bowflex commercials seeing the dudes with all the muscle (of course they didn’t get them from the Bowflex, but I digress), and I literally always wanted to look like that. I didn’t equate that interest to actually going to the gym until I was a fatty teenager during football pre-season, but still I found my own way into the gym and have stuck with it for a long time. Could be coincidence, or could be that I was simply always interested in the bodybuilding lifestyle.

To be fair though, I was also interested in Soccer, Baseball, and Football - all of which I eventually stopped playing so :man_shrugging:

I was thinking along those lines too. I don’t intentionally push him into anything, but Everytime I’m in the basement, he will go down there and grab my wife’s little 2.5 lb dumbbells. I don’t let him grab anything else. If he’s interested, I’ll definitely start him off doing a lot of agility training and body weight exercises for sure. I was just wondering what everyone thinks about an actual age for actual weights in mind.

I like that faux bar idea. He’s just been going downstairs Everytime I lift and tries to miss around with my weights. I let him grab my wife’s little 2.5 lb dumbbells, but that’s it. He goes through a lot of stress with his hypersensitivity to sound and we are always looking for ways to help him deal with it.

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Make sure you’re not confusing this with “he shows interest in the thing he sees Daddy is interested in.”

Bottomline line is, with kids this young, structured weight training is the last thing they need. They need to develop total-body coordination, physical awareness, and a wide variety of physical skills, not bench-squat-dead-press.

Pretty much all the research shows physical and mental benefits from introducing a wide range of sports and activities when kids are younger, rather than specializing early. So, more play and general movement, less “this is how this exercise is done with rigid technique”.

Have you looked into occupational therapy?

Also worth checking out, in general:

It’s not about chronological age, it’s about physical development. So, not like “get under the bar when he hits 12.” My thoughts would be to progress to free weights after he’s mastered the bodyweight routine laid out here:

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I still believe that ‘actual weights’ should be avoided until the child is able to do the absolute basics of bodyweight movements - push ups, pull ups, crunches, squats, lunges, etc. with good form. There probably isn’t anything wrong with having your son start with actual weights, but you will need to tone down the weight of them a lot for them to be appropriate… Even with your son weighing about 80lbs, a barbell alone weighs 45lbs - which is a lot in the scope of relative strength.

Why not try giving him a bodyweight exercise circuit, or perhaps a few circuits done throughout the week and see how he feels about it then? This is what I have my daughter do:
Mon, Weds, Fri
Progression Method: Monday = 2 rounds, Weds = 3 rounds, Fri = 4 rounds. At the end of the week, increase reps +1 and start over at 2 rounds.
-Push Ups x5
-Sit Ups x5
-Bodyweight Squats x5
-Flexed Arm Hang to Failure (timed, to be replaced with pull ups when capable)
-Clean Press x5 (with faux bar, haven’t integrated this yet but plan to)

-Tues, Thurs, Sat I have her work on gymnastics skills, floor, bar, beam, etc. so no strength training these days.
-This is all supplemental to the 3x per week we have her in gymnastics class

Expect to be underwhelmed with performance lol (I was, and frequently am), kids just need lots of encouragement and low standards on form/effort from you. If your son is truly interested - he will ask to do it again, but anticipate that you will need to encourage him to continue doing it with you.

P.S Yes, I have my daughter do a lot - but none of this is my wife or I pushing her to do this; she just really loves gymnastics and I’m glad I can help her with that.

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He had an occupational therapist, but doesn’t anymore because he met all goals. He is quite coordinated and is definitely on par with typically developing kids with gross motor and his fine motor is definitely getting there. We were thi king weights may be something he enjoys because he has always liked deep pressure. He is ultra hypersensitive to sound and that causes him a lot of stress, so we though that weights would do the same. Obviously, I don’t let him lift anything heavy, but I do let him grab the 2.5 lb blue dumbbells. We have a playground outside with a bouncy bridge, rock climbing, and other activities that require balance and some pulling strength and he really enjoys those kind of things. He has always liked very physical activities since we can remember. I plan on continuing to help him develop his agility through play and activities, but I was just wondering what people thought about actual lifting at what point is it beneficial.

