Olympic Lifting Safe & Greater Performance Benefit for Children

Olympic Lifting ChildrenOne 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 most healthiest countries in the world. Not only that but the USA hasn’t won a Mens Gold Medal in the Olympics for weightlifting since the 1960’s. 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 the science behind the safety and benefits of Olympic Lifting for children. You will learn that this picture of the baby holding this mans 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?

Boy Olympic LiftingI 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 lessons 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, especially sensitive 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 kids feelings. They are the ones who do not want to push them to 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 role around. There are no knock out 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 here 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

Kids Olympic LiftingI don’t expect anyone to take my opinion or perspective as fact. This is why I always reference the 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 develop of young children speaking out against weightlifting. I now feel less liable knowing that all of these well respected organizations also support Olympic Lifting for Children. This isn’t all I have on Olympic Lifting for children. Here are some recent literature that suggest injuries occurring as a direct result from 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 Proves 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 Olympic Lifting around the world.

Olympic Lifting for Kids Around the World

Germany Children Olympic Lifting

China Children Olympic Lifting

Russia Children Olympic Lifting

India Children Olympic Lifting

Greece Children Olympic Lifting

USA Children Olympic Lifting

Children Olympic Lifting Reference:

  1. 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
  2. Falk B and Eliakim A. – Resistance training, skeletal muscle and growth. – Pediatrendocrinol Rev 1: 120-127, 2003.
  3. Blimkie, C. – Resistance training during pre- and early puberty: Efficacy, trainability, mechanisms and persistence. – Can J Sport Sci 17: 264–279, 1992.
  4. Faigenbaum, A. – Strength training for children and adolescents. – Clin Sports Med 19: 593–619, 2000.
  5. Guy, J and Micheli, L. – Strength training for children and adolescents. – J Am Acad Ortho Surg 9: 29–36, 2001.
  6. Kraemer, W, Fry, A, Frykman, P, Conroy, B, and Hoffman, J. – Resistance training and youth. – Pediatr Exerc Sci 1: 336–350, 1989.
  7. Malina, R. – Weight training in youth-growth, maturation and safety: An evidenced based review. – Clin J Sports Med 16: 478–487, 2006.
  8. Vaughn, J and Micheli, L. – Strength training recommendations for the young athlete. – Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am 19: 235–245, 2008.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. American Academy of Pediatrics. – Strength training by children and adolescents. – Pediatrics 121: 835–840, 2008.
  14. American College of Sports Medicine. – ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (7th ed.). – Baltimore, MD: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2007
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. Roberts, S, Ciapponi, T, and Lytle, R. – Strength Training for Children and Adolescents. – Reston, VA: National Association for Sports and Physical Education, 2008.
  22. South African Sports Medicine Association. – Resistance training in children and adolescents. – 2001. Available at: http://www. sasma.org.za. Accessed April 4, 2008.
  23. Byrd R, Pierce K, Reilly L, and Brady J. – Young weightlifters’ performance across time. – Sports Biomech 2: 133–140, 2003.
  24. Faigenbaum AD and McFarland J. – Relative safety of weightlifting movements for youth. – Strength Cond J 30: 23–25, 2008.
  25. 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.
  26. Hamill B. – Relative safety of weight lifting and weight training. – J Strength Cond Res 8: 53–57, 1994.
  27. 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.
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9 Comments. Leave new

  • You back your article with selected information. Children should be doing multiple sports and not specializing until they are at least 14. Strength training without weights is ok, but utilizing weights puts way too much strain on the skeleton system. I am a parent that has lived through my sons injuries playing goalie in hockey that are a direct result of what you are preaching. I ask you, do you have young children? Have you dealt with injuries from sports and the training around it? Probably not. Please stop misleading people, and don’t get your young children involved in this garbage. Right now flexibility, hand eye coordination and the love for the sport is the most important thing.

    Reply
  • Ben Brewster
    July 28, 2015 4:14 am

    Brent,

    I like you and I think you have good intentions, but it’s hard to read your content. You consistently fail to understand the definition of the words “prove” or “proof.” And you consistently mislead people by cherrypicking studies that don’t actually support the point you’re trying to make. Resistance training is NOT olympic lifting. They are simply not the same things. Citing studies on resistance training to support your controversial stance that Olympic lifting is SAFE is misleading. There’s a reason you are in the vast minority of strength coaches who recommend that pitchers clean, jerk and snatch. It’s not hard to claim “backed by science” though and convince a bunch of fathers and 15 year old kids because they don’t know any better. How many kids reading this even have the mobility to properly perform a squat to depth? Not many. How many of them are going to go try to clean or jerk without taking the proper precautions or getting proper instruction?

    I’m not saying in every case olympic lifting is bad. Maybe you have a kid with great shoulder stability, excellent but not excessive mobility, proper hip hinge and squat mechanics, a several year base of strength training and a highly qualified coach to monitor their form perfectly. Maybe there is a 5% benefit to spending years mastering cleans over doing speed deadlift and plyometric variations, and maybe that 5% increase in lower body power correlates to a few inches on the stride and one mile-per-hour increased velocity over what they would otherwise achieve. But speaking in absolutes, people MUST olympic lift. It is ALWAYS safe. This is PROVEN. You are misleading people.

