Welcome to Home Gym Expert’s ‘Your Questions’ section, where we attempt to answer your weight training or fitness questions using science and studies, rather than opinion and rumour. Remember: there’s no dumb questions here. Today’s gymtastic query is a good one: does lifting weights make your shorter?
Myths and speculation on whether or not lifting weights can stunt your growth
The Internet’s a great place to find myths surrounding all kinds of fitness topics. None more so than the idea that lifting something heavy could stunt your growth. But the notion that lifting something heavy can compress your skeleton ‘down’ doesn’t sound all that crazy when you think about it.
So do heavy weights have an affect on your height? And what about about body building when you’re in your teens – does that make you shorter? Let’s separate out the fact and the fiction.
The quick answer: will lifting weights turn you into an Umpa Lumpa?
No. There’s no correlation and no scientific research to link lifting heavy weights (or any kind of weight lifting) to your height. How tall you’ll get was mostly determined before you’re born, and can’t be impacted by your training.
There’s a few caveats and extra things to learn about concerning height and lifting weights, so don’t skip out just yet…
Where does the idea that weight training impacts height come from?
It’s easy to see why anyone would think that lifting weights could cause you to be shorter. Anyone who’s ever done any overhead lifting exercise, or lifted a barbell in a squat will know how it feels when that weight is pressing down on you.
A lot of people have also heard that the spine can become compressed, so that might contribute to the idea that lifting weights could make you shorter. Your spine DOES become shorter – but it will do that naturally throughout the course of a day. Don’t worry, it bounces back just fine while you sleep.
We’ve seen the topic of height and lifting discussed a lot on the Internet, and in person, but it just comes down to a persistent old wives’ tale. One of those rumours that just keeps going. People asking if weight training can stunt your growth on places like reddit and other body building forums is very common.
Thankfully, there’s a number of scientific studies and papers on this exact thing (see the end of this guide for a good place to start).
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Do Squats make you shorter?
If anything was going to take a few inches off your height, it would be squats, right? That feeling you get when that weight is on your shoulders. The bar and weights pushing down through your spine. You can just feel gravity making you shorter by the rep!
This one is just as much as a myth. The human body, in this case the joints and spine are way tougher than most people realise. (Co-including with another popular myth – that lifting weights is ‘bad for your joints’ (that one’s also BS!) Doing squats will not have any lasting impact on your bones (other than to make them stronger… see below for more on that).
Squats, or any other form of exercise will NOT make you shorter.
What does determines how tall you are?
All things being equal, your eventual height is not controlled by anything you do in the gym. Lifting weights has nothing to do with whether you’ll be tall or short. The answer is far more simple (and not as exciting as that).
Your height is largely determined by your genetics. It’s coded into you before you were born, so whatever you do in the gym is not going to have an impact on how tall you get.
Do any exercises make you shorter?
No – but poor nutrition early in life, not lifting weights can impact your height
One thing that that science agrees on is that as well as genetics playing a huge part in how tall or how short you end up, nutrition also plays a part. We’re going off on a slight tangent as this isn’t strictly to do with lifting weights in the gym and how that impacts your vertical stats, but nutrition is a huge part of training, so it’s worth mentioning.
If children don’t get enough of the ‘good stuff’, their growth can be negatively impacted. By good stuff, we mean calcium, protein and the right minerals. And we’re not talking about junk food diets here. We’re talking about the kind of diet prevalent in the poorest countries.
Lifting weights might not make you taller, but it can make your skeleton bigger
The idea that lifting weights can make you shorter isn’t all that out there. After all, bodybuilding or even light weight training can change your skeleton in other interesting ways.
There’s lots of evidence that shows your bones get bigger and stronger with resistance training. While everyone knows you can get pop-eye beach muscles with enough weights, they might not know just how much is changing under the skin (and muscles!)
Does Lifting Weights Stunt Bone Growth?
Protective parents may forbid their kids from going to the gym at a young age because they think lifting weights can stunt their bone growth. However, there is no real scientific evidence for that.
In fact, lifting weights at a young age can even make you taller. When you lift weights your body produces growth hormones such as testosterone and Growth Hormone (GH). Such hormones can boost your bone growth.
What can actually make you shorter is the improper weight lifting technique and not the weightlifting itself. Improper weight lifting techniques can cause serious injuries to your bones, which may result in seizing growth.
