Youth Training Myth Busting #1 – “Preserve the Growth Plates”

Posted: July 11, 2014 by dannytwoguns in Erie Youth Conditioning and Performance

Training the youth population (ages 6-12) is one of the most misunderstood segments of the fitness industry. So I figured it would be beneficial to start a series on debunking youth training myths. The first one is one we get all the time…

“Kids shouldn’t train until they are 12/13/14/15 (or some other random and arbitrary number), we need to preserve the growth plates.”

This is one of the most popular ones and actually one of the most unfounded and incorrect ones there is.

I would actually make the argument that the vast majority of youth, ages 6-9 and the average/slightly above average amount of 9-12 year olds are far more prepared for movement and load than the average 40-50 year old is.

Who is better suited to do a loaded hip hinge pattern/deadlift pattern?

PA310104

or

Youth can touch toes

Hopefully you chose the second picture regardless of the fact that she is possibly 20 years younger than the first and has “room in her growth plates.” He doesn’t meet the biggest pre-requisite for a deadlift, she does. It doesn’t mean lets load a bar up to 135 and let her have at it, but she is certainly one step closer than he is.

Not too many, if any at all, high quality fitness professionals would disagree with that. Life, sedentary jobs and lack of exercise haven’t broken people down and they don’t move well, even though their “growth plates have closed.” For the most part, the younger you are the better you move. The 6-12 age ranges lack the coordination and neuromuscular control an adult does not lack but from a purely movement-based perspective, they are more prepared for functional training and movement than the average adult is.

So why wouldn’t we load them?

Obviously, if they aren’t ready physically. Ages 6, 26 or 46.

And if they are, do so. Movement competency (the ability to be able to do a movement safely), movement capacity (the ability for movement over a prolonged period of time) and exercise histories are far better indicators of a human’s need to load a movement pattern or exercise than age is.

Im in no way shape or form advocating to start throwing barbells on the backs of every 6 year old you can find – nothing of the sort. But I AM advocating that you/I have permission to load a client who is physically capable and prepared to do so, ages 6-96. That’s right 6 years old and 96 years old.

I haven’t met a 6 or 96 year old who comes into a training program and starts with anything except bodyweight and assisted exercises and movement patterning. But they could progress past that once a foundation is built. If it is what they need, it is what they should get, regardless of age.

So does a 6, 9 or 12 year old need to “lift weights” right away? If and only if they are physically capable and efficient at doing so.

I’ve seen and met a 12 year old who was a long way away from lifting a weight, he didn’t move well, he was deconditioned and he had a lot of work to do. That is completely okay and we got him to a point of being able to – and he did. He actually play competitively at the High School level.

I also have seen and met a 12 year old whose relative strength (strength in relation to their own bodyweight) was extraordinary – pull ups and push ups were easy, he couldn’t make himself tired if he tried and he moved perfectly through all functional movement, mobility and stability patterns. He needed added weight and he got it right away.

These are two outliers on opposite ends of the spectrum, so they are not the average by any means. But they are real people and they were both 12 year olds who the average person would say, “they shouldn’t lift weights.”

The bottom line is physical preparedness, movement competency, mobility, stability, functional movement patterns and training capacity are all far better indicators of how ready you are for added weight rather than chronological age. If you’re ready, you’re ready.

The reality is, in the era of youth starting sports earlier and earlier, contact based and competitive ones at that, it is not only a need to get them training and training with added load, but it actually irresponsible and unsafe to put them into those positions without being properly prepared.

Youth football

Notice the upside down purple uniform…

We think nothing of letting 10-12 year olds do this to each other but physically preparing them for it through movement and lifting weights will “damage growth plates.” It doesn’t make any sense.

Youth need to be physically prepared, move well and move often – this has nothing to do with age.

There is still time to take advantage of the summer months and join our Youth Training and Development Program. Please contact Dan at (516) 510-2665 for more information and to sign up.

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  1. […] the first installment of this series, we looked at “Preserving the Growth Plates” and why that isn’t true at […]

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