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Most parents have heard the speculation, and perhaps even perpetuated it by sharing the misinformation.
“Weightlifting too early can stunt a young athlete’s growth.”
Dr. Joey Eisenmann, USA Football’s director of high performance and education, believes resistance training can actually be very productive for young athletes—particularly at a time when obesity and inactivity seem more common than ever.
According to Eisenmann, contrary to the pervasive myth, modern studies simply do not support the theory that proper resistance training programs stunt a child’s growth or are otherwise unsafe.
“In the vast majority of published studies, no overt clinical injuries have been reported during well-designed resistance training programs. Most injuries occur when youth are unsupervised or participate in programs that are led and designed by ill-qualified individuals,” Eisenmann said.
Eisenmann believes a child as young as 7 years old can begin a resistance training program, though a child’s maturity, ability to follow directions and utilize proper technique are the most critical factors.
He cautions parents that, while resistance training can be very beneficial to young athletes, it needs to take place under the supervision of a qualified professional, as part of a structured plan.
“Just because you played college football or can bench-press 250 pounds does not qualify you to design and lead strength training for youth,” Eisenmann said. “There are specific educational resources and certifications for working with youth athletes, and the recommendations set forth by the National Strength and Conditioning Association should be understood and followed.”
Jon Buzby has been involved in and writing about youth sports for the past 30 years, originally as a coach and board member with his now-adult son and most recently "just as a dad" with his 8- and 10-year-old sons. Jon is an award-winning writer and his latest book, “Coaching Kids Made Easier,” is available on Amazon. Send comments or future blog topics you'd like to see to JonBuzby@hotmail.com and follow him @YouthSportsBuzz on Twitter.