Everyone wants a fit and toned body and that is why people start going to the gym to get in shape. As we grow up, our body goes through a lot of changes that are very natural. It’s necessary to remain aware of these changes while working on your body. Going to a gym is perfectly beneficial for your body but you need to know what is the right time to start lifting. Until we reach 17-18 years of age, our body is constantly growing and is not accustomed to heavy lifting. Once we cross most of our teenage days, our body becomes strong enough to bear the tension caused during heavy lifting at the gym.
But with the rising trend of joining a gym, even teenage kids are going to the gym and such cases are continuously rising. Let’s dig deep into the matter to understand whether this is good or bad.
The first concern that many raise is that going to the gym at an early age affects natural growth. But, is this completely true?
Does lifting weights really affect natural growth?
While the popular myth is that kids stop growing if they start lifting at an early age, there is limited or no scientific evidence to prove this claim right. If researchers are to be believed, a kid does not need to quit lifting in order to get a good height. Natural growth has nothing to do with strength-building exercises. It is true that teenage kids have limited weight lifting capacity, they can opt for resistance based strength training to strengthen their muscles and become stronger. Research says that resistance training not only helps in increasing strength and boosting bone strength index (BSI), it also reduces the risk of sports-related injuries. In nutshell, going to a gym doesn’t necessarily mean doing a deadlift with 200 kg of weight. It means working your muscles as per their capacity to generate more strength and grow stronger.
According to Dr Rob Raponi, a naturopathic doctor and certified sports nutritionist, the misconception that lifting affects growth came into existence due to the rising cases of injuries to growth plates in immature bones. The reason behind these injuries could be ego-lifting (lifting more than the capacity or permissible strength) or incorrect form or both. What teenagers need is proper supervision regarding the correct form and the weight they are lifting. To make this more simple, we can take the example of any sports. There are chances of injuries in any sport. Some injuries are minor while some even prove to be fatal. But you don’t stop playing, do you? Going to the gym is similar. All you need is a trainer of a senior guiding you from behind.
If we consider the points above, there is no perfect age for going to a gym. Anyone above 13-14 years of age can join a gym given that they work out according to their capacities while keeping in mind the limitations of your body.
‘Age is just a number’ is not just a saying, it is a fact backed by research-based data. Health experts say that “Safety with weightlifting is all about maturity and proper supervision.” At no point, he mentions the age. Moreover, it’s only beneficial to start training at an early age as you learn the correct form and way of doing different exercises earlier than others and as a result, you continue to become stronger with time.
But, before you start lifting, you should be aware of the safe weight lifting techniques. There are certain things that you need to keep in mind as a newbie when you start lifting.
Gym is not the place to massage your ego. Don’t start competing with the jacked guy at the gym right on the first day. Don’t undermine the months or years of efforts that he has put into his workout. Start with the lightest weight and get used to the weight lifting motions. Don’t jump to the heaviest weight on the rack. It should be a linear process with continuous growth. Understand the importance of baby steps.
Ask your seniors or the trainer at the gym to guide you. Asking for help doesn’t make you small. Take feedback from them and work on your form. Whenever you lift heavyweight to challenge your strength, make sure you have someone near you to help in case you are unable to lift it on your own.
Start With Basics: There is a reason that gyms have machines for every muscle along with barbells and dumbbells. Don’t directly jump to the heavy dumbbells or barbells. Start working out on the machines at first and master the form for every muscles group. Keep increasing the weights for a few weeks until you are confident enough to lift heavier without assistance.