Does Weight Lifting Stunt Growth?

For decades, a persistent myth has floated around fitness circles and beyond: weight lifting stunts growth. This idea has caused concern among parents, teenagers, and even some fitness enthusiasts, leading to unnecessary fears and misconceptions about the safety and benefits of resistance training for young people. It's time to put this myth to rest with evidence-based information.

Understanding the Origin of the Myth

The belief that weight lifting stunts growth likely stems from concerns about the impact of physical stress on developing bones. Historically, there has been apprehension that heavy lifting could damage growth plates, the areas of growing tissue near the ends of long bones in children and adolescents. Since growth plates are crucial for bone development, the fear was that any injury to these areas could result in stunted growth.

What Science Says

Current research and expert opinions debunk the myth that weight lifting stunts growth. Here’s a look at the scientific evidence:

Growth Plates and Weight Lifting

Growth plates are indeed sensitive areas of developing bones, but they are not as vulnerable to damage from weight lifting as once thought. Studies have shown that when performed correctly, resistance training does not harm these growth plates. In fact, weight lifting can be beneficial to bone health.

A study published in the journal Pediatrics in 2001 concluded that weight training, under proper supervision and with appropriate weight loads, is safe for children and adolescents and does not negatively affect growth plate development .

Bone Health and Development

Weight lifting can positively influence bone health by increasing bone density and strength. These benefits are particularly crucial during adolescence, a critical period for bone development. Engaging in weight-bearing exercises helps stimulate bone growth and improves overall skeletal health.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) supports resistance training for young athletes, emphasizing that it can enhance bone density, muscle strength, and overall physical fitness when done correctly .

Hormonal Effects

Another aspect often overlooked is the hormonal environment in adolescents. Properly structured weight training can promote the release of growth hormones, which are essential for muscle development and overall growth. This hormonal response can actually support healthy growth rather than hinder it.

Guidelines for Safe Weight Lifting

To ensure that weight lifting is both safe and effective for young people, it’s important to follow certain guidelines:

  1. Proper Supervision: Young lifters should always be supervised by knowledgeable adults, such as certified trainers or coaches, who can ensure correct form and technique.

  2. Age-Appropriate Training: Resistance training programs should be tailored to the age and development level of the individual. For younger children, focus on bodyweight exercises and light resistance bands before progressing to weights.

  3. Gradual Progression: Start with lighter weights and gradually increase the load as strength and technique improve. This gradual approach helps prevent injuries and promotes consistent progress.

  4. Balanced Routine: Include a mix of exercises that target different muscle groups, and ensure there’s a balance between strength training, cardiovascular exercise, and flexibility training.

  5. Rest and Recovery: Adequate rest is crucial for recovery and growth. Make sure young athletes have sufficient time to recover between training sessions.


The myth that weight lifting stunts growth is just that—a myth. With proper guidance, appropriate weight loads, and a well-structured program, resistance training can be a safe and highly beneficial activity for children and adolescents. It can promote not only physical fitness and strength but also bone health and overall development. So, let’s put this outdated myth to rest and embrace the many benefits that weight lifting can offer to individuals of all ages.


  1. Pediatrics, 2001. [Link to study]
  2. National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). [Link to guidelines]

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