Hand Care for Young Lifters

New lifters often regard ripped hands as evidence of their hard work, proudly displaying them in social media posts or parading them around the gym for everyone to see. More experienced lifters, however, know that damaged hands just slow you down. When the hands are torn or tender, barbell work becomes painful and difficult to sustain.

To keep the Gains Trains rolling, prioritize hand care just like you prioritize nutrition, sleep and training. Here are a few pointers to improve your hand health:

Keep the Hands Clean. Wash your hands before training to keep germs from spreading in the gym, especially if you share equipment with other lifters. Wash your hands again after training to remove the chalk. Magnesium carbonate, a.k.a. chalk, dries out the hands, making it a fantastic solution for sweaty palms during weightlifting. If it stays on the hands for hours, though, it can lead to chapped or cracked skin.

Shop in the Foot Care Aisle. The hand care aisle of your local store will not carry the products you need for your hands. Why? A weightlifter’s hands are like the average person’s feet—full of rough skin and callouses.

Instead, proceed to the foot care aisle and look for . . .

  • Callous Softening LotionRips occur when the top layer of skin shears away from the bottom layer. Large callouses can get caught on a moving barbell, ripping off the skin. Callous softening lotion can be used with a file to manage callouses, either completely removing them or filling them flat so they do not catch on the barbell.

 

  • Rough File: Foot files range from tools that look like large fingernail files to ones that look like cheese graters. Avoid the more aggressive “cheese grater” files; they may take off too much skin or make your hands bleed if used too frequently or aggressively.

  • Pumice Stone: Pumice forms when hot lava mixes with water and hardens.  The porous, abrasive pumice stone is great for removing excess dry skin.

Shower Smart. Each time you shower, spend a couple of minutes scrubbing your hands gently with the pumice stone. This should remove the roughest patches of skin.  Allow your pumice stone to dry between uses so that bacteria does not grow in the pores.  Over time, the stone will wear down, and you will need to replace it.

 

Moisturize and File. About once a week, use your callous softening lotion and file. First, apply a thick layer of softening lotion and give it about 5 minutes to absorb. Next, use your file to sand down any thick layers of skin. Pay special attention to the areas where you normally rip.

 

Tape. If your hands regularly rip in the same spots, such as your thumbs or fingers, tape up the problem areas before your workouts to give them an added layer of protection. Regular athletic tape will suffice, but many lifters prefer stretch tape because it sticks to itself and not to the skin, and it has a padded feel.

Preparing for Youth Nationals

Youth Weightlifting Preparing for Youth Nationals - Pic 1

After preparing my son for five USA Weightlifting Youth Nationals, I have become an expert—not because I have done so many things right, but because I have done SO. MANY. THINGS. WRONG.  Let me spare you the agony of my mistakes—

Daytona Beach.  The mere mention of this city sends shivers down my spine.  Daytona Beach is home to beautiful beaches, a world-renowned race track, and one of my worst nightmares.

It all began when my son, Hutch, qualified for the 2014 Youth National Weightlifting competition.  Hutch had worked hard, and we were excited to travel to Daytona for his first big competition.  In planning the trip, I knew I would be traveling with all three of my children, so I wanted to make the trip as cost-effective as possible.  With the competition on Friday morning, I purchased tickets for a Thursday flight.  I didn’t want to arrive too early—that would mean more money spent on rental cars, hotel rooms, and food.

Due to a flight delay, our plane arrived in Daytona Beach at 9:00 PM.  By the time we got our rental car and drove to our hotel, it was 10:30 PM.  I arrived at the hotel to discover that our discount accommodations were shared by a number of partygoers loudly enjoying the beach outside the hotel.  We were exhausted, however, and attempted to sleep through the night.

Hutch’s weigh-in was from 7:00 to 8:00 AM.  To allow the kids to sleep as long as possible, I set the alarm for 6:00 AM.  At 6:30, we zipped through the hotel breakfast buffet, and left the hotel to drive to the venue, which was a mere 15 minutes away according to the Google Maps directions I had printed off.  Unfortunately, I turned the wrong direction out of the parking lot and didn’t realize my mistake until I had driven 30 minutes—in the wrong direction!

When I finally stopped to ask for directions, a kind man explained that I was about an hour away from my destination and that I could not possibly make it by 8:00.  I had an ungraceful panic attack, which was witnessed by my children, who then started crying because they were scared by my reaction.  I quickly turned the car around and sped to the venue, possibly breaking a few traffic laws along the way.

As I approached the venue, I still couldn’t locate it.  The competition was at a school that was tucked away in a residential setting.  After several frantic phone calls to Hutch’s coach, I located the venue.  I sped to the curb, yanked Hutch out of the car and ran to the weigh-in.  I then realized that we had left his identification documents in the car . . . back to the car.  Hutch made the weigh-in cut-off by SIXTY SECONDS.

I heaved a sigh of relief and handed Hutch his breakfast, which consisted of some muffins we had brought from the hotel’s breakfast buffet.  Minutes later, Hutch’s coach called him into the warm-up area to begin warming-up.  Breakfast would have to wait.

As Hutch walked back to the warm-up area, he asked me to get his gym bag out of the car.  I looked.  I couldn’t find it.  In our haste to leave the hotel, we had left his bag—complete with singlet and shoes—in the breakfast room at the hotel.  Hutch entered the warm-up area wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and Crocs.  I sped back to the hotel for his bag.

Fortunately, the story ended well.  I was able to retrieve the bag, and Hutch strapped on his weightlifting shoes just moments before walking onto the platform for introductions.

From this experience, I learned a few things that will make your experience much less stressful:

 

  • Arrive 24 hours early. Arriving 24-hours early—not the night before—will give you time to acclimate to the city and find the things you need.

 

  • Stay in one of the event hotels. USAW contracts with hotels to provide a discount rate and transportation, when necessary, to the venue.  You’ll be less likely to get lost traveling to the venue if you stay in one of the event hotels.  Plus, you’ll be more likely to have considerate neighbors when it is time to sleep.
  •  Visit the venue the day prior. Actually travel to the venue so that you know exactly where everything is located—the weigh-ins, the warm-up area, and the platforms.

 

  • Check weight on the scales. You might be surprised to learn that your home bathroom scale is not that accurate.  Do a pre-weigh on the official “check scales” the day prior to avoid unpleasant surprises on competition day.

 

  • Put your important documents where you’ll remember them.  You will need identification at weigh-ins (a passport or birth certificate).  Don’t leave home without one of these!

 

  • Pack extra everything: socks, underwear, singlets, shoes . . . okay, I realize most people don’t own extra weightlifting shoes, but pack extra of everything else if you have them.

 

  • Know your child. Bring any comfort items your child needs in competition.  For instance, your child may have a favorite pair of socks or a favorite candy bar or he may need headphones to block out the noise of the other competitors.  Make advance preparations for these things.

 

  • Plan your meals. Before you arrive at Nationals, have a plan for the food your child will eat.  You don’t want to spoil your child’s hard work by sending him onto the platform fueled with greasy pizza from dinner and “whatever was on the hotel breakfast buffet.”  Bring foods that will help your child perform well.

