Tap to Read ➤

Can Lifting Weights Stunt Your Growth?

Arjun Kulkarni Mar 12, 2020
It is a common concern among athletically inclined teens and their parents. Some 'experts' say it can, while others say it can't. So, let's find out the answer.
A lot of people think that lifting weights stunts growth. It is so widely accepted as truth, because it seems like a perfectly plausible explanation. If stretching and other limb-lengthening exercises help increase your height, any pressure applied the other way should decrease it, right?
All this concern is about the growth plates and how lifting weights at an early age might damage them, thereby affecting growth in teens. Proper weightlifting cannot hamper your growth but if the growth plates are damaged during workouts, this can affect the natural growth process.
Growth plate or epiphyseal plate is a hyaline cartilage located at the long end of a growing bone. These plates are responsible for proper bone growth in teens and children and are transformed into the epiphyseal lines upon maturity.

Does Weightlifting Stunt your Growth

Well, not quite! The body really doesn't work that way. Your body will grow as much as it is supposed to (depending on your genetics), irrespective of the exercise. If that was the case, how come bodybuilders like Lou Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzenegger stand six feet tall? They started lifting weights in their early teens and still managed to become so tall.
Let's understand what some fitness and health care institutions have to say about all this.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is world-renowned nonprofit educational association that specializes in strength training, injury prevention and fitness research.
When asked about the effects of weight training at a young age, the NSCA did agree that lifting weights may damage growth cartilage but also said that most training injuries occur due to excess repetitions, improper lifting techniques and lack of expertise.
The NSCA also agrees that there is no concrete evidence to prove that lifting weights at a young age can hamper an individual's growth.
It is not just the NCSA, various institutions such as American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), American Council on Exercise (ACE), Mayo Clinic, and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have published reports that clearly state; teens who lift weights in a supervised environment with a qualified instructor do not face a decrease in stature.

Weightlifting Care for Teens

For teens interested in bodybuilding, a supervised environment is a must. Chances of getting injured will be there but they can be minimized by professional guidance and proper lifting techniques.
Beginners who work out without any professional help often end up suffering from dislocations, cardiac ruptures, herniated disks, bone fractures, spondylolysis and muscle tear. Having said that, here are some safety tips to keep in mind while working out.
  • Do not start on an unreasonably tough workout routine. Start small. You can start with cardiovascular workouts for beginners. It is essential that you condition your bones and body to an exercise program and not jump into it directly.
  • For beginners, running and swimming are the two best exercises. Once your body starts getting used to it, then start a weightlifting workout.
  • Even then, certain care needs to be taken. Always work with heavy weights around a qualified trainer. What you learn when you are young stays with you for the rest of your life and hence, it is essential that your learn the basics correctly.
  • Always ensure that you concentrate on the perfect form of the workout. Make sure that you move your body perfectly. Repeatedly doing the wrong motion, may cause lasting damage to your bones and joints.
  • Also, concentrate on increasing your stamina and endurance. It will work in your favor later, when you go for hardcore programs.
  • Teens tend to get carried away with weightlifting workouts. They tend to watch others take more weights for their workouts and feel that they too can take such weights. Essentially, explain to them that some people are built differently than others and hence, can take more weights and trying to compete with them will only be detrimental to their bone health.
  • Lastly, teens are still in their growth stage and hence can focus on exercises which will help them grow taller. They can try limb-lengthening exercises and grow taller. It is essential that kids utilize their teen years for growing taller, as this is the only time in their life that they can! They have the rest of their lives left to grow 'wider'!
With medical reports suggesting otherwise, it seems that blaming weightlifting for a short stature would be unfair and also no study has been able to effectively establish the detrimental effect that weight training can have on teen growth.
However, ensure that instructions of a qualified trainer are followed at all times to minimize the risk of injury.
Disclaimer: The particulars provided here are for informative purposes only. Always consult a physician before starting any physical fitness program in order to reduce the risk of injury.