Does Bodybuilding Training and Lifting Weights Stunt Growth?

Strong boy lifting heavy weights
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My son just started 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 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.

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.

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.

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Rivera, Hugo. "Does Bodybuilding Training and Lifting Weights Stunt Growth?" ThoughtCo, Oct. 3, 2016, thoughtco.com/does-bodybuilding-training-stunt-growth-415222. Rivera, Hugo. (2016, October 3). Does Bodybuilding Training and Lifting Weights Stunt Growth? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/does-bodybuilding-training-stunt-growth-415222 Rivera, Hugo. "Does Bodybuilding Training and Lifting Weights Stunt Growth?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/does-bodybuilding-training-stunt-growth-415222 (accessed November 24, 2017).