Meet Jake Schellenschlager. He's 14 years old. And he can deadlift more than two times his body weight.
This article has been floating around various internet news sources. Personally I have no issues with someone who is 14 lifting max weights. However, I do think it is vital that technique development is priority number one. It's one thing to give a maximum effort through biomechanically correct positions and another to twist and grind through a lift. The picture and the short video clip look a little more like the latter to me, but not having seen more pictures or video and certainly not having seen him lift in person, I withhold judgement on that aspect. He is certainly a solidly built young man who looks to have a genetic predisposition to strength and muscular development. In my opinion lifting heavy at that age is no more dangerous than playing tackle football or pitching a baseball for 9 innings and there are tons of kids doing that. One thing for sure, in a few years we will know what becomes of him and if he is a future great or if he burns out physically or mentally. A lot depends upon whether he is internally motivated and enjoying this or if he is just responding to the expectations of adults in his life. I hope he is doing it because he loves it. If so, more power to him.
A profile in The Washington Post spotlights Schellenschlager and the challenges inherent in his chosen sport. He's one of thousands of young powerlifters across the United States who are able to lift enormous weights far heavier than their own frame. (Powerlifters are not the same thing as bodybuilders, who focus more on appearance than on lifting for its own sake.)
Schellenschlager weighs only about 119 pounds, but can deadlift 300. He's been lifting for the past two years under a coach's supervision. The Post notes that children can begin competing in powerlifting competitions at 14, but that some children begin lifting at age 8 for fun.
The question for someone so young, of course, is whether lifting at such a young age can have detrimental effects later in life. "Powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting sports are different because they usually are involving maximum lifts — the squat, bench press and the dead lift," Paul Stricker, a youth sports medicine specialist at the Scripps Health Clinic in San Diego, told the Post. "There is high risk to heavy maximal lifts or explosive lifts during their rapid growth phrase. That is our biggest caution. We just don’t recommend they do maximal lifts or explosive lifts until they have finished the majority of their growth spurt."
“He doesn’t feel he can be defeated," says his trainer, Mike Sarni. "It is that inner strength that tells him, ‘I can do this.’ Usually, you only get that in older, more mature people.”
Here's video of Jake lifting last summer:
So, your thoughts. Is 14 too young for this activity, or is it no more damaging than any of a half-dozen other sports kids could be playing?