Strength Training, Not Weight Training

By Brian M. Torpey, MD, FACS


Some of the most frequently asked questions from young patients are directed at weight lifting.

Parents are often concerned about their preadolescent children who may be “lifting weights too early." Concern for muscle injuries, growth stunting, and loss of flexibility are the most frequent fears young athletes mention as they consider whether or not to initiate a strength training program.

In actuality, strength training is really a conditioning technique that focuses on repetitive exertion of muscle force against resisting objects, such as barbells, dumbbells, and the use of machines or body weight. Weightlifting is actually a sport geared towards lifting a maximum weight using specific techniques.

Several studies have indicated that strength training is safe for young athletes as long as proper training techniques and supervision are provided.

Safety precautions are an important consideration in weight training, and observation of these precautions will limit potential injuries.

  • Supervision by a knowledgeable adult with proper training with credentials in conditioning and strength training is advisable.
  • Workouts should focus on large muscle groups first and then smaller groups.
  • If free weights are being utilized, a spotter is mandatory.
  • The athlete should work on a variety of muscles, i.e. upper extremities, lower extremities, chest, and back.
  • Specific workouts should focus on exercising opposing muscle groups in pairs (triceps and biceps or quadriceps and hamstrings).
  • A fifteen to twenty minute cool-down comprised of stretching and light calisthenics is strongly recommended to conclude a strength-training program.