Why I Let My Kids Weightlift
“Oh wow…don’t you worry about her getting hurt?”, was the first thing out of people’s mouths when I told them my daughter was an Olympic-style weightlifter. My oldest daughter started lifting at 5 years old and I can see how that could be alarming to some people. The thought of a 5-year-old struggling under a barbell and heavy plates make my mommy-senses tingle too. But that is not exactly how it works at our club.
Some people are of the opinion that strength can hurt a child and stunt their growth. Under certain and extreme circumstances, I agree that is probably true (despite recent findings by the medical community stating otherwise). And we could talk about how many times my daughter has been significantly injured at gymnastics (3) vs weightlifting (0), but that is for another day. I’m not here to argue over kids being bodybuilders (because that is usually the first thing people think of when they hear the word weightlifting) but here to tell you the benefits my child has experienced while Olympic-style weightlifting.
It all started over three years ago when I started my own journey in Olympic weightlifting. StoneAgeFuel is a kid friendly gym, and my girls were there almost every day watching me workout. One day, my oldest at 5 years old randomly walked up to a women’s bar on the ground and deadlifted it, yelling, “hey mommy look at what I can do!” My coach and I looked at each other and decided that if she was going to be around the equipment and be interested in what we were doing, we were going to teach her the right and SAFE way.
We started her and Coach Erika’s 5-year-old daughter on basic form using a PVC pipe. They learned all the positions of the snatch and clean and had a great, giggling time doing it. Once they were more than proficient, we started sloooowly adding weight, a half kilo at a time. To give you a little more background, not every child that comes in is handed a barbell and gets to go to town. Both of these girls were gymnasts since they were 3 years old and had been enrolled in StoneAgeFuel Kids Fitness prior to even looking at a barbell. Each child is unique and their general physical preparedness plays a key role in if they are ready to even look at a platform.
The coaches were able to tailor training to fit the girl’s needs and they started competing at local and out of town meets with the rest of the team about a year later. These are where some of her greatest (so far) life lessons have been learned. Although she was getting ready to compete in gymnastics competitions for the first time and worked out with her “team” there, she really had her first experience with a team at weightlifting meets. She got to be a part of something special with older kids and adults all in one place, which made her feel like a superstar because she was part of a group of big people who treated her like an equal.
I am amazed at the level of confidence she has acquired from weightlifting. Every time I see her strut out on the platform and pick up that bar, she exudes an air of power and pride I rarely see in a child. She was the youngest lifter ever when she competed at her first USAW Youth Nationals Championship at 7 years old and it didn’t even phase her being on the stage with kids nearly twice her age. She has also learned how to fail in a safe environment. Yes, there have been tears from missed PR attempts, but she has also learned to walk off the platform with a smile and to high-five her friends when she gets off stage.
Weightlifting (obviously) made her stronger. However, her gymnastics greatly benefited from her weightlifting training. Although she has an athletic build, her upper body was lacking strength for her bar routine. She was close to not being allowed to compete in her first gymnastics competition because she could not complete her routine. Luckily, Coach Steph and Chandler knew exactly what to do to work those muscles and got her strong enough to compete in gymnastics and she even took home All Around State Champion that year!
But what I really love the most though is how proud she is of being STRONG. Even if she eventually stops weightlifting, I am thrilled at how it has shaped her self-esteem. I grew up worrying about my size and weight. She doesn’t care what she looks like, but how strong she is. My girl has told me that boys don’t mess with her on the playground because they know she can pick them up. She has the confidence to stand up for herself, something I only dreamt of having when I was her age. I adore the fact she has learned to appreciate herself and other women; not by how much they weigh but by what they can do with themselves. She sees the beauty in hard work while having fun and I am so proud that I could give her that opportunity.
Do I worry about her getting hurt weightlifting? Of course, I worry about her tripping over her own feet (which she does a lot). Do I believe the benefits outweigh the risk? Absolutely.