Does Lifting Weights Stunt Growth? The Answer May Surprise You!
It is common knowledge in the health and wellness field these days that lifting weights aids weight loss, builds strength, and improves bone density. Athletes and average people alike are learning to benefit from adding weight lifting to their routines.
But if you’re a teen athlete, a high school kid, or a health-conscious parent, you may have a few fears. Many people over the years have asked: does lifting weights stunt growth?
This is a very common fear. But is this fear justified? We took the time to gather up all the research on this subject. Read on to learn the truth.
The Myth: Lifting Weights Stunts Growth
The myth that lifting weights stunts growth has been around for years. It stems from the fact that children’s and teenager’s bones have growth plates on the ends of them. Growth plates promote growth, and they mineralize when children finish growing.
These growth plates are made of soft tissue and drive growth in young kids’ bodies. Parents fear that the pressure of lifting weights will cause fractures in these growth plates. These fractures may lead to early calcification and stunted growth.
This myth has been around for at least the last decade, persisting even as weight lifting grew in popularity. But is this myth true or false?
The Truth: Lifting Weights is Good for Kids and Teens!
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, children and teens need at least 60 minutes of activity each day. Good news for fans of lifting weight: the body cannot tell the difference between weight lifting and other strenuous sports. All of it is beneficial and lifting weights does not negatively effect growth.
The added weight of lifting weights will not cause fractures in the growth plates on the end of bones. In fact, the only thing that causes injury during weight lifting is poor form and a lack of caution. So, don’t be like these guys.
There is some evidence that weight training may promote growth in children and teens. Lifting weight can promote the production of the human growth hormone, which in turn promotes healing and, you guessed it, growth!
At the end of the day, the most important thing for healthy children is a good diet and regular exercise. Eat lots of veggies, and get plenty of activity every day. So now you may be wondering, how should kids lift weights?
Strength Training Tips for Teens
The most important thing when lifting weights with kids is having good supervision.. Without proper supervision, kids may end up trying exercises that they haven’t yet learned, or lifting too much weight.
Teens and children who want to lift weights should be sure to work with a qualified trainer. There should be trainers available at any weight lifting gym. According to Barbara Brehm-Curtis, Ed.D., a professor at Smith College, teenagers who lift weights can reduce their rate of injury by 50%!
Knowledge of correct technique is essential to avoiding injury. Beginner athletes of all ages should focus on learning the different movements before they move on to lifting heavy weights. This is especially true for children and teens, whose bodies are still growing. With the proper form, teenagers can be sure that lifting weights will not stunt their growth.
Additionally, children should not use the weight machines when learning to lift weights. These machines have been designed for use by adults and are not adapted to children’s smaller bodies. Better to stick with free weights and learning movements.
Teens and children should use light weights, or no weights at all, and focus on high repetitions. This will allow the young athletes to learn the movements one by one. The more repetitions they do, the more likely they are to master the movement!
It is important for teens to avoid powerlifting, or practicing Olympic lifts. When children lift heavier weights, they are more likely to use poor form and injure themselves. Be smart and safe, start out with reasonable weights and less complicated movements.
Encourage your child or teen to set realistic and reasonable short and long term goals. Achieving the short term goals will help keep them motivated and upbeat. And be sure to celebrate with them when they achieve their long term goals!
The last piece of advice is to have the right attitude when training teens or children. Avoid a hyper-competitive attitude, it doesn’t help the kids achieve their goals. Instead, be supportive and motivational. Let them know that even little improvements are great.
The Take Away
Strength training does not inhibit growth in children and teens. In fact, strength training should absolutely be included in any motivated child’s workout routine! Just be sure to follow these basic guidelines:
- Always have supervision
- Work with a qualified trainer
- Use light weights
- Focus on mastering basic movements
- Avoid hyper-competitive attitudes
- Set goals and stay motivated!
For parents and trainers looking to work with children and teens, there are lots of resources available. Always start with the basics, be supportive and encouraging, and you should see big improvements!