 

  • Arrive early to the weigh-in. Weigh-in times are an exact component of the competition.  If weigh-ins begin at 8:00 and end at 9:00, with lifting beginning at 10:00, you will not be allowed to compete if you show up to weigh in at 9:01.

NOTE: Arriving early will ease your stress levels, but it will not put you at the front of the line for weigh-ins.  Names are called from a list.  However, if you are not present when your name is called, you will go to the “back of the line” and weigh-in after the rest of the lifters who were present.

 

  • Feed your child as soon as the weigh-in is complete. There are only two hours between the beginning of the weigh-in and the start of the weightlifting session.  Eating early allows food to settle before warm-ups begin.

 

  • Don’t  feed your child too much. Your child will be hungry after potentially skipping a meal before weigh-ins.  Provide some healthy foods that your child likes, but resist the urge to “make up” for the lost meal.  There will be time for a big meal after the competition.

 

  • Bring some sugar.   I said it.  Normally I’m not a fan of sugary drinks and candy.  However, they do offer an energy boost during a competition.  Just don’t overdo it.  One sports drink and two or three miniature candy bars are plenty.

 

  • Relax! Children can sense your emotions and will mirror them.  If you are anxious, your child will get stressed, too.

 

 

  • Turn your child over to the coach and take a seat. You child and coach have worked hard to get to this point.  Don’t send confusing signals by trying to co-coach your child during the competition—unless you are also your child’s coach!

 

  • Be proud. Your child has worked hard to get to this competition.  Regardless  of the results, take lots of pictures and let your child know you are proud of them.

Finally, don’t worry if it’s not perfect.  As hard as you prepare, something unexpected will always arise.  Fortunately, kids are resilient and can perform well, even in adverse circumstances.  After all of the mayhem in Daytona Beach, Hutch still pulled out an outstanding performance and managed three national records and a first place finish.  Thank goodness for good coaching (Boris Urman) and miracles!

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Should I Go To Youth Nationals?

With Youth Nationals a mere five weeks away, and a registration deadline of May 17, 2018, it is time to make a decision: Go to Youth Nationals or Not?!

Participation in USA Weightlifting’s National Youth Championships, aka Youth Nationals, has exploded in recent years.  In 2017, around 900 youth athletes participated in the competition held in Atlanta, Georgia, making it the largest youth weightlifting competition in the world.

For some athletes, participation at Youth Nationals is a no-brainer.  Some youth weightlifters have been participating in the sport for years and look forward to the competition as a time to set new personal records, reconnect with old friends, and buy the latest weightlifting merchandise.  For newer athletes, however, questions remain:

  • Am I good enough to compete at the national level?
  • Will I fall apart under the pressure of such a big competition?
  • Will I embarrass myself in front of a huge crowd?

For parents:

  • Is it really worth the money to attend this competition?

For coaches:

  • Do I have enough experience to coach my athlete in such a large setting?

I spoke to Coach Wes Cravy of Pivotal Weightlifting Club in Santee, California, and his first-time lifter, Teagan, about their decision to participate in the 2018 National Youth Championship.  If you are on the fence about attending this year’s competition, consider their approach:

Set aside your fears, and embrace the privilege.  At only 13-years old, Teagan, has participated in soccer, gymnastics, CrossFit and weightlifting.  She recently qualified for the 2018 National Youth Championships.  When asked about her decision to participate in the competition, Teagan responded:

It is a privilege to attend this competition.  If you have qualified for Nationals, don’t pass up the opportunity to perform on the big stage.  You have worked hard to get to this point.  Don’t take that away from yourself.

Welcome the opportunity to learn new things.  Although Coach Cravy is new on the weightlifting scene, he is not letting a national competition intimidate him.  Cravy says:

Competitions are the fun part for a coach.  They are the payoff for the long hours spent training.

As for being a new coach, Coach Cravy is not worried:

I like to learn from other coaches, but I don’t let their competition strategies interfere with what I am doing.  As a coach, you have to focus on your athlete and your plan.  Don’t worry too much about what others are doing.

Take a leap of faith.  Recently, Teagan made a tough decision to give up gymnastics training to focus more on weightlifting.  She really enjoys weightlifting and wants to see how good she can become once she devotes more time and attention to the sport.

Similarly, the decision to attend Nationals for the first time requires a leap of faith. It may be intimidating to compete against other youth athletes in front of a large crowd, but the feeling of accomplishment once your performance is complete will be that much more satisfying.  Your confidence will grow from the experience, and you will be more motivated to train harder.

Incorporate the competition into a vacation.  Weightlifting offers travel opportunities like no other sport.  Use the trip to Nationals as an opportunity to explore a new part of the United States. Experiencing a new city will create a great memories and inject future training with enthusiasm.  Teagan says:

I am excited about the experience and the travel that Nationals offers.  My favorite part about out-of-town competitions is staying in hotels.

For ways to enjoy Grand Rapids, Michigan once the competition is done, consider these ideas.

To register for USAW’s National Youth Championships, click here.

See you at Nationals!

Are You Doping?

Me?  Doping?  Of course not!  I don’t manipulate doctors for unnecessary prescriptions, buy from shady characters in dark allies, or even buy generic supplements.  I only buy brand-name supplements from reputable manufacturers at legitimate retailers.

If these are your thoughts, keep reading . . .

On March 29, 2018, Abby Raymond, a 14-year old weightlifter from Roselle, Illinois, was sanctioned by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for consuming the illegal performance-enhancing drug, ostarine.  Ostarine is an Anabolic Agent that is prohibited under the USADA Protocol for Olympic and Paralympic Movement Testing, the United States Olympic Committee National Anti-Doping Policies, and the International Weightlifting Federation Anti-Doping Rules, all of which have adopted the World Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List.

How did a 14-year old athlete get her hands on ostarine?

On February 15, 2018, Raymond provided USADA with an out-of-competition urine sample, which tested positive for ostarine.  In the course of the USADA investigation, Raymond provided information on the supplements she used.

One of the products was tested by a WADA-accredited laboratory in Salt Lake City, Utah.  The testing results confirmed the presence of ostarine, although the label did not list ostarine or any known synonym on the Supplement Facts label.  The supplement was subsequently placed on USADA’s High Risk List – Supplement 411.

So … please … stop reading this article for a second, go to USADA’s High Risk List – Supplement 411and confirm that none of the supplements that you are taking are on this list.

As a result of the positive drug test, USADA rendered Raymond ineligible to compete for three months from the date the sample was collected.  Raymond was also disqualified from all competitive results obtained on and for three months subsequent to February 15, 2018, including forfeiture of medals won and records set at the American Open I Series (March 1-4, 2018) in Columbus, Ohio.

In determining the period of ineligibility, USADA applied the contaminated product rule set forth in its Code, which provides a substantial reduction in the period of ineligibility if the athlete can establish a reduced degree of fault or negligence for the violation and establish that the positive test resulted from use of the contaminated product.

