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Teen Health

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Weight Lifting and Strength Training Tips for Teens

"I want to lift weights to be stronger," says "Ella" (not her real name), 17. "But I don't want to look like a football player!"

"Hey, I do want to look like a football player," says "Josh," 14. "I'm going out for the team next year and need to bulk up."

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There are good reasons, although they are different for Ella and Josh, why both teens should do strength training: it builds muscle strength, tones the body, builds endurance, develops stronger bones and even promotes weight loss. But they need to do strength training properly to avoid injury. Here are some questions, answers, and tips about strength training:

Q. What Is Strength Training?

A. Strength training is a program of exercises that increases muscle strength and endurance. Strength training is not necessarily the same thing as power lifting or even weight lifting. While power lifters use heavy weights to build large muscles, people who strength train may use lighter weights or resistance and multiple repetitions. You can do strength training with weight machines or free weights. But you can also do it with resistance bands, ankle or wrist weights, or using your own body weight as you would with a pushup.

Q. Is Strength Training Dangerous?

A. Strength training is not dangerous if you do it with proper supervision and instruction. It's a safe and effective way to strengthen muscles (including the heart),  look more toned, and help control weight. It also helps strengthen bones. But because teens are still developing, it's important to get an OK from your doctor and to seek professional instruction to make sure you do it correctly.

Q. Do Girls Get Big Muscles With Strength Training?

A. It would be tough for a girl to get big muscles with strength training -- unless they do a lot of it. Girls produce less testosterone (male hormone) than guys, so their muscle size builds less rapidly. Guys who've started puberty will be able to build bigger muscles lifting weights.

Q. Is Strength Training Aerobic?

A. Endurance exercise like walking, swimming, or biking is aerobic, as your muscles use oxygen more efficiently to strengthen your heart and lungs. Aerobic activity increases your heart rate and keeps it up for an extended period of time. Strength training is usually anaerobic (meaning "without oxygen"), as your muscles work against the weight.

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