Children and Squatting

I have heard that children should not squat with resistance on their backs.The reason being stated is that it will “stunt their growth”. Then I see elementary children coming off of school busses with 50 pound backpacks strapped on.Encouraged by the same parents who say that the squats with weight will stunt their growth. Can you provide any information on this topic ?

You bring up a very good point and I will elaborate on this for you. Most people in our society say things, but have not idea why they say them, where they came from or who even started saying it. That being said, I am talking about people saying that working out with young kids will stunt their growth. There is research to show this, but the questions I ask are define working out, how much and what is their home life and nutrition like. There are so many factors that will go into stunting a childs growth. It is actually not the working out, it is more of a physiological/hormonal shift that causes it.

With most kids, the best thing that they can do is play and explore. This is what kids are supposed to do. Putting a child into a gym at a young age is just not a healthy thing to do. Their bodies are designed to develop through running, playing sports, playing outside, jumping, etc. As kids get older and they start playing organized sports, then working out is great to teach proper body movement mechanics, inner unit to outer unit synchronization, multiplanar movements and stability, etc.

The modern back pack is a problem in my eyes. Most kids put everything plus the kitchen sink in them. Most kids do not have the muscular development (they should) these days to withstand this constant load on their backs. They can’t handle this because most children these days play outside less and sit in front of the computer, their phone or use their ipods/video games more. The back muscles are slow twitch postural muscles and are designed to hold you up and withstand constant tension over a period of time. What happens from playing less and sitting more is that these back muscles become lengthened. What this does is lengthen the spine creating a flat back (this puts a person at a higher risk for a low back and a disc injury), drops the front panel (sternum and rib cage dropping) which creates breathing, visceral, rib, neck and shoulder dysfunction, decreases proprioception through the body secondary to the back muscles lengthening, creates forward head posture leading to a wide variety of mouth, jaw, vision, hearing, cranial, etc issues.

The best thing a child can do at a young age is play. They should either carry a bag and alt shoulders or use a bag on wheels. It might not be cool, but when they get older they will appreciate what they did. As a child gets older, the best thing for them to do in the gym (as I stated above), would be to work out lightly and use more functional integrated exercises (front squat which does not load the back and recruits all the important slow twitch back muscles, lunge, push, pull, bend, and rotate). Hope this helps and please call if you have further questions.  

Joshua Rubin