USADA also considered Raymond’s age.  Brad Horn, USADA Communications & Media Relations Director, explained, “In all USADA cases where there is a strong evidence of contamination, the result is a significantly reduced sanction. The typical sanction range for an adult with a contaminated supplement is in the 6-9 month range.  This is the first contamination case we have had featuring a minor. Because of the athlete’s age, the slightly lower sanction length is warranted.”

If you think this could not happen to you, consider this–

An examination of the products placed on USADA’s High Risk List in 2018 include the following product claims:

  • No: Artificial flavors, colors, fillers, binding agents or synthetic ingredients.
  • FOCUS / ENERGY / PUMP / ENDURANCE
  • 100% PURE NATURAL GOODNESS GUARANTEED
  • Manufactured in an FDA Inspected Facility
  • POWERFUL ENERGY, EXPLOSIVE STRENGTH, LASER FOCUS
  • 100% NATURAL
  • NO ADDED SUGAR, NO FILLERS, NO PRESERVATIVES
  • LONG LASTING CLEAN ENERGY

If you spotted a new, all-natural supplement line at your favorite store, with claims that the products would boost your performance, would you buy them?

You would likely research the products and ingredients.  If everything seemed to check out, you probably would buy the products.  You would have no reason to suspect banned substances in the products, and you certainly wouldn’t hire an outside laboratory to double-check the products’ ingredients against the Supplement Facts labels.

The moral of this story . . .

You can get punished for taking a banned substance even if it was a mistake!  Raymond received a three month sanction.  However, other athletes have received much longer sanctions for mistaken use of the same drug.  For instance, in  February 2018, a 33 year-old UFC athlete received a 9-month sanction from USADA for testing positive for ostarine from a contaminated supplement.  Will you get a three month sanction for making the same mistake?  Don’t count on it.  USADA evaluates the circumstances of each situation independently, and you may not be so lucky.

How do I prevent this from happening to me?

Examine the supplements you are taking.  Are you very, very, VERY sure they contain no banned substances?  You may think you are protected by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a government agency that protects the public health by assuring the safety of our food supply.  The FDA, however, regulates dietary supplements under a different set of rules than conventional foods.  Per the FDA website:

The [FDA] does not analyze dietary supplements before they are sold to consumers. The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that the “Supplement Facts” label and ingredient list are accurate, that the dietary ingredients are safe, and that the content matches the amount declared on the label. FDA does not have resources to analyze dietary supplements sent to the agency by consumers who want to know their content. Instead, consumers may contact the manufacturer or a commercial laboratory for an analysis of the content.

If I can’t rely on the FDA to keep me safe from banned substances, who can I trust?

You are liable for what you put in your mouth.  Period.  Only use stuff you trust.  This is easier said than done, though.  How are you supposed to only use “stuff you trust?”  Are you supposed to set up a laboratory in your basement and test every supplement before using it?!  Surely there is an easier way.

There are a few solutions to this problem:

Do not use supplements.  Brad Horn, USADA Communications & Media Relations Director, advises:

All athletes have a responsibility to investigate the supplements that they are using. From USADA’s standpoint, any supplement use should be avoided, as athletes assume some amount of risk that a product could contain a prohibited substance due to the unregulated nature of the industry.

Look for the “NSF Certified for Sport icon on supplements.  Products that display this emblem have undergone a certification program, which verifies that:

  • The products do not contain any of 270+ substances banned by major athletic organizations.
  • The contents of the supplement match what is printed on the label.
  • There are no unsafe levels of contaminants in the tested products.
  • The product is manufactured at a facility that complies with the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practice and is audited twice annually for quality and safety by NSF International.

Use only supplements from trusted manufacturers.  This is a viable alternative, but carries some risk. You are relying on personal relationships and trusting that the manufacturer has taken every precaution to ensure no intentional or unintentional contamination of their products.

 

Finally, remember that supplements are not substitutes for good habits.  Show up to practice consistently, train hard, fuel your body with healthy foods, and get adequate rest.  These habits will take you further than any chemical substance ever could.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Health Mistakes Youth Weightlifters Make

Do you get injured often?  Are you struggling to make new gains?  Do you just want an edge over the competition?

I spoke recently with Dr. Mark Lavallee, Chairman of the USA Weightlifting Sports Medicine Society, about health mistakes youth weightlifters make.

Boost your performance by fixing these mistakes!

Mistake #1: Not Enough Sleep

Did you know that LeBron James sleeps 12 hours a night?

And did you know that while training for the Olympic Games, Micheal Phelps slept 8 hours a night with a 2-3 hour nap in the afternoon?

Embed from Getty Images

In fact, Phelps said that sleep and training were equally critical to his success.  In an interview with CNBC, Phelps explained,

Sleep is “where you can naturally grow and your body recovers.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, sleep:

  •  Allows the body to heal and repair itself
  •  Boosts muscle mass
  •  Supports growth and development
  •  Helps maintain a healthy balance of hormones
  •  Strengthens the immune system

How much sleep should you be getting?

According to Dr. Lavallee,

Youth athletes under 9th grade should be getting 10 hours of sleep for peak performance.  After 9th grade, athletes should sleep at least 8-9 hours.

Here are some tips for getting better sleep:

Photo credit: Don Lindsay
  • Remove electronic devices from your room—televisions, iPads, phones—all of it.  It is too tempting to stay up and play games, browse, or watch shows.  Plus, blue light exposure from electrical screens reduces melatonin release making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Make your room dark and cool.  Light slows the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.  Also, body temperature naturally drops when you fall asleep, so cooling the room can jumpstart the process.
  • Avoid caffeine.  Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake when you are trying to sleep.
  • Go to bed and wake up around the same time each day.  Sticking to a schedule helps regulate your body’s clock and can help you go to sleep faster and stay asleep longer.
  • If you train early in the morning, try to take a nap during the day.  A 20-30 minute nap can improve alertness and performance without interfering with nighttime sleep.

Mistake #2: Lack of Cross Training

Photo Credit: Unit 22 CrossFit

Single-sport specialization can lead to overuse injuries.  Cross training offers a solution to this problem.  Cross training is simply varying your fitness program to include different activities.

What does this mean for a weightlifter?

Mix things up!  Incorporate calisthenics, sprinting, stretching, throwing, and core work into practices.  Step away from the barbell occasionally to work on balance, flexibility, and yes . . . that loathed exercise called running.

Dr. Lavallee recalls:

I have seen weightlifters get winded from climbing a flight of stairs with their gym bag prior to a competition.  Athletes—including weightlifters—should have some level of endurance and overall athleticism.

 

Mistake #3: Using Supplements as Substitutes for Good Nutrition

Two oranges contain 168 mg of vitamin C.  A vitamin supplement containing the same amount of vitamin C should provide an equal benefit, right?

Wrong.

Your body absorbs more of the vitamin C in the oranges than in the supplement because oranges contain co-enzymes, which are molecules that help the body to absorb the vitamins in the orange. Plus, the orange contains fiber and minerals that the supplement won’t have.  The same is true for all fruits and vegetables.

