Numerous things are said to be bad for kids. Most people have heard all sorts of myths about coffee when they were younger. Another activity said to cause stunted growth is weightlifting. Here, we’re going to explain why that isn’t the case, what leads to stunted growth, and what actually happens when you lift weights.
What Lifting Weights Does to the Body
It’s hard to discern where the myth of weightlifting hurting the body came into being, but it was probably aided by the reality of what lifting weights does to the body in order to build muscle. When lifting heavy weights, tiny tears occur in the affected muscle groups in response to the trauma of repeated force.
In the recovery period, some soreness or fatigue may be felt depending on the intensity of the exercise and a few other factors. The body heals these damages by creating more muscle tissue with the aid of nutrients, resulting in larger or stronger muscles over time. In other cases, strength gain may occur without increased muscle size by increased efficiency of nervous systems with repeated exercise.
The tearing process itself sounds like it could be bad during what’s already a major period of growth, but in reality, it’s a normal part of any weight-based exercise program. The danger comes when, due to a variety of risk factors, injury happens.
Childhood growth is made possible through growth plates, soft parts of bones which elongate and harden as adulthood is reached and can be adversely affected in instances of injury. Weightlifting carries some risk of damage to growth plates, but no more than any other given athletic activity, making it a relatively safe form of exercise when properly utilized.
Benefits of Weightlifting as a Child
Weightlifting offers a variety of benefits for children in particular, though the routine should be less strenuous than that expected of an adult. For all, it can result in increased bone density and strength as well as sparking an interest in personal fitness, all of which confer health benefits into adulthood. For aspiring athletes, this training can reduce the risk of sports-related injury as well as fractures, which could otherwise hamper your career.
Earlier, we discussed two ways of strength gain showing itself via muscle growth through tearing and recovery and improved nervous systems. The same study that discovered the above benefits also found that muscle hypertrophy was usually not the driving factor behind strength gain in children. This means that greater benefits were conferred through the nervous system than by muscle tearing.
Things To Do and Things To Avoid When Lifting Weights as a Child
Children can do weightlifting, and there are many benefits to doing so. As with anything, however, proper form and etiquette matter. Some of the dos and don’ts when it comes to weightlifting at a young age, or preparing someone to lift weights at a young age, include:
Make sure that you take care of your body. Warming up with light exercise before a workout helps us avoid injuries. Giving a particular muscle group one or two days of rest after working out helps to avoid overtraining or injury. Be attentive before, during, and after a workout so that you can maximize results and minimize risks.
Remember that you’re never too old for supervision. All weightlifting programs for children should be formed under the guidance of a fitness or health professional. When working out, children should be supervised by someone qualified to analyze their form and habits.
Here, age is just a number. Whether or not a child is ready for weightlifting depends on their physical state and emotional maturity rather than any chronological benchmark. Even if a child is ready, the fitness routine should be tailored to their own goals and abilities rather than a cookie-cutter routine which may push them beyond their limits in a bad way.
Don’t become impatient. Pushing beyond your comfort zones is to be expected, but growth is a slow process. Understand that progress and results are the result of effort over time and don’t be demoralized if you don’t see immediate growth or constant progress. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Never try to power lift. Injury is to be avoided at all costs, and lifting too much is a great way to cause accidental injury. Stick with a weight that can be comfortably lifted for 12-15 reps to offer a challenging but safe routine.
Whatever you do, don’t overexert yourself. Whether lifting too much by maximum weight or lifting too high a volume of weight, overexertion is the bane of weightlifters, young and old. At best, you’ll be out of the gym for a few days while you recover, horribly fatigued. At worst, an injury could set you back for a much longer period of time.
Properly done, weight lifting can be a boon, especially for student-athletes or any child who takes a strong interest in their physical health. Part of what gave weightlifting its reputation as dangerous for growth was flawed data in now-discredited studies that implied that such was the case.
The studies used, among other samples, students who acted in unsupervised environments. These young people did not utilize the proper form to the point that they were injured due to a combination of negligence and overexertion. Using the above tips as a guide, safe lifting is highly positive.
When To Begin Lifting Weights
Okay, so kids can lift weights. But that begs the question: How young is too young? Obviously, newborns through the toddler stage have no business engaging in disciplined exercise regimens. On the other hand, children who have entered adolescence (around the ages of ten to 12) are in a great place to begin, as they are in a phase where the human body is well-adjusted for growth.
Ultimately, there is no single “right” age to begin lifting weights, just as there is no single workout routine that’s ideal for all people. Children grow at different rates in all parameters of life. For that reason, a weightlifting routine should not be established unless the interest for it exists and the person is physically ready for the demands it places. Additionally, the person must be able to understand proper form and technique to ensure they can work with safety and discipline in mind.
There are many signs that someone is ready to hit the gym. A person should be able to take direction without taking it personally, keep a goal in mind, and understand the risks they may expose themselves to if they slack in their concentration. They should be capable of treating their body with respect in everything from exercise to hydrating and eating properly.
What Actually Stunts Your Growth
So there you have it: Weightlifting won’t stunt your growth. The question that remains, then, is, what does stunt your growth? Many things can stunt your growth, but there are also ways to encourage healthy development.
These factors are:
Proper nutrition involves getting healthy levels of vitamins and other nutrients that are conducive to growth, upping your intake of healthy foods, and reducing your comparative intake of junk foods.
We require the highest amount of sleep in the early sections of our life, with the traditional seven to eight hours of sleep kicking in at early adulthood. By getting adequate sleep, you ensure that your mind and body will be operating the best that they can.
Prolonged illness, as well as chronic or hereditary conditions, can impact overall height and growth. Proper regulation of nutrition and sleep, and sanitary practices are all great ways to keep the body happy and healthy.
Injury to growth plates naturally poses a great risk to growth, though it’s doubtful the changes from minor injuries will be massive in scope. Engaging in healthy practices during exercises and athletic performances, doing recovery sessions, not overtraining are all great ways to avoid injury.
In truth, little can be done to change your genetics. Whether one’s parents are tall or short, odds are the apple won’t fall far from the tree.
With these metrics, it can seem difficult to unintentionally stunt one's growth. Still, the lack of knowledge, the pressure of academics, and other activities that may come early in life can cause otherwise commonly-known things to fall by the wayside.
However, proper exercise and weight training can have some effect on body appearance and help ward off injuries in the future.
The Truth of Aided Growth from Weightlifting
Weightlifting safely definitely won’t stunt anyone’s growth. Done properly, it will aid in physical and psychological development. There’s no reason for this form of resistance training to be neglected by anyone with the proper ability and discipline. Suit up and lift!