Fifteen-year-old Jake Schellenschlager is a “total Muscle God” with python arms. That’s how he’s described by his fans on Instagram.
The 119-pound teenager from Glen Burnie, Maryland, can lift more than twice his weight. That’s more than 300 pounds.
All that muscle mass is good for his flexing videos on Youtube — not to mention his 12 world records and gold medals earned at International Powerlifting Association competitions.
But here is the big question: Is weightlifting healthy for maturing teenagers?
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against adolescents participating in weightlifting and powerlifting until reaching physical maturity.
“It’s unhealthy when kids start using heavy weights too early,” Schellenschlager’s strength trainer, Mike Sarni, told LifeZette. “It’s an individual thing for each kid. My ideal age to start is 12 years old.”
Jake isn’t the only mini-Schwarzenegger in training. Thousands of teenagers compete in international weightlifting events every year. “Princess of the Barbell” Maryana Maumova from Russia broke powerlifting world records by age 12.
“In China and Russia, they sometimes start the kids at 5 or 6 years old,” Sarni said. “If the trainers over there decide a kid is going to be an Olympic weight lifter, that’s all the kid does.”
Excessive weightlifting can inhibit growth in adolescents.
Excessive weightlifting can inhibit growth in adolescents. The standard bodybuilding diet is particularly concerning as bodybuilders focus on decreasing body fat while increasing muscle mass. Limiting calories while increasing protein can stunt adolescent growth and hormonal development, and is not recommended in any case for growing teenagers.
Jake’s father, Chris Schellenschlager, is also a bodybuilder and an inspiration for Jake.
“I know it’s bad on the joints with him still growing,” said Schellenschlager, 42. “Some don’t believe it is good to have kids weightlifting too early. But Jake never complains about pain or hurting, and he gets regular check-ups.”
One of the biggest dangers of weightlifting is the explosive lifts — not recommended until teenagers have finished their growth spurt, which can end at age 16-18 for teenage boys.
“Jake shows up at the gym seven days a week to train — by his own choice,” Sarni told LifeZette. “He’s always asking how to eat better. Even at age 12 when he started with me, he was very intense and determined to gain muscle mass.”
Despite media attention and questions about Jake’s competitive hobby, this Superman is only getting started.
“Nothing will stop me, nothing,” Jake said in a video interview.