Dr. Lavallee further warns:

Just because a food is labeled all natural does not mean that it contains co-enzymes.

When it comes to good nutrition, real food is always the best solution.

Reserve supplements, such as protein powders, protein bars, and vitamins for times when other foods are not available.  Do not use them as primary sources of nutrition.

Mistake #4: Haphazard Protein Consumption

This 72-oz. steak is served at the Big Texan Steakhouse in Amarillo, Texas.

Your body needs protein to build and maintain muscle, but did you know that your body can only use about 30g of protein for muscle building at a time?

A study by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association entitled “Moderating the portion size of a protein-rich meal improves anabolic efficiency in young and elderly” found:

  • A 30g serving of protein increased muscle building activities by about 50% (over fasting) in the subjects studied.
  • A 90g serving of protein—representative of the serving sizes of restaurant meals—did not produce any more muscle building activities.
  • Eating more than 30g of protein in a single meal does not result in further muscle building activities.

So, if muscle building is your goal, you will be better off spreading out your protein consumption throughout the day.

Dr. Lavallee and his family make protein a priority in their family meals.  They spend Sunday afternoons preparing protein-rich meals, such as chicken soup or beans and rice with steak.  Throughout the week, as life gets busy, the Lavellees have healthy, homemade, protein-packed meals ready-to-eat.

NOTE: If you consume more than 30g of protein in a meal, your body will still use that protein, but it will not necessarily go toward muscle building.  The body will break down the excess protein and convert it into glucose to use as energy or store the excess as fat.

Mistake #5: Poor Dietary Habits

Photo credit justharvest.org

If you are like most weightlifters, you clean up your diet prior to a competition and then indulge in a junk food feast afterward.

While a single day of bad eating probably won’t hurt you, Dr. Lavallee advises you to examine your daily habits:

Do you regularly eat junk food and then crash diet before competitions?

If you are a heavyweight lifter, do you eat junk food just because you can?

Even if you are in one of the “plus” weight classes, remember that food is FUEL.  If you are fueling your body with Cheetos and Oreos, you can’t expect to make big gains.

Plus, crash diets can harm you in the long run.  Consider the dangers of crash dieting cited on health.com:

Rapid weight loss can . . .

  • Slow your metabolism, leading to future weight gain
  • Deprive your body of essential nutrients
  • Weaken your immune system
  • Increase your risk of dehydration, heart palpitations and cardiac stress.

 

Mistake #6: Not Enough Balance in Life

Photo Credit: Rich Egger

Do you feel like you live at the gym?  Are you sacrificing every school dance, campout, religious activity, and social event in favor of practice time?  Have you given up all other hobbies, sports and activities for weightlifting?

If so, you are setting yourself up for burnout and unhealthy levels of stress.

Dr. Lavallee further points out:

If you spend all of your time weightlifting, you will never know whether you are a musical virtuoso.  Perhaps you are a gifted guitar player or singer.  Take time to develop other talents and explore new things.

Talk to your coach.  Work out a schedule that allows you to take at least 2 days off per week.

And during those two days, forget about weightlifting and enjoy the other things that life has to offer!

 

Sources:

Clifford, Catherine. “Olympic hero Michael Phelps says the secret to his success is one most people overlook.” CNBC. February 14, 2017. Accessed November 08, 2017.

Pickering, Craig. “Sleep and Athlete: Time to Wake to the Need for Sleep.” Freelap USA. April 26, 2016. Accessed November 08, 2017.

Why Is Sleep Important?” National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. June 07, 2017. Accessed November 08, 2017.

Cross Training-OrthoInfo – AAOS. October 01, 2011. Accessed November 08, 2017.

Symons, T. Brock, Melinda Sheffield-Moore, Robert R. Wolfe, and Douglas Paddon-Jones. “Moderating the portion size of a protein-rich meal improves anabolic efficiency in young and elderly.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association. September 01, 2009. Accessed November 08, 2017.

How Much Protein Can the Body Absorb?” Quick and Dirty Tips. July 16, 2015. Accessed November 08, 2017.

Miller, Bryan. “How crash diets harm your health.” CNN. April 20, 2010. Accessed November 08, 2017.

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

USA Weightlifting’s New Athlete Development Sites

On October 16, 2017, USA Weightlifting (USAW) announced 13 Athlete Development Sites located in the West and Southeast United States.  The announcement of these sites raised a number of questions:

  • What will the sites be used for?
  • Who can attend events at the sites?
  • What kinds of events will be hosted at the sites?
  • How much will the events cost?

I spoke to Suzy Sanchez, USAW Director of Development Programs, and gathered information about this new opportunity.

Q: Why did USAW create the Athlete Development Sites?

In April 2017, USAW created Athlete Development Camps.  We executed a three-month trial run in the West and Southeast.  After running the camps, however, we realized that we needed to restructure.  The purpose of the camps was to attract new athletes, not to educate existing athletes.  In fact, however, many of the athletes who signed up for the camps were seasoned athletes.  There was some dissatisfaction from these athletes who felt that they did not learn much from the camps.

From this experience, we gathered that our members are seeking opportunities for continuing education.  We created the Athlete Development Sites to replace the development camps and to offer continuing education opportunities for our members.

Q: Why did you select these particular sites?

The two largest pockets of weightlifting in the United States are in the West and Southeast.  We wanted to create sites in areas where we could serve the most members.  We also selected gyms that are run by coaches who are certified at the national level or higher.  We are constantly working to foster good relationships between gym owners and USA Weightlifing and feel that this program will facilitate that.  We also hope that the sites will link up talented athletes and talented coaches, creating more opportunities within the sport.

Q: What will the Athlete Development Sites offer?

The Athlete Development Sites will host five different types of clinics: Snatch, Clean & Jerk, Advanced Movement, Youth Weightlifting, and Introduction to Weightlifting.

Two of the clinics—Youth Weightlifting and Introduction to Weightlifting—will offer introductory instruction to beginners.

Three of the clinics—Snatch, Clean & Jerk, and Advanced Movement—will offer continuing education to seasoned athletes and coaches.

Q: What is the cost of attending a clinic?

We will be charging $99 for each clinic.  We hope the fee for the clinic, along with multiple site locations, will keep costs manageable for athletes and coaches.

Q: How can people register for a course?

Registration will take place through WebPoint on the USAW website.

USAW will issue an official press release with more details in November.  For further questions, contact Suzy Sanchez at Suzy.Sanchez@usaweightlifting.org.  

Photos courtesy of Lifting.Life and USAW website.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

What Does it Take to Make Weight?

Almost all weightlifters have done it—some to a small extent, some to a large extent.  No one, however, wants to talk about it.  And those who do talk about it generally downplay or lie about the extent of their behavior.

You will hear weightlifters discussing the topic privately, trying to figure out the best strategies.  When it comes to publicly discussing the matter, however, the community is mute.

