From soccer moms to hockey dads and everyone in between, the question of strength training being harmful for young children always remains at the top of the list. The answer, of course, is NO!! Strength training is, in fact, healthy and beneficial for your child. So much so, that studies conducted on the subject have been conclusive in finding that a properly constructed, structured and supervised program is a safe way to increase strength and endurance for sport, improve posture and reduce the chances of injury during gameplay.
Myth One: Strength training will stunt my growth
I love this one. Why? My dad is only 5’3” 130 pounds soaking wet, and my mother is 5’5”. And yet, I’m 6’4”. Before you get into the milkman jokes let me inform you of some interesting research that indicates the reasoning for this.
A study of Olympic lifters (the ones you see grunt and groan while jerking sometimes 2x their bodyweight over their head) showed that 74% of them were the tallest in their families! What does this mean? Genetics … yes that has something to do with it, but these athletes were strength training as young as 5 years old!!! Yes, you read it right … 5 years old!
I, and some of my colleagues in the field, were lifting some type of Joe Weider cement plates prior to the age of ten and are the tallest people in our families!
So, this myth is …
Strength training is proven to prevent osteoporosis in all types of people, young and old. So what does that tell you? Strength training not only strengthens muscle, tendons, and ligaments, but also has a profound effect on the skeletal system and aids in bone growth.
Myth Two: Strength training ruin my growth plates
Well, that has been answered with the height issue, but this is still a major concern of parents – that their kid will break a growth plate during training. I, and some of my professional peers in the industry, have been lifting weights for over 30 years now (I’m old!) and have yet to see this occur!
In fact, research has shown that kids who do not strength train get injured more in their sport than the ones who do. Micheli (1986) states that children were injured in youth sport activities and the obvious reason was that their bodies were not ready for the physical demands of the sport. Speaking of injuries, for a period of 7 years, we at SST did not have any sort of hockey groin injury when this was the most common injury heard about in the hockey industry. Now it seems like the high ankle sprain is the new thing … knock on wood … our athletes have avoided this as well. Is it good luck? Yeah, maybe … but a proper personalized program is the real reason behind this, so-called “luck”.
If you have a proper and thorough assessment procedure (the best and the one we use at SST is the one learned from Charles Poliquin) your findings will aid in your program design. With a proper and SUPERVISED strength training program, growth plate injuries are rare and almost nil.
What parents have to understand about strength training for their young children is that the weight training emphasized at SST and most other high performance centres is not “weight-lifting” (where the largest amounts of weight are pulled or pushed overhead in attempts at breaking records). The programs are, however, based on your child’s needs, with emphasis on bodyweight exercises such as jumping, bounding, calisthenics, etc. or lighter weights (the weights are raised and lowered in a slow and controlled manner). And, it’s all properly supervised by our certified coaches. In life, everyone is different; thus the need for personalized and supervised programs which, if done properly, will not hinder any growth plate development.
So, this one too is …
Myth Three: Strength training for a young child has no benefit
I am shocked typing this because it may be as idiotic as Britney Spears’ marriage, haircut … and her music! Believe it, I have had many so-called “expert” parents and coaches state this to me while stuffing themselves with a Tim Horton’s Boston Cream donut!
How about increased self-esteem and increased self-confidence for kids who strength train? What more can someone ask for? Strength training also leads to a significantly reduced chance of a child becoming depressed.
There are many other benefits to a properly supervised strength training program. The National Strength and Conditioning Association, the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine, and the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest the following benefits of a supervised resistance training program for kids:
- Improved coordination, body awareness, and balance (especially before the age of puberty as this is a time that the body’s nervous system can be hardwired properly)
- Increased muscular strength; what person doesn’t want to be strong and look good?
- Increased performance; how can a coach not like this concept? Make an athlete faster, stronger, and more powerful…what coach wouldn’t want that? Oh… I know… a losing coach!
- Reduced injury by protecting joints – strength training has been proven to strengthen not only muscles but the ligaments and tendons that aid in joint protection
As well, Ramsey, et al. 1990 states that scientific evidence points to the important role the nervous system plays in producing strength gains for children. This is especially true for prepubescent children. What does this really mean? It is safe for kids to strength train and the benefit is increased strength!!
Additionally, decreased chance of osteoporosis is another benefit. As many know, bone health is of utmost importance, especially in females. Osteoporosis is now being called a “PEDIATRIC” disease and young girls should participate in resistance exercise to improve the rate of bone deposition (Loucks,1988) Research has also shown that young weightlifters have greater bone densities than individuals who do not lift (Conroy, et al. 1990)
And again, this myth too is …
The health benefits of a properly supervised strength building program at SST are:
- Improved heart and lung function
- Stronger bones – less chance of breaking and losing time on the playing field
- Healthy body composition (more muscle burns more fat calories) – for every one pound of muscle gained you burn an extra 50Kcal per day. I like to use the analogy of a stock market …put some money in and watch it grow while you sleep….unless you are in the subprime mortgage business…ouch!!
- Increased self-esteem and confidence
- Decreased possibility of depression
So for the parents who still wish to ask the question “Is strength training harmful for my child?” my answer is simply “No, strength training is not harmful for your child”. So let’s get rid of the video games and snack foods and get our kids into a strength training program. Believe me, they will thank you for it someday!!
Larry is an accomplished Strength and Conditioning Coach with more than 20 years of strength coaching and is a disciplined leader who demonstrates exceptional creativity in developing athletes and executing programs that consistently exceed expectations.
To get more information about SST please visit www.sstcanada.com
To check out how these programs can be done in complete safety, visit us at www.xperformm.com