Updated: Jun 18, 2019
We’ve all heard the myth before: “Lifting weights too early will stunt your child’s growth”.
Not only is this statement incorrect, but it has zero scientific research to back it up.
The argument is that lifting weights too early will damage their growth plates and hinder their overall growth. The growth plates are located at the end of their long bones and whilst it is true that these plates are soft and premature in their younger years, that does not mean lifting sensible external load in a controlled environment will damage them.
Before we go any further, I want to clarify what ‘strength training' for kids (aged 8-14) should look like. Obviously, the way a kid trains is going to be very different to how a full-grown adult does. The aim should NOT be trying to get them as strong as possible or build muscle. It’s about giving them a foundation of movement and teaching them how to control their body.
Teaching them how to squat, hinge, push, pull, lunge, twist, jump, land, throw and even breathe. The things I wish I got taught at their age. Unfortunately I had to learn the hard way and figure this stuff out on my own. I honestly believe If I had learnt this stuff in my prepubescent years and took my training seriously early on, I would have been at a huge advantage and progressed much further in my basketball career.
What’s alarming is that the increase of knee ACL ruptures and non-contact injuries in youth Australian sport has risen dramatically over the last decade. There are lots of reasons that are contributing to this, but the important thing to know is that these injuries can easily be prevented by exposing kids to strength training at an early age.
From the young basketball players I’ve coached it’s clear kids are losing range of motion through their ankles, hips and upper back early on in their development. The problem is they sit in chairs all day at school, play video games and use their iPhone constantly. This combination of being in these positions daily and rarely taking their joints through a full range of motion leads to poor mobility and performance. The saying ‘use it, or lose it’ is 100% correct in this context.
They then get placed in a sporting system that is broken in my opinion. These kids either have a training session or game every day of the week! They play for their school, rep team and club, leaving them zero time to rest, recovery and prepare their body the right way for their sport.
It’s important as a parent to understand that the forces going through your child’s body when they play sport is hundreds of times greater than that of any force that they would experience lifting light weights in a controlled environment.
The significance of this, is that the chance of them getting injured is exponentially higher when they play sport. Yet we have no problem with them playing, but are hesitant to let them lift light weights in fear that it will stunt their growth.
Until we change this culture in Australia, not much is going to change. That’s why the USA are so far ahead of us in some sports: They understand the importance of strength training to develop their youth.
5 reasons to expose kids to strength training:
1. Reduce the chance of injury; It will increase bones density and strengthen their joints (cartilage, ligaments, etc…);
2. They learn the basic primal movement patterns every human should know - push, pull, bend, squat, lunge, twist, jump, land etc.
3. It will give them CONFIDENCE!
4. Discipline and give them a tool to deal with adversity and push through barriers;
5. They will perform better in their chosen sport
Joe Defranco, one of the top strength coaches in the USA, has covered this topic extremely well in one of his podcasts. I highly recommend all parents to listen to it, check out the link below:
The most important to remember is that they are kids and the training needs to be fun, not something that they're forced to do. In the right environment, what strength training can do for a kid is nothing but amazing and has the potential to transform them physically and mentally.
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