Is it bad to let my kid lift weights?

How young is too young? We search for an answer to the popular question. Having your ten-year-old pump iron, even light weight, is a sure way to stunt their growth and bring on injury, right? So it's common sense to keep them away from the weight room. Yeah, not so fast. Not only is this untrue, but letting your youngster lift weights (with supervision and proper coaching, of course) can help them grow stronger and keep injuries at bay. Below, we dive into how this myth started, why it’s false, and how you can safely start your kids on weight lifting.

It starts and ends with the growth plates. These softer, cartilage-covered endings of the bones don’t completely ossify until the later teen years (in some cases early twenties). Because of this, they're more prone to injury than other more resilient portions of the bone.

A severe injury to the plate could also result in abnormal growth of the structure. But with proper medical care the risk of this is low. This information leads people to believe that any exposure to weight lifting will harm the plates and stunt growth.

When people hear the words “strength training” or "weight lifting," images of burly men and women lifting heavy weight on the back squat, deadlift, and bench press come to mind. And the idea of a young kid get under a (relatively) heavy bar is scary for a lot of parents who don’t understand the realities of what a strength coach can bring to the table.

First, weight lifting is just one aspect of a strength and conditioning program, which is what you should seek out for your budding athlete. Their athletic development should encompass far more than lifting weights.

For example, Matt Pudvah, C.S.C.S., the Director of Strength and Conditioning at the Manchester Athletic Club, emphasizes youth development with what calls “organized play,” having them perform bodyweight squats, pushups, and hurdle drills to master movement patterns unknowingly.

“I train this one skier, who started with me when she was in fourth grade. At first, she did a lot of squats and basic moves,” Pudvah says. “Now, when I eventually load a barbell across her back, I know she’ll have the correct pattern to squat safely with the weight.”

Pudvah is saying that age doesn’t matter as much as that individual’s ability to perform a movement correctly and efficiently (which is true for anyone, he adds). Also, because these athlete’s start younger, their bodies will have more time to perfect the correct patterns, so when they do get older and start to add weight to the bar, they’ll progress faster than normal.

4 of 4 Final Thought
That said, Pudvah thinks that any kid younger than six doesn’t have the development required to benefit from strength training, and says that around 8-9 is a good age to start.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends strength training for kids 8 years old and up as safe and a sound way to make the body more robust. So what does cause stunted growth?

The World Health Organization cites genes, poor nutrition and repeated infections as key factors contributing to being on the smaller size. Ultimately, strength training will benefit children and youth athletes infinitely more than it can damage them.