Every so often I get asked whether or not resistance training is safe for young athletes. The reasoning always being that it may be dangerous and stunt the athletes growth.
One time I was training an athlete only to find out after our warm up and speed work that his parents have instructed him he isn’t allowed to “lift weights.”
After that session I spoke with the parents to educate them on what it is we are doing and what the benefits of resistance training can be.
Kevin Neeld, a great Strength Coach from the U.S., recently wrote a blog with very valid points and scientific research to back up his thoughts that goes directly in line with the philosophy of training at The Dynamic Athlete.
Some of the key points:
- the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) put out a position statement years ago stating that resistance training is safe for kids as young as 6. Even at 6, the concern is mostly social and psychological, not physical. The concern that kids will fracture growth plates and stunt their growth is entirely unfounded (e.g. to my knowledge, less than 2 documented cases in the history of documented evidence). There are more reports of kids being rushed to the hospital from complications related to consuming energy drinks in the last year than there are of fractured growth plates EVER.
- research documenting injury rates from different sports shows that injury rates are DRASTICALLY higher in common youth sports like soccer, hockey, football, etc. than they are in weightlifting. In other words, in addition to growth plate fractures and stunted growth not being a serious concern, resistance training is actually incredibly safe when performed with proper progression and coaching.
- If you look at Long Term Athletic Development models, you’ll see that kids around 12 years old are in a “sensitive period” for the development of speed and conditioning. Simply, this means that they can improve in all athletic areas (speed, power, strength, balance/coordination, movement efficiency, conditioning, etc.), but speed and conditioning are the qualities that will experience accelerated rates of improvement.
The entire blog is really well written and packed with great info. I recommend reading it in it’s entirety: Kevin Neeld-The Truth About Youth Resistance Training.