My friend and I are going to start weight training together. I’m only 14 years old and he’s 15. I have some basic dumbbells at home and we would like to get started in the next few days because football is starting soon and we want to get bigger and stronger before the season starts. However, we have heard rumors about how weight training can stunt growth. We need to be at least 6 feet tall in order to play at the college level, so we are a little scared about this and don’t want to start lifting too young if this is going to happen. Should we be worried about this?
Take a deep breath and exhale. You don’t have to worry since this is a common myth that has many parents frightened about starting their children on any type of exercise program. Unfortunately, we have an epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States and its starting within the school system at a younger and younger age. From the sugary soda machines in the hallways to the high fat fast food meals in the lunch line, there are big corporate entities that are making our kids unhealthy so they can fatten their pockets. As parents, we send our kids to school with the hopes that they will receive a solid education, be safe from harm and be provided with nutrient dense foods to help fuel their bodies and their brains. Unfortunately, this is not happening in many of the schools around the nation and its an area that we really need to work on. We need to get the correct information to our communities and promote fitness among our youth.
I commend you on taking the initiative to start a weight training program with your friend. It’s a great thing to see and more kids your age should take your lead and implement fitness into their daily lives. Weight lifting has so many benefits for children like increasing muscle strength and endurance, protecting ligaments and joints, helping to develop agility and improving overall performance for nearly any sport they decide to partake in. Resistance training also helps to strengthen children’s bones, maintain a healthy body weight and help to improve the confidence and self-esteem of kids who follow an exercise program. The biggest benefit of starting a workout plan at a young age is the way it helps to form healthy habits which can be very beneficial for keeping up an active lifestyle as children get older.
However, extremely heavy lifting is unnecessary and might be detrimental to children which is why the emphasis in young kids should be on “activity” and “exercise” and not just lifting super heavy weights. Lifting too heavy can put a large amount of stress and strain on a child’s young muscles and tendons that have not fully developed. There are also some areas of cartilage in a child’s body that have not yet turned into bone (growth plates) and heavy weight lifting can put too much strain on these areas as well.
Competent supervision is important and an emphasis should be placed on proper form and good lifting technique. There is nothing that is more important than being safe and using proper exercise form during your weight lifting workouts. If you do not perform the movement correctly, you risk injuring yourself and it could also lead to issues with overtraining specific areas that could cause serious problems down the road. A great example is the bench press exercise which is very popular among young kids. The normal question asked by kids is, “How much do you bench?” and this is the reason why so many people start with this core muscle building movement since it builds muscle mass and increases strength in the upper body. However, proper exercise technique is absolutely critical when you perform the bench press because if you do it incorrectly, you can cause serious issues to your rotator cuffs down the road. If you start bench pressing the wrong way starting out, it usually means you will go months and maybe even years using incorrect form which places way too much stress on the delicate rotator cuff muscles and can lead to issues like impingement syndrome and even surgery later on if there is a large amount of damage that has been done.
I highly recommend starting off your weight lifting program in the smartest and safest way possible. This means going to a gym and having a certified personal trainer instruct you on the correct technique on all of the core multi-joint mass building exercises like the bench press, squat, deadlift and military press. Having a professional there to provide in-depth knowledge and feedback to get you started on the right path is so important since they will help you gain the skills needed to train smart so you can follow a fitness plan and be active for the rest of your life!