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  • Travis Mitchell

Is it safe for kids to lift weights?

We often get questions and comments from parents regarding the safety of weight lifting and resistance training. This is an age old concern that’s been passed down generations. When I was a kid, even in High School, my dad warned me that I would stunt my growth if I lifted too many weights. This is the same dad that had me performing manual labor from an early age. From the age of 10, my brother and I carried thousands of bricks and cinderblocks, moved bundles of hardwood flooring up flights of stairs, we dug ditches, we threw bails of hay, we pushed heavy wheel barrels, we threw shovels and pick axes and we chopped wood. To most parents, this sounds like good old American parenting. To me, it sounds like the functional strength movements we are now trying to recreate in our youth training programs. But wait, a kettlebell swing? A few weighted lunges in a controlled environment with proper instruction and good form? A deadlift? Isn’t that bad for kids’ growth plates?

In the same a way a little manual labor is good for building strong farm boys, a little training is a good antidote for video games and the soft, sheltered, world most of our kids live in. First I want to dispel the growth plate myth, and then we’ll look at the proven benefits.

Growth plates and growth plate injuries.

Epiphyseal growth plates are at the end of long bones, and grow in length. They're made up of cartilage. When a child is done growing the growth plate ossifies and becomes a bone [1]. Most of the time, growth plate injuries happen from falling or twisting. Contact sports, like football or basketball, or fast-moving activities like skiing, skateboarding, sledding, or biking, are common causes. Injuries can also happen from activities that require repetitive training, like gymnastics, track and field, or pitching a baseball. [1] For instance, “Little Leaguers Arm” is a common growth plate injury that should always be ruled out when a youth ball player has chronic shoulder pain and losses in velocity. FACT: there is no study that indicates youth resistance training can cause growth plate injury. [2] Yes, kids have been injured in a weight room, however, this is usually the result of accident or a lack of supervision. [2] The bottom line is, kids are at a greater risk of growth plate injury during regular sport or at recess than while training with a professional. In fact, the latter could prevent the former by increasing flexibility and addressing muscle imbalances. Pictured left is a 13U ballplayer that injured the growth plate in his throwing elbow last year. He's injury free this year working in the Factory this offseason.

“An epiphyseal pate fracture has not been reported in any prospective youth resistance training study that adhered to standard training guidelines…. The belief that resistance training is dangerous for children is not consistent with the need of children and the documented risks associated with training.”

- National Strength and Conditioning Association.

The Benefits

What studies DO indicate is that children involved in a training program can increase strength, power, endurance, decrease body fat, improve motor skills, improve sports performance; and may influence anatomical parameters. [2]

At The Factory we believe the most important and long lasting

improvement in our youth athlete is the development of “buy-in” and “accountability.” Once our young athletes begin training they buy in to a healthier athletic lifestyle and understand they alone have control of their bodies and their performance. They eat better, they understand they always have a choice, and they begin to understand the amount of discipline it takes to compete at the highest level.

Aside from strength and performance, its really all about better movement patterns. If a 12 year old kid cannot squat without their heels coming off the floor, feet bowing out, or knees caving in, this is a problem. As we’ve found it’s a correctable problem. Below is a 12U athlete that had pretty tight hamstrings and hip flexors when he began, here he is performing an impressive pistol squat.

In my opinion

After a year of running the Factory, here’s my answer to the question, is it safe for my kid to lift weights and participate in sports training? Depends on the kid and parent. If you’re reading this right now, the answer for your kid is probably yes. If your kid loves their sport and would rather go to practice than play video games, the answer is yes. Maturity level is maybe the most important component. I have an 11 year old athlete that is more focused, more driven, and listens better than most of our high school athletes. I’m much less worried about him injuring himself than I am our high school boys left unattended.

Maybe we should ask more important more difficult questions that have much greater impact on our kids well being. Is single sport specialization putting my kid at risk for injury? Does my kid eat too much sugar? Why does my kids' posture suck? Is 10 hours of video games/week too much? Does my kid eat too much processed food? Lets work together to help our kids succeed in sports, live healthy lifestyles, and hold themselves accountable.


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