One of the biggest myths in this country, when it comes to development at the youth level for sports, is that weightlifting is bad for children. Many believe Olympic Lifting or strength training, in general, causes injury or stunts growth but there is no evidence or science to support any of these claims.
The USA is one of the only cultures where the conventional wisdom is that weightlifting is unhealthy and unsafe and at the same time we are not even ranked in the top 30 healthiest countries in the world. Not only that but the USA hasn't won a men's Gold Medal in the Olympics for weightlifting since the 1960s. Basically, we are horrible in the sport of Olympic Lifting, and within our conventional wisdom lies the problem.
Just imagine if we had this same mentality with Baseball, our American pastime. Just imagine if we believed that it is dangerous for children or even young adults to participate in baseball. This would make more sense than saying Olympic Lifting is more dangerous, just read my latest article on how baseball is more dangerous than Olympic Lifting but just imagine if we put baseball in the same perspective as weightlifting in this culture. You wouldn't see Americans playing this game anymore because the rest of the world would put us in our place just like with Olympic Lifting.
In this article, you will learn the science behind the safety and benefits of Olympic Lifting for children. You will learn that this picture of the baby holding this man's barbell isn't ridiculous but actually makes a great point. Last you will also get to see children in action training with the Olympic Lifts from all over the world.
Is Olympic Lifting Safe for Children?
I get this question just about every single day. Before I started TopVelocity.net I was like every other baseball instructor in the country taking private one-hour lessons. I had one family who would bring their 10-year-old son to me for classes and their 12-year-old daughter across the street to the gymnastics school. The 12-year-old girl could do 40 pull-ups in my gym and the 10-year-old boy couldn't even do one. One day the mother tells me that her daughter had just fractured her back in gymnastics class. She said she would be out of competition for 6 months. I then proceeded to work with her son for one session. He was whining and being lazy that day so I started pushing him. We even did pushups to see how hard I could get him to work. At the end of the session, his mother took me to the side and told me I was a little hard on him with the pushups. She said he is embarrassed about his size and strength.
Well, I was blown away! It is obvious her daughter is being pushed hard because she can do 40 pull-ups and she fractured her back while training but when I do the same with her 10-year-old boy she says I am being too hard. This is when I realized that we baby kids, susceptible boys in this culture because we do not want to hurt their feelings. I will admit I was a sensitive boy and my military father never babied me and I am glad he didn't. I feel sorry for these young kids today. We really are doing a disservice to them by babying them for too long.
The reason I told this story in response to the question above is because of course Olympic Lifting is safe for kids. Those who believe Olympic Lifting is unsafe for children are those who are the ones who do not want to hurt their kid's feelings. They are the ones who do not want to push them too hard. This question above has more to do with their perspective of developing the young than this style of resistance training.
Just look at how kids fight, they just roll around. There are no knockout punches at 8 years old. It takes maturity to learn how to really hurt yourself or even others. This is why the picture of the baby and the barbell above makes a great point. This baby is not in danger here. Don't freak out, just hear me out! The point is yes, if the weight fell on this baby it would be bad but this baby could never even come close to moving this weight. The perspective I am trying to give you is that it isn't dangerous if you don't even have the strength to hurt yourself. This is the case with most children and Olympic Lifting.
Studies Prove Olympic Lifting is Safe for Children
I don't expect anyone to take my opinion or perspective as fact. This is why I always reference science, so you can make your own decision. Hopefully, you will gain a better perspective on the safety of kids and Olympic Lifting with the information below.
It is suggested by some of the leading sports science authorities, such as the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), Australian Strength and Conditioning Association (ASCA), United Kingdom Strength and Conditioning Association (UKSCA), and the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES), Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP), International Federation of Sports Medicine (FIMS), International Olympic Committee (IOC), South African Sports Medicine Association (SASMA), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM), National Association for Sports and Physical Education (NASPE), that in the presence of suitably qualified personnel, resistance training, in general, is a safe and effective practice for young athletes to participate (9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22).
