Have you ever heard the statement that “Youth is wasted on the young” or “I wish I could be in my teens again”. If you are a teenager and heard that statement you are probably looking in the eyes of a middle aged mom or dad and have no idea what they are talking about. To you being a teen comes with many restrictions, can’t drive, can’t drink, don’t make any money at the crummy job and have to go to that school thing that always gets in the way of a good time.
What this “old person” in front of you is trying to say is that the youth always are making mistakes and not taking advantage of their time and energy as a teenager. I am a big believer in experience is the best form of learning. Once you experience something you know how your body will respond to that stimulus negatively or positively. But sometimes it is better to listen to someone older and more experienced about what things you should and should not do. This will save you a bunch of time and energy in anything that you do.
In the article below I am going to run through the 13 most common mistakes that teenagers fall victim to. Each of these mistakes can be prevented if you just take the time to listen to them and take note that if you don’t fall victim to these mistake your gains and results will be so much better.
1. Lack of Diet Structure
This is probably the number one mistake that all teens make when they start lifting weights. They pick up a magazine or hit muscleandstrength.com and go right for the training articles and focus solely on what they are going to train with weights. After weeks of making minimal gains they end up quitting.
As a teen starting out I don’t expect you to be counting calories and breaking down macronutrients, but I do think it is a good idea to read up on some basic nutrition articles and find out how properly to structure your diet. Eating the right clean healthy foods in each meal and occasionally have your sweets or junk food. Remember training breaks down muscle tissue, without the proper nutrients at the right time you can not recover and grow to your best ability. So sit down and take some time figuring out what you are going to eat on a regular basis.
2. Lack of Training Structure
Have you ever walked into the gym and was asked by someone what you were going to train that day and you said “I don’t know …. Maybe some chest”. I see this all the time teens will come to the gym with the desire to workout but without an idea in the world what they are going to train. Most of the time they train what ever muscle the rest of there friends are training that day.
What this leads to is an unbalanced physique. I say unbalanced because, when is the last time that your buddy said it is leg day. Probably never. So more often then not you will probably miss a leg day from time to time which lead to the legs falling behind. Same thing usually happens to back, but good old chest and arms never get missed. Most of the time these muscle groups are trained multiple times a week.
Spend some time putting together a workout split and stick to it. There are countless proven workout programs that will give you great results here on muscleandstrength.com. Once you have figured out what your split is going to be, stick with it. That is the best way to get gains.
3. Lack of Good Form
I will not pick on teens exclusively because crappy form is displayed by all ages but I need to bring this up because I have seen some pretty crazy stunts from some teens. The ego of most teens drives them to use improper form. They want to display super strength so will do anything to lift heavier weight. Most of the time they use quick jerky form or using assisting muscles groups too heavily in the pursuit of lifting heavy weights.
Most of the time this is so they can out lift there buddy who is also using poor form. The 2 most common exercises that are displayed in poor form are the bench press and the curl. During the bench press many teens bounce the bar off their chest and or arch their lower back extremely to get the bar off their chest. When doing curls there is usually a lot of swing and plenty of front deltoid assisting in the lift. When you perform a lift in this manner you are using minimal work on the muscle that you are trying to stimulate and using more with your joints and ligaments.
This is only going to lead to sore joints and ligaments and maybe an injury in the near future. Be smart and hire a personal trainer to show you the basic form on all the exercises that you are going to do in your workout split or watch the countless videos here on muscleandstrength.com to learn perfect form. Less weight and perfect form will lead to a big muscle any day. I would rather have 17” inch arms lifting 30 lbs dumbbell in perfect form than 14” arms heaving up 50's. Lower the weight and stick with the strict form.
4. Lack of Consistency
To make progress in the gym you need to be consistent with your training, nutrition and recovery. When you start to slack on one or all of them you will not see the type of gains that you could. I find teens get excited very easily when they see positive things happen, like the newbie gains. But once this time of constant gains slows down they lose interest. This is a critical time for all trainers.
Once the initial gains have come and gone, consistency becomes more of an issue. The body will only get bigger and strong if it needs to. If you give it time to relax in the form of missing workouts and missing meals it will regress back to its original size. So stay consistent with your training, nutrition and recovery and enjoy the long journey toward a bigger stronger you.
5. Lack of Sleep
Sleep is one of the most critical forms of recovery that the body will need. When you sleep your body releases most of its growth hormone, IGF-1, and testosterone. All of these hormones aid in the recovery and the muscle building process. Also getting a good nights sleep helps aid in the energy you will need for the next days workout. I know that as a teen you have a busy schedule with all the school work and activities you participating in, but if your goals are to get bigger and strong make sure that you schedule an 8 hour nights rest for maximum recovery and growth.
6. Too Many Supplements
I don’t blame teens for falling victim to this mistake. In the pursuit to getting bigger and stronger many teens rely too heavily on natural supplements. The reason I don’t blame them is because when ever you open a magazine you are bombarded by countless supplement ads telling you that if you take this supplement it will make you look like the person in the advertisement.
Yes I do take supplements and actually work for a supplement company (Betancourt Nutrition), but I am here to tell you that supplements don’t do shit if you do not have a sound workout and nutrition program PERIOD. Supplements are made to help “supplement” what you can’t get from the food that you are eating. There are no LEGAL or ILLEGAL supplements that will replace a sound nutrition program.
I don’t like to see beginners using anything more than a regular Whey protein powder for post workout nutrition and also maybe to add in as a snack between meals to hit your protein requirement. Once you have lifted for more than 3-6 months then you can do some research here on muscleandstrength.com and figure out what else you need to supplement into your diet.
