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Will Resistance Training hurt my kid?

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At every gym I have been to throughout my career, I have heard one myth in common (as well as others in which I will address in future articles). However, today I will deal with one- that resistance training will damage growth plates thus hindering the growth in stature of the young person involved in it.

First before we start to discuss what a growth plate is and it’s role in growth. The proper name for a growth plate is epiphyseal lines, these type of cartilage are found at the end of long bones i.e. the thigh bone and arm bone. These plates control the length and shape of our bones during our adolescence and become mature bone as skeleton develops.

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Now that we know what a growth plate is and it’s role in our development, we need to examine where this thought came from. It is believed that this information stemmed from some remote villages in Japan in 1964. The report that was filed was based on children who performed heavy labor for several hours a day as a result, the report stated that the children were short in stature. After this report, it was assumed that strength training could damage the growth plates and keep young people from growing properly.

Having this information and the lack of science to back up this thought we can begin to look at strength training and how it can be beneficial in a kids, health, self esteem and performance.

In contrast most studies such as conducted by Robert Mailina PhD. Conclude that “weight training with proper supervision is relatively safe and do not negatively impact growth and maturation of pre and early pubertal youth”. (Taken from the clinical journal of sports medicine). In addition to the facts of this study it is a well known fact that resistance training is an added benefit in injury prevention in all age groups. Let’s also examine sports many sports have much more impact than resistance training if resistance training is damaging to growth then so is running and jumping due to its impact on the skeleton.

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Now armed with this new understanding your next question maybe how then do we train a young person, and what will their program look like? I will attempt to answer both of these questions in the following paragraphs. –

First, let us deal with the issue of age: there is no real scientific data on this as far as I know. However, I will place some guidelines on this every child is different in their maturity and should be treated as an individual. So I would say know your child’s maturity level if they can’t follow orders well and don’t have control of themselves they probably aren’t ready to train.

Secondly, we will discuss the how to of youth training once again this is simple a child should be trained as any other human. First and foremost any movement issues should be dealt with and then training should emphasis proper technique and appropriate resistance with progressive overload. Structure and a specific program come into play here. (I.e. a football player needs to be trained to excel in their chosen sport etc.) For those who desire fat loss and increased activity resistance training is very useful in safety and longevity.

Weight training has been proven to increase speed in young athletes, bone density in all participants thus in my opinion protecting the young person in their growth and development.

Conclusion- Resistance training is useful for every person not just bodybuilders or those who desire a specific look. Also it is wise to start young to hopefully develop a lifetime habit of fitness and health. Know your child and if you think they have the maturity to participate in a training program geared towards their goals and activity then get them started. You as the parent and your child will both be happy that you did!

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