    My college team had 15 pitchers on it, and I can count on one hand the guys who had close to “good” form, and many cases of “close calls” – guys falls backwards with weight on them, bad catches, wrist sprains, sore elbows or shoulders, bruised collar bones. We stopped olympic lifting after two years and a new strength coach came on. Guess what? Nobody’s velocity went down, guys weren’t jumping lower or running slower. In fact, we had one of the hardest throwing staffs in the country (7 guys who were touching in 95 mph or higher). And Olympic lifting is a necessity?

    I understand this is part of your marketing shtick and what “sets you apart,” but realize that science doesn’t have absolutes. The truth is nuanced and dynamic. Don’t abuse science and pepper your articles with irrelevant studies. You’re better than that.

    Reply
    • So are you saying that these studies below are not proof that Olympic Lifting is safe? Safer than MLB baseball?

      Calhoon G, Fry AC. – Injury rates and profiles of elite competitive weightlifters. – J Athl Train. 1999 Jul;34(3):232-8.
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1322916/

      Elite US male weightlifters who were injured during training at the United States Olympic Training Centers.
      -Rates of acute and recurring injuries were calculated to be 3.3 injuries/1000 hours of weightlifting exposure.
      -The injuries typical of elite weightlifters are primarily overuse injuries, not traumatic injuries compromising joint integrity.
      -These injury patterns and rates are similar to those reported for other sports and activities.

      This study is not just resistance training it is Olympic Lifting.

      Posner M, Cameron KL, Wolf JM, Belmont PJ Jr, Owens BD. – Epidemiology of Major League Baseball injuries. – William Beaumont Army Medical Center, El Paso, Texas, USA. – Am J Sports Med. 2011 Aug;39(8):1676-80.
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21709023

      The authors analyzed the MLB disabled list data from 2002 through 2008. Injuries were analyzed for differences between seasons, as well as during seasons on a monthly basis. The injuries were categorized by major anatomic zones and then further stratified based on injury type. Position-specific subanalyses for pitcher and position players were performed.
      -From the 2002 season through the 2008 season, an average of 438.9 players per year were placed on the disabled list, for a rate of 3.61 per 1000 athlete-exposures.

      So, how is this information above misleading to the baseball community or me cherrypicking science? Can you prove how I am taking any of this information out of context in these studies?

      Here is the deal with your post and your opinion. Is it really marketing to be on your own website talking about the benefits of your system as opposed to being on someone else’s website talking about the benefits of your system? Sorry don’t answer that was a rhetorical question.

      Telling someone that you think they have good intentions before you completely slander them with no scientific evidence doesn’t make it any less insulting. I obviously respect your opinion because I approved your post to go on this page. My agenda here is, I want the baseball player who is reading this or learning my system to have all the information so they can make the best decision to advance their career. That means they need the information below, on why Olympic Lifting is the most effective form of training to maximize mechanical power and dynamic athletic performance and from above, that it is as safe as playing Major League Baseball, even though the convention wisdom of baseball wants to use scare tactics, like in your post above, to prevent them from knowing all their options.

      If your approach is so much better and safer then where is your studies proving that “speed deadlifts” have a low injury rate and are actually maximizing power production better than a clean pull or power clean? Also where did you get the 5% benefit statistic from? Can you link the study here?

      It really kills your argument when you use made up statistics and your bias testimonial of the effectiveness of your approach to then state that I am misleading and cherrypicking science when you are actually the one doing it yourself.

      Kawamori N, Haff GG. – The optimal training load for the development of muscular power. – Department of Kinesiology, Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Texas 76308, USA. – J Strength Cond Res. 2004 Aug;18(3):675-84.
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15320680
      Because of the potential of these lifts to produce high-power outputs and their movement- and velocity- specificities to many sport activities (e.g., jumping, running, throwing), Olympic-style lifts are considered as some of the best training exercises to maximize dynamic athletic performance

      Reply
    • ERIC CUNNINGHAM
      March 29, 2016 2:25 am

      I’m concerned that the authors of the articles don’t have Phd, MD, or even other degree credentials. Is this a legitimate concern given that the authors are in reputable sources?

      Reply
  • […] Olympic Training – All 4 of these things are essential to training to become a high velocity pitcher, however it should be know like pitching Olympic style training challenges strength, speed, motor coordination, and mobility. It has also been shown to be the best when it comes to increasing power production. Therefore, it can be said Olympic style training including the Clean Variations, Snatch Variations, and Jerk Variations to be the most beneficial training methods when it comes to increasing “Arm Speed”. […]

    Reply
  • […] Olympic Lifting Safety & Greater Performance Benefit for Children […]

    Reply
    • Brett,

      What lifts do you have your pitchers do? And would you recommend olympic lifting in-season?

      Reply
      • For the beginners we do all the clean variations and jerks. Once they have been through a year of the program then they can move into the snatch. I would not let the beginner pitchers do the snatch because of there weak shoulders from throwing. You need to give then time to build the shoulder strength.

        In-season we do the clean and jerk variations with low loads and reps focusing on their recovery from pitching.

        Reply

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