Run an internet search for the words “weightlifting” and “weight cutting.”  There are a couple dozen anecdotal articles–weightlifters telling stories about what worked for them.  However, there are few guidelines established by medical professionals and little organizational guidance.

Unfortunately, silence is not the best way to address this matter.  Pretending that it doesn’t happen—or that the sport doesn’t encourage it—can be harmful, especially to youth weightlifters.

What is weight cutting?

Weight cutting involves losing weight quickly to fit into a lower weight class for a sports competition.

Weight cutting is typically accomplished through food restriction or water manipulation—forcing water out of the body prior to a weigh-in and then rehydrating as quickly as possible.

About 65% of the human body is made of water, which makes it a popular source of temporary weight loss.  Studies have shown that dehydration of 2-3% has little effect on strength or anaerobic power.  Reduced water can be regained by hydrating after weigh-ins.  According to a study by the University of Montreal, it takes only about 5 minutes for water to enter the bloodstream from the stomach.  And, according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, the body can go from moderately dehydrated to fully rehydrated within 45 minutes with only 600 mL of water.  (This study was performed on subjects age 25, so age could affect the timing of water absorption.)

Doctors and nutritionists generally recommend against weight cutting.  However, many athletes in weight class sports do it to gain an advantage.

 

Is weight cutting dangerous? 

Weight cutting, also referred to as rapid weight loss, came into the spotlight in the fall of 1997 when three collegiate wrestlers died within a 5-week period from complications of weight cutting.  All three wrestlers were attempting to lose weight rapidly by inducing severe dehydration (exercise and heat-induced sweating and fluid depravation).  After these deaths, weight cutting was no longer considered a harmless exercise in discipline and self-control.

In 2015, the American College of Sports Medicine published a journal article entitled “Rapid Weight Loss in Sports with Weight Classes.”  Of interest, the article noted:

  • Rapid dehydration by more than 5% of the total body weight can result in muscle cramps, muscle injuries, heat stroke, and even death.
  • No matter which strategies are used, weight loss that occurs in less than 7 days has potential negative health and performance effects.
  • Athletes who are competing at an appropriate body composition achieved with scientifically sound training and nutrition principles will maximize their performance without needing to engage in rapid weight loss prior to the competition.

Why is there not more medical guidance on weight cutting?

When asked about weight cutting, Dr. Mark Lavallee, Chairman of the USA Weightlifting Sports Medicine Society, acknowledged that numerous athletes regularly cut weight without any adverse side effects.  He explained, however, that he could not give general recommendations on weight cutting because what is safe and perfectly fine for a healthy athlete with no medical conditions could be detrimental to another athlete.

Dr. Lavallee pointed out that an athlete’s age, physical maturity, body composition and associated medical conditions all factor into the equation.  He gave two examples to illustrate his point:

  • A 12-year old female who is borderline anemic because she has heavy periods. A simple 1-2% weight cut could greatly decrease her strength and predispose her to passing out.
  • An 11-year old male with sickle cell trait.  During physically stressful times, such as dehydration, heat stress, or high altitude, his red blood cells could “sickle” or change shape, which would decrease oxygen carrying capacity and increase risk of hypoxia, clots, severe joint pain, and even death.  This athlete should not dehydrate even 2-3%.

Dr. Lavallee advised that any athlete wanting to engage in weight cutting practices should seek the advice of a sports physician for a personalized plan.

What about organizational guidance?

Weightlifting has not suffered the same tragedies as wrestling, and USA Weightlifting (USAW) does not regulate weight cutting practices.  USAW does prepare Competition Readiness plans for members of its international team, which monitor athletes’ bodyweight going into international competitions.  For all other athletes, however, USAW leaves the matter of weight management up to the individuals involved.

Wrestling, however, has developed some regulation following the deaths of the three collegiate wrestlers.  The National Federation of State High School Associations implemented rules in the 2006-2007 competition season that are intended to discourage high school wrestlers from last minute weight cutting.  Most notably, the regulations require:

  • A hydration level not to exceed 1.025

  • A body fat assessment no lower than 7 percent for boys and 12 percent for girls

  • A monitored, weekly weight loss plan limiting weekly weight loss to 1.5 percent of total body weight per week.

So, a wrestler who wants to “weight light” for a competition must plan in advance and cannot rely on last minute dehydration.

Why are the wrestling regulations of interest to weightlifters?

Both wrestling and weightlifting are weight class sports.  Wrestling has decided that a last minute bodyweight cut of 1.5% is acceptable for high school athletes, but anything more is not okay.  As a coach or parent of a youth weightlifter, this could serve as a helpful number if your athlete wants to cut weight before a competition.  

Keep in mind, however, Dr. Lavallee’s recommendation to seek advice from a sports doctor before undertaking any weight cutting measures.

What can the weightlifting community do to reduce weight cutting by youth weightlifters?

  • Education:  Youth athletes should be taught that rapid weight loss measures can be dangerous.  They should learn proper weight management techniques so that weight cutting does not become necessary.  Weight management is simply achieving a desired body weight through healthy food choices.  The process can be as simple as cutting out junk food prior to a competition or as complicated as a detailed diet plan.  Coaches can assist in this effort by encouraging their young athletes to make good food choices.  Parents can assist by keeping junk food out of the house and making healthy snacks readily available.  And USA Weightlifting can assist by making weight management and nutrition materials available to its athletes.
  • Rule Changes: According to the American College of Sports Medicine article referenced above, rule changes impact athletes’ behavior even more than educational programs.  The article points out that voluntary education programs in place between 1960 and 1997 had little impact on wrestlers’ weight cutting behavior.  After the NCAA and National Federation of State High School Associations implemented weight cutting regulations, however, the frequency and magnitude of weight cutting by wrestlers went down.

What rule changes would benefit youth weightlifters?

Allow 13 & Under weightlifters to compete regardless of their bodyweight.  Under the current rules, a youth weightlifter at a national USA Weightlifting competition, such as USAW’s Youth Nationals, must declare a weight class the evening before the competition begins.  Two hours before the athlete competes, he or she must weigh in.  If the athlete weighs in too heavy or light for the declared weight class, the athlete cannot compete.  This rule applies to all weightlifters in the competition, whether the lifters are age 9 or 17.  The rule puts pressure on athletes who are positioned on the borderline of a weight class.  The athletes’ parents have forked over a good amount of money in flights, hotel rooms, meals, and competition fees.  If the athlete does not make weight, he risks letting down his parents and wasting their time and money.  The rule often leads young athletes to take last minute weight cutting measures.

Coach Jimmy Duke, head coach of Lift for Life gym in St. Louis, Missouri proposes a very simple solution to this problem:

Allow the youngest lifters (13 & Under) to lift regardless of their bodyweight.  If an athlete weighs-in too heavy, just ask the athlete to return a couple of hours later when the next weight class weighs-in.  

Q: Why not extend this rule to all youth lifters?

A: Coach Duke points out that lifters 13+ can compete in International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) competitions.  IWF rules require athletes to compete within designated weight classes.  If the athletes do not make weight at the competitions, they cannot compete.  So, athletes 13+ should learn any weight management techniques necessary to compete within their weight classes.

