Strength Training Causes Stunted Growth – Truth or Myth?

Many schools are incorporating strength training in their youth sports training programme despite some parents’ concern that strength training may cause their growth to be stunted. However, this myth is unwarranted as the benefits of strength training outweigh the risks. The strength training programme for children should be properly designed and supervised by a qualified adult. Strength training is sometimes referred to as resistance or weights training.

This myth came about most probably due to the belief that strength training will lead to a premature closing of growth plates thereby limiting growth potential.

Bone Growth Plates

Growth plates or epiphyseal line (plates) are cartilages found at the ends of the long bones of our body like the thigh and arm bones. These growth plates control the length and shapes of our bones during adolescence and become mature bone as the skeleton develops. Other than genetic or hormonal causes, premature closing of growth plates can be due to trauma, where a fracture disrupts further growth, or from overuse.

Developing bones are vulnerable to growth plates fractures because they are relatively weak. This means that twisting an ankle may fracture the ankle rather than sprain a ligament because the ligaments and tendon are stronger than these bones. However, there were no reports of such fractures in youths doing a properly designed and supervised strength training program by qualified adults.

Benefits of Strength Training

There are many benefits that kids can gain from strength training. Other than strength gains, youths can improve their coordination skills especially if they are involved in sports that require, jumping, throwing or kicking. Strength training can also help reduce the risk of injury as the supportive structures like ligaments and tendons, and the strength and balance around a joint are well conditioned to react better. Closely related to coordination skills is proprioception. A large number of musculoskeletal injuries are related to proprioception issues such as ankle sprains. (See Quick Reflexes is Important to Everyone)

The key to a strength training programme for youths lies in its design and supervision. A well-designed programme looks into a holistic approach of training, not just based on lifting heavier weights. The intensity and duration for strength training have to factor in the total amount of time the individual is performing physical activities in a week so that the risk of injury is greatly reduced. Therefore each individual should have his or her own customised training programme.

A qualified person supervising the programme allows for a safe adherence to the proper form and technique of performing the exercises.

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