Should kids be lifting weights? Will lifting weights stunt my athlete’s growth? This is a common question among parents of junior athletes and one that is often answered with misinformation. To keep it simple, lifting weights with proper technique has not been found to cause injury to growth plates. At the same time, introducing young athletes to the gym at a young age not only reduces the risk for common injuries like bone fractures while also developing their nervous system, but also breeds confidence and lays the groundwork for a positive view towards taking care of their body and training for performance as they get older.
At GPC, we introduce “the gym” to our athletes in various ways. For starters, we always keep it fun, no matter what your “gym IQ!” We use the turf line with our youngest athletes to introduce new games that elicit fundamental movement skills like hopping, skipping, jumping, throwing, catching, striking, and hand eye coordination. Once the athlete shows mastery over these skills we introduce, more formally, techniques like the hip hinge and proper squat mechanics. These are, more often than not, positions that the kids have done around the house playing with friends without even realizing it for years. We stress the mastery of controlling your body weight before any additional loads are considered, and we understand that building a solid foundation for the athlete is the first priority.
Once an athlete has demonstrated quality physical function and mastery of these basic techniques, we safely progress them to loading certain movement patterns. The power clean is an Olympic lift very translatable to the golf swing. It requires proper sequencing, the ability to generate power, and a great deal of coordination and body awareness. We spend five to six months learning and mastering the steps of the power clean before we take the training wheels off and let them give it a go. Athletes grasp these concepts at varying paces and are not forced to move on until they are proficient at any particular step. It is exciting to see “the light bulb go off” when an athlete puts the pieces of together and begins honing this complex exercise.
I hope this insight has helped clarify a few common myths and spread the word about how beneficial introducing young athletes to weight lifting can be when done properly, under the supervision of a professional.