Building muscles won't affect your growth spurts.
Concern as to whether weight training stunts growth comes from the belief that lifting weights leads to damage of the growth plates. The long bones in the arms and legs have cartilage at each end known as the epiphyseal plate, or growth plate. Several studies indicate weightlifting does not distrupt growth and The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) does not list weight training as a risk factor.
The Nature of Growth
The growth plates at the ends of your long bones are growing tissue. This tissue is not as rigid or dense as the bone and is more vulnerable to injury. However, the growth plate eventually closes -- usually by the end of puberty -- and is replaced by heavier bone. Injuries to the growth plate in children and adolescents are known as fractures. Most fractures do not affect the rate of growth; however, NIAMS states that type IV and type V fractures have a poor prognosis for growth. These types of fractures are very rare and only occur if the growth plate is crushed or fractures occur in all layers of the surrounding long bone.
Weight Lifting Gets the Thumbs Up
In regard to weight training effects on bone growth, the вЂњPediatric Endocrinology ReviewsвЂќ states that of the few studies that studied the effects of resistance training on growth found that it had no harmful effect. In addition, weight training helps you build muscles that can protect your growth plate from injury. NIAMS states that one-third of all growth plate injuries occur in competitive sports. A literature review published in a 2010 issue of the вЂњBritish Journal of Sports MedicineвЂќ states that regular, total-body resistance training may help reduce the risk of sports-related injuries in young athletes.
Proceed With Caution
Though studies indicate weight training does not halt growth, these studies were performed in a controlled environment. This means safety precautions must be taken when an adolescent partakes in resistance exercise. Avoid using heavy weights and choose machine-weight equipment rather than free weights. Free weights like dumbbells require more muscle and joint coordination to exercise with; therefore, those lacking in experience are more likely to suffer injuries. The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends following the age-specific resistance training guidelines, which can be provided by an on-site trainer.
What Growth Boils Down To
Adequate calcium, genetics and physical exercise such as jogging are more influential factors on your bone health and growth. Weight training primarily affects your muscles, which can protect your bones more efficiently when developed. Eat a diet that consists of lean protein such as grass-fed beef and complex carbs such as vegetables and fruits. Calcium-rich foods include milk, yogurt, green vegetables and soybeans.