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Is Strength Training Safe for Children?

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         Is Strength Training Safe for Children? weights and kids

 

 

 

A common belief held by many people, is that strength training is not safe for children. They argue that children should not be lifting weights before they have fully matured as it can cause injury and damage to bones, tissues and muscles. Some Clinicians support this by noting that strength training causes growth plate injuries which impacts on a child’s growth potential. They believe that the epiphyseal plate, which is the junction point for bone growth is stunted and damaged when children lift weights (Caine, Difiori, Maffulli, 2006). Some Clinicians also argue that strength training is not beneficial because children don’t produce testosterone which is needed to build strength and muscle (Faigenbaum, 2000). They beleive that children aged 7-12 don't have enough circulating testosterone in their body and thus will not benefit from strength training.

 

This article will Smash! these beliefs and outline the true benefits of strength training for children.

 

 

                                                     

Over the last 25 years, numerous studies have shown that children are capable of safely improving muscle strength and hypertrophy with appropriate strength training regimes. A review of strength training improvements in children found that the majority of studies demonstrated strength gains between 13-30% as a result of resistance training over an 8-12 week period (Falk, Tenenbaum, 1996). Falk and Tenenbaum note that strength increases twofold between the ages of 7 and 12 years, with average values slightly greater in boys.

 

In relation to bone growth damage, recent studies also show that growth plates are not affected by strength training modalities (Ramsey, Blimkie, Smith, Garner, Macdougall,Sale,1990). Several studies have followed the rate of injury during training programs of several weeks to a year in duration and found minimal bone, muscle and tissue injuries (Ramsay, et al. 1990). Rians’ (1987) 14-week long study supports this noting that only one minor shoulder strain injury occurred during its study which was fixed by the end of the 14 week program. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (1987) disputes strength training for children noting in a report that weightlifting can cause injury. Their report claims that 8543 weightlifting-related injuries occurred in children younger than 14 years of age. Strains and sprains were the least severe injuries (and most commonly reported) and fractures were the most severe (and least commonly reported) injuries noted in the study. The problem with this study which needs to be outlined is that it did not examine the training history and program of the subjects. Secondly, it did not examine whether there was supervision or qualifications of the person/ people providing the program. Strength training can be unsafe if the proper processes are not followed. This means that correct techniques should be taught and monitored and strict supervision should be mandatory to reduce the risk of injury (Hamill, 1994).

 

 

In relation to testosterone levels in children, studies have found that strength training can increase testosterone levels. HGH which is a hormone is the body has shown to increase when children perform multi-joint movements (Baechle and Earle, 2008). In their research they found multi-joint movements did increase the acute serum testosterone concentrations in boys (Baechle and Earle, 2008). Ozmun, Mikesky, Surburg (1994) support the benefits of strength training on hormone levels noting that children also gain benefits through neural adaptations. They note that strength training in children improves the number and coordination of activated motor neurons, as well as the firing rate and patterns.

 

Lastly, strength training in adolescents has shown to increase the cross-sectional areas of the erector spinae, multifidus, and psoas musculature, as documented on axial MRI studies (Peltonen, Taimela, Erkintalo, Salminen, Oksanen, Kujala, 1998). These findings suggest that strength training can lead to significant muscular hypertrophy and strength gains in young athletes.  These findings also showed that some degree of bone stress via resistance training may encourage bone growth. Resistance training increases muscle strain, strain rate and compression, which are all important in bone modeling.

 

In summary, it is evident through the research conducted that strength training is beneficial for children. Strength gains, hormone increases and muscular hypertrophy are just some of the benefits identified. With a supervised and well monitored program, children can now enjoy the many benefits weight training provides.

 

 

  

 

References

 

Baechle, T.R. and Earle, R.W. (2008). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning: National Strength and Conditioning Association: Human Kinetics.

 

Caine D, Difiori J, Maffulli N. Physeal injuries in children’s and youth sports: reasons for concern? Br J Sports Med. 2006;40:749-760.

 

Falk, B. Tenenbaum, G. (1996) The effectiveness of resistance training in children: A meta-analysis. Sports Med, 22: 176-186.

 

Faigenbaum, A.D. Strength training for children and adolescents. Clinical Sports Medicine 2000; 19 (4): 593-619.

 

Hamill, B. (1994). Relative Safety of Weightlifting and Weight Training. J. Strength Cond. Res. 8(1):53- 57.

 

Ozmun JC, Mikesky AE, Surburg PR. Neuromuscular adaptations following prepubescent strength training. Med Sci Sports Exercise.

 

Peltonen JE, Taimela S, Erkintalo M, Salminen JJ, Oksanen A, Kujala UM. Back extensor and psoas muscle cross sectional area, prior physical training, and trunk muscle strength a longitudinal study in adolescent girls. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1998;77:66-71.

 

Ramsey, J. Blimkie, C. Smith, K. Garner, S. Macdougall, D & Sale, D. (1990) Strength training effects in prepubescent boys. Medical Science in Sport & Exercise, 22(5): 605-614

 

Rians, C.B. et. al. (1987). Strength training for prepubescent males: Is it safe? Am. J. Sports Med. 15: 483- 489.

 

US Consumer Product Safety Commission (1987). National electronic injury surveillance system. Directorate for Epidemiology, National Injury Information Clearinghouse, Washington

 

 

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