Does weight training stunt growth? Sports doctors answer the most googled questions

Posted by for Wellbeing

Does weight training stunt growth? Here’s what the experts have to say. 

The fitness world is awash with half-truths and misinformation, with myths surrounding weight training tending to be particularly persistent. So it may not come as much of a surprise to hear that the lingering notion that weight training stunts your growth actually holds very little weight. 

If you are a teen in your crucial years of development or a parent with a teen, this idea could be cause for concern. But weight training brings with it a whole heap of benefits, such as increasing strength and bolstering mental health, no matter what age you are. 

So we asked sports specialist and fitness trainer Dr Folusha Oluwajana and Dr Sarah Davies from Panacea Health to help us set the record straight about where this myth came from, where it steers us wrong, and the things you really do have to be careful about when weight training while you’re growing. 

Woman in gym holding kettlebell
Weight training: "the notion that weight training stunts your growth holds very little weight"

Does weight training stunt growth?

DR FOLUSHA OLUWAJANA:

“This is common question and often a cause for concern, particularly for parents whose children may want to partake in weight training. The truth is there is no scientific evidence to show that weight training affects growth in young people. This myth likely stems from the fact that injury to growth plates at the ends of growing bones can affect bone growth. However, weight training itself does not directly damage growth plates.”

DR SARAH DAVIES: 

“While there have been retrospective case reports of injury to the growth cartilage during preadolescence and adolescence from repetitive overload, most of these injuries were due to improper lifting techniques, maximal lifts, or lack of qualified adult supervision. Notably, this kind of growth cartilage injury has not been reported in any prospective youth resistance training research study and there is no evidence that resistance training negatively impacts growth and maturation during childhood and adolescence.” 

Can lifting weights support healthy development?

DR FOLUSHA OLUWAJANA:

“Weight training actually has several benefits for young people during development, such as increasing bone and muscle strength, reducing the risk of fracture and injury and also boosting self-esteem and confidence.”

DR SARAH DAVIES:

“Resistance training can offer remarkable benefits for children and adolescents when appropriately prescribed and supervised. There is a risk of musculoskeletal injury, though this is no greater than many other sports and leisure activities in which children and young people routinely engage. In fact, it has been shown in adolescents that resistance training and weightlifting are actually safer than many other sports and activities. An additional benefit to weight training is that it promotes wellness, self-esteem, and an interest in healthy living.” 

What precautions should you take when weight training during the years of development?

DR FOLUSHA OLUWAJANA:

“The key to avoiding damage to growth plates during the developing years – or avoiding any injuries for that matter – is training safely. Avoid overdoing it by using weights that are too heavy or not taking enough time to recover. The focus should be on form and technique rather than weight lifted. Good supervision is also essential. It may be beneficial to involve a trainer who has experience with adolescents to provide supervision and develop a training programme that is tailored to the individual needs and abilities of the young person.”

DR SARAH DAVIES:

“There is potential for injury or illness to occur if the intensity, volume, or frequency of training exceed the abilities of the young person. This can be avoided by increasing the demand on the muscles gradually, building the capacity of the muscles to meet that demand over a sensible period of time.” 

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