Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Young: Pint-Sized, Ambition-Large 

"Powerlifting helps children develop connective tissue, including ligaments and tendons, muscles and bones, and also helps to build a foundational strength."
Tom DeLong, director, science education, National Council for Certified Personal Trainers

"Sometimes when I'm lifting, I will see a kid staring at me like I'm some famous person and then they go ask their parents if they can do stuff like me."
"A lot of people look at a sport like powerlifting and think that girls can't do that and I want to prove them wrong."
"I don't just like powerlifting; I love it. It makes me feel strong, and like I can do anything."
Etta Nichols, 11, Spokane, Washington

"Lifting has helped Etta realize her strengths."
"The key is the right coach."
Chet Nichols, Etta's father

"Not only is she physically strong and co-ordinated for her age but she has learned a lot about herself through powerlifting -- how hard she can push herself, how she can accomplish things she puts her mind to and how success is not given, it's earned."
Eric Cafferty, Etta's powerlifting coach

"As both a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and a mother, this would not be my first choice of an activity for my child."
"[The potential dangers of the sport include] putting too much stress on the growth centers and causing growth anomalies."
Dr. Abigail Allen, chief of pediatric orthopedic surgery, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York 

"It has become very en vogue for young ladies to be athletic and strong", observed Martin Drake, national chairman of the Amateur Athletic Union Strength Sports, of the trickle-down effect from adult gyms where children are now being encouraged to emulate adults in powerlifting. The industry itself is wholly given to enthusiasm over introducing children to weight lifting and encouraging them to excel. Young, very young girls become celebrated for their training and physical endurance, enabling them to lift weights two times their actual body weight; quite the feat indeed.
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Girls Who Powerlift

Five-year-old Luma Valones, for example is noted for performing weighted dead lifts, squats and bench presses. She has undergone two years of training, after all. "Happy Luma" is the name of her own Instagram page. Her mother Nicole Lacanglacang helps to share videos of her daughter raising pink weights over her chest. Luma's mother is a herself a powerlifter who began training Luma in her garage in 2015, beginning with a PCV pipe barbell holding 1.5-kilograms.

Now Luma is able to dead lift 24 kilograms, 8 over her total body weight. "She tells me she wants to get bigger, that she doesn't want skinny arms -- just big muscles", explains Ms. Lacanglacang. Luma pipes in to declare her intention "to be the strongest person in the universe". USA Powerlifting  has  hosted the annual youth national competition since 2015. Etta Nichols took part in the competition. "It's like the Super Bowl of powerlifting", she enthusiastically explained.

In Irvine, California, the United States Powerlifting Association has a roster of 1,400 children from the ages of 13 and over who compete at its meets. In Lake Buena Vista, Florida, the Amateur Athletic Union hosts competitors from ages five and up at powerlifting events dating back to 1994, and welcomes a steady stream of youth participants, now that weight lifting among the young and the very young has become a national phenomenon.
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Many credit the high visibility of social media for the growth in popularity among the young for powerlifting. Etta has become an unofficial ambassador for juvenile powerlifters, posting her gym adventures on her Instagram page. It is heady stuff, to become a minor celebrity among the cognoscenti of powerlifting; to make a name for oneself while a child, doing what committed adults are invested in.

The 2018 USA Powerlifting Nations competition, points out Priscilla Ribic, executive director and chair of the women's committee, became a showcase for female talent when it was overwhelmingly represented by 75 percent women powerlifters. Those involved in the industry believe in the health benefits for young participants. Their theories of the benefits to accrue to young children in powerlifting, however, are not necessarily shared by health professionals.

Despite which, parents with  young children who powerlift insist they take care to ensure their children are safe in the gym. Etta aspires to take herself to the Amateur Athletic Union's annual Powerlifting World Championship next September. She enjoys her status as a noted powerlifter and wants to continue to be recognized as a symbol other young people will want to copy, inspired by her own success.
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Strength training, not weightlifting
Don't confuse strength training with weightlifting, bodybuilding or powerlifting. These activities are largely driven by competition, with participants vying to lift heavier weights or build bigger muscles than those of other athletes. This can put too much strain on young muscles, tendons and areas of cartilage that haven't yet turned to bone (growth plates) — especially when proper technique is sacrificed in favor of lifting larger amounts of weight.
For kids, light resistance and controlled movements are best — with a special emphasis on proper technique and safety. Your child can do many strength training exercises with his or her own body weight or inexpensive resistance tubing. Free weights and machine weights are other options.
Mayo Clinic

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