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Can lifting heavy stunt your growth?
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Can lifting heavy stunt your growth?

Weightlifting and power lifting increase muscle mass and strength for sure. We get expert opinion on whether they affect your height too 
One myth that persists about weightlifting and powerlifting is that they stunt growth.
To avoid injuries, weightlifting or power-lifting training should be done under the guidance of a coach. (Photo by Anantha Subramanyam K / Happiest Health)

Lifting heavy weights is a part of many gym training routines. In fact, weightlifting (snatch, clean and jerk) and power lifting (bench press, squats and deadlifts) exercises are the mainstay of any strength-training routine.

But youngsters, especially those in their early adolescence or teens, have for long been discouraged from lifting heavy in the mistaken belief that doing weightlifting or power lifting can stunt growth.  

Myths about weightlifting and physical growth 

Despite having been an Olympic sport for a century, myths persist about weightlifting (and powerlifting too) — especially that the different lifting techniques or variations or exercises in Olympic weightlifting or power lifting stunt growth. 

The myths seem to be based on the mistaken idea that any activity involving lifting weights above the head affects growth. 

“Many people believe deadlifts, bench presses and squats stunt growth,” says Sunil Kumar, a fitness trainer from Bangalore. “Apart from that some people still associate stunted growth with some normal fitness activities, especially gym exercises which involve muscle growth.” 

Syed Tanzeem Pasha, a personal-training coach at FITTR, Bangalore, adds: “People also tend to assume that shoulder workouts, military presses and overhead presses reduce height or growth.”  

Lifting and stunted growth: Behind the myth 

Like any fitness routine, weightlifting comes with its own set of injury risks. And if you try to lift beyond your capacity, the chances of injuries are higher. 

“People in any age group can lift weights,” says Gautham Sangappa, a fitness consultant and founder of Proton Fitness Academy, Bangalore. “But it is not advisable for young children to lift the maximum load — [this is] to prevent damage to the epiphyseal plate [thin layer of cartilage at the end of long bones where growth takes place].” 

An injury to the epiphyseal growth plate can result in premature locking of the plate and essentially halt bone lengthening.

“Another reason for the myth could probably be that shorter people tend to be better weightlifters as they have better muscle-to-weight ratio, and their body proportion aids in hoisting the weight above their head,” adds Kumar. “However, people think they are short because of lifting.”  

Weightlifting stunts growth? No 

There is no scientific evidence to prove that weightlifting or power lifting stunts growth, according to research and experts. 

“It’s definitely a myth — something like how people believe that doing exercises like swimming or even playing basketball makes you taller,” says Sangappa. “[But in fact] it’s your genes, nutrition along with rest and recovery that are important.” 

Pasha gives the example of actor and politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, who began training as a bodybuilder during his teens but still grew to be more than six feet tall. “That’s a good example of how lifting weights does not have an impact on height or stunt growth,” he says.

It is, however, important to make sure that explosive fitness activities such as weightlifting or power lifting are done under the supervision of a coach who can guide as well as monitor training periods, load and intensity, and that they suit the age of the lifter. Such precautions make weightlifting safer and efficient.  

Benefits of weightlifting and power lifting 

Both weightlifting and power lifting help increase muscle mass and strength, leading to better posture and physique, and enhancing self-confidence. 

“High muscle mass increases resting metabolism,” says Kumar. “The muscles also act as shock absorbers during any activity and protect the joints. Lifting weights stimulates the secretion of endorphins — a type of happy hormone — and reduces stress hormones, which lead to lower fat stores and plaque buildup in arteries and improves cardiac health.” 

Lifting weights increases the heart rate and trains your body to bear and lift heavier loads in real life.  

Eventually, you will have the ability to perform physically whenever needed — whether it be moving things around or performing tasks or activities, including sports, which involve muscular strength and endurance.  

Takeaways 

  • Many people wrongly believe that weightlifting and power lifting stunt growth. Experts insist there is no scientific evidence to show that lifting weights can hinder growth. 
  • A well-structured routine — planned according to the age and other physical parameters of the lifter, and done under proper guidance — can reduce the injury risks associated with weightlifting. 

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