Most kids join sports competitions and training as early as elementary school, which is great for their physical development. However, resistance training can help improve their performance in sports by boosting their strength, speed, endurance, and power. 
“But will it stunt growth?” is probably the most common question in the minds of tweens, teens, and their parents before starting resistance training. Most people think that lifting weights can stunt the height of young exercisers. But does this argument hold water? Read on to settle this argument once and for all.
Does Lifting Weight Stunt Growth?
There is no scientific evidence to prove that lifting weights stunts growth.
If there is no science behind this popular gym narrative, why did this story gain so much traction, you ask?
We like that you’ve put on your detective hat for this story. Well, there is no data on how and when this false narrative started or got into the mainstream, but here are the most common reasons listed by parents when asked about the phenomenon:
- Lifting weights requires you to grab dumbbells or barbell in your hands or rack it on your shoulders. Many parents assume that since both these situations require holding onto weight, it will damage their kid’s growth plates and stall their height.
- Several people subconsciously assume that a kid has to defy gravity if they want to grow taller. Many kids are asked to hang upside down by their guardians to help grow their height. On the other hand, exercises like the squat and deadlift require them to lower themselves toward the floor while balancing heavy weights, adding to their parent’s discomfort.
The myth that lifting weights stunts growth comes from concern over kids causing damage to their growth plates. However, kids usually fracture their growth plates while resistance training due to poor form, weights that are too heavy, and a lack of supervision.
Lifting Weights Stunts Growth: Problems With This Assumption
The problem with the common belief about weight lifting is that they assume kids are holding onto weights for the entire day. However, if a kid trains for 45-60 minutes, they’ll probably be holding onto weight for 15-20 minutes max, assuming they do three sets of five different exercises in the 15-20 rep range. Our estimate is very conservative as this rep and set scheme is usually followed by pro bodybuilders, and tweens and teens don’t need to adhere to the same volume.
Plus, kids are probably lifting heavier things in school or on the playground while unsupervised. You might stop your child from lifting weights in the gym, but you can’t stop him from taking multiple trips down the hallway with his best friend on his back. And what about heavy school bags, eh?
In 2009, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) concluded that “resistance training can offer unique benefits for children and adolescents when appropriately prescribed and supervised. The qualified acceptance of youth resistance training by medical, fitness, and sports organizations is becoming universal.” 
Additionally, a 2020 report by the American Academy of Pediatrics stated that “appropriately designed resistance training programs have no apparent negative effect on linear growth, physical health, or the cardiovascular system” of children and adolescents. 
If these studies do not make you feel any more comfortable, let’s talk about one of the most famous individuals in the world—Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Governator started training at the age of 15. While his stats as a gym rookie are unknown, the seven-time Mr. Olympia champ was 6 feet tall and weighed 171.6-176 pounds at 16. However, at the peak of his career, Arnie was 6-feet-2-inches tall and tipped the scales at 235-260 pounds. Clearly, weight training did not stunt the Hollywood A-lister’s growth.
How Strength Training Works in Tweens and Teens
Are you worried your kid will look like a jacked minion after lifting weights? Fret not. Resistance training doesn’t have the same effects on kids as on puberty-struck guys and girls.
Resistance training in children can enhance strength without hypertrophy. These strength gains are attributed primarily to a neurologic mechanism whereby training increases the number of motor neurons recruited to fire with each muscle contraction. It helps boost your strength levels without spiking androgen concentrations. 
On the other hand, resistance training during and after puberty augments muscle growth by stimulating hypertrophy by increasing androgenic concentrations.
Benefits of Lifting Weights for Tweens and Teens
Given below are the advantages of resistance training for kids:
1. Boosts Physical Performance
Besides helping build strength, weight training can help improve motor skill performance, gains in speed and power, develop physical literacy, reduce the risk of injury, and injury rehabilitation.
2. Improves Overall Health
Regular strength training can improve your cardiovascular fitness, body composition, bone mineral density, blood lipid profiles, and insulin sensitivity. Furthermore, research has shown that combining resistance training with aerobic workouts can have favorable effects on the reduction of total body fat in youth. 
