Myth Busting

Below are 3 myths that are commonly encountered as a Physical Performance Coach when working with developmental athletes. Unfortunately, many developmental athletes are denied the opportunity to perform resistance training, even though it could provide immense physical, mental and social benefits to them.

Weight training will stunt your growth – BUSTED

Mention resistance or weight training for anyone under the age of 16 and you will inevitably get the same reaction – ‘…But you will stunt their growth!!!’ It is common perception amongst parents, coaches and even some GPs.

People often look at weightlifters and gymnastics, athletes who train hard with high levels of resistance, notice their distinct lack of height and assume the cause was their training.

A facetious, and common, response from me when that argument is brought up is to suggest that the young athlete play basketball to increase their height.

It doesn’t take long for the questioner to realise that basketball does not make people tall, rather tall people succeed at basketball,

Likewise, resistance training does not make weightlifters and gymnasts short, rather short people succeed at those sports.

It is a great concern that in this day and age this myth still persists. Most of the position stands of some of the biggest paediatric associations not only refute this but actually encourage youth resistance training.

The most important step in the resistance training pathway is to find a qualified and experienced coach that can nurture the young athlete, focussing on correct technique and fostering a love for training and improvement.

Weight training will make you slow – BUSTED

Another common question that gets asked frequently is ‘Doesn’t weight training make you slow?’ Often the thought of weight training conjures up images of bodybuilders, mammoth sized men and women whose sole aim is pile on large slabs of symmetric muscle.

What most of the public do not realise is that the methods used for bodybuilding and the methods used to train for sport are vastly different. In a very basic sense, bodybuilders are aiming to increase muscle size; athletes are aiming to increase force.

Since we know that speed is related to the amount of force an athlete can produce, we can deduce that increasing the athlete’s ability to produce more force can increase their speed.

As a simple guideline remember, ‘Intentionally slow training makes one slow; intentionally fast training makes one fast.’

As an aside, I was fortunate to have lunch with one of the greatest sprint coaches of all time, Charlie Francis. Although we covered many topics over the meal, one that appealed to me the most was the emphasis on strength training that he had for his sprinters.

He even recounted Ben Johnson squatting over 600 pounds!

Weight training will make you tight and inflexible – BUSTED

This is another myth that probably originates from the bodybuilding paradigm. It is reasonably common, and comes up regularly in discussions with parents.

Unfortunately it is also prevalent amongst some fitness professionals and coaches too.

The simple truth is that flexibility is can be improved with or without resistance training. However, if we look at the flexibility of those who train with heavy resistance, for example weightlifters and gymnasts, we see that they are some of the most flexible athletes in the world.

(Of course, some people might question if they succeeded in weightlifting/gymnastics because of their flexibility. However, a quick look at the novices in these sports shows that their flexibility improves the longer they train.)

Increasing or decreasing flexibility is related to the range of movement that one trains in. Training at the end range will help increase flexibility, training in a mid range will not.

The Take Home Message

– Resistance training is beneficial for the youth. Find the correct coach and program.

– Resistance training can make you faster (or slower), depending on your training. Your Physical Performance Coach will be able to help you.

– Limited range of movement resistance training might be able to help tighten certain joints; end range of movement resistance training will help increase flexibility.

Grant Jenkins is a Physical Performance Coach based in Brisbane, Australia. He uses his experience in baseball, athletics, tennis, weightlifting, powerlifting and the football codes to develop adolescent athletes. Follow him on Twitter – @Grant_Jenkins.

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