Ending the myth about children and resistance training -
At eight, Julie was my youngest client. She didn’t hire me, of course. Her parents approached me to pick up “Boo,” as she was called, after school and work with her for an hour three days a week. Dorie and Hugh were concerned that Boo “took after her Daddy,” and was gaining girth faster than height. They also told me that she was born prematurely and was behind other kids her age in coordination and agility.
My three children were all older than Boo. My youngest, Kirsten, was ten, Caitlin, twelve, and Jen, a surly fifteen. I had always insisted that they sign up for at least one physical activity, but not more than two. I knew my limitations as a soccer mom/taxi driver.
Jen was playing fall soccer under duress and would show up for practice without her shin guards hoping to be sidelined. She regularly quit her winter sport, but her basketball coach was a friend of mine. Coach Josie would call every time Jen quit and instruct me to grab Jen’s uniform and bring her to the game. So she was active; you can’t play basketball sitting down.
Caitlin loved soccer and gymnastics and even won first in the state on the uneven parallel bars. Kirsten played soccer and basketball and finally settled on volleyball. She plays for the Division I University of Alabama at Birmingham team.
Given this backdrop, Boo came as a surprise. She climbed tentatively onto our trampoline and plopped onto her belly, where she knew she wouldn’t fall. I never knew a child who was so careful.
Over a year’s time, Boo and I went hiking and bike riding. We played basketball and practiced jumping rope. When the weather warmed, we went swimming.
Boo was bright, talkative, fun, and – as we both came to discover — as courageous as she was thoughtful. After just a short time training, she would try anything once. We had a new, not-so-careful Boo.
Soon Boo took an interest in my Bowflex. I had a few adult clients who came to my home office to work out on this resistance machine. Should I let this now nine year old lift weights?
According to a paper published by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, the answer is a resounding yes. The vague but persistent myth that resistance training will stunt growth and cause injury is just that – myth. There has never been a single report of growth plate damage in preadolescents involved in strength training.