Children performing weights are at risk from bone damage?

An exhaustive review of the literature on this subject has been published by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (USA) in their Journal Vol. 18.6 December 1996).

(a)       Children should avoid maximal efforts

Children, particularly boys have been encouraged to perform chin-ups and push ups in PE lessons for many years. Author and teacher Wayne Westcott reports “Like 50 percent of all young people, then and now, I could not chin myself and always felt embarrassed struggling to lift my body weight. It was always interesting to me that this all-out, gut wrenching muscular effort was considered good but that any form of weight training was considered bad”. Weight training can be done with a light (PVC or wooden) bar to learn correct technique. Trying to lift the whole body or another child, without sufficient strength, could cause poor posture  and possibly lead to injury.

(b)       Weight training will damage the skeleton.

For years it was said that children should not weight train or lift because bone damage could lead to stunted growth. More recently it is suggested that children can do weight training, but should not perform maximal lifts. There is no recorded case of stunted growth resulting from weight training or lifting. There have been wrist fractures as a result of falls whilst training, always in an unsupervised setting. The fractures healed without ensuing complications.

Weight training will promote bone growth and strengthen the skeleton. Research suggests that free weights are superior to machines in this respect. A Russian study compared two groups of boys; lifters versus an inactive control group. The weightlifting group developed more rapidly in height and bone density.

Arnold Schwarzenegger started body-building at the age of 13. To become a champion at the age of 18, Arnold must have trained very intensely. Arnold’s adult height is 6′ 2″. Would he have grown this tall had weights stunted his growth!

It is – increasing in strength. The fact that a child can do more as it gets older is partly because of strength increases, accommodating a growing skeleton and increased workload. It is surely evident that children from rural backgrounds, used to heavy work, are stronger and more muscular that their urban counterparts.

Muscles grow longer more quickly than tendons. This is one factor leading to Osgood Schlatters syndrome. Full range, non ballistic weight training helps to stretch tendons, and may thus protect adolescents from such syndromes. The attitude towards the question of permitting specialisation for weightlifting or training at a fairly early age must surely be reviewed. Young people’s weight lifting or training is safe given the presence of an experienced coach hand in hand with the principles of a broad based physical education. The competitive disciplines can be introduced carefully taking into account the child’s physical, emotional and intellectual characteristics.

Weight training can give poor flexibility?

Observations and longitudinal studies indicate that weight training generally enhances flexibility. Care should be taken during resistance training so that full ranges of motion are used and partial movements are not overemphasised. Additionally, exercises for the agonist and antagonist muscle groups of a joint should be performed. Increasing flexibility may decrease injury potential and improve performance.

Many people are unable to squat down, keeping their heels on the ground. This is because they do not normally practice this movement. Consequently the muscles and ligaments are tight and inflexible. Regular exercise will improve the elasticity of the muscles and ligaments and improve flexibility.

Weight lifters move their joints through a full range of movements regularly and are very flexible, second only to gymnasts. Losses in flexibility are normally the result of inactivity.

When you stop weight training, does muscle will turn to fat?

When weight training or any sport is performed, activity increases, using more energy. In order to supply it, food intake is increased. When a person reduces or stops training, his / her activity is decreased, but appetite may remain high. Consequently, calorie intake may exceed calorie expenditure, and the excess food may be deposited as fat. At the same time muscle strength and size deteriorate because of inactivity. The overall situation is that muscle wastes away due to inactivity and excess food is deposited as fat. Muscle cannot turn into fat, just as brain tissue cannot turn into bone marrow, or any other type of tissue. If you change your activity level, you may have to change your calorie intake, if you wish to control your bodyweight.

Women / Girls are deterred from weight training, fearing bulging muscles?

The rate and potential for muscle growth in females is less than in males, mainly because females have a much lower level of testosterone, a hormone which regulates muscle growth. It is also interesting to note that an increase in strength isn’t always accompanied by an increase in muscle size. Increased strength can be brought about by training the nervous system to activate muscles more effectively. In fact, research indicates that females may be superior in this aspect

Drugs In Weightlifting

At one time, popular opinion allocated all positive doping tests to weight lifters. Ben Johnson changed the situation in 1988. After then, the Sports Council allocated more money for drug testing and introduced out of competition testing. BAWLA has conducted dope testing in competitions since 1980 or before, and out of competition testing since 1990.

