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Get Active!

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How to Do It

Weightlifting

Girl lifting weights

What you'll need

The weight room at your school should have all you need to get started, but you can also check out a local YMCA or gym. Make sure you start with a lighter weight and build up as you get stronger — a combination of 1-, 3-, and 5-pound weights should be enough in the beginning. If you're using machines, keep the weight at the lowest setting at first.

Play it safe

Strength training, or weightlifting, builds muscles of course but it also helps your bones. Strength training is a great way to build bone density. There's a difference, though, between strength training to build muscle and improve your health and powerlifting or bodybuilding (competitive weight lifting). Powerlifting and bodybuilding are not recommended for teens and can cause serious injuries to growing bones, muscles, and joints.

Make sure you talk to your doctor first to make sure it's safe for you to lift weights.

How to play

At a gym or weight room, you can often choose between free weights (barbells, dumbbells, and hand weights) or weight machines. Free weights usually work a group of muscles at the same time; weight machines typically are designed to help you isolate and work on a specific muscle.

You can also use resistance bands to tone your muscles, or your own body weight (as in pushups or sit-ups).

Whatever you decide, start out with a lighter weight and go slowly. Even if you don't feel anything right away, your muscles could be sore the next day if you’ve never lifted weights before.
Follow these tips to help you avoid injury:

  • Start with body weight exercises for a few weeks (such as sit-ups, pushups, and pull-ups) before using weights.
  • Work out with weights about three times a week. Avoid weight training on back-to-back days.
  • Warm up for 5-10 minutes before each session.
  • Spend no more than 40 minutes in the weight room to avoid fatigue or boredom.
  • Work more reps; avoid maximum lifts. (A coach or teacher can give you specifics based upon your needs.)
  • Ensure you're using proper technique through supervision. Improper technique may result in injuries, particularly in the shoulder and back.
  • Cool down for 5-10 minutes after each session, stretching the muscles you worked out.

Don't rely on strength training as your only form of exercise. You still need to get your heart and lungs working harder by doing some kind of additional aerobic exercise for a minimum of 20-30 minutes per session. Doctors recommend an hour a day of moderate to vigorous activity — so on days when you're not lifting weights, you may want to get more aerobic activity.

For more information, visit: http://kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/exercise/strength_training.html.

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