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When Is It Safe for Teens to Start Training?

Does this sound like you?

You’re searching for the best way to help your teen become more active, get stronger, increase their fitness level and feel better about themselves in the process. You’ve heard lifting weights might be part of the answer, but you’re scared… you’re not sure when it’s safe for teens to start training…  I mean lifting weights can cause damage. It will stunt their growth, turn a teenage girl into a hulking beast and a teenage boy into a muscle bound meathead.

In 1983 The American Academy of Paediatrics advised against weightlifting in children and when a major medical organization puts their stamp of disapproval on a health activity, people listen…regardless of whether the recommendation is based on fact or fiction.

Are any of these true? Is it safe for your teen to train?

MYTH #1 Strength Training Will Stunt Their Growth

This is the most common myth that causes resistance from parents when considering a strength-training program for their teens.  The fear of damaging sensitive growth centres in a child’s developing bones is enough to keep teens on the sidelines for far too long.  While true, damage to a bone growth plate can disrupt the flow of blood and lead to abnormal growth in the affected limb, a teenager is much more likely to experience this type of injury with running, jumping or playing sports like soccer.

In 2008 the AAP revised its earlier position promoting the safety and benefits of strength training and children.  What great news…training will not increase your teen’s risk of growth plate injury compared to regular activities, and it will increase their strength, their metabolic rate and their bone density.

MYTH #2 Strength Training Will Make Teenage Girls Bulky

“Bulky” is a highly subjective term and dependent on each person’s view of what constitutes an ideal body type. Nonetheless, for anyone to get to there from where they currently are, they need to move through a series of stages.

No one goes from a “slim” body to a “bulky” body overnight, just like no one goes from a 30-pound squat to a 300-pound squat overnight.  What strength training will do is help to develop the best version of any body type.  With the help of eating by design, wholesome, nutrient dense foods, managing stress and getting adequate sleep…weight lifting can maximize the hormonal profile of a teen to stimulate better health development.

MYTH #3 Strength Training Will Make Teenage Boys Muscle Bound

While adding some lean muscle is the dream of many teen males, no parent wants to see their child become muscle-bound and inflexible.

Not to worry…this is a myth too!  Weight training with proper form actually increases flexibility as you move your joints through healthy full ranges of motion.  Researchers at the University of North Dakota showed lifting weights may be even better than static stretching as a method to increase joint flexibility.

The Bottom Line

While it may have once been “accepted” that training for children and teens should be avoided at all costs, the most current research and expert opinion confirms otherwise.  A controlled weight lifting program, scaled to meet the needs of all participants and progressive enough to increase strength gains is safe and effective for children as young as 7 or 8 years old.  Now that’s a far cry from the original AAP guidelines.

Starting with bodyweight movements and developing into standard strength training with barbells, dumbbells and kettle bells is an exceptional way to begin optimizing your teen’s health, quality of life, self-esteem and to maximize their future potential.

What does my family do?

We like to start them early.  This past weekend we put the kids through two functional training workouts at the cottage.  It was awesome – my kids loved it!  My 8-year-old son, 12-year-old daughter, 17-year-old nephew, and Dr. Shawna and I did the following workout on the deck and the road at the lake:

3 rounds of:  10 burpies, 20 pushups, 20 sit ups, 20 air squats, 10 pull ups, 200m run.  Nobody complained.  They loved it.  And they slept well that night!

Have a healthy week!

To find out more about Elevate Chiropractic and our dedicated team of professionals, click here.

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