There is no doubt that physical activity is necessary for children of all ages. A sedentary childhood tends to make for unhealthy adulthood. However, Many parents are concerned about the idea of their children lifting weights at a young age. This article is intended to be a guide for those parents who are unsure about the subject.
A Tale Of Two Theories
The subject of youth weight training is a controversial one. There are those who say that it can cause permanent damage to the skeletal system of a growing child, and there is some evidence to support this claim.
At the same time, there are also those who say that strength training is a good thing for young children to engage in, provided that they have the necessary guidance. There is also good evidence to support this argument.
So, let’s take a look at the evidence. We will weigh both sides of the argument and see which side seems to have a stronger position. This writer has no opinion on the subject at present. Thus, we will be able to take a neutral look at this complex subject with no bias whatsoever.
The Argument Against Youth Weight Training
The oldest and most common argument against weight training for kids is that it will (supposedly) stunt their growth. This is an old belief that may have some basis in truth. The medical term for this phenomenon is “premature epiphyseal fusion.”
Epiphyseal fusion is something that happens to everyone as they grow to adulthood. The bones of children have a plate of cartilage between many of their long bones which serve as padding. As children grow, the “growth plate” gradually disappears and the bones fuse into a new joint. This process is not meant to occur until adulthood.
In addition, weight lifting is a sport that does have a relatively high rate of injury. Those who go too far have ended up with some pretty horrific injuries. The growing body of a child is more susceptible to injury than that of an adult. Numerous injuries have been documented in youth weight training.
Most of these are considered to have been caused by poor technique or lack of guidance, but there is no denying the fact that a danger exists. Weight lifting is probably no more likely to cause an injury than most team sports. Still, even those who advocate weight training for children will also advocate caution.
One thing that speaks well for this side is the fact that all of their opponents admit that children should be careful when training with weights. This alone does prove that a danger exists and that weight training is only safe for children if done within certain prescribed limits.
The Argument For Youth Weight Training
It seems that most of the experts are on this side of the argument. This does speak well for the idea, but experts are not always right. However, in this case, most of the evidence seems to be on their side.
This study found that pre-pubescent resistance training had no measurable effect on growth rates. The study also found that short-term weight training didn’t seem to have a huge impact on performance, nor did it seem to do any harm. This suggests that a child’s body is able to do this type of exercise as long as they don’t go too far.
Here are the results of an exhaustive study from the journal of strength and body conditioning. The study looked at a large number of factors, but their basic method was very simple.
They chose a large number of youth resistance training participants to take part in the study. The overall health and activity level of these children and teenagers were tracked. Based on these numbers, the researchers were able to give a reasonably good estimate of the rate of injury for any participant in youth weight training.
Overall, the injury rate was astonishingly low. This study found that the rate of injury was only 0.0012 per 100 training hours. This rate was slightly higher for young people involved in powerlifting, at 0.0027 per 100 hours of training time.
Some have suggested that this low injury rate is due to the fact that weight lifting is normally an incremental activity. That is to say; weight lifting is normally done with light weights at first so that you can gradually work up to larger weights. As such, weight training forces the participant to take it easy when they first begin. Of course, this only applies when someone has the proper guidance.
If you really need to see more evidence, take a look at this statement. It is a statement of policy from a large number of health and exercise experts. The experts conclusively affirm that weight training for children of 6-8 years and up is safe. Like all other authorities, they emphasize the need for proper instruction.
- Children should not lift weights without adult supervision
- The child should be capable of following instructions and respecting trainers
- Children should never lift to the maximum of their ability
- Children should not focus exclusively on weight training
- Child weight training routines should not focus too much on one area of the body
- Children must have a qualified trainer who will ensure that the proper technique and form are used
- It is especially important for children to use warmup and cooldown periods
- Youth weight training routines should emphasize low weight and high reps
- “explosive lifts” should not be included in youth weight training routines
- Children under 13 should be limited to weights of no more than 10 pounds
In general, this seems to be a mixed answer. While there is no doubt that dangers exist for children involved in weight training, those dangers are much smaller than I would have thought. However, it should be noted that the risks become much higher in the absence of proper coaching. This is the theme in every piece of evidence that I have been able to find.
Children should certainly not be turned loose with a set of weights. Their natural enthusiasm will make them more likely to overdo it. However, all the authorities and most of the evidence seems to agree that this activity is safe when done properly. If you have enjoyed this article, feel free to check out our facebook page and follow us for more informative content like this.