COACH columnist

When someone asks, “What Age Should Kids Start Lifting Weights?”, they often have two reasons. Either they are seeking an answer relating to the biology of child development, or they’re wondering how to turn their fifth grader into a tank for his next flag football game. Dave Tate and Swede Burns may not be considered the top experts in biology. Still, they know a thing or two about how to have a competitive and long-lasting lifting career and a successful segue out of competition while still holding up powerlifting as something meaningful.

Swede began lifting at 12 years old, and Dave began lifting at 13. Those numbers have zero correlation with what is going to be the correct answer for someone else. The true answer is that a kid should start lifting weights when they want to lift weights. If someone has been lifting weights or playing a sport for 10-20 years, the least important thing is going to be when they started. What’s going to matter more is the amount of enthusiasm and enjoyment they can bring to training after the first year. If Dave or Swede had been forced into training when they were ten years old and had no interest, they likely would have never had the desire to continue when they were teenagers and adults.

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What can you do then? Lead by example. Let kids choose their forms of physical activity. No one can deny the importance of physical activity and exercise, especially as more Americans live a sedentary lifestyle. Anything they don’t find fun, in some way, will be much harder to get them to commit to. Dave opens up from his childhood and admits that his father loved football and pressured him to focus on it constantly. Dave ended up hating it and even directed some of that negativity towards his dad. Would Dave really have been any worse off, in the long run, had he focused on wrestling instead? He might be more interested in football than he is now!

But what if powerlifting had been ruined for him, too? Dave is pretty sure he would have ended up in jail if he didn’t have the outlet of powerlifting to mold his life around. Swede doesn’t have to wonder as much. Swede has been in and out of prison and knows that powerlifting is one of the reasons he was ever able to break the cycle. If that had been spoiled for him at a young age, he’d never have worked his way up to be one of the world’s best powerlifting coaches—a journey that takes multiple decades. The little he’d gain by starting at a younger age would be immensely overshadowed by the lifetime he’s spent being a student and teacher of the weights that saved his life.

Text By Mason Nowak

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