Weightlifting historically has had problems, but in recent years we have seen positive tests in many sports including field events, cycling, rugby, middle distance running and swimming. BAWLA works with the Sports Council to ensure that its’ lifters are tested at random in competition and out of competition, without notice.

Drugs are not just a weight lifting problem, they are a problem in all sports. Unfortunately, drug use is now prevalent at a recreational level where people are using drugs to gain a good physique. In Britain, most sports work with the Sports Council to test for drug abuse, but the body building organisations do not. There is no connection of any sort between weightlifting and the body building organisations

Health Benefits do not result?

Until recently there was very little evidence of physiological changes suggesting health benefits from strength training. There is now evidence that strength training can reduce some risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and colon cancer. Although some studies found improvements in blood lipids and reductions in blood pressure with strength training, it is unclear whether individuals who are at high risk for coronary heart disease or hypertension can actually reduce their risk status as a result of strength training.

The President’s Council of Fitness and Sport in USA recommends that any health promoting exercise programme should include regular strength training to help decrease the risk of “chronic diseases” and improve the quality of life and functionality.

Weights make you slow?

Weight training and lifting will make you slow, it is said,  because of bigger muscles and “muscle boundness”. In reality, weight training and lifting usually increase the athlete’s speed.

Muscular strength is the ability to overcome a resistance. Therefore the greater the muscular strength the greater will be the resistance handled. When performing sub-maximal attempts, the greater muscular strength will make the task easier and possibly quicker. Stronger muscles will allow an athlete to move faster by overcoming the force of gravity more efficiently, increasing stride length and frequency. This is why many top-class athletes are using weight training to improve their performance. Remember Flo-Jo with her well developed legs storming to victory in the 100 metres and 200 metres events of the 1988 Olympic Games?

Strength training is not only used by power event athletes, but also those involved in endurance events. Marathon runners perform weight training with a large number of repetitions in order to increase strength and endurance. The result is an increase in stride length and frequency, a greater ability to resist tiredness and fatigue, and the ability to sprint at the finish.

The Principle of Specificity: – if you strength train to improve athletic performance, your weight exercises should duplicate your sport’s movements as closely as possible. The closer the training exercise matches the speed and movement pattern of competition, the more likely the increased muscular power built through weight training will contribute to the power of the competition movement.

A study of serious golfers in USA showed that an 8 week programme of 30 minute sessions, 3 times per week, produced many positive changes including an increase of 6% in club head speed. This was true even though they played no golf in the 8 week period. A control group did not change

Machines are safer than free weights ?

There is no published evidence at all with both appearing to be remarkably safe (Risser). Case studies in the literature and in newspaper articles suggest that fatal and disabling injuries are more commonly associated with machines, but this may reflect their greater popularity, not any intrinsic risk factor.

  • Bone density in Sportsmen. Weightlifters were best: it means Olympic lifts. The worst were swimmers. Rowers were not good either except in the hip area. Cycling was bad. The poorer results were all associated with sports in which the bodyweight is supported by a cycle or water,
    As we know that weight bearing exercise in youth builds up long lasting increases in bone density, we can be sure that those who have benefitted from this type of activity will be less likely to suffer osteoporosis (brittle bones) in later life, (at the menopause for women) and in old age for men.
    Osteoporosis leads to fractures from falling which often ruins lives and frequently leads to earlir than normal death. Logic tells us that resistance training on machines and benches, sitting or lying down, can not be as efffective as the standing up and  jumping movements such as we see in Olympic Lifting
    Bones respond to the stimulus of stress. For the best effect they must be stressed by compression; twisting and bending. Once again the Olympic lifts and similar movements provide exactly this
    Brian P Hamill  BWL Staff Coach; CSCS (USA); B.Sc.

Weights must be moved slowly to create strength?

Is Naim Suleymanoglu (three times Olympic weight lifting champion), who can move over twice his own body weight from the floor to arms length above his head in one second and hold it there, weak? Of course not; he is incredibly strong. Yet his training is all dynamic. All his movements are made as fast as possible.