3. Lifestyle Benefits
Starting children young on the fitness path can help make strength training a part of their habit. Plus, it can help them build self-confidence, discipline, fortitude, resilience, and iron will.
Since most kids are very active, resistance training preventive exercises can help avoid injuries by addressing and focusing on joints that are commonly at risk for overuse injuries like the shoulder rotator cuffs. 
Risks of Lifting Weights in Tweens and Teens
With all said and done, lifting weights is serious business. Here are some of the risks involved with kids lifting weights:
- An inadequate recovery program can add to the risk of injury. Kids in the 8-15 age bracket do not need to train more than three days a week. A day’s gap between workouts will allow their muscles and bones to rest and recuperate.
- Explosive contractions of the muscle-tendon attachment at apophyseal areas during active play, sports, or lifting weights may increase the risk of avulsion fracture until closer to skeletal maturity.
How To Lift Weight Safely
Although lifting weights does not stunt growth, a young and novice lifter is arguably at a higher risk of injury than more experienced lifters. Here is how to minimize the risk of injury inside the weight room:
1. Get a Trainer
Hiring a coach can help shorten your exercise learning curve. No amount of YouTube tutorial videos can teach you the correct training form like a trainer standing next to you.
2. Focus on Building a Foundation
Your first objective after starting resistance training as a tween or teen should be to master fundamental lifts like the squat, deadlifts, bench press, and overhead press. Although you should add machine exercises to your training regimen, make sure you don’t get overly reliant on them. Plus, to make the best bang for your buck, you should follow a full range of motion.
Focus on building a mind-muscle connection and contracting your muscles with every rep. Do not run after the weights at this point. The weights will come with time and experience. Also, forget about one-rep maxes at this stage and focus on mastering functional movements.
3. It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Many newbies want to lift heavier with every workout. Otherwise, they think that they are not making progress. However, it is as far from the truth as it can be.
You should not expect to get stronger or more muscular with every workout. Set small incremental targets for yourself, and do not beat yourself up or push too hard if you don’t meet your deadlines.
4. Master the Trifecta
Since we are talking about overall growth, we need to broaden our horizons and take nutrition and recovery into perspective. Many children experience suboptimal and sometimes nonlinear growth. However, it has little to do with lifting heavy weights.
An unbalanced diet and recovery program (and genetics) are usually the culprit behind stunned or delayed growth. You should ensure you (or your kid) follow a personalized diet, training, and recovery program for the best growth results.
How To Lift Weights Without Stunting Growth
A study suggests that if a kid wants to build strength and improve physical performance, they need to engage in resistance training for at least 23 weeks. 
The study concluded that a workout program designed for kids should consist of five sets per exercise, 6–8 repetitions per set, a training intensity of 80–89 percent of one repetition maximum (1RM), and 3–4 minutes of rest between sets.
Note: Instead of testing your 1RM, ask a professional to help you determine your one-rep max. There are several ways of arriving at a number without putting yourself at risk of injury. You could also use our convenient online 1RM calculator to find your max lifts.
What stunts your growth?
There could be many reasons behind your growth stunting. Growth plate fractures, unbalanced diet, exercise, nutrition routines, and genetics are a few common reasons.
Does working out make you taller?
There are no studies to prove or deny that working out can make you taller. While many people believe that playing basketball can make you taller, there is no scientific evidence to prove the claim.
Will strength training make young boys and girls muscular?
It depends on their age. Strength gains before puberty occur through neurologic mechanisms, meaning prepubertal kids will not build muscle mass through strength training. On the other hand, pubertal gains may augment muscle growth by actual muscle hypertrophy enhanced by pubertal hormones.
There is no conclusive scientific evidence to prove that lifting weights stunts growth. However, at the same time, no scientific research can verify that lifting weights can boost your height—since height is what most people refer to while talking about weightlifting in tweens and teens.
Nonetheless, previous concerns regarding resistance training focused on what would happen if a child lifts weights. However, the focus is now turning toward what will happen if a child does not lift weights.
Besides improving your physique aesthetics, lifting weights can help boost your self-confidence and overall functionality, which can carry over to other aspects of your life.
So, start them young in the weight room and watch them become the best version of themselves.
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