But I want to move down a weight class!  Can I do this safely?

In weightlifting, it is not unusual for athletes to obsess about their weight classes—even to the detriment of building muscle or training hard.  All too often I hear a weightlifter say, “If I could only lose [a ridiculous amount of weight], while maintaining the same strength, I could be really competitive.”

A few thoughts on that . . .

  • Have patience.  This is not the sport of weight loss.  It is the sport of weightlifting.  It is easier to lose weight than to gain strength.  Building strength takes time!  Ultimately, however, you will be more satisfied if you train hard and lift heavy than if you are always hungry and performing below your potential.
  • Body Fat: If you have a lot of body fat to spare, losing weight likely will benefit you.  Shedding excess fat will make you lighter and healthier without affecting your strength.  After all, fat doesn’t lift weight—muscle does.  If you are currently at a healthy weight with a normal amount of body fat, however, losing weight probably won’t make you any more competitive because some of the weight you lose will be muscle.
  • Weight management: Healthy eating can lead you to the correct weight class.  There is nothing wrong with losing weight by cleaning up your diet.  Swap junk food for healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables.  Substitute water for sugary beverages.  Eat a salad once in a while!  And if you are serious about losing weight while lifting heavy, consult a sports nutritionist for a personal weight loss plan.

Weight cutting should not be taboo in the weightlifting community.  As long as weightlifting remains a weight-class sport, weight cutting will occur.  However, as parents, coaches and advocates for youth weightlifters, we should do our best to encourage healthy weight management over last minute weight loss efforts.

References:

Khodaee, Morteza, Lucianne Olewinski, Babak Shadgan, and Robert R. Kiningham. “Rapid Weight Loss in Sports with Weight Classes.” Current Sports Medicine Reports 14, no. 6 (2015): 435-41.

Péronnet, F, et al. “Pharmacokinetic Analysis of Absorption, Distribution and Disappearance of Ingested Water Labeled with D₂O in Humans.” European Journal of Applied Physiology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21997675.

The Acute Effects of Fluid Intake on Urine Specific Gravity … : The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.” LWW, journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/2013/04000/The_Acute_Effects_of_Fluid_Intake_on_Urine.18.aspx.

Lambert, C., and B. Jones. “Alternatives to Rapid Weight Loss in US Wrestling.International Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 31, no. 08, Nov. 2010, pp. 523–528., doi:10.1055/s-0030-1254177.

Photos courtesy of Lifting.Life.

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Mom, I Need New Shoes! Shoe Buying Tips for Youth Weightlifters

Child: “Mom, I need new shoes.”

Mom: “I just bought you new shoes.”

Child: “Well, they don’t fit any more.”

Mom: “I can’t buy you shoes this minute. You’ll just have to make those shoes work.”

It is likely that EVERY child and parent in modern history has had this conversation.

As a parent, it is annoying that kids’ feet grow so quickly. As a child, it is equally annoying that you have to get new shoes just when your old ones start to feel comfortable.  Like it or not, larger feet—and new shoes—are a part of growing up.  Normally, getting new shoes is not a big problem. Plenty of stores sell shoes—you just go into a store that sells the shoes you want, find a pair that fits, and then negotiate with your parents, who always try to talk you into the “cheap” shoes.

When it comes to weightlifting shoes, however, the solution is not so easy!

Weightlifting shoes are not ordinary athletic shoes. They have a raised heel, a hard, flat sole and straps. These features allow a weightlifter get into a deeper squat by permitting a greater range of motion in the ankle. They also provide better stability in the foot when standing up heavy weights.

Selecting weightlifting shoes can be a frustrating process.

    • At $100 to $200 a pair, weightlifting shoes are expensive.
    • Sporting goods stores do not carry weightlifting shoes, so you cannot simply go into a store, try on shoes, and find the pair that suits you.
    • You are going to be spending a LOT of time training in these shoes, so you want to get some that are comfortable and suit your lifting needs.

 

Selecting YOUTH weightlifting shoes offers additional challenges—

    • Youth athletes’ feet are constantly growing, which means you will probably need a new pair of lifting shoes every six months to a year.
    • Most weightlifting shoes are built for adult weightlifters, so finding a size that fits a youth lifter can be a challenge.

 

For starters, consider whether you actually NEED new weightlifting shoes . . .

    • Do you lift competitively? If you lift weights to build strength or as conditioning for another sport—or simply for recreation, you may not need weightlifting shoes. Weightlifting shoes provide stability for the feet; this stability becomes particularly noticeable with heavy weights. However, general strength building does not require maxing out with heavy weights. It can be accomplished with submaximal weights and higher repetitions. At lower weights, the benefits of a weightlifting shoe may not be noticeable.
    • Can you buy some used shoes? Ask around your gym. You might find another lifter who is willing to sell you their perfectly good, barely used shoes. Since you’ll probably grow out of the shoes in another 6 months to a year, save your parents some money and accept the used shoes! If it grosses you out to wear someone else’s sweaty shoes, replace the insole. Shoe insoles can be purchased at any drugstore for $10 or less.

If you really DO need new shoes, consider these pointers:

    • Buy a little larger than you need. You want your weightlifting shoes to fit snugly. However, you don’t want to buy new shoes every three months. You can fix this problem by buying a shoe that is a little larger than you need and then adding an extra insole to make the shoe smaller. When your feet grow, take out the extra insole, and your shoe will still fit. We use this trick regularly to extend the wearability of weightlifting shoes.
    • Read reviews! When it comes to weightlifting shoes, one shoe does not suit everyone. Some shoes are wider/narrower; some shoes have a higher heel; some shoes have multiple straps versus a single strap. Fortunately, there are thousands of customer reviews on weightlifting shoes. Find the shoe you are considering on Amazon, and start reading what real customers have to say about it! Read and research until you are confident the shoe is right for you. Keep in mind, however, that most of these reviews are written by and for adult weightlifters, so the review may not be as helpful for you. In the future, I will write an article reviewing weightlifting shoes available to youth lifters. Stay tuned.
    • Shop around. There are only a handful of weightlifting shoe retailers on the market. Start by looking at the manufacturer’s website. For instance, if you are searching for some Nike Romeleo 3s, look at the pricing on nike.com. From there, search other websites, such as Amazon, Eastbay, and Rogue. You can generally find shoes on sale if you search diligently. However, you should always consult the seller’s return policy before buying. You don’t want to get stuck with shoes that arrive too small with no way to return or exchange them!

Don’t love the shoes you have?

 

If you find that you don’t love the weightlifting shoes you purchase, you can return them and get something else, or . . .

    • Remember that you will grow out of them soon! In the course of your weightlifting career, you will own many shoes. Don’t obsess about the perfect shoe.  If it’s not just right this time, you can always purchase a different pair the next time.  My son, Hutch, spent a year wearing second-hand Adidas Powerlift shoes that he didn’t love. However, they only cost me $20, and I told him that he could pick his next pair of shoes. It was a win-win situation. I got out easy on Hutch’s shoes one year, and he got to pick the ones he liked the next year.
    • Training matters more than shoes. Fancy weightlifting shoes are fun. However, they won’t compensate for time in the gym. You will never hear someone win a major weightlifting championship and give the credit to their shoes.