It is almost impossible to try and find an organization that influences the development of young children speaking out against weightlifting. I now feel less liable knowing that these well-respected organizations also support Olympic Lifting for Children. This isn't all I have on Olympic Lifting for children. Here is some recent literature that suggests injuries occurring as a direct result of generic resistance training and specific weightlifting activities in youths is relatively low (23,24,25,26,27).
This is a sample of results from these studies to make the point very clear that Olympic Lifting for children is completely safe.
Prestigious professional organizations have questioned the efficacy of resistive training by children or have often neglected to address weightlifting in their position papers on resistive training for children.........The lack of injury in training and in 534 competitive lifts was discussed. None required medical attention or loss of training time (23).
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of an after-school resistance training program on improving the physical fitness of middle school-age boys....Although this design minus a control group limits interpretation, this after-school resistance-training program can improve muscular fitness and cardiovascular fitness in boys and should be replicated with appropriate experimental controls (25).
This paper discusses statistics derived from surveys and com- petitions. Analyses of previous publications and comparative data from other studies appear to contradict a general view that weight training is safer than weightlifting, when the latter is defined according to the International Weightlifting Federation's rulebook. Both activities appear to be safer than many other sports. The age group considered is largely school age (26).
The study findings indicate that children have lower risk of resistance training-related joint sprains and muscle strains than adults (27).
Studies Prove Olympic Lifting Beneficial for Children
Now that we know Olympic Lifting is safe for children, is it beneficial? What does a child benefit from training with the Olympic Lifts? This is important because if it wasn't beneficial then why waste their time?
Research increasingly indicates that resistance training can offer unique benefits for children and adolescents when appropriately prescribed and supervised (2,3,4,5,6,7,8). One study in particular found Olympic Lifting to be more beneficial for children than any other form of resistance training. Here is an excerpt from this study:
The most important finding in the present study was that 12 weeks of Olympic WeightLifting (OWL) or plyometric training were generally equal to or more effective for enhancing performance than traditional Resistance Training (RT) for male youth. In summary, OWL training was likely to provide better improvements than plyometric training for CMJ, horizontal jump and 5 and 20-m sprint times while exceeding traditional RT for balance and isokinetic power300 (1).
All these findings show that Olympic Lifting for children is as safe and beneficial as it is for adults. I hope this information will soon change the conventional wisdom of this culture, so we can start to develop the youth more effectively and help create a healthier and safer society than what we currently have.
Here are some videos of children's Olympic Lifting around the world.
Olympic Lifting for Kids Around the World
Children Olympic Lifting
Russia Children Olympic Lifting
India Children Olympic Lifting
Greek Children Olympic Lifting
USA Children Olympic Lifting
Children Olympic Lifting Reference:
- Anis Chaouachi, Raouf Hammami, Sofiene Kaabi, Karim Chamari, Eric J. Drinkwater, David G. Behm - Olympic weightlifting and plyometric training with children provides similar or greater performance improvements than traditional resistance training. - Journal of Strength and Conditioning
- Falk B and Eliakim A. - Resistance training, skeletal muscle and growth. - Pediatrendocrinol Rev 1: 120-127, 2003.
- Blimkie, C. - Resistance training during pre- and early puberty: Efficacy, trainability, mechanisms and persistence. - Can J Sport Sci 17: 264–279, 1992.
- Faigenbaum, A. - Strength training for children and adolescents. - Clin Sports Med 19: 593–619, 2000.
- Guy, J and Micheli, L. - Strength training for children and adolescents. - J Am Acad Ortho Surg 9: 29–36, 2001.
- Kraemer, W, Fry, A, Frykman, P, Conroy, B, and Hoffman, J. - Resistance training and youth. - Pediatr Exerc Sci 1: 336–350, 1989.
- Malina, R. - Weight training in youth-growth, maturation and safety: An evidenced based review. - Clin J Sports Med 16: 478–487, 2006.
