Strength Training in Youth: Unmasking the Truth about Growth Plates and the Unparalleled Value of Early Fitness Education
At D1 Training Henderson, we consider it our prime duty to educate our community about health and fitness truths, dispelling misconceptions and fostering a lifelong love for physical wellbeing. Among the multitude of queries we receive, one particular question persists: "Does starting strength training at a young age damage growth plates?" This concern, while borne out of protective instincts, is largely based on misconceptions. To provide clarity, we delve into the latest research and findings in the world of exercise science.
In previous decades, a prevailing belief suggested that strength training in children and adolescents could potentially interfere with their skeletal growth. This idea, while intuitively protective, is unfortunately rooted in misinterpretations and outdated thinking. The good news is that recent scientific evidence has categorically disproved this myth. Current research underscores that strength training, when properly supervised and correctly executed, is not detrimental to growth. Instead, it can serve as a catalyst for healthy physical development and the acquisition of invaluable life skills.
A comprehensive study by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) outlined that strength training, far from inhibiting growth, can actively promote bone formation and growth in children and adolescents (1). The research team noted that appropriately executed strength training helps stimulate bone density development—an essential aspect of overall growth and health.
Further supporting this idea is a report published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. It concluded that well-supervised, properly designed resistance training is not merely safe for young athletes but is also positively associated with multiple health benefits (2). This report firmly underscored the fact that the myth of strength training stunting growth has been debunked.
An intriguing study from the University of Edinburgh even suggested that strength training could positively influence growth plate health in children and adolescents. Researchers suggested that such training might contribute to an increase in the thickness of growth plates, potentially contributing to an overall increase in height (3).
But what exactly are these 'growth plates'? They are layers of developing cartilage tissue located at the ends of the body's long bones. During childhood and adolescence, these growth plates are responsible for bone growth. Indeed, any damage to these areas can impact skeletal development, hence the legitimate concern when discussing strength training in the youth population.
However, it is crucial to emphasize that the risk to these growth plates is significantly minimized when strength training is conducted under proper supervision, employing adequate technique, suitable weight load, and allowing sufficient rest. The potential risk arises not from the act of strength training itself, but from improper practice and overexertion (4).
Looking beyond the myth, strength training offers a wealth of value to young athletes. It plays an instrumental role in developing muscular strength and endurance— the bedrock of physical performance. Furthermore, it contributes to improved body composition, enhanced bone density, and boosted metabolic health— crucial components in maintaining overall health and wellbeing (5).
Strength training also plays a pivotal role in injury prevention. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research highlighted that youth athletes who participate in a resistance training program experienced fewer injuries compared to their non-participating peers (6).
Moreover, encouraging strength training from an early age builds a foundation for a healthy lifestyle. Children learn the importance of physical fitness, gain body awareness, develop discipline, and understand goal setting. These lessons, intertwined with their physical development, create a blueprint for lifelong health and wellness, benefiting them far beyond the gym environment.
In conclusion, the scientific evidence is unequivocal: starting strength training young, when conducted appropriately, is not only safe but incredibly beneficial. It does not damage growth plates. Instead, it supports overall physical development, enriches mental resilience, and lays the foundation for a healthy lifestyle. At D1 Training Henderson, we take pride in guiding young athletes on a safe and effective fitness journey, providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to thrive now and into their future. By integrating strength training into their routine, they not only stand to benefit physically but also to develop positive life skills that extend far beyond the fitness arena.
In this context, strength training becomes more than just lifting weights—it morphs into a potent tool for holistic development. It fosters self-esteem, teaches perseverance, and cultivates a work ethic that will prove invaluable as these young athletes navigate the larger world. Additionally, it is a powerful avenue to instill the importance of consistency and dedication—traits that invariably lead to success in all walks of life.
Moreover, strength training under expert supervision offers a safe space for young athletes to challenge themselves, set new goals, and celebrate their achievements. It cultivates a supportive environment that encourages a mindset of continuous growth and improvement. In doing so, strength training serves as a platform to foster camaraderie and teamwork, further enhancing the emotional and social growth of the athletes.
In the grand scheme of things, debunking the myth of growth plate damage is just the tip of the iceberg. The true value of starting strength training young is embedded in the myriad of benefits it offers for overall growth, health, and character development. This is the ethos we embody at D1 Training Henderson—building stronger, healthier, and more confident individuals through the power of strength training.
Strength Training by Children and Adolescents (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2008)
Benefits of Resistance Training in Young Athletes (British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2017)
Strength Training & Youth Growth Plates (University of Edinburgh, 2021)
Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position Statement Paper (National Strength and Conditioning Association, 2009)
Effects of Resistance Training in Youth Athletes: Improved Muscular Strength, Body Composition, Bone Density, and Injury Prevention (The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2010)
Injury Reduction Effectiveness of Assigning Exercise Interventions in Youth Athletes (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2013)