Does Weight Training Stunt Your Growth?
It is not uncommon to hear parents being wary about their children or their teenage children lifting weights for the fear that this may lead to stunted growth. But where did this belief come from and is it actually grounded in scientific literature?
Where did this belief come from?
Back in 1964, a group of researchers in Japan noticed that the local children who performed heavy labour tended to be very short in stature. The researchers then hypothesised that the hours spent lifting and moving heavy objects were responsible for the stunted growth. In detail, the hypothesis became that the excessive external loading (of whatever the children lifted) would cause some potential damage to the growth plates at the ends of the long bones resulting in their premature closure and stunted height. However, this was shown to actually occur in the case of actual bone fracture which is more likely to occur in contact sports such as hockey and rugby.
Where did it go wrong?
Firstly, a correlation between two occurrences does not imply causation. Although these children were doing heavy lifting, they were being overworked as well as under – nourished which is a much more central factor to consider in reaching one’s maximum height potential. The hypothesis regarding the premature closure of the growth plates is actually wrong. A study conducted in 2014 (position statement on youth resistance: the 2014 International Consensus) that included a consensus by various relevant regulatory bodies such as the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD), and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) researched the effect of resistance in youth. The paper states that fears that resistance training would injure the growth plates of youths were not supported by scientific reports nor any clinical observations, which indicated that the mechanical stress placed on the developing growth plates from resistance exercise, or high – strain – eliciting sports such as gymnastics or weightlifting, may be beneficial for bone formation as well as growth.
Another article (How does exercise affect bone development during growth?) in 2006 researched the same as well. The study found that high loads have a critical role in bone mass acquisition during and before puberty.
Borrowing from the 2014 article, it is clear that resistance training for children and adolescents is safe provided that they are given proper instruction on good technique, form and progression, and are lifting under the supervision of an adult. Furthermore, it has been shown that resistance training could be quite beneficial for bone health, injury prevention and generally, strength. Also, resistance training helps to improve children’s perceived sports competence as well as self-esteem (from the obvious progression in weight lifted). Lastly, encouraging kids to start weight training early may help them to develop the relevant habits to continue weight training well into adulthood and ensure that they maintain a regular workout regimen in future.
As for offering one’s children supplements to aid in their training may not be as necessary at this point since training would typically be lighter than the training one would apply to an athlete or one mass training. However, for teenagers looking for accelerating their mass training regimen then supplements may help in attaining their goals. A suitable supplement for this would be Gold Standard Whey, which is a supplement containing concentrated protein in a powder – like form. The powder consists of isolated protein which can be mixed with water or milk to supplement one’s diet to give them that edge in muscle regeneration (done primarily through the synthesis of protein) and thus help them develop muscle faster and easier.