There is a huge amount of conflicting information out there about weight training and adolescents. For the purpose of this article, I’ll define adolescence as the period between puberty and physical maturity. For most people this is approximately from ages 12 to 20. Adolescence is a time of rapid growth and physical development. It is also a period of increased self-awareness and competition. Therefore, it is natural that it is during this time that most young people first become seriously interested in developing their physiques and athletic abilities. It wasn’t that long ago that strength training was discouraged for children and adolescents due to fears over possible negative effects on growth and even reproductive potential. Girls and young women especially were discouraged from resistance training as it was not considered “feminine”.
Today most experts agree that strength training can and should be integrated into the fitness lifestyle of children as young as 8 to 10 years old. The Tween and Teen Health Program of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, is on the front lines of adolescent health issues and advocates the use of resistance training providing that certain guidelines are followed. [The controversy no longer revolves around whether or not resistance training is healthy for teens, but rather what kind, how much, and how heavy. The question is how to allow teens to reach their physical potential while minimizing the chance of injury. Because there is a lot of growth and development going on during these years, some injuries have the potential to interfere with or alter normal growth patterns. Of particular concern are injuries to the epiphyseal or growth plates that are responsible for the growth of the long bones of the arms, legs, hands, and feet.
Children are born with regions of cartilage at each end of every long bone. This is the region where new bone is formed allowing the limb to grow in length. As the individual grows through adolescence, these cartilage regions become narrower until at physical maturity, they have been completely replaced by bone. This closure is the point at which a person stops growing in height.
The big concern with strength training for children or teens is that these growth plates are much softer and more easily damaged than bone. Damage to these plates can cause abnormal growth of the affected bone or can cause growth to stop prematurely. “An injury that would cause a sprain in an adult can cause a potentially serious growth plate injury in a child.” National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases; National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services. This concern is not unique to resistance training. Many common sports have resulted in growth plate injuries. Interestingly, growth plate injuries are more common in football, martial arts, gymnastics, and even cheerleading, than they are in resistance training according to the American Orthopaedic Association for Sports Medicine, .That doesn’t mean that the risk of growth plate injury in resistance training can be ignored. While the myth that weight lifting causes generalized stunted growth has been proven to be a phenomena of steroid abuse, the possibility of causing long-term injury and serious physical problems still exists.
Growth plates can be injured in a number of ways. A traumatic impact can directly injure the plate such as hitting your knees on the dash in a car crash or falling onto your outstretched arms in a skateboarding accident. Gymnasts may injure a growth plate in their legs when they “stick” a landing from a high vaulting movement. More common during weight lifting would be range of motion injuries in which the joint is twisted or pulled beyond its normal range. This can result in an injury affecting both the joint and growth plate(s). Extreme compression from very heavy weights can also cause acute or cumulative injury by compressing the soft cartilage of the growth plate. Likewise, overtraining can cause cumulative injury when a hard schedule of heavy training doesn’t allow for adequate rest and recovery.
In addition to growth plate injury, there is the very real possibility of injuring joints. As the long bones grow, the biomechanics change. Muscle is very vascular and grows and adapts rather rapidly. The tendons (connect muscle to bone), ligaments (stabilize bone to bone), cartilage (provides for smooth movement of joints), and bursa (the sack that holds lubricating fluids in the joint), adapt more slowly. During periods of rapid bone and muscle growth, the joints can become less stable as the body adjusts to the new mechanics. This, in part, accounts for some of the physical awkwardness that many teens experience at times. Just as these tissues don’t grow and adapt as readily, they don’t heal as well or as quickly. Therefore injury to a joint will at least put a big delay in your training, or at worst, create a lifelong problem.
To minimize possibility of growth plate or joint injury, here are some recommendations complied from the sources cited in this article:
• Inexperienced individuals should receive instruction in resistance training from a qualified and experienced trainer.
• Always use good clean technique, cheating puts uneven and excessive stress on joints and the nearby growth plates.
• Always follow good safety practices and use a spotter when appropriate.
• Use slow, controlled movements. Never use momentum or cheating to lift heavier weights. “Speed reps” are especially inappropriate for adolescents.
• Powerlifting or other high-weight/low-rep training should not be performed until after the natural closing of the growth plate.
• Children should be limited to light weights and high reps or exercises against their own body weight such as pushups and chinups.
• Adolescents should limit the weight to allow them to complete 12-15 reps with good form.
• Adolescents can be very flexible, but it is dangerous to use heavy weights near the limits of the normal range of motion of a joint.
• Resistance training should be done no more that 3-4 times a week with a day off in between sessions.
• Nutrition and rest are every bit as important as focus and intensity.
The techniques and routines of advanced adult bodybuilders, powerlifters, and other athletes are often inappropriate for adolescents. It is better to find a program that is right for you and your realistic goals, than to blindly mimic someone else. Seek the council of experienced and competent individuals who have your best interest in mind.
Ego is the number one cause of resistance training injuries. The competitive nature of adolescents can lead to attempting too much, too soon or too often. Showing off or competing for a one-rep max is the recipe for disaster.
Work hard, be strong, and use your head.
Could an admin please sticky this.
Thread: Teens and Heavy Lifting