- Vaughn, J and Micheli, L. - Strength training recommendations for the young athlete. - Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am 19: 235–245, 2008.
- Faigenbaum AD, Kraemer WJ, Blimkie CJ, Jeffreys I, Micheli LJ, Nitka M, and Rowland TW. - Youth resistance training: Updated position statement paper from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. - J Strength Cond Res 23: S60–S79, 2009.
- Baker D, Mitchell J, Boyle D, Currell S, Wilson G, Bird SP, O’Connor D, and Jones J. - Resistance training for children and youth: A position stand from the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association (ASCA). 2007. - Available at www.strengthandconditioning.org. Accessed: July 13, 2011.
- Pierce KC, Brewer C, Ramsey MW, Byrd R, Sands WA, Stone ME, and Stone MH. - Youth resistance training. - Prof Strength Cond J 10: 9–23, 2008.
- Stratton G, Jones M, Fox KR, Tolfrey K, Harris J, Maffulli N, Lee M, and Frsotick SP. - BASES position statement on guidelines for resistance exercise in young people. - J Sports Sci 22: 383–390, 2004.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. - Strength training by children and adolescents. - Pediatrics 121: 835–840, 2008.
- American College of Sports Medicine. - ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (7th ed.). - Baltimore, MD: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2007
- American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. - Proceedings of the Conference on Strength Training and the Prepubescent. - Chicago, IL: American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, 1988.
- Australian Strength and Conditioning Association. - Resistance training for children and youth: A position stand from the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association. 2007. - Available at: http://www.strengthandconditioning.org. Accessed April 4, 2008.
- Behm, D, Faigenbaum, A, Falk, B, and Klentrou, P. - Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology position paper: Resistance training in children and adolescents. - J Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 33: 547–561, 2008.
- British Association of Exercise and Sport Sciences. - BASES position statement on guidelines for resistance exercise in young people. - J Sports Sci 22: 383–390, 2004.
- Golan, R, Falk, B, Hoffman, J, Hochberg, Z, Ben-Sira, D, and Barak, Y. - Resistance training for children and adolescents. Position Statement by the International Federation of Sports Medicine (FIMS). - In: Sports and Children. Chan, K and Micheli, L, eds. Hong Kong: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 1998. pp. 265–270.
- Mountjoy, M, Armstrong, N, Bizzini, L, Blimkie, C, Evans, J, Gerrard, D, Hangen, J, Knoll, K, Micheli, L, Sangenis, P, and Van Mechelen, W. IOC - Consensus Statement: ‘‘Training the elite young athlete.’’ - Clin J Sport Med 18: 122–123, 2008.
- Roberts, S, Ciapponi, T, and Lytle, R. - Strength Training for Children and Adolescents. - Reston, VA: National Association for Sports and Physical Education, 2008.
- South African Sports Medicine Association. - Resistance training in children and adolescents. - 2001. Available at: http://www. sasma.org.za. Accessed April 4, 2008.
- Byrd R, Pierce K, Reilly L, and Brady J. - Young weightlifters’ performance across time. - Sports Biomech 2: 133–140, 2003.
- Faigenbaum AD and McFarland J. - Relative safety of weightlifting movements for youth. - Strength Cond J 30: 23–25, 2008.
- Faigenbaum AD, McFarland JE, Johnson L, Kang J, Bloom J, Ratamess NR, and Hoffman J. - Preliminary evaluation of an after-school resistance training program for improving physical fitness in middle school- age boys. - Percept Mot Skills 104: 407–415, 2007.
- Hamill B. - Relative safety of weight lifting and weight training. - J Strength Cond Res 8: 53–57, 1994.
- Myer GD, Quatman CE, Khoury J, Wall EJ, and Hewett TE. - Youth versus adult ’’weightlifting" injuries presented to United States emergency rooms: Accidental versus non-accidental injury mechanisms. - J Strength Cond Res 23: 2054–2060, 2009.