If you’ve heard it said that lifting weights can stunt your child’s growth, then you’ve certainly come to the right place. We’re going to debunk that myth for you here and now.
In this article we’re going to look into how exactly the concept of weight lifting stunting your growth came about. We will get into some detail, but don’t worry everything will be fully explained for you and free of jargon.
SPOILER ALERT: When a child or a teen is lifting weights does not necessarily mean their growth will be stunted in any away. Done properly it should not affect their height at all or make them any shorter than they otherwise might have been.
But, we would like to stress that there are a few factors that can make a difference in this regard, which basically means that any weight lifting carried out by anyone under the age of 18 should be done correctly and with adult supervision.
This is why we’re also going to include some tips in our article for anyone under the age of 18 who wants to safely lift weights.
Why do some people believe that lifting weights stunts growth?
It’s all about growth plates…
Growth plates are basically areas of growing tissue at the ends of long bones, such as leg bones and arm bones. These growth plates are fairly softer during a child or teen’s development, but they are designed to turn into hardened bone by the time they reach full maturity.
The myth that lifting weights can stunt a youngster’s growth is likely to stem from the idea that injuries to these growth plates in bones that are not yet mature can lead to stunted growth of those particular bones.
But here’s the good news:
There is no evidence that lifting weights will stunt the growth of a child or teen
So, sure injuries to growth plates can be damaging, however lifting weights, when done correctly, will not lead to damaged growth plates.
Moreover lifting weights is no more dangerous to a child or teen’s growth plates than just about any other sport or recreational activity. In fact between 15 and 30 percent of all childhood fractures involve the growth plates.
No studies have ever shown that lifting weights stunts or inhibits growth, and there is no scientific basis or scientific evidence to support this idea. It is merely a myth.
In fact, rather than being damaging for kids and youngsters, there are numerous health benefits. Which brings us nicely onto our next section.
Benefits of lifting weights for kids
There is much scientific evidence (please see PubMed Central) to suggest that a well designed and properly supervised weight training program can have all manner of benefits for kids and teens.
- It decreases the risk of fracture and rates of sport-related injury,
- It increases bone strength and bone strength index, and
- It supports growing self-esteem and interest in health and fitness.
So, rather than being damaging to a child’s growth, weight lifting is actually very good for their bones.
Tips on how a child or teen can lift weights safely
So, as we have tried to emphasize, lifting weights is only safe for child teens when done properly. Poor form in weight lifting can cause injury, and if you get such an injury while you are still growing, you could risk damaging your growth plates.
Proper supervision is key
Both kids and teens should be properly supervised on any weight resistance program they want to try out.
And we’re not just saying this to apply rules for the sake of applying rules. First off if an injury does occur, and they sometimes do, then having a sensible adult at hand is exactly what you need in such an emergency.
But that’s not the only reason the youngster should be supervised. Sometimes children and teens are inclined to try out weights that are much too heavy for them. Weights that they would struggle to lift once, let alone for a number of repetitions.
And it is exactly this sort of activity that can have them rushing to the nearest A&E unit.
Favor more repetitions over heavier weights
As we have already touched upon, lifting weights that are too heavy really sets the scene for injuries. Instead the youngster who wants to start a weight training program should start off very small and build their strength up gradually.
That means using the lighter weights, and by doing 12, 15, or 20 repetitions of a particular weight on a regular basis before moving onto slightly heavier weights. They should take things slow and easy.
Don’t let kids stress about their size
Weight lifting is designed to increase muscle strength and performance, and not necessarily increase the size of their muscles.
Bulking up muscles takes time and will not happen overnight, if at all. Tell your kid they’re fine exactly as they are.
Don’t let kids use adult weight machines
Please do not let your kid use adult weight machines, as they are not designed with kids in mind. Instead we recommend that the youngster starts with and focuses on free weights.
Moreover, using free weights allows the lifter to better mimic sports movements.
Remember: age is just a number
There is no set age that a youngster can start a weight lifting program. Determining whether a child is ready depends on the child’s interest and ability, and not on how old they happen to be.
But the benefits for weight lifting for kids and teens far outweigh the risks. However our advice to you is to proceed with caution, and to follow all the guidance we have provided on how best to lift weights safely as a kid or teen.
Planning a weight training program for a youngster is easy, just use light weights and plenty of reps.