7. Weekend Partier
I am definitely one that loves a good party and enjoys my time away from the gym but I see too many teens ruin all there hard work by partying too hard almost every weekend. I know that it has been a long week at school and you want to enjoy yourself with friends but realize that staying out all night and getting little to no sleep 2 nights out of the week will hurt your progress in the gym. Add to the fact that most of the time your protein drinks are replaced with some kind of alcohol and chicken and rice is replaced with snacks and fast food. You will only hurt your chances of making solid gains.
If you are serious about your progress in the gym you will make sure that you bring some kind of RTD with you to the party so that you don’t have to go with out your protein. I personally don’t drink and all my friends know that, yes you get some shit sometimes for bringing an RTD or some almonds in a bag but, I still can have just as much fun. Also come contest time or beach season I am the one that looks good and made the improvements.
I am not telling you to not enjoy yourself but remember making the sacrifice of coming in a little early to get a good nights sleep and or bringing some healthy food could mean all the difference with the results that you get in the gym.
8. Failure to Train Legs
Again I can’t just pick on the teens for making this mistake because almost all males either don’t train their legs hard enough or train them at all. Legs are the foundation of your body. They are where you get all your power from when you participate and any sport. Legs when trained correctly are your biggest and strongest muscle group. Also you have the added benefit that you are able to use the most weight when training legs which results in your body releasing GH, IGF-1 and testosterone which will help with not only leg size but other muscle groups will get that benefit.
Now why on earth would someone not train legs. Simple, it is tough. There is nothing more grueling then leg day, if done correctly. Training legs hurts and is as much a mental exercises as it is physical. One needs to have strong will power to push themselves through a hard leg workout. Don’t neglect the biggest and strongest muscle in your body, Train your legs.
9. Fail to use Basic Compound Free Weight Exercises
Even if you stay consistent and listening too all the mistakes I have listed above with your training and nutrition you still might not be getting the results that you want. What gives? I see this mistake countless times when going into the gym, teens who are very dedicated to working out but neglect the most important exercises.
These exercises would be the BASIC compound free weight exercises. Below I will list the exercises that need to find there way in your workout program if you are serious about putting on size. Why are these exercises more important than others. These exercises recruit the most muscle fibers and let you use maximum weight to overload the muscle. When the muscle is overloaded it has no choice but to grow to get stronger and bigger.
- Squats: Legs
- Deadlifts: Back/Legs
- Bench Press: Chest - Use both the incline and flat version to develop a balanced chest
- Barbell Rows: Back
- Pull Ups: Back
- Military Press: Shoulders
- Close Grip Bench/Dips: Triceps
- Barbell Curls: Biceps
Now there are more compound exercises than the ones I have listed but these are my favorites and ones that I have used in the past to get considerable size and strength gains. Add ALL of these exercises to your workout program and watch yourself GROW.
10. Too many Distractions in the Gym
Teens have all the new cool gadgets and toys and many of them love to bring them to the gym and talk on the phone or text a friend while working out. This is a big no no for anyone that is serious about making gains in the gym. How can you focus on your workout if you are talking to a girl friend or texting your buddy between sets. Put down the phone and focus on the task at hand. Once you are done you can text and talk all you want.
I also see many teens go to the gym in groups. Now I am not against a training partner or two but most of the time these groups turn into a social scene with minimal focus on your workout. Even if you are there to workout it will be hard to keep focused on your workout if the rest of your buddies are there to socialize.
What am I am trying to say is keep the distractions to a minimum leave the phone at home and if your buddies are not serious about working out go at a different time. Your time in the gym should be for you to focus on attacking the weight without distractions.
One of the benefits of being a teen is your energy levels are through the roof. You like to go full speed all the time and seem to never get tired. But in some cases that never ending stream of energy can hinder your gains in the gym if use improperly. Too often when I am in the gym I see teens working out the same muscle group for hours on end. They believe the more is better mentality and do countless sets in the hope to make gains. The problem is once you reach a certain point your body starts to over train and you will not see any better gain and in some cases of serious overtraining you might regress and lose size.
Please read my article on overtraining to learn more about how you can go about seeing good gains with the energy that you put forth into the gym.
12. Not Enough Time Between Workouts
As I discussed above overtraining a muscle in the gym can lead to NO GAINS or atrophy (muscle loss). But you can also overtrain a muscle by not giving it enough time to recover between workouts. I am a big believer in that you need to give a muscle 72 hours of rest before hitting that muscle again in the gym. That is if you have eaten properly and rested the muscle in the time outside of the gym. If you have a labor intensive job you might need to take an extra day or two for recovery.
You also need to remember that some muscle groups are indirectly worked when another muscle is trained. For example triceps are worked when you use any kind of pressing chest and shoulder exercise.
If you are have any questions regarding your training split. Send me an email and I will give you my advice with regard to the frequency of your training.
13. Lack of Cardio
I listed this mistake last because though I do believe that it is important I see this done more by intimidate teen lifters. The guys that have been lifting for more than a year that abide by most if not all the things above and are really focusing on putting on size. Maybe they are interested in competing. These guys in the pursuit of size view cardio as something that will just eat up calories and is a waste of energy.
Well I am hear to tell them they are very wrong. 3-4 30 minute low intensity cardio sessions a week will make a world of difference for them when they are bulking. That amount of cardio will keep there metabolism humming, there appetite up, but most importantly it will keep their cardiovascular system running strong. Last thing you want to do is stop a set of heavy squats because you are out of breath. Stick to doing cardio year round and you will find your gains will be a lot better.
Well there you have it 13 of the most common mistakes that I see in the gym performed by all the Young Bucks. If you are serious about your lifting and want to see your gains continue take it from someone who has done each and everything up on this list. DON’T MAKE THESE MISTAKE and maybe one day I will be battling it out with you on stage. Good Luck and as always if you have any questions or comments drop me an email.