Does Working Out Stunt Your Growth?

Many parents worry that allowing their children to lift weights or engage in strength training exercises will somehow negatively impact their growth and development. The concern is understandable – we all want our kids to grow up strong and healthy. However, research shows that not only is strength training safe for kids, it may actually provide benefits that can last a lifetime.

What Exactly is Strength Training?

Before diving into the impacts of strength training on growth and development, it’s important to clarify exactly what strength training is. Strength training, also known as resistance training, is any exercise that causes muscles to contract against external resistance. This resistance could come from bodyweight, gravity, bands, free weights like barbells or dumbbells, or weight machines.

Common examples of strength training exercises include:

  • Push-ups – Bodyweight is the resistance
  • Squats – Bodyweight or barbells can provide resistance
  • Bicep curls – Dumbbells or bands create resistance
  • Lat pulldowns – Resistance comes from weight machines

The goal of strength training is to gradually increase the ability to resist greater amounts of force, which in turn builds muscle, strength, and endurance. Proper strength training applies progressive resistance to challenge muscles and promote positive adaptations and growth.

Does Strength Training Really Stunt Growth?

Now that we understand what strength training actually entails, let’s examine the primary concern – does it stunt growth? According to comprehensive reviews of scientific literature on youth strength training, there is no evidence that a properly designed and supervised strength training program will stunt growth or impair maturity in kids and teenagers.

In fact, a 2016 position statement from the National Strength and Conditioning Association clearly states:

“Resistance training can be safe and effective for children and adolescents provided qualified professionals supervise all training sessions and provide age-appropriate instruction on proper lifting procedures and safe training guidelines. There is no evidence to suggest that resistance training will reduce height or negatively impact growth and maturation in preadolescents and adolescents.”

This position is supported by major organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, and the National Athletic Trainers Association. Research overwhelmingly suggests that strength training – when practiced correctly under proper supervision – is not only safe for kids and teens, but provides many benefits.

The Benefits of Youth Strength Training

So if strength training won’t stunt growth, are there good reasons kids and teens should participate in it? Absolutely! When implemented properly, strength training provides the following benefits:

Increased Muscle and Bone Strength

Controlled studies show youth strength training enhances muscle strength by 30-50% after just 8-20 weeks of training. Increased muscle strength helps kids safely perform everyday activities like lifting objects or playing sports.

Resistance training also improves bone mineral density in children and adolescents. Stronger bones help prevent fractures and lower risk of future osteoporosis.

Reduced Sports Injuries

Strength training that properly progresses and focuses on skill development can reduce sports-related injuries in youth. It improves muscle balance and coordination. Young athletes who resistance train are less likely to get injured on the field or court.

Enhanced Motor Skills and Coordination

The controlled movements involved in strength training improve balance, proprioception, core stability, coordination, and body awareness. Kids become more nimble and adept movers.

Increased Confidence and Self-Esteem

As kids get stronger, they gain confidence in their bodies and abilities. Strength training empowers youth to pursue active hobbies and interests. It boosts self-esteem and encourages healthy behaviors.

Improved Focus and Academic Performance

Regular strength training enhances focus, memory, and concentration in kids. It may support cognitive skills and lead to better academic performance. Moving and challenging the body positively impacts the brain and thinking skills.

Reduced Risk of Disease Later in Life

Starting strength training early establishes exercise habits that lay the foundation for lifelong health. It reduces risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis.

Is Strength Training for Kids Really Safe?

Many parents understand the potential benefits of youth strength training, but remain concerned about safety. They worry their child will get hurt using weights. However, the risk of injury is very low when safety guidelines are followed.

Here are some key factors that ensure safe, effective strength training for kids:

  • Qualified instruction – A skilled coach familiar with age-specific strength training techniques closely supervises each session. Proper form and progressions are taught.
  • Appropriate weight – Kids should start with light loads that allow 10-15 repetitions per set. Weight is increased conservatively as strength improves.
  • Focus on controlled movements – Speed or ballistic movements should be avoided. The emphasis is on performing exercises at moderate pace and through a full range of motion.
  • Age-specific program design – Workouts are tailored to a child’s developmental stage and abilities. Volume and intensity are moderated based on age and recovery capacity.
  • Gradual progression – Resistance and volume increase slowly over time as strength improves. Jumping into heavy weight or high volume too quickly raises injury risk.
  • Adequate rest – Rest periods between sets allow muscles to recover. At least 1-2 days between sessions prevents overtraining.
  • Proper technique – Kids must demonstrate safe exercise form and understanding before progressing. Quality repetitions are emphasized over quantity.

Example Beginner Strength Program for Kids

What would an appropriate beginner strength training program look like for a child? While programs should be individualized, here is one example of a basic full body workout that focuses on proper technique and gradual overload:

Workout A

  • Bodyweight Squat – 2 sets x 10-12 reps
  • Push Up – 2 sets x 6-8 reps (modified on knees if needed)
  • Dumbbell Row – 2 sets x 10-12 reps (light weight)
  • Dumbbell Overhead Press – 2 sets x 10-12 reps (light weight)
  • Plank – 3 sets x 20-30 sec

Workout B

  • Goblet Squat – 2 sets x 10-12 reps (light kettlebell or dumbbell)
  • Inverted Row – 2 sets x 6-8 reps (bodyweight)
  • Dumbbell RDL – 2 sets x 10-12 reps (light weight)
  • Dumbbell Bicep Curl – 2 sets x 10-12 reps (light weight)
  • Pallof Press – 3 sets x 20-30 sec (band or cable)


  • Perform Workout A and B 2 times per week each, with at least a day of rest in between
  • Warm up before each session with dynamic stretches and light cardio
  • Focus on mastering form before increasing weight or intensity
  • Increase difficulty slowly over time under guidance of qualified coach

This sample program provides a safe introduction to fundamental strength movements. With a patient, step-by-step progression focused on proper technique over weight, kids can start building strength the right way.

The Takeaway: Strength Training is Beneficial if Done Correctly

Physical activity, including resistance training, is essential for the proper growth and development of children and adolescents. Contrary to myths, strength training does not stunt growth if implemented appropriately under supervision. In fact, it provides many benefits like stronger muscles and bones, improved motor skills, higher self-esteem, reduced sports injuries, and better focus on academic tasks.

While injury is always a concern, the risks of youth strength training are low if kids train under the watchful guidance of qualified professionals. Programs should start with light weights, focus on control, emphasize proper technique, and provide adequate rest between sessions. With age-tailored programming and a patient progression, strength training can safely improve the health and fitness of kids and teens, providing a strong foundation for their future.

The evidence-based consensus is clear – proper strength training is safe, effective, and beneficial for children and adolescents. By embracing strength training appropriately, we can empower our youth to grow strong, confident, and physically literate as they mature.


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