Can Lifting Weights Stunt Your Growth?
Nowadays, most gyms are packed with teenagers. Some parents even bring their kids to the gym. Although health experts encourage youngsters to work out, strength training is still subject to debate. Can weight lifting stunt children's growth? How safe is it, really? Let's find out!
Teens and Weight Lifting: Do They Mix?
Strength training is the best way to build lean muscle and keep your bones strong. Yet, some experts claim that lifting weights when you're young may affect your growth. However, this theory lacks scientific evidence. Football, rugby, contact sports can be more dangerous for teens.
Those who make these claims say that lifting weights puts stress on the soft growth plates on the end of the bones, causing damage. As the bones heal, their growth is stunted. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Your muscles and joints can't tell the difference between the resistance provided by vigorous play and that provided by strength exercises. The muscle fibers contract and then relax to handle any type of resistance. If you use good lifting form and increase the load gradually, your muscles will get stronger.
For instance, children and teens who play explosive sports or work on the family farm are perfectly healthy. As they grow, they're actually stronger and healthier compared to those with a sedentary lifestyle. Except for those with cardiomyopathy, resistance training is safe for all ages.
No study has confirmed that lifting weights affects children's growth and development. According to science, poor nutrition is the only factor that may stunt growth. Any injuries that may occur during training are due to bad form. Improper lifting technique can damage the spine, joints, and muscle tissues.
The Benefits of Strength Training for Teens
Strength training isn't just safe for teens and kids but beneficial too. Studies have found that lifting weights for as little as eight weeks can improve children's strength by 30 percent to 50 percent. The case reports of injuries were attributed to poor form, heavy loads, or misuse of gym machines.
A well-structured training plan can boost health and stamina. Youngsters who work out regularly are leaner, stronger, and more confident. They also get sick less often and have a lower risk of chronic illnesses in adulthood. Other key benefits of lifting weights include:
- Improved balance and coordination
- Faster reaction time
- Stronger immune system
- Reduced fat mass
- Increased discipline and mental focus
- Improved ability to handle stress
- Greater strength and power
- Greater self-esteem
- Increased bone density
- Stringer joints
- Better hormonal balance
- Improved body composition
- Improved motor skills
Children and teens should start with light weights. Once they're able to perform 10 or more reps with good form, the load can be increased. Some experts recommend using gym machines, at least initially. The optimal age to start a weight lifting program is around 11. Hypertrophy training is best saved for age 14 and up.
A typical workout routine for teens should include at least three weekly sessions. Stay active on your rest days to maintain your fitness. Don’t work the same muscle groups more than once every 48-72 hours.
High-rep training seems to work best for children. This approach is safer and improves overall conditioning. Bodyweight exercises are not recommended at this age.
Start slowly to build up your strength and endurance. Focus on learning basic movements, such as the squat and military press. As you progress, try new exercises and vary your workouts.
- Contrary to popular belief, strength training doesn’t stunt growth in children and teens.
- Bad lifting form and misuse of equipment, not fragile anatomy, are the culprit behind injuries.
- Children and teenagers should start with light weights and progress gradually. Adult supervision is a must.
- Lifting weight can boost children’s self-esteem, increase bone density, and improve motor skills. It also helps maintain a healthy body weight and lowers the risk of chronic diseases later in life.