Special report: Kids get muscles

Special report: Kids get muscles

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Kids as young as five years old are working out in some sports facilities, but doctors say they shouldn't start weight training until they reach puberty. Source: WBRC video Kids as young as five years old are working out in some sports facilities, but doctors say they shouldn't start weight training until they reach puberty. Source: WBRC video
Britton Lynn speaks with Shea Pitts, whose son Alex trains with her at the D1 facility in Homewood. Britton Lynn speaks with Shea Pitts, whose son Alex trains with her at the D1 facility in Homewood.
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

It's become more common than ever before. Kids are doing additional training for school sports and fitness at a much younger age.

"All of them started sports at four," said Crossfit Alabaster owner Leigh Hulsey. "Fitness is a way of life because its part of who we are. If I'm going to teach my kids right from wrong, why wouldn't I teach them the correct way to...dead lift something? To me health and fitness is as important as right and wrong."

The Hulseys' family has a history of diabetes, so nutrition is an essential component to their fitness regime. But they are not the only ones training their kids at a young age.

"Weight training for kids has really evolved over the last 10 or 15 years," said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lyle Cain. "We are in an age where patients are afraid of letting their kids get behind and not being specialized enough or not being trained enough."

Shea Pitts and her seven-year-old son, Alex, have been working out at a sports training facility in Homewood called D1 in hopes that he can become a more advanced athlete.

"He likes it so much," Shea said on why she brought her son to D1. "Well, when he started playing baseball I think he started at the age of six. He was decent. He was not a bad athlete at all, but once he started here his speed and coordination just went through the roof. He's just become so much better of an athlete."

So does it work? We talked with the experts at the American Sports Medicine Institute to find out.

"There's a lot of controversy as far as what exactly that does for the kids," Dr. Cain said.

"We know that until a kid gets testosterone, until they hit puberty, they really don't have much of a chance to build muscle. So they can't make their muscles big and strong like you can as an adult. If you do the same movement over and over with a child, those growth plates are going to stress and fail sooner than they would when you're an adult. There's no question that fatigue is important when having an injury. So players that are overusing their body parts, whether it's soccer or training, can cause a higher risk of injuries," Dr. Cain said.

To avoid those injuries, ASMI recommends that adolescents take three to four months off from their focused sport so that they don't overemphasize the same muscles. And even with safe training in gyms like D1 and Crossfit, doctors say not much can be done to improve athletic performance in early youth because of their undeveloped muscles.

However, what can be gained from early training is increased coordination and proper form.

"When it comes to working out, one of the things you have to ask kids and parents is what is the goal?" orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jeffrey R. Dugas said.

"We get asked all the time, 'Should my son be doing bench presses?' If your goal is to get bigger pecks you probably (should) be doing bench press. Is that something you should think about when you're eight-years-old? Probably not," Dugas said.

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