Arm Strengthening for Youth

A simple game, such as tug-o-war, can build a youth's arm muscles.
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The benefits of arm strength training for adults are similar for pre-teens and even young children. In the past, it was a common belief that resistance training and the use of weights could stunt a child’s muscular development. This myth has been dispelled by several medical and fitness organizations in the United States. In fact, it’s recommended that youth perform muscle strengthening exercises three days a week with a day of rest between sessions. Children can use weights to strengthen their arms as soon as they can follow instructions, or around the age of seven or eight.

Resistance Training

    Using resistance exercises to strengthen the arms for children can lead to better performance and lowered risk of injury. When muscles contract, they tug on a child’s bones and help those bones to grow. Any muscle-building activities, such as basketball, swimming or running, will cause a youth’s bones to become denser and stronger. Arm strengthening exercises with weights or machines for youth should be performed in one to three sets of six to 15 reps per set. If a child performs a bicep curl with a dumbbell, he should use a weight that he can lift for at least six reps, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

Exercises for Ages 7 to 10

    For children ages 7 to 10, arm strength training can include the use of body weight, free weights, elastic bands, medicine balls and weight machines, according to Avery Faigenbaum’s “Youth Strength Training: Programs for Health, Fitness and Sport.” At this age, children can perform a variety of exercises, such as the bicep curl and triceps press with dumbbells as well as a chest pass with a medicine ball. Children can also participate in a variety of less regimented activities, such as rope or tree climbing, or swinging on the monkey bars, that will strengthen their arms.

Exercises for Ages 11 to 14

    In addition to the exercises performed by young children, youth ages 11 to 14 can progress to more advanced exercises on machines, such as the overhead press, front pull-down and triceps press-down. While some tall pre-teens may be able to use adult-sized machines, these activities are typically performed on child-sized machines. Other dumbbell exercises for this age group include the triceps kickback, one-arm row and bench press. When using the medicine ball, they can try one-arm tosses and overhead throws. They can also perform such body weight exercises as chin-ups, bar dips and standard pushups.


    When children engage in resistance exercises, they require easy-to-follow and concise instruction. If it involves using free weights or a machine, provide a demonstration, describe the movements and offer tips to improve performance. Inform them on rules of safety, such as a warning to never drop or throw dumbbells. Supervise children during the training sessions at all times. Monitor their exercises, correcting their form when appropriate.

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