Strength Training for Kids – Growth Plate Damage?

February 29, 2012

Breaking a mirror causes seven years bad luck. You’ll find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Strength training in children causes growth abnormalities.

These three statements are all equally supported by research.

I’ve got no idea where the strength training myth comes from – but I can point you in the direction of plenty of research that supports the use of strength training for kids. Let me qualify this by saying that a precursor to training is technique. Mechanics before intensity… but of course, this concept isn’t unique to kids. This requirement is universal.

Let’s explore the literature.

“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.“ American Association of Paediatrics.

“Starting physical activity prior to the pubertal growth spurt stimulates both bone and skeletal muscle hypertrophy to a greater degree than observed with normal growth in non-physically active children.”
Vicente-Rodriguez, G. How does exercise affect bone development during growth? Sports Med. 2006;36:561-569, 2006.

“…contrary to the common misconception that resistance training may retard growth, scientific evidence indicates that resistance training results in increased serum IGF-I and that there is no detrimental effect on linear growth. Finally, numerous studies have demonstrated that with appropriate supervision and precautions, resistance training can be safe and effective for children and adolescents.”
Falk, B, and A. Eliakim. Resistance training, skeletal muscle and growth. Pediatr Endocrinol Rev. 1:120-127, 2003.

“Early studies questioned both the safety and the effectiveness of strength training for young athletes, but current evidence indicates that both children and adolescents can increase muscular strength as a consequence of strength training.”
Strength training for children and adolescents.

“Given proper supervision and appropriate program design, young athletes participating in resistance training can increase muscular strength and do not appear to be at any greater risk of injury than young athletes who have not undergone such training.”
Strength training for children and adolescents.

“Although in the past resistance and high-intensity exercise training among young children was the subject of numerous controversies, it is now well-documented that this training mode is a safe and effective means of developing maximal strength, maximal power output and athletic performance in youth, provided that exercises are performed with appropriate supervision and precautions.”
High-intensity and resistance training and elite young athletes.

“At present, there is no scientific evidence to support the view that high-intensity and/or resistance training might hinder growth and maturation in young children.”
High-intensity and resistance training and elite young athletes.

The research goes on – and it all points in the same direction. DONE CORRECTLY, and with proper mechanics, children can benefit as much from strength training as rest the rest of the population. Historical misconceptions appear to have no evidence based support.

Dan Williams

Dan Williams


Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion and leads a team of Exercise Physiologists, Sports Scientists, Physiotherapists and Coaches. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology.

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