The Incredible Teen Hulk

Super Bowl Sunday is the one time of year that I can actually sit down and watch an entire football game.  Correction.  The background noise is actually the football game and when I say watch an entire game, I really mean glance at the tv every so often and shout an occasional “wahoo” or “bad call ref!”

This year was no different.  My new year’s resolution of eating healthy slipped quietly out the window as I sat down with my seven layer bean dip, buffalo wings and ranch dipping sauce.  I was just about to chow down when I noticed that my high school- aged brother was not pigging out on junk food but on lean turkey meat and whole wheat crackers.  Whaaa?  What high school boy cares about lean proteins and whole grains?  As we started talking about why he wasn’t succumbing to the temptation of the junk food he informed me that he was really trying to get into shape.  He told me that he had been spending hours in the gym lifting weights all to achieve his “perfect body.”

I had heard that lifting weights at such a young age was detrimental to a young person’s body so I thought I would take my questions up with Dr. Jeff Jackson, an orthopedic surgeon at St. Mark’s Hospital and team physician for Juan Diego Catholic High School sports.  He informed me that weight lifting is NOT harmful but actually a really great form of exercise for teenagers, so long as they don’t over do it.

Dr. Jackson gave me some really great tips on keeping teens safe and uninjured while in the weight room.

  1. One of the biggest reasons teenagers experience injuries while weight lifting is lack of proper form.  By using correct form, a person will get better results but more importantly, you’re not putting excessive weight on parts of the body that aren’t equipped for it.  Improper form can result in straining or tearing muscles which in many cases, takes a few weeks for complete recovery.
  2. Don’t get frustrated – Every person’s body is different and you might not be able to bench 200 pounds like your friend.  That’s ok.  By asking your body to do something that it’s not ready for is a recipe for injury.  When trying an exercise for the first time, start with a lower weight and 12-15 repetitions.  If that seems too easy, try a slightly heavier weight.  Gradually increasing the weight is a key factor in avoiding strength training injuries.
  3. If you are new to lifting weights don’t go alone.  Having a buddy that is familiar with weight lifting will keep you motivated but also can prevent injuries.  Using the “buddy system” is great if you find yourself in a situation where you might have loaded up too much weight or become fatigued.

Dr. Jackson also said that he is frequently asked, “how often should teenagers weight lift?”  Because muscles need time to rest and recover, he suggests that teens not use this form of exercise more than three times per week.

As parents you also want to make sure that your children also have a positive body image.  If you find yourself at a loss for words on how to communicate with your teen or for tips check out one of our previous posts here.

For additional tips on weight lifting including correct form and exercises, Dr. Jackson suggests visiting the teen section of Livestrong.com.

 

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