Weight training for children often has negative stigma attached to it, but few people base this rationale on anything more than anecdotal evidence or hearsay. The common belief is that weight training for the developing body causes damage to growth plates, which in-turn stunts the child’s maturation process. In reality this type of injury is very rare, and the positive physiological adaptations attributed to resistance training in the youth population, far outweigh the minimal risk of growth plate damage.
Any qualified and experienced strength coach understands that damaging a child’s growth plate is far more difficult to do than the average person perceives. The coach would have to prescribe that the child hold as much weight as possible, likely more than their hands can even grip, and then jump repeatedly from an elevated platform down to a hard surface such as concrete or blacktop. Most documented growth plate injuries occur from acute trauma, such as fracture received in sports participation, or a severe or awkward fall of some kind. The low-level correlation between youth resistance training and complications to the child’s development, is something far too many parents and coaches are overly concerned with. In addition, the increased positive physiological adaptations associated with youth weight training, and weight training in general, present a valid argument that the pros in this case, far outweigh the cons.
Generally, people think of lifting weights as a means to get stronger, but few understand how training impacts a child’s body. The fact is that children will not put on the same level of muscle mass an adult would with a similar training prescription, as they simply do not have a hormonal environment within the body to support hypertrophy of the muscle tissue. However, there are many enhancements weight training provides that cannot be understated, particularly with respect to youth athlete development.
Of paramount importance to developing athletes are neurological adaptations children receive when an appropriate weight training program is applied. These gains can take an athlete from the bench, to the team captain, and in a relatively short period of time without gaining any muscle at all. This phenomenon is due to the increased neural demand resistance training places on the body, which in turn elicits greater frequency and magnitude of the signals being sent from the brain to the various muscles that are being used. The result is enhanced coordination for both fine and gross motor control, which not only enhances athletic performance, but reduces energy loss from inefficient motor patterns.
Mr. Cory Schierberl MS, CSCS, TSAC-F is the Acting Director of Continuing Education at USSA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 20, 2016