At some point in everyone’s lives, one is told a particular “fact” that goes unquestioned. We have all fallen victim to being told something that is not necessarily the truth. In the year 2018, one bit of fiction continues to rear its ugly head in the fitness and athletic community. That aforementioned piece of information is that lifting weights stunts a child’s growth. Typically speaking, a doctor or pediatrician will tell a parent the dangers of lifting weights for their children. Let’s be clear and indicate that this article is not an attack on doctors or any other purveyor of this fitness myth. After all, everyone is looking out for the health of children. The goal of this article to heighten awareness to the benefits of weight training for the youth population. Let’s take a closer look, and separate fact from fiction.
The idea behind stunting a child’s growth involves their growth plates, which, if damaged, can adversely affect their physical development. Ironically, children are encouraged to be involved in intense, physical, fast-paced and uncontrolled activities as often as possible! Every time a child runs through the playground, sprints down the field kicking a soccer ball or explodes to the net on a tennis court, their growth plates are at risk! This may seem like hyperbolic language, but the truth behind most injuries (growth plate injuries included), is that they take place during situations where an individual is involved in an uncontrollable situation or environment. Sports by nature exhaust individuals. When a surplus of situations takes place where an athlete cannot control how many forehands they will hit in a game, or what direction they will travel in a given match, their body eventually breaks down. Of course, I will not advocate to stop playing a sport due to the risk of injury, rather, one should be as prepared as possible to withstand the rigorous aspects of sports.
Perhaps there is a stigma with weight training, as most will picture a strong man or bodybuilder. To better understand, let’s alter weight training to resistance training (same thing) and we will discover the fact that if properly programmed and executed, resistance training can actually reduce the risk of injuries while playing sports.
The human body is a complex set of systems that work together to make us move. When one of these systems is lagging, the rest tend to fall apart. The idea behind resistance training is to strengthen or enhance these systems. Resistance can be achieved with body weight, or outside weight such as bands, dumbbells, barbells or machines. If this training is taught incorrectly, the program progressions are not monitored or the child is mentally too young and unfocused to perform movements with resistance, then injuries can take place. A great benefit here is that resistance training is in a controlled environment. With proper professional coaching, a young athlete will not only reduce their risk of injury, but even increase their overall athletic performance. I do caution parents to be aware that this style of training takes patience and a certain degree of mental maturity.
If this article does indeed inspire you to enroll your child in a resistance-based training program, just make sure a proper evaluation is given. As a Strength and Fitness Coach myself, I hope that this article helps to debunk the myth that weight training is not for children, as we aim to help every athlete develop and reach their human potential.
Griffin Samuels is a Fitness Coach at Magnus Potential at Tenafly Racquet Club. He holds both personal training and corrective exercise specialist certifications issued by NASM. He obtained his English degree at Dominican College, where he also minored in Education. Shortly after graduating, he received his teaching certification for the state of New Jersey. Since the age of 17, Griffin has had a passion for health and fitness, and a desire to pass on his knowledge obtained from that passion.