You Won't Believe What He Did To Protect His Growth Plates

Sorry for the social media click-bait type headline. But I'd like to put the issue of kids and weighty training to rest.

Image result for growth platesThe conventional thought for training exercising kids less than 14 (or so) years of age is that you provide them with structured callisthenic type bodyweight exercises, variations on running, and fun activities like obstacle courses.

I definitely see the value in keeping it light and fun for this age group. Some of the best "training" for children takes place while they ride a bike and play games of their own creation like wifflebase football in the backyard. Who am I to deny a good obstacle course?

But for the child who loves competition and signs up for related strength training and conditioning, there's on thing missing.

Resistance. "Weights."

Why are we not giving such kids the opportunity to handle some loading while there is guidance and oversight? What kid has not walked into a weight room, stopped at the dumbbell or kettlebell rack, and attempted to lift each item 2 inches from where it sits? Children are curious and WILL test themselves.

"Thirty five pounds? So -THIS- is what 35 lbs feels like."

The kids see their sports heroes lifting weights and talking about lifting weights. They hear a lot about growing up and getting strong. The kids (and their parents) who sign up for training are not average elementary physical education students. The children want to be there, present in a gym environment, and they WANT to lift the weights.

If you're wondering about injuries, you may first and foremost want to consider that "injury risk" is known as "being a kid."  Relative to nearly anything that doesn't involve sitting at a desk or couch, resistance exercise is safe. Take my word for it or you can read the hundred page statements by the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

1. The youth injury rate for supervised resistance exercise is far less than that of traditional sports.

2. Kids are far more prone to accidental drops, hits, and horseplay (inside and outside of the gym) than to muscle strains and joint sprains typically associated with heavy weightlifting.

3. A child's "training readiness" has far less to do with their chronological age and more to do with whether or not they WANT to be there and their ability to follow basic instruction.

4. The idea of injuring growth plates from weight training is an outdated and fairly absurd. Running, jumping, throwing, falling off a chair, and being hit by a ball all provide far more impact forces on their joints and growth plates.

5. Children are suffering from sports-related overuse injuries at an alarming rate. Why would we not encourage them to actively engage in activities (like resistance training) that do not reproduce the repetitive strain associated with any one sport, but provide a stimulus that makes them more resilient to those repetitive demands?

Resistance training is not "okay" for kids. It's GOOD for them. And it's relatively safer than the playing Tag and obstacle courses that conventional wisdom recommends.

Please hear me out. We're not talking about slapping plates on barbells or other intimidating machinery. Think of progressions (making the movement easier or more difficult depending on the status of the child) of push-ups, chin-ups, hip hinge deadlifts and step ups while holding resistance. Think of giving them an idea of what resistance training looks like rather than powerlifting, and educating them regarding proper form and exercise progressions. For those who are still skeptical, here are a few specific examples of resistance training exercises that can be productive and fun learning opportunities.

Can they hold 10 to 20% of their bodyweight in front of the chest and perform a quality squat pattern with heels on the floor, spine neutral, and good control at the knee?

Can they perform a fair hip hinge pattern to lift 30 to 50% of their bodyweight off the ground while keeping their heels on the floor and spine neutral?

Can they carry 25 to 50% of their body weight for 40 yards?
Can they perform a few chin-ups or 30 second controlled hang?

Can they perform various jumps and hops and produce a controlled landing? While holding a light medicine ball?

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