We remember a time when crossing the monkey bars two times in a row was the ultimate test of strength; those kiddie contests are a thing of the past now that Bloomberg Businessweek has shed light on the growing child bodybuilding industry. Seven-year-old Giuliano Stroe of Romania, the poster child of the baby builders movement, wants to invite you to the “gun show.” The YouTube videos of the tiny Titan flexing his muscles and benching twice his weight have gotten more than 13 million views.
Lest you think little Giuliano is just a curiosity, parents (mostly dads) have started taking their kids into the weight room at younger and younger ages and gyms and trainers have taken notice. Trainer Andre Farnell of New Jersey, whose clients are about 25 percent children, told Bloomberg Businessweek that some kids just “come out of the womb ready to do this” and are ready to hit the gym before they can even spell “gym.”
Though more bodybuilding competitions are opening up to underage applicants, there’s no real money or glory in it. Most of the kiddie contests don’t even have prizes. So why the big push? Even one of the dads interviewed for the article admits that he pushed his four bodybuilding sons too hard, even if one did make it to the 2008 Summer Olympics. And there is, of course, the health factor. A study from Columbus, Ohio’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that 47 percent of weight-training injuries happen in people between ages 13 and 24.
We’re not sure what there is to be gained by creating legions of juvenile gym rats, but with the runaway success of Toddlers and Tiaras, should we really be surprised if Preschoolers and Pectorals is the next big hit? At what age would you let your kid start working out at the gym?