At some point in recent decades, the rumor mill churned up this little nugget: Weight lifting will stunt your child’s growth, so therefore children and young adults should not be exposed to strength and resistance training before their bodies are fully developed.
The theory behind this line of thought is that pressure from heavy weights on a young frame causes damage to the bones’ growth plates, resulting in fused bones, limited growth, and fracturing. There is also an argument that weight lifting should be avoided until after puberty since children lack certain hormones—androgens, mainly testosterone—which aid in muscle building.
As scary as this sounds to a parent, studies actually show the exact opposite to be true: weightlifting for kids is EXTREMELY beneficial.
The American College of Sports Medicine1 reports that there is no research to support either argument for delaying strength training. A study from the Institute of Training Science and Sports Informatics analyzed 60 years’ worth of studies of children (boys and girls ages 6-18) and weightlifting2, and the results were positive across the board: children grew stronger, saw developmental increases, and an increase in neurological performance (aka their bodies function more efficiently).
So not only is weight lifting safe, experts are encouraging children to hit the gym- with careful supervision, of course.
With appropriate coaching, an emphasis on correct form, and a safe program (including gradual increases), children and teens can build strength, maintain a healthy weight and gain mental discipline. Strength training can also prevent injuries outside the gym. As a child is gaining better control and stronger muscles, he or she is able to react faster or stabilize in shaky situations, and they have more tissue strength to withstand impacts, from sports or otherwise.
Every day on the playground, kids are lifting their own bodyweight (or each other- what kid doesn’t love a good piggy back ride?!), pushing around objects to build forts, or climbing impossibly high trees. All of this activity is essentially informal resistance/strength training.
Veritas Performance Training works with kids of all ages, creating age- and skill-appropriate programs to keep them motivated and moving. If you are interested in how we can work with your child (or you!), contact us directly to schedule a free consultation.