Children Pumping Iron. Cause for pain or gain?

Question:
My husband wants my 10-year old son to start lifting weights to get some meat on his bones, but I have heard lifting weights can stunt a child’s growth. Is it safe for a 10-year old boy to lift weights?

Answer:
Well it sounds like you both may be a little misinformed. Your husband certainly has the “old school” mentality, and your concerns are legitimate but you might have the full story. Safe and effective weight training has been documented with children as young as 6 years of age.

First let’s address the age of your son in relation to your husband’s statement. I am going out on a limb and guessing that your 10-year old has not reached puberty yet, as that would be early for a boy. With that in mind, your son does not have enough of the muscle building hormone, testosterone, to add muscle mass. If your son has not reached puberty, he can weight train like Arnold Schwarzenegger and gain very little if any “meat on his bones”. It is not until the testosterone starts flowing in males that they are able to add muscle worth mentioning.

Now let’s address your concern of affecting your child’s growth. I believe that you may be referring to an old-school misconception that weight training can hurt a child’s growth plate in their bones, thus impairing the full development of the bone. While there is some truth in your concern, I label it a misconception because when statistics are reviewed the chances of your child hurting their growth plates playing soccer, gymnastics, or other sports is drastically higher than weight training.

While growth plate injuries have been recorded with weight training they are rare and almost always, linked to a poorly established program or one that is not supervised. All too often kids are in a weight room and mimicking what they see the other kids doing or what the coach, who has a beer belly, no knowledge of exercise science, and has not touched a weight since high school in 1947, tells them to do. This leads to kids lifting weight that is too heavy and doing so with improper form, which are two ingredients for injury by placing too much stress on the body. Also with lack of supervision, a weight room invites horseplay during lifting which also leads to these injuries.

A properly established and supervised weight-training program will help both boys and girls in a number of ways. A few of the documented benefits include increased strength, speed, and agility along with improved coordination and self-esteem. Weight training will certainly increase your child’s sport performance considerably while decreasing their exposure to injury. Newsweek magazine actually came to Cincinnati and spotlighted this very topic, and the article can be seen at sensiblefitness.com if you are interested.

Another thing I would like to point out is that if your child learns proper lifting form at age 10, they will go through life with proper lifting mechanics which will not only decrease mom’s concerns of growth-plate injuries but also satisfy dad’s desire to add muscle mass as the proper lifting technique will both be safe and provide the maximal results.

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