Should kids lift weights?

Deb BenchEverybody has heard that lifting weights too young supposedly stunts your growth. But is it true? Should you avoid resistance training until you are done growing?

Let’s compare the squat and running.

The squat is a ‘functional’ movement that we do every day – sitting, going to the bathroom, checking out something interesting on the ground. Squatting is also a common movement in the weight room. The squat is a ‘closed chain’ exercise, meaning that the foot is in contact with a stable surface throughout the movement. This provides stability (and thus a more predictable/safer movement). Done correctly, the squat spreads the load over the hips and knees while moving below parallel (hip crease below knee). There is a relatively common myth that deep squats are bad for your knees, however this is FALSE – studies have shown that the greatest forces on the knees occur at 90 degrees of flexion (the half/shallow squat position).

Running is also a very ‘functional’ and common task – many sports involve running to a large degree, and many people participate in running for recreation and fitness purposes. Children are often running for sport and mischief purposes from a very young age. The impact of running on the knee is quite large, roughly 5-6x your bodyweight per impact. Running is a complex movement, involving many different phases of gait – it is both a closed and open chain movement, depending on which leg and which phase of the gait cycle we are discussing. Different surfaces or shoes will impact on running technique.

Now in a closed chain squat versus a sprint to the ball, the sprinting will result in monumentally higher loads on the lower limb than squatting. Studies have shown that resistance training with proper technique is very safe for pre-pubescent and teenage children – the key words are with proper technique. Just as running with poor technique will result in injury, so will poor lifting technique.

For more information about whether your child could benefit from strength training contact the clinic on 9674 5596.

Chris Mooney, Physiotherapist