It is important to learn how to lift weights correctly before you start doing it to not harm yourself. Beginners and teenagers should have a professional trainer to guide them through properly.
In short, there is no real evidence that lifting weights can make you shorter, at any age.
Can lifting weights make you taller?
A related question we’ve seen asked a fair few times is the opposite of whether it makes you shorter: can going to the gym actually make you taller? This normally gets asked on forums by people just under their ideal height, hoping to sprout a few more inches.
Sadly, there’s no evidence to support the idea that lifting weights will make you taller. Similarly, there’s no evidence that you can somehow hang, or do some kind of stretching (medieval rack!?) type exercise to increase your length. As with your height, this is a hand you’re dealt genetically. Unless someone invents something to get around it, you’re stuck at the height you are.
Weight lifting might not make you shorter, but it can cause problems in other areas
While weight lifting does not make you shorter or stunt your growth. If you don’t practice it safely and properly, it can definitely cause some major damage. Muscle tears, back problems, knee and other joint issues can all be avoided with good form and a few important basics.
Some safety tips to ensure effective and proper weight lifting training
Tip 1: Do Not Rush Into It
It is absolutely necessary to take things slow and not rush into heavy weight lifting. You should know that every weight lifting expert started out as a beginner. You need to do so as well.
What you can do is, you can take light weights and increase reps. Then, slowly and gradually, try to increase the total weight and see if you are comfortable.
Also, note that in the beginning, you should focus more on the smooth execution than the total number or weight.
Tip 2: Do Not Always Look For Physical Results
If you have just started out, as a kid or an adult, do not look for muscle growth and shape immediately.
In kids mostly, doing weight lifting is better for their neuromuscular portion rather than just their muscles. So, be patient, focus on the exercise, and not just for the results.
Tip 3: Do Not Think About Age Too Much
You need not worry about your age being a defining factor for weight lifting. It is more about individual strength rather than age.
As long as the person is older than 7-8 years, they shouldn’t worry about weight lifting damaging their body or stunting their growth.
Tip 4: Get a spotter or a friend to train with in the beginning
If you are a beginner, we recommend getting a supervisor for your weight lifting sessions. It could be anyone – a gym trainer, personal trainer, a coach, or an experienced weight lifter.
Supervisors can ensure that there is no harm done while weight lifting. They can also help in increasing more efficiency and reducing body strain.
Related questions on weight training and size
So the good news is that lifting weights does not make you shorter. Here’s some related questions you might find interesting.
Does weight training give you healthy bones?
Just like your brain, your bones need regular exercise to stay strong and healthy. Exercising with weights can make your bones stronger and prevent bone loss at a young age.
Does weight training burn fat?
Active muscles increase the metabolic rate and burn more energy than inactive ones. Whether you are suffering from obesity or not, lifting weights can help you stay in shape and give you a perfect body.
Can weight training improve your posture?
Your posture can get affected tremendously from sitting all day long at the office or at home. Young children and teenagers who sit all day playing video games can also start to develop a bad posture.
Weightlifting can help you fix bad posture and replace it with a straight and healthy one.
Will I sleep better if I hit the weights?
Working out can enhance the quality of your sleep in a great way. It can also help you feel happy and lift up your mood. All of that can help you think better and more creatively.
Does lifting weights build endurance?
Do you feel exhausted after going up a couple of stairs? Then it is time for you to start lifting weights. It can help you build endurance and have a much stronger body.
Final word on weight training and your height
It’s always worth checking the facts – studies and scientific research, rather than asking someone on a forum or going by rumour. A lot of things you might think sound perfectly reasonable, turn out to be myths. Weight training making you shorter can definitely be consigned to the rumour pile and you can get stuck into your next workout without giving it a second thought.
If you’ve got a question about weight training, how it affects your body, or anything else to do with home gyms and working out, please let us know in the comments. Or drop us an email here.
References & Further Reading
- NCBI – Weight training in youth-growth, maturation, and safety: an evidence-based review
- ResearchGate – Does weightlifting, bodybuilding, and strength training affect growth in children, pre-teens, and teenagers?
- ScientificAmerican.com – Can poor nutrition affect height?
- Harvard – Strength training builds more than muscles
- powerliftingtechnique.com – Do Squats Make You Shorter? (What The Science Says)