Both pupils & parents often ask me this question, and the answer is simple enough. The idea that weight training stunts a child's growth is widely outdated. In fact, research now firmly favors weight training as a method to aid children's physical development on their journey through to adulthood. Furthermore, the body of evidence for support of weight training is quite widespread, and it is easily accessible through the UK Strength & Conditioning Association (UKSCA) website. Some key factors from the association's position statement on youth resistance training include:
Muscular strength is an essential component of motor skill performance, and developing competence and confidence to perform resistance exercise during the growing years may have important long-term implications for health, fitness and sports performance.
Regular participation in a youth resistance-training programme can have a favorable influence on musculoskeletal health, body composition, and cardiovascular risk factors.
Fears that resistance training can injure the growth plates of youths are not supported by scientific reports, which indicate that the mechanical stress placed on the developing growth plates from resistance exercise, or high strain eliciting sports such as weightlifting, are actually beneficial for bone formation and growth.
Furthermore, no scientific evidence indicates that resistance training will have an adverse effect on linear growth during childhood or adolescence, or reduce eventual height in adulthood.
It is important to note from the above that this does not condone adult resistance training programmes, so don't go putting your child on a super duper million-sets a day programme straight from the internet! The use of common sense, and encouraging movement and programme quality, must take precedence, especially when starting out.
I hope that this post has given you some worthwhile and informative information that has dispelled the 'stunted growth' myth! I am really keen to advise and help all pupils of the school with this area, and there is plenty of opportunity for pupils to get into the gym with staff supervision. A final piece of advice from me for now would be that if you want to start developing and working towards some resistance training targets, get squatting with your own bodyweight and build up from there. You don't need to be in a gym to use resistance either; school bags are very heavy these days!
Ashley Cook ASCC
Head of Strength & Conditioning, Norwich School