Dispelling the Myths of Youth Weight Training

Dispelling the Myths of Youth Weight Training

When working in sports performance with youth to professional athletes it’s not uncommon for us to get asked if it’s safe for younger kids to lift weights. Often time’s parents get a little uncomfortable with the idea of their youth athlete weight training as they’ve heard it’s unsafe or that it negatively impacts bone growth. In this article I’d like to dispel the myths regarding youth weight training and also highlight the benefits.

Myth #1: Risk of Injury

Do to the shear amount of conflicting and controversial information out there about youth weight training it’s easy as a parent to get overwhelmed and deem weight training unsafe for their youth athlete. When looking at the research it shows there is actually a very low risk of injury to children who participate in weight training. This is often attributed to good coaching and qualified supervision (i.e. training at EForce). Actually, it may surprise you that the injury rates for youth athletes participating in the sports like weightlifting and powerlifting are significantly lower than many team sports like volleyball, soccer, basketball and football. One research study followed a group of competitive weightlifters (11-14 years old) over an entire year of training and competing. After a full year there was not a single injury found that limited training/competition or required professional medical attention (Doctor, PT, Surgeon, Orthopedist, etc.). It is also interesting to note that the forces experienced while participating in max strength training is less than what athletes are exposed to in court and field sports (upward of 5x body weight in ground-reaction forces while sprinting).

3 man with a boy

Myth #2: Negative Effects on Growth Plates

One of the most common concerns around youth weight training is the potential injury risk to the growth plates of their bones. Strength training, however, is not one of the leading causes of growth plate injuries to children. Of the physical activities, the leading causes for growth plate injuries include American football, baseball, gymnastics and hockey. In actuality, by participating in a properly programed weight training routine you can increase bone density. By putting the musculoskeletal system under the appropriate loads you can stimulate and increase in bone density and decrease the risk of osteoporosis.      

The Benefits of Youth Weight Training

There are many benefits associated with weight training for youth athletes including promotion of normal bone formation and growth. In fact youth weightlifters commonly display higher than average bone density levels compared to their peers. Lifting weights at a young age can also help reduce injury risk in other sports. Youth athletes who lift weights under appropriate supervision are less likely to sustain an injury in their chosen field or court sport. These athletes also recover from injuries faster than their teammates who don’t lift weights if they do sustain an injury. Finally, introducing weight training will develop physical literacy and also build the foundational qualities needed to improve speed, agility and jumping ability.

To demonstrate the safety and benefits of weight training below is a list of medical associations that have accepted weight training for children as a safe and effective mode of exercise:

  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
  • American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)
  • American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS)
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  • American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM)
  • American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM)
  • American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine (AOASM)
  • American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP)
  • The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports
How young is too young chart

If implemented appropriately and under the supervision of a qualified fitness professional weight training can be an extremely beneficial mode of training for your youth athlete. At EForce we anchor our training principles off the well-established Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model. Allowing us to use the appropriate exercise progressions and regressions to optimize youth athlete development throughout the process.

Erik Jernstrom

Director of Sports Performance @ EForce

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/40039109_Resistance_training_among_young_athletes_Safety_efficacy_and_injury_prevention_effects

https://www.uksca.org.uk/UKSCA/RelatedFiles/Youth%20resistance%20training.pdf

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6978000_Physeal_injuries_in_children's_and_youth_sports_Reasons_for_concern

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8231753

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