T Nation

Does Young Powerlifting Stunt Growth?


I’m 15, 5’2 and 120 lbs. I’ve been powerlifting for 6 months with the help of other seasoned powerlifters and I haven’t grown ever since I was 13. This question is asked pretty often but I just wanted to make it clear for myself. Have I stunted my growth?


Unless you damage your spine with cat back deadlifts or something, the answer is no. Using steroids might cause it but even that claim hasn’t been studied well.


Anecdote does not equal evidence, but FWIW, I started lifting weights with my dad when I was 9 years old (squats, deadlifts, bench, the whole nine yards). I was under 5 feet tall at the time, and I grew to be 5’11" by the time I was 16. So I’m going to guess that it did not stunt my growth (it’s faintly possible that perhaps I would have grown even taller if I had not started lifting, but I’m going to guess that effect was likely trivial, if it happened at all).

Also, if you’ve not grown since you were 13, and you’re 15 now, and you’ve only been powerlifting for 6 months, it would appear that your growth stopped before you started powerlifting, no?


I’ve read some things about lifting weights messing with the growth plates in a negative way at certain early ages. I’d never tell a 15 yr old to do anything much more than bodyweight training but everyone matures differently. That’s just to err on the side of safety for long term health.


Can you provide some sort of physiological mechanism for this? Because I am curious how it is that children who can run, jump, climb up things, fall off things, crawl around jungle-gyms and monkey bars, would come to additional grief from lifting weights, assuming that the selection of load and exercises are appropriate. Many of those things are likely more taxing on their body than lifting weights, no?


From what I recall, the growth plate theory had something to do with large doses of testosterone closing them prematurely. AFAIK it hasn’t been proven or studied well enough though. I know anecdotal evidence doesn’t really weigh much but I personally know many people who have used steroids from a very young age and none of them are even relatively short. I also personally know and know of people who have started training around 12-13 years of age and no growth problems there either.


I truly don’t remember where I read the science behind it but I remember Tim Tebow’s dad also never let him train with weights until he was older. Lifting weights is far harder on the joints than anything bodyweight you will do even tho BW training is tough. I only remember there were a couple of studies I read dealing with lifting weights at too young of an age can negatively affect the growth plates. I’m of course not saying don’t do it, only saying that its something to consider.


They started us squatting, benching, & rowing in 7th grade football (American) and I’ve experienced no ill effects to my knowledge. Given, we were supervised & the poundages were appropriate for that age group.


The general belief is that epiphysis factures, particularly in the wrist and spine, can occur from weight lifting and the stress/strain of overload, but even the American Academy of Pediatrics is on-board with kids lifting properly. Solid form (obviously, but often neglected or simply coached poorly) and no Rep-Max work to failure, particularly with prepubecent lifters.

The AAP is in favor of kids lifting moderate weights in a moderate rep range, and against kids competing in powerlifting or Oly lifting which, by definition, tests 1RM at meets. Once a kid reaches physical maturity (post-puberty), the rules of lifting change and the body can tolerate more stress with relatively less risk.

I’d say yes and no. Progressive overload (as with weight training) is a “different kind of taxing”, compared to gymnastic-type work. But I’d be interested in the injury stats (short and long-term) comparing youth gymnastics to youth strength training.