Natural Bodybuilding FAQ: Can Bodybuilding Training Stunt Growth in Kids and Teens?

Question: My son just started doing some natural bodybuilding training and though I am very happy about that, I have heard that lifting too heavy a weight will cause growth to be stunted in kids. Is there an ideal weight range that my son can use so that he can reach his bodybuilding goals but also attain his ultimate height?

Answer: The whole notion of growth being stunted by natural bodybuilding training is a myth that I have been fighting for years. In conversations with my grandfather who used to be an Orthopedic Surgeon graduated from Northwestern University with top honors, I learned that as long as the resistance is not so high that it would cause the bones to become more dense and thus close the epiphysis (the growth area of a long bone) then there should not be any detrimental effects.

As a matter of fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently changed their policy (PEDIATRICS Vol. 107 No. 6 June 2001, pp. 1470-1472) regarding this topic by stating that “strength training programs do not seem to adversely affect linear growth and do not seem to have any long-term detrimental effect on cardiovascular health” as evidenced in recent studies.

I should also point out that the compression forces on your son’s legs and spine are far greater in running and jumping than they will ever be in a bodybuilding exercise like squatting. Compression forces in running and jumping can exceed 5 times his bodyweight. If he’s not squatting over 700 pounds, he’s generating greater compression in normal daily activities.

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Ideal Training Weight

I wouldn’t recommend that he lift any weight that he can’t do in a controlled fashion and with perfect form for at least 10 repetitions until he’s 18 or so. A weight that he can perform with perfect form for 10-15 repetitions will give him excellent bodybuilding results. Once 18, he can introduce weeks of heavier lifting, never going below 5 repetitions, as in my opinion, that is not needed for bodybuilding.

To be honest, when it comes to kids and bodybuilding training my concern isn’t so much the risk of stunting growth (which won’t happen with proper training); I am more concerned about the risk of injuring tendons, ligaments, or joints that are unused to the demands of heavy lifting. This is the reason why I can never emphasize enough the importance of proper weight selection and perfect exercise execution. [Note: for a GREAT programs with solid videos that teach the best exercise execution please take a look at my MI-40 review here]

 

Youngsters and Weight Training

At what age can a teenage boy can start working out with weights has always been a topic of debate. Some people say that weights should not be touched until after all of the growing is done or else you could affect the growth platelets and stunt your growth. Others say it is OK to start lifting weight at an early age. I have arrived at the following conclusions based on the latest research on this subject.

I believe that youngsters (anybody less than 14 years old) are better off doing exercises with just their body weight. If you are under 14 years of age, focus on bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, dips, pull-ups, pushups, one legged calf raises. Stick to proper form and higher repetition ranges (15-20 reps) in order to train the nervous system to activate the muscle fibers. The following exercises should compose a youngster’s program:

running or fast walking
dips
push-ups
pull-ups
chin-ups
squats with no weights
lunges with no weights
calf raises with no weight
crunches
leg raises

Depending on the age and motivation of the person, anywhere between 2-5 sets of each exercise for the maximum amount of reps possible in good form is sufficient. There should be 30 seconds of rest in between exercises and they should be performed 3 times a week.

An additional 15-20 minutes of fast walking or running on rest days is enough exercise for anyone who wishes to start an exercise program before the age of 14.

14-year-olds can start working out with weights as long as they’re practicing perfect form and staring out with a beginners program like this one: Bodybuilding Routine for Those Who Are Just Getting Started

Conclusion

If you look at it, lifting weights didn’t do a thing to stunt the growth of Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Karl Malone, Michael Vick, etc. All started lifting in their early teens, and all have gone on to be over 6′ tall and star in professional sports. Dave Draper and Arnold Schwarzenegger started lifting younger than that; again, both are 6’1″ or taller. Many high school teams start their freshmen on lifting programs, meaning your son started at a perfectly appropriate age.

Provided that exercise form, proper weight selection and safety are always emphasized, your son won’t find his growth stunted by lifting; rather, he’ll find that he grows into his body much better and much more quickly than most of the peers around him.

Until next time, take care and train hard!

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Comments

  1. Thanks,
    I cannot tell you how many evil looks and negative comments I get from friends and family (wife included) about having my two sons (12 and 16) workout with me (always 8-12 reps with moderate weight). They all seem to become pediatric doctors, and whant to lecture me on how it will hurt my kids and stunt thier growth. The funny part is not one of them has ever taken the time to watch or participate in one of our workouts. My reply is what about all those big farmer’s sons and daughters that get up everyday and work on the farm or ranch. I bet they are doing more lifting and working of muscles than our 4-5 exercise with 10 Reps each. This seems to shut them up.

    • Hugo Rivera says:

      You hit right on the nail my friend. Agreed 100%. As long as your kids are practicing PERFECT FORM and not lifting weights that they cannot handle they will be just fine. My son has been lifting since 12 and he is taller than me. And like you rightfully said, what about farmers? Lifting is lifting and the body has not clue whether you are lifting a weight, farming or lifting a book bag. And yes, farmers work VERY HARD and make out 10 rep exercises look like a walk in the park. 🙂 Thanks for the comment and keep up the great work with your kids! So cool that they train with you. Best! Hugo

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