How Bodybuilding Can Affect Kids' Bodies

Ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger popularized the pump that comes from pushing your limits while weight lifting in the gym, bodybuilding has become a notable pursuit with household recognition. While lifting weights can be good for your health, you might wonder if it is ok for growing kids to do it. 

According to Stanford Medicine Children's Health, experts have recently changed their tune on children and lifting weights. Where there used to be a lot of opposition to the idea of kids using weight for exercise, experts now note that children as young as 7 years old can use free weights (with proper supervision) for strength training, which uses high repetition and low weight. However, bodybuilding is not recommended for kids. You might wonder what the differences are between strength training and bodybuilding.

While strength training focuses on function, bodybuilding focuses on gaining muscle and sculpting the body to meet an ultimate aesthetic form (via FitDay). That's not to say that bodybuilders are not strong — but rather their goals are aimed at how the muscles look, rather than how they perform. Further, bodybuilding also focuses on nutrition, says IronMaster. Here's everything you need to know about how bodybuilding can affect the body of a growing kid and the inherent risks. 

Bodybuilding and the developing body

Bodybuilding poses several threats to kids. For example, Mayo Clinic notes that lifting heavy weights can lead to injuries, especially for areas of the body that have not yet fully developed. Another major concern is the low body fat percentage that bodybuilders are known to have for competition — as low as 5%, notes Men's Journal

There are several health risks associated with an extremely low body fat percentage, like heart issues, low energy, and subpar recovery. Another risk with bodybuilding is the various products that people often take to gain an edge. The United States Food and Drug Administration warns that bodybuilding supplements may have ingredients like anabolic steroids, which may cause damage to the kidneys and also the liver. But you might wonder if the science matches any real-life examples.

Despite all of the inherent risks, one extreme example of childhood bodybuilding paints a different picture. Richard Sandrak — popularly known as 'Little Hercules"— was a renowned child bodybuilder until age 11, reports The U.S. Sun. Now in his 30s, Sandrak no longer lifts weights and appears to be a fit and fully grown man.