Spot reduction. Gauging the amount of calories you burn by how much you sweat. Trying to get a flat tummy with sit-ups alone. The fitness world is full of myths and misconceptions, and the idea that doing push-ups can stunt your growth is one of those tall tales.
Like most myths, this one has some pretty interesting real-life origins, and is a little more multilayered than it seems at first glance — so before you dismiss push-ups, make sure you don't stunt your research.
A Myth Debunked
The notion that lifting weight could stunt growth traces it roots all the way back to 1970s Japan, when researchers found that child laborers who moved heavy weight all day were abnormally short. That idea took hold in the popular culture, and by association, people got the idea that lifting weights or performing body weight and resistance exercises when you're young might result in a short stature.
In 2010, that myth was officially busted when the American Academy of Pediatrics ran a study that found that, in boys and girls aged 6 to 18, resistance training benefited children almost universally. And push-ups are most definitely resistance training.
Looking Closer at Youth Exercise
The push-up and growth stunting myth is usually aimed at youth, which makes youth exercise worth a little examination. As the AAP study states, " regardless of maturational age, children generally seem to be capable of increasing muscular strength.”
The difference is, younger folks don't tend to pack on muscle the way adults do. Instead, exercise helps them interact with their nervous system more efficiently, helping activate the full potential of their motor movements. Kids can tap into that potential whether they use exercise equipment or just their own body weight, and may even reap additional benefits like less stress, more confidence, better sleep and a healthier weight as a result of regular exercise.
Push-ups for Grown-ups
It almost goes without saying that there's no evidence out that to support push-ups stunting growth in adults. As a part of your upper-body regimen, push-ups come in a huge array of variations and work a wide variety of muscles, including the pecs, deltoids, triceps, biceps, back and core. On that last note, push-ups act like a more intense plank; as you keep your core tight while pushing against gravity, you're toning up those abs.
You don't have to worry about stunting your growth, but do pay attention to proper form to maximize your results and minimize the risk of injury. Keep your elbows right above your wrists and positioned at your sides, at around 20 to 40 degrees rather than the 90-degree angle you often see, and keep your hands pointed slightly outward to reduce joint stress.
Help Others Grow
Were you an early adopter of push-ups in your youth who has grown into a perfectly full-sized adult, or maybe a parent who actively encourages your kids to exercise? Share your stories in the comments below — and please feel free to throw in your favorite push-up tips while you're at it.
- The New York Times: Phys Ed: The Benefits of Weight Training for Children
- AAP News & Journals Gateway: Pediatrics: Effects of Resistance Training in Children and Adolescents: A Meta-analysis
- MedlinePlus: Exercise for Children
- ExRx.net: Push-up
- Peak Fitness: Push-ups: The Simple Exercise that Can Banish Your Bulging Belly
- Breaking Muscle: Pimp Your Push Up: 3 Common Mistakes and 5 Challenging Variations