Best Time to Start Training?

The best time for future Olympic athletes to start training is before they start puberty.

Having large strong muscles makes you a better athlete, and starting training before puberty enlarges the bones. Muscles growth is limited by the size of the bones on which they attach. The larger the bone, the stronger the muscle. The larger and stronger your muscles, the harder you can hit a ball. Children who start to play tennis before they go into puberty have larger bones in the arm that holds the raquet. Their tennis arm bones are larger than those who start to play tennis later in life.

Lifting weights during growth does not prevent children from growing to their full potential height. Bones grow from growth centers that are weakest part of bone, but strength training during growth does not damage these growth centers. Children who lift weights with good supervision do not suffer more injuries than adults. We used to worry that growing large muscles would make you musclebound and interfere with coordination, but with increased strength comes increased speed and coordination. The best time for future Olympians to start training is while their bones are still growing.

1) P Kannus, H Haapasalo, M Sankelo, H Sievanen, M Pasanen, A Heinonen, P Oja, I Vuori. Effect of starting age of physical activity on bone mass in the dominant arm of tennis and squash players. Annals of Internal Medicine 123: 1 (JUL 1 1995):27-31

Checked 11/3/14

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