There seems to be a lot of misinformation out there with regards to strength training for children. Not many parents are aware of the benefits of strength or weight resistance training for a growing child. Most parents are also not aware of the countless prestigious organizations such as the NSCA and ACSM that support and promote strength training for a growing child.
Most parents are weary about staring a child on resistance training. One of the main concerns is the effect of weight resistance training on a child’s growth. Does strength training stunt growth in children?
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Does Strength Training Stunt Growth
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)promotes weight resistance training for a growing child and has even published its position stand on the matter.
In their position stand, AAP states that “Strength training programs do not seem to adversely affect linear growth and do not seem to have any long-term detrimental effect on cardiovascular health.“
Not many parents are aware of this position stand. The AAP advocates weight resistance training for children. It also authoritatively puts to rest the question of whether strength training stunts growth in a child.
Avoid Maximal Lifts
The only limitation the AAP suggests in an earlier position stand is to avoid maximal lifts. Maximal lifts involves carrying weights which are within the one repetition maximum lift. The one repetition maximum is the maximum amount of weight one can lift in a single repetition for a given exercise
AAP suggests that maximal lifts should be avoided until a child has reached Tanner Stage 5 of developmental maturity. Tanner Stage 5 is the level in which visible secondary sex characteristics have been developed. Usually, in this stage adolescents will also have grown to their maximum height.
The AAP’s concern that children wait until this stage to do maximal lifts is that the epiphyses, commonly called “growth plates”, are still very vulnerable to injury before this developmental stage. It is repeated injury to these growth plates that may stunt a child’s growth.
Fleck and Kraemer are two of the leading researchers in the field of children’s fitness. They authored an authoritative book entitled “Strength Training for Young Athletes.” Fleck and Kraemer agree that maximal lifts should indeed be avoided.
Fleck, Kraemer and the AAP however agree that a weight resistance training program that doesn’t include maximal lifting is beneficial for prepubescent and pubescent youth.
Moderate Intensity Weight Resistance Training
Parents should encourage moderate intensity weight resistance training for children. The key is to make sure that the child is doing the exercises correctly. As such, the exercises have to be done under supervision. Under correct supervision, a child can expect to derive all the benefits stated by the AAP in its position stand paper.