I am somewhat aghast that I am writing about this…again. But, alas, the misconceptions and downright fictional ‘truths’ seem to abound and voices of reason attempting to teach facts are all too often lost in the background noise.
Is it safe for youth and teens to train with weights?
For some reason this question abounds. There is overwhelming evidence both researched and anecdotal answering this question I am dumbfounded when I am asked.
Yes. It is perfectly safe.
Let’s break it down (go back and read those last three words again, I busted out a sick hip hop beat and rapped that when I wrote it – I would like if you did to).
Will strength training stunt young peoples growth and ruin their growth plates.
Oh, you wanted more. Ok. My favorite part of this argument is that 99.9% of the time it is some parent or volunteer coach who has no idea what a growth plate even is, how it functions, and the physiological process surrounding growth plates and their development. But THEY KNOW that lifting a weight will ruin them and create a generation of stunted limbed could have been athletes.
The facts are that there is zero, repeat, zero, evidence in the scientific literature that resistance training has any negative impact on growth and growth plates. None. Anecdotally, I have yet to hear of this kind of damage happening to anyone, ever.
Want to see the research? Google search NSCA’s position paper – it has over 60 journal citations on this NOT controversial topic!
This belief must have come from the same idiots who caused us all to believe that cholesterol in food was going to lead to an epidemic of heart disease despite the entire scientific community telling them this wasn’t true.
Oh the things people believe.
Strength training will wreck young people’s joints
It can. For sure.
So can stepping off a curb wrong and twisting your ankle. Getting hit hard in football. Falling wrong in gymnastic practice. Falling down the stairs.
Strength training is no more likely then any of the above activities to wreck adolescent joints. And you don’t see parents and coaches in an uproar to get rid of curbs and ban football teams.
In fact, strength training has the benefit of increasing muscular strength, which in turn can protect the joints. Fancy that!
Now, I will add a caveat. Strength training has to be done right. Especially for adolescents it is important that they are doing the right programming and have a qualified person teaching them what to do. I believe strength training sometimes gets a bad wrap because:
Got that? Seriously. This is important. Just as much focus has to go into the supervision and instruction of strength training as goes into supervision and instruction of the sport itself. Make sure there is a qualified person teaching the form and programming.
It isn’t safe to lift too much weight
It isn’t safe to life more weight than you are capable of handling. At any age. It is perfectly safe for adolescents to lift large amounts of weight if they have been properly instructed, have a good program, and follow a progressive resistance program.
Watch a soccer or lacrosse athlete. See when they are running down the field and then they very suddenly stop and change directions? This movement is often called cutting.
At the moment of stopping and direction change the loads on the joints can be as much as 3x bodyweight. And these loads are almost always unilateral (on one leg) and in an unstructured and unknown position. That is three times bodyweight being slammed through the hip, knee, and ankle in hundredths of a second with enough physics variables being thrown around to confuse Einstein.