Weightlifting Will Make You Shorter (and Other Ridiculous Assumptions)

The myth remains that weightlifting prevents growth of the bones, and young athletes will remain short.

In the sport of weightlifting, it has been and often still remains to be believed that partaking in the sport will result in making a person shorter. Specifically, the myth remains in regards to the training of youths, with the idea that the weightlifting movements will somehow prevent any growth of the skeletal system, and young athletes will remain short.

Meet Jimmy – An Average, Healthy Child

Instead of delving into the science of why this can’t be true, I thought it might be more interesting and entertaining to analyze this thought process in other sports, where the myths have been dispelled or are easier to grasp as untrue.

So, without further a do, I to introduce to you Little Jimmy. Jimmy is your average twelve-year-old child. He is of good health, so not underweight and not undernourished. He is of average height, also, so not the tallest or shortest in his class. He’s just pretty darn average.

Jimmy will be the child we follow in each of the sports below, and we’ll discover how each sport will affect him. Poor Jimmy.

Basketball Makes You Taller

Obviously, basketball is a sport we generally associate with very tall men. Long arms and long legs are winning components for an athlete in this sport.

So, Jimmy wants to play basketball. Due to the nature of the sport – lots of jumping and hanging off the basket, lots of tall athletes – we can only conclude that basketball training is going to make Jimmy taller and longer limbed. Right?

Sumo Wresting Makes You Fat

In this sport, we immediately think of huge, fat guys pushing each other around. These guys aren’t just big. They are humongous! Weight is essential as it provides an anchor for the fighters, as well as being used to lean on their opponents, creating a strong force to be resisted or face potential loss in a fight.

olympic weightlifting, basketball, cause, effect, stunts growth, bone

Once again, Jimmy has an urge to try a new sport, and this time it turns out to be sumo wrestling. Due to his involvement in such a sport, Jimmy is really starting to pile on the pounds. Nothing to do with his diet, of course. It’s purely because he is partaking in the sport.

Horse Racing Makes You Shorter

Let’s take a look at horse-riding sports, specifically the races. These guys are really quite light and quite small. Clearly, there is a direct correlation with racing a horse and the rider’s resistance to growth during his maturation process.

So, Jimmy fancies giving a go at being a jockey. Is Jimmy going to get shorter due to the exposure to racing a horse?

olympic weightlifting, basketball, cause, effect, stunts growth, bone

The Myth of Weightlifting and Stunted Growth

These are all obviously wild and ridiculous assumptions that poor Jimmy will change in his shape due to exposure to certain sports. It’s not that certain adaptations won’t occur from participating in sports, but the idea that sports alter the skeletal structure in the form of growth stumping is ridiculous.

In reality, all of the above are examples of the proportions and body types that work most efficiently for the respective sport, but they are not the only possible body types. Basketball players are tall due to the strategic advantages height brings them in the game. Jockeys are small, and more importantly light, so as not to weigh down the horse and therefore slow it down. Weightlifters are short because it means the bar isn’t required to travel as far. Lifting in excess of three-times body weight is easiest done over a shorter distance.

Yet, as ludicrous is it sounds in other sports, the myth of weightlifting stunting a child’s growth lives on. Even with the countless amounts of recent research proving the safety and effectiveness of youth exposure to weightlifting.

While I’ve been talking about this humorously, there are two valuable lessons to be learned:

  1. Sports have specific shapes and sizes that are most efficient for the athletes involved.
  2. Just because sports have a desired shape or size, does not mean that those who partake in them will necessarily wind up looking a certain way due to the exposure of the sport.

So, if anyone ever tells you that you shouldn’t let kids participate in weightlifting because it will make them shorter, then just tell them, “It’s okay, it’s compulsory that everyone has to play basketball as well!”

Photo 1 “Day 2 Weightlifting (16 Aug 2010)” By Singapore 2010 Youth Olympics Attribution-NonCommercial License.

Photos 2,3, & 4 courtesy of Shutterstock.

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