Should kids perform deadlifts or is this dangerous? I’m a certified personal trainer. The better question is: Is there anything intrinsic about the motion of deadlifting that would make it harmful to a child’s body?
The answer to that question is NO. There is nothing inherent about the deadlift exercise that makes it unsafe for kids.
However, what’s unsafe is if kids perform deadlifts without supervision and proper instruction.
This rule, however, applies to any physical activity that they participate in, including bowling, golf and archery, all of which offer potential for serious injury.
Kids have a way of getting into trouble when not supervised. But this doesn’t automatically bar them from doing a multi-joint strength-training exercise.
Kids can get injured doing household tasks such as hauling around heavy garbage bags; they can strain the lower back or injure a shoulder.
A child can throw his back out lifting the family dog or giving piggy back rides to friends. These activities are often done without supervision.
But when it comes to the deadlift, parents perceive this as dangerous for kids because the adults’ images of this exercise is that of some 270 pound beast hoisting 800 pounds off the floor, bending the metal bar in the process.
What parents don’t realize is that their children have been performing deadlifts since they learned to walk.
When a young child bends over to pick something up from the floor, then straightens … this motion closely mimics that of the deadlift. The joint actions aren’t textbook perfect, of course, but the general motion is clearly that of deadlifting.
Ever tell your child to take the rubbish out? Depending on the shape of the trash container, he may end up doing a deadlift to get it off the floor and then set it down at the curb. What about picking up a loaded laundry basket? This is a deadlift.
Executing this joint motion with a light barbell will encourage more proper form than when haphazardly hoisting up a heavy laundry basket, a playmate, the family dog, a crate of books, heavy luggage, a computer, a box of magazines, a vacuum cleaner, etc.
This isn’t to say that kids will automatically use picture-perfect form when performing a deadlift in the gym.
It’s just that handling a narrow metal bar eliminates some of the imbalances that are present when scooping up a dog, carrying other kids or babies around, lifting up that crate of books, carrying around the vacuum cleaner, etc.
Kids still need intense, thorough instruction in proper form when it comes to the deadlift. So do adults! The rule of textbook form applies to people of all ages.
Will deadlifting damage children’s growth plates or developing tendons and growing muscles? No. This exercise is non-impact and does not involve twisting, torque, erratic motions or unnatural ranges of motion.
In a deadlift, the legs remain virtually immobile, eliminating potential for sprained knees or ankles, shin splints, broken bones and stress fractures.
The arms remained fixed and straight, eliminating potential for wrist, elbow and shoulder injuries. And don’t even think of head injuries or collision-related injuries.
It’s actually safer for kids to perform deadlifts (with adult supervision and proper form) than it is for them to engage in competitive running, soccer, youth football, basketball, Little League pitching (can damage growing shoulder joints), gymnastics, skiing, wrestling, and the most injury-causing (percentage-wise) activities of all:
1) Activities involving wheels (e.g., bicycling, skating, scooters, skateboards), and
2) Playground equipment. Every year in the U.S. about 200,000 children are treated in emergency rooms for playground-related injuries!
Don’t think that these activities are most dangerous because so many children do them. I reiterate: Percentage-wise, these activities are the most dangerous for kids.
And if you had to choose between cheerleading and deadlifting for your adolescent or teen daughter, go for the deadlifting, as cheerleading is currently the most dangerous sport for this demographic.
Performing deadlifts will not stunt growth. Smoking will. Lifting weights will discourage youth from smoking.
Maximum height is determined by genetics, and a person can fall short of this from bad health habits.
Lifting weights encourages more production of human growth hormone. This won’t make your child, who deadlifts, become a giant. It will simply mean that he or she won’t be shorted on his genetically determined growth potential.