If you were someone who eyed the weights rack at the school gym with equal parts admiration and awe, you were likely told the same story: “Not yet, you’re too young.” It’s a phrase most people have heard uttered at some point in their life in relation to weight lifting, and stems from the long-held belief that weight lifting stunts growth. When you saw guys working out in the gym with bulging biceps and ripped torsos, it was all you could do but hope to emulate their own gains. But sadly, for most of us, this was denied until we were deemed to be of a fit age.
Given that weight lifting provides numerous health benefits, it’s time we talked about the myth that it stunts growth because aside from being a lie, it also denies young adolescents the opportunity to reap the benefits that come with the exercise. Much like cracking your knuckles won’t give you arthritis, weight lifting won’t stunt your growth.
Though it’s worth noting that the myth is good-natured in its origin and simply one that comes from genuine concern, there’s no evidence to support such claims. Rather, the research that exists in the field of weight lifting simply sings the praises of the exercise, and there’s plenty of evidence to support the advantages of a well-designed and supervised weightlifting program for kids. As Trevor Thieme writes for Men’s Health UK, “Children and adolescents who life weights not only benefit from improved strength and body composition, but also tend to have more robust bones, increased self-esteem, a reduced risk of sports-related injuries, and a greater overall interest in fitness, which plays lifelong dividend. Best of all, training for kids can be fun.”
The key takeaway here is that there are no downsides to getting kids involved in strength training, but the important thing is to ensure it is supervised and that the training is specific to the individual undertaking it. Weight should be tailored to the person, as it’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach, and it also bears noting that form and function should always be a priority before adding weight. Take it from Will Smith!
If kids want to get involved with strength training, experts recommend waiting until he age of 7 or 8 to being intentional strength training, as it’s at this age that they have better attention, coordination and emotional maturity to do it effectively. Just as you would with adults undertaking a strength program, start with bodyweight exercises, focusing on form, and then add weight once this has been mastered. Later, when weights are being introduced, they should be kept light, with the focus on higher reps.
We recommend enlisting the services of a personal trainer or coach to help kids get started, as they will not only give your kid undivided attention and supervision when it comes to training, but ensure they are doing so correctly.