Good post Chris.

I just want to co-sign on young people learning to move their bodies vs lift weights and getting Specific info from Dave Tate at EFS.

I think those are very good exercises. I’m going to see if he wants to start off with that workout. My boy has always been very physical and enjoys high pressure and weighted vests, jackets, etc… We have plenty of evidence to understand why he wants to lift with me as we know that he enjoys having weight on him. He doesn’t partake or show interest in other things that I do

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I have a 6 and 4 year old. For physical activity, I make sure they have active play and we take walks daily. Eventually, I’d like to put them in sports. With regards to resistance training, Whenever they develop an interest via seeing my example, I’ll start them off with basic calisthenics like push-ups, recline rows, squats, lunges, sit-ups and v-ups, and pull-ups if they can do them. Beyond that, once they’re good at bodyweight movements, I don’t see an issue with introducing them to basic barbell and dumbbell movements, in the 8+ rep range (no max effort stuff).

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Things I’ve done with my boys (9 and 6).

Goblet squats (from age 5) - these can not be heavy as the limiting factor is arm strength
Rope climbs, pull ups, press ups, dips, L sits for core
Loading races / moving events with weight plates, leather balls (in the gym) and even 5&10lt bottles of water.
Tire flipping. Man they love this.
From age 7 I’ve allowed them both to add back squats. Max is weight 100% body weight.
Age 9 land mine dead lift again max weight is 100% BW
Always leave reps in the tank. 3 in the tank is a good number.

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That’s one I’d avoid, unless it’s just crazy light. I don’t recommend tire flipping to anyone, kids or adults. Too easy to end up with a bicep injury.

Go work on a farm. The farmboys in my area are flipping tractor tires (and drivng tractors), picking up calves and hay bales, chopping wood, etc. by like 3 years old I’m pretty sure.

Joking, but I have seen a lot of kids with mental health issues (is this the right word? Disabilities? I don’t mean anything rude by it, either way) get the most help by doing forms of the aforementioned tasks. The combo of physical activity + being out in nature + maybe something about seeing something get complete (like a pile of chopped wood) seems to work wonders on a lot of kids. OP, I have no idea where you live or what’s around you but beyond lifting weights, if you can find physical outdoorsy stuff to do I bet the kid would love it.

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We have 5 acres in the country right outside of town where we will build our home next year. We have pondered with the idea of some cows and a couple of horses but I’m not sure if its something I truly want for myself (in case my kids don’t like that stuff.) My 5 year old is autistic and would be considered “high functioning” (I hate that term) More than anything, weight and compression have always been soothing for him. He is extremely hypersensitive to sound and a little to light (like a guy named Nikola Tesla was) and the weight helps regulate him. I’m not sure if the moos from cows and other animal sounds would be through best for him. I do plan to have kind of like a sand dune area for sprints, sledding in the winter, and other play. He already wants to join me when I lift weights and I have never made him. He always asks if he can join in, and I tell you what…he’s strong as hell. For reference, my wife in HS at only 113 lbs benched 225.

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A buddy of mine keeps a goat on hand. He doesn’t have a “farm” but a house out in the country with space. I just mention that as an option to maybe experiment with animals that aren’t as gigantic as cows or horses, if you care to go down that road and see if your kid likes it or not.

That’s awesome about the space you’ll have. I’d like to have that some day.

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I’ll be fair bicep injury is not something I’d worried about too much. But the tire is like 40kg - so it’s going to cause too many issues. Especially as we use it mainly as cardio.

I tend to go off of the mantra - if it’s the sort of thing kids do playing in the woods it “better”. And whilst he won’t flip tires boy love flipping logs and stuff.

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Yea if the tire is super light, it’s not as much of a concern, and children are less prone to that sort of injury anyway. Just something to be aware of, especially if the tire is hard to flip. I would say any time you can flip for 10+ reps is pretty safe.