There are a lot of falsehoods and misconceptions that surround Bodybuilding. You would be amazed at how many people ask “Will Bodybuilding affect height?”. I have decided to take a closer look at this and find out for myself.
Bodybuilding as an adult will not affect height. Studies have repeatedly shown that lifting weights as a child does not stunt growth. However, poor form which leads to injury could affect growth plates. Better diet and nutrition can improve height in children, but not in adults.
In this article, I will be going into detail in an attempt to fully answer this question. Looking at why height isn’t positively or negatively affected by bodybuilding.
Bodybuilding has no effect on height. It will not help you to grow taller, nor will it make you shorter. The idea that exercising as a child can stunt your growth is also untrue (though there is a caveat to this). Provided you eat a healthy diet and sleep well as a kid your height will be solely based on genetic potential.
While some people may report that embarking on weight training led to them growing taller, they are either mistaken or lying. Improved posture may help them stand taller, but this does not make a person taller any more than crawling on your knees makes you smaller.
The short answer is that well-structured training at a young age will have no negative effects on height or other developmental factors. But that does not mean that bodybuilding at a young age is necessarily a good idea.
Many studies talk about the benefits of weight training in young people. A 2006 review published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine found that weight training (weights and isometric resistance machines) led to an increase in strength, had no effect on height, and did not lead to an increase in injuries.
But the majority of these studies would have been performed using normal rep ranges, and sensible training schedules. A 45-minute weights workout once or twice per week is going to provide excellent results in untrained people. But it is hardly going to lead to a bodybuilder’s physique.
If these children were to train at the level required for an adult to start seeing results (4-5 times per week or more), then that injury rate would increase rapidly. Poor form, caused by using weights that are too heavy can cause injury which could affect growth.
But before you go rushing to any conclusions, remember that any form of bone breakage or joint injury can affect growth. Bodybuilding is very low down on the list when it comes to injury risk. Way below American football, rugby, soccer, martial arts, or even running.
Bottom Line: Weight training with a professional coach or personal trainer is hugely beneficial for children, even as young as 8 or 9. But bodybuilding, which involves high reps, lots of volume, and a certain sacrifice of form, is not ideal. While injury can potentially impact growth, there is little evidence that weight training properly increases injury risk at all. The benefits far outweigh the risks.
Many people talk about bodybuilding improving posture, which can in turn make you appear taller. But is this actually true? You can certainly improve mobility through exercise, and by strengthening your upper back muscles you can get into the right posture for exercising (i.e. improving upper back mobility means you can deadlift with a straight back).
But does this carry over into the real world?
I’m less than convinced. If someone says “sit up straight” you will automatically do so, but slowly slip back into a more natural position. It’s the same with standing and walking. We naturally tend to walk with a slight curve in our back, and all of the exercise in the world isn’t going to change that.
Sure, exercise can help fix excessive curvature, but there is no gold standard for posture. A 2012 study asked 295 physiotherapists to point to a photograph of someone with good posture:
85% of physiotherapists selected one of two postures as best, with one posture being selected significantly more frequently than the remainder (p < 0.05). Interestingly, these two most frequently selected postures were very different from each other.
If physiotherapists can’t even agree on what constitutes good posture, then how can bodybuilders work it out?
What’s more, is bodybuilding actually good for posture? I’d say for most people the answer would be NO. Sure, many bodybuilders do a lot of upper back work, but the ratio of Back to Chest and Shoulders should be 2:1:1. It rarely is! Meaning that chest and shoulder exercises begin to dominate their programs.
Which can lead to Upper Crossed Syndrome which would cause the bodybuilder to look shorter than usual!
Speaking of which …
There are two reasons why you would ask if Bodybuilding affected height. Either you are short and looking for a way to get taller, or you are into bodybuilding and are worried/hopeful that it may have an impact on your height.
For those of you who are short and desperate. Sadly, there is no way that exercise will lead to an increase in height. There isn’t much you can do about your height, just spike your hair up, wear platform shoes, or learn to accept your height (hint: the latter will work best).
If you are bodybuilding, then why would you want to be taller? The average height of Mr Olympia winners is just 5 foot 7 inches! Franco Columbu, who many think of as one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time was just 5 foot 4 inches tall. Being short is actually an advantage when it comes to lifting.
Men get way too hung up over height, women do too. Being 6 foot 4 inches is seen as the height of masculinity, but it conveys very little benefits. Tall men are not stronger, or better fighters, they don’t have more testosterone. They’re just really good at reaching high shelves.
Sniper’s dream we call them.
While we’re on the subject, check out my article on how your unrealistic expectations are ruining your chances of success.
Matt Smith is the owner of Beer N Biceps. He has a degree in Sports Science, 10 years of experience working in the fitness industry, and has written for hundreds of fitness websites. He is a lover of good quality beer and believes that drinking in moderation can form part of a healthy lifestyle.