Weight lifting has become very popular among adolescents and young adults during the past few decades. Today, there are many bodybuilders pursuing serious career before the age of 18. The effects of weight lifting on muscle growth and development are not questionable, but how does it affect the growth of bones and the whole organism in the adolescence?
The Physiology of Growth
Human growth is a very complex process, with many successive stages and not yet completely revealed details. Many factors, such as genetics, hormones, as well as external agents may contribute to the changes in body growth. Crucial organs for body growth are, of course, bones, because their development determines the development of other surrounding tissues.
In adolescence, the most important process occurring in growing bones is called elongation. Elongation is based on extensive cell division in the regions of bones called epiphyseal plates, which allows the increase in bone length. Epiphyseal plates are composed of cartilage, and over time, the cartilage is gradually turned to bone through the process called ossification. The elongation process is finished by the age of 25, when there is no more cartilage, or in other words, the ossification process is completed.
Effects of Weight Lifting on Bone Development
Weight lifting, bodybuilding, or resistance training in adolescence has been the target of many studies which resulted in controversial opinions. During the past decades, the resistance training in adolescents with active epiphyseal plates was considered extremely harmful, because of the possible injuries of those vulnerable regions. Therefore, the predominant opinion was that weight lifting in adolescence and childhood represented an unnecessary and potentially serious risk for the damage of normal growth. Modern opinions are, however, different if not opposite.
Moderate stress on growing bones contributes to their strengthening and lowers the possibility of injuries, and this is today accepted by all main academic institutions actively involved in research in the fields of sports medicine, orthopedics, and pediatrics.
As explained above, recent studies have disproved the myth of harmful effects of weight lifting in adolescents. However, it should be noted that exercising plans need to be carefully designed by a professional trainer in order to avoid bone injuries.
Of course, one should take these recommendations with caution, giving that the opinions have drastically changed during the past period, and that this topic is still the subject of scientific research.
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