 

SaveSave

What is the Right Weight Class for My Child?

Youth Weightlifting Weight Class - Pic 1

In weightlifting, the athlete who successfully lifts the most weight within his weight class wins.  Thus, it is generally beneficial to be both as light as possible and as strong as possible.  A weightlifter can optimize performance by achieving a bodyweight that gives him maximum strength with minimal excess weight.  There is no formula, however, for determining exactly which weight class is best for a weightlifter, and even established adult lifters may compete in a number of weight classes over the course of their weightlifting career.

What does this mean for children and adolescents?

Well, it’s a bit complicated.

First, children are growing.  A child’s constantly changing body makes it much more difficult to determine his or her optimal weight class.  In the course of one year, a child may move up one weight class—or he may move up three weight classes.  If a child moves up three weight classes, but most of the weight gain is fat, he will not be competing at his optimal weight.

Second, BMI, or body mass index, may not be the best indicator of optimal weight for a young weightlifter.  BMI is a calculation of a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters.  Although BMI is accurate for a large portion of the population, it is often inaccurate for weightlifters, who are heavier because they have more muscle mass.

Third, while an adult weightlifter may be willing to meticulously track food consumption to fit within a given weight class, children are not at all interested in doing this.  Constantly monitoring food intake can eliminate the joy out of an otherwise fun sport—and cause a child to develop an unhealthy relationship with food.

Fourth, the primary focus for youth involved in weightlifting should be on developing good technique with a secondary focus on strength building.

So, should I ignore the weight class system and let my child compete at his current body weight?

Generally, yes.  Your child will have plenty of time to settle into a weight class once he is fully grown.  Until then, there is no need to emphasize body weight.

However, you can give your youth lifter a competitive advantage by helping him maintain a healthy weight.  The following lifestyle changes can benefit your child in weightlifting and for years beyond:

  • Swap the soda, juice, and sugary sports drinks for water. An 18-month trial involving 641 normal-weight children found that replacing sugary beverages with noncaloric beverages reduced weight gain and fat accumulation in the normal-weight children.1
  • Keep your kitchen stocked with a variety of fruits and veggies. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories, contain a lot of fiber, and are a great source of vitamins and nutrients.
  • Buy less prepackaged junk: Don’t prohibit your child from eating junk food—just don’t make it readily available. Your child will eat enough of it at parties, friends’ houses, and school.
  • Eat at home as often as possible. It is easy to overeat at restaurants, with free drink refills and enormous portions.  Avoid temptation—and save money—by eating more meals at home.
  • Kick the fast food habit. When children eat fast food, they eat more food all day long. Researcher Shanthy A. Bowman, PhD, with the Department of Agricuture, conducted a study of the eating habits of 6,000 children and adolescents.2  Bowman found that fast-food eaters consumed 15% more calories than non-fast food eaters, or about 57 more calories per day.  At that rate, a child would gain an extra 6 lbs per year—and that’s not 6 lbs of lean muscle!
  • Plan ahead. If you know you’ll be out of the house all evening, pack some healthy snacks to avoid the temptation to feed out of the vending machine or at fast food joints.
  • Set a good example. If you portray healthy eating as a miserable chore, your child will feel the same way about it.  However, if you eat healthy foods with ernest enjoyment, your child will mirror your emotions.

In conclusion, there is no need to stress about fitting your child or adolescent into a particular weight class.  However, you can give your youth weightlifter a competitive advantage by teaching him healthy habits that will contribute to an optimal body weight.

 

____________________________________________________________________________

 

References:

(1) de Ruyter JC, Olthof MR, Seidell JC, Katan MB. A trial of sugar-free or sugar-sweetened beverages and body weight in children. N Engl J Med. 2012;367:1397-406.

(2) Davis, Jeanie Lerche. “Fast Food Creates Fat Kids.” WebMD. January 5, 2004. Accessed April 04, 2017. http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20040105/fast-food-creates-fat-kids.

Is Weightlifting Safe for Children?

Youth Weightlifting Is Weightlifting Safe for Children

My 13 year-old son recently took off his shirt for a scoliosis screening at school.  The examining nurse commented, “Wow, you are really muscular.  You must be a wrestler.”  When my son stated that he was not a wrestler, but rather an Olympic weightlifter, the nurse’s look of approval turned to one of concern.  “Weightlifting?  At your age?  You’re too young for that.”

The nurse’s ill-advised comments are all too familiar for parents of youth weightlifters.  Many people believe that weightlifting is harmful for young athletes.

Even so, weightlifting is currently one of the fastest growing sports for children around the world.  In the United States alone, between 2012 and 2016, USA Weightlifting (USAW) experienced an unprecedented 181% growth in membership among youth athletes.1  According to Brad Suchorski, USAW Membership Manager, as of January 2017, there were over 2,500 weightlifters under the age of 18 in the United States.   This represented a 27% increase in membership for male athletes and a 49% increase in membership for female athletes in a single year!

However, just because masses of parents are signing their kids up for the sport . . . is it safe for our children?

This article examines the two most common objections to youth weightlifting: first, that lifting heavy weights can stunt a child’s growth; and second, that weightlifting is a dangerous sport.

Objection 1: Lifting Heavy Weights Stunts Growth in Children

A child’s bones are subject to a unique injury not experienced by adults – growth plate fractures.

Children and teenagers have a piece of cartilage called an epiphyseal plate, or growth plate, near the end of their long bones.  This cartilage constantly produces new cells which later harden (or ossify) and create new bone tissue that becomes part of the long bone.  Complete ossification of the bone occurs after a child reaches maturity, usually between ages 13 and 15 for girls and 15 and 17 for boys.2

As shown in the figure above, long bones have two growth plates – one on the top and one on the bottom.  As such, these long bones do not grow from the center out, instead, they grow from each end at the growth plates.

When a growth plate is injured, there is potential for arthritis or even deformities in the affected bone.  Growth plate injuries, however, are rare.3, 6  And about 85% of the time, growth plate injuries heal with no lasting effects.3   Further, those that do occur are typically successfully treated without long term problems.2

So, what causes growth plate injuries?

Growth plate fractures are most often caused by a single event, such as a car accident or serious fall.  However, they can also be caused by activities that deliver repetitive stress to bones such as: repeated impact to the bone, long hours spent on activities (e.g. a pitcher perfecting a curve ball), running, and so on.4

Over 50% of growth plate injuries result from a fall.5  Approximately 30% of growth plate injuries occur during participation in competitive sports such as football, basketball or gymnastics.  And, the last 20% of growth plate injuries occur during participation in recreational activities such as biking, sledding, skiing, or skateboarding.6

It is also noteworthy to mention that boys are more at risk for growth plate injuries, as girls mature faster than the boys.6

What are typical signs of growth plate injuries?

Symptoms of a growth plate injury in children are the same as those for a broken bone, and include:

  • inability to put weight or pressure on the limb,
  • pain or discomfort,
  • swelling or tenderness in the area of the bone, near the joint, and
  • inability to move the limb.3, 6

I’m sure this goes without saying, but if you suspect your child has a bone injury, get immediate care from your pediatrician, orthopedic surgeon or your local emergency room.

Can weightlifting cause a growth plate injury?  

Absolutely—but so can baseball, gymnastics, football, running, skiing, falling out of a tree or just being a kid.

The real question is: Is there a higher incidence of growth plate injuries in children who participate in weightlifting?

No.  There is not a higher incidence of growth plate injuries in children who participate in weightlifting as opposed to other sports.

One of the most comprehensive study of youth resistance training was conducted by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).7  The most recent study, conducted in 2014, published its results in “Position Statement on Youth Resistance Training: the 2014 International Consensus.”8  That article, and its findings, were widely endorsed, including by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM), the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), and the Chief Medical Officer, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

The NSCA undertook the study because of the growing interest among researchers, clinicians and practitioners in children and adolescents participation in various forms of resistance training (i.e., the use of body weight, weight machines, free weights (barbells and dumbbells), elastic bands and medicine balls). The NSCA found that there was a “compelling body of scientific evidence that supports regular participation in youth resistance training to reinforce positive health and fitness adaptations and sports performance enhancement,” provided that the programs are supervised by qualified professionals.

From a health perspective, evidence indicates that resistance training can make positive alterations in overall body composition, reduce body fat, improve insulin-sensitivity in adolescents who are overweight and enhance cardiac function in children who are obese.

Importantly, it has also been demonstrated that regular participation in an appropriately designed exercise program inclusive of resistance training, can … likely reduce sports-related injury risk in young athletes. This would appear to be an important consideration given that approximately 3.5 million sports-related injuries in youth require a medical visit each year in the USA.

Additionally, muscular strength and resistance training have been associated with positive psychological health and well-being in children and adolescents.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and other public health agencies now include resistance training as part of their physical activity guidelines for children and adolescents.

In its review, the NSCA determined:

Fears that resistance training injures the growth plates of youth are not supported by scientific reports or clinical observations.

Rather, the literature suggests that childhood and adolescence are key developmental periods for increasing bone-mineral density, and that failure to participate in moderate-to-vigorous weight-bearing physical activity during these stages of growth may predispose individuals to long-term bone-health implications.

No scientific evidence indicates that resistance training will have an adverse effect on linear growth during childhood or adolescence or reduce eventual height in adulthood.

And, specifically with regard to weightlifting for young athletes, the NSCA found that “participation in the sport of weightlifting and the performance of weightlifting movements as part of a strength and conditioning program can be safe, effective and enjoyable for children and adolescents provided qualified supervision and instruction are available and progression is based on the technical performance of each lift … If training and competition are properly supervised and sensibly progressed, then the performance of weightlifting exercises may provide a safe and effective stimulus for enhancing strength and power performance in school-age youth.”

Objection 2: Weightlifting is a Dangerous Sport

The sport of weightlifting involves lifting maximal effort weight overhead in the snatch or the clean and jerk.  Naturally, heavy weights have the potential to harm the individual lifting them, but do they at higher rates than other sports?

No.  Studies of sports-related injuries in school-aged youth have shown weightlifting to be one of the safest sports.9

Although the data comparing the relative safety of resistance training, weightlifting, and other sports are limited, one evaluation of injury rates in adolescents revealed that resistance training and weightlifting were markedly safer than many other sports and activities (with the overall injury rate per 100 participant hours was 0.8000 for rugby and 0.0120 and 0.0013 for resistance training and weightlifting, respectively).

Another study which evaluating the incidence of sports-related injuries in school-aged youth had similar findings:

Over a one-year period, resistance training resulted in 0.7% of 1576 injuries whereas football, basketball, and soccer resulted in approximately 19%, 15%, and 2%, respectively, of all injuries. When the data were evaluated in terms of injury to participant ratio in school team sports, football (28%), wrestling (16.4%) and gymnastics (13%) were at the top of the list.

The generally accepted explanation for this is the fact that the sport of weightlifting is typically characterized by well-informed coaches and a gradual progression of training loads which are required to effectively learn the technique of advanced multipoint lifts.

In support of these observations, others have evaluated the incidence of injury in young weightlifters and concluded that competitive weightlifting can be a relatively safe sport for children and adolescents provided that age-appropriate training guidelines are followed and qualified coaching is available. Since weightlifting movements involve more complex neural activation patterns than other resistance exercises, childhood may be the ideal time to develop the coordination and skill technique to perform these lifts correctly. To date, no scientific evidence indicates that properly performed and sensibly progressed weightlifting movements performed during practice or competition are riskier than other sports and activities in which youth regularly participate. Nevertheless, due to the potential for injury during the performance of multi-joint free weight exercises, youth coaches should be aware of the considerable amount of time it takes to teach these lifts and should be knowledgeable of the progression from basic exercises (e.g., front squat), to skill transfer exercises (e.g., overhead squat), and finally to the competitive lifts (snatch and clean and jerk).

Not only have studies shown that athletes who incorporate resistance training, such as weightlifting, in their programs suffer fewer injuries and less time in rehabilitation than team-mates who do not participate in resistance training, but the studies also find numerous benefits to such training.

In conclusion, weightlifting is safe for kids.  Like all sports, weightlifting carries with it some risk of injury.  However, the risk of injury while weightlifting can be minimized by qualified supervision, appropriate program design, sensible progression, allowing for adequate recovery between training sessions and listening to the athlete’s questions and concerns.

So, find a good coach, respect the equipment, and enjoy the sport!

____________________________________________________________________________

References:

(1) Farley, K. (2016, Winter). The Quad that Was. USA Weightlifting.org, 13.

(2) “Growth Plate Injuries.” KidsHealth. September 2016. Accessed March 29, 2017.

(3) Lueder, Rani, and Valerie J. Berg. Rice. Ergonomics for children: designing products and places for toddler to teens. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2008, 218.

(4) What Are Growth Plate Injuries? Fast Facts: An Easy-to-Read Series of Publications for the Public. (2014, November).

(5) Lueder, Rani, and Valerie J. Berg. Rice. Ergonomics for children: designing products and places for toddler to teens. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2008, 217.

(6) “Growth Plate Fractures-OrthoInfo – AAOS.” Growth Plate Fractures-OrthoInfo – AAOS. October 01, 2014. Accessed March 29, 2017.

(7) Previous reviews also were conducted by the NSCA in 1985, 1996, and 2009.

(8) Feigenbaum, Avery. “Position statement on youth resistance training: the 2014 International Consensus.” National Strength and Conditioning Journal, September 20, 2013, 3-4. Accessed March 29, 2017.

(9) Feigenbaum, Avery . “Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position Statement Paper.” National Strength and Conditioning Association Journal, January 9, 2009, 4. Accessed March 29, 2017.