Teens: maximize your muscle building gains by avoiding these 13 common weight training mistakes.

Overtraining can halt gains.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.

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.

11. Overtraining

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.

Alex Stewart is the Sales Manager for Betancourt Nutrition Supplements. For more information on Betancourt Nutrition supplements, click here.

John Kyle
Posted on: Tue, 05/03/2016 - 05:19

Hi Alex! I am 13 years old 39 kg and literally or super skinny like a stick. I want to gain weight and I have been reading several articles in this website. They recommend on eating 6 times a day for young teenagers like me , and I have thought about it several times to add that I dont have a meal plan for myself, and I really want to gain muscles through basic exercises such as push ups , pull-ups etc.

Posted on: Thu, 06/12/2014 - 05:36

I am 14 and have none of these faults :/ but see many kids my age come in and "play" on every machine get bored and leave wowowow

Cody Hall
Posted on: Wed, 05/07/2014 - 21:59

Hey I'm 14 and wanna get into good shape but I don't really know much about what to do to get into great shape and I don't really have time for a gym so anybody got any tips?

Owen A
Posted on: Thu, 04/03/2014 - 15:09

Just started my self and was just wondering if a mass gainer would be good for starting out (as well as or without whey protein) would just these two supplements be okay if I am just starting out or would this be too much to use

Posted on: Mon, 01/27/2014 - 17:14

Hi, So I have a set workout schedule. Mondays, upper body.Tuesdays, rest. Wednesday, lower body. Thursday, Cardio. Friday, upper and lower body (lots of tubing exercise and higher reps). Saturday and Sundays' are mostly cardio. I do core excersizes Every day as part as my warm up. I'm not gaining as fast as I'd hoped; but then again I'm only 16. (I'm also taking a whey protein shake after every session[1-2hrs] ) any tips?

Posted on: Mon, 06/17/2013 - 23:18

My question and confusion is about giving the muscle time to recover and not hitting the same muscle in a period of no less than 72 hours.
My work out schedule came out as one period of 24 hours for recovery before hitting the same muscle again
I do not want muscle failing to grow or worse, muscle loss.
Also remember your area about being a teen helps muscle build like Crazy?
Do you think b…ecause im 16 that a 24 hour recovery should bazye enough to build insane muscle?

Posted on: Thu, 05/02/2013 - 16:21

Hey, I'm 15 and i never went to the gym. I need somebody to tell me what to do because i will be very lost when i go there. Can anybody help me?

Posted on: Thu, 03/28/2013 - 19:50

Hi, My son is 15, he is a soccer player (4x wk) and he loves the gym (at least 5 x wk) he is @ 125 lbs at 5'7. In the last 6 mo. he has taken to fitness working out with the help of others properly but with that said he recently started adding a scoop of C4 extreme to his pre-workout. I have read that Creatine is not good for someone this young. He feels it helps him repair and build muscle. Assuming I am correct what natural protien shakes or foods should he have both before and after workouts to promote healthy muscle development?

Posted on: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 00:36

Hey, I'm 15 and I was wondering if weight training too many times per week may disrupt bone development. At the moment I train 6 days per week; one day per muscle plus one full body workout. And 4 cardio workouts pw.
Thx for the help.

Posted on: Tue, 09/18/2012 - 08:51

hey champ,

im 16 years old 6'2 around 74 kilograms which i think is about 140-150 pounds, i'm looking to put on muscle and bulk up however i don't want to put on to much fat, i am around 9%bf what is the best approach to accomplishing my goals, in terms of rep range should i be aiming for around 8-12 reps per set or lower and what %RM should i be aiming for, should i eat as much clean foods as i possibly can? i dont want to become a jay cuttler or ronnie coleman i just want to put on muscle for rugby

thanks for the article,

Posted on: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 19:14

hi im brandon im thirteen and i plan on staying fit. for the pst few months i have been running a mile and half five times a week and a few weeks ago starting also getting into a healthy diet. i have been eating alot of fruits and vegetables and get at least 50 grams of protein a day. of course not too much at once. i do swimming running and cycling and alot of other sports.I was just wondering will a little cheat snack be good i have been dying for cheese its or a pop tart for the past few weeks but i didn't let that turn me down.

Posted on: Mon, 08/20/2012 - 23:47

Im 13 and I want to build muscle. I need help making a workout and diet plan. Could you help me?

Posted on: Sun, 04/01/2012 - 03:31

Hey Alex,
I am 17 and have just started a program with workouts on mon,tues,thur and fri.
All the exercises are compound and im usuing heavy weights with lower reps.
I also have started a pretty strict diet with mostly proteins but a good ammount of fat and carbs aswell.
Is this a good way to gaining a resonable ammount of muscle and is there any tips you could give me to reach my goal of gaining muscle mass? Thanks :D

buddy mac
Posted on: Mon, 02/21/2011 - 08:35

i forgot to mention i lift monday through friday at 6 and monday through thursday in my class

buddy mac
Posted on: Mon, 02/21/2011 - 08:10

hey my coach opens our high school weight room at 6 until 7 in the morning and i have a strength training class at 8 should i lift the same muscle group at 6 as i am going to in our class or should i do a different muscle group altogether? or what should i do

Posted on: Sat, 11/27/2010 - 03:54

do these suppliments have side effects

Posted on: Tue, 10/05/2010 - 14:55

Hello, i am 18 and have been lifting weights for a little over a year and a half. I have been having an issue with getting bigger, i train any where between 3-5 times a week at the gym depending on my workout schedule for that week, and maintain as much of a diet as can be allowed for a high school senior. My issue is that, while i steadily get stronger, i gain little to no mass and am losing my motivation to keep working out. Do you have any tips for gaining mass?

Bench: 240
Squat: 385
Weight: 185-195 depending what day it is

Alex Stewart
Posted on: Fri, 10/15/2010 - 13:37


Putting on weight is a slow and steady process, you need to be consistent with your nutrition, training and recovery time

One very positive thing I got from this question is that your strength seems to continue to improve which is a great thing...I think your issue is consistently eating enough calories so that you body has all the nutrients to recover from the hard training and grow.

Check out the shake I listed above...Drink a couple of those a day with 3-4 whole food meals comprismed of lean cuts of meat with a side of healthy fats and or complex carbs and you will be good to go

Consitency is the name of the game for growth!!!!!!!!

Posted on: Sat, 09/25/2010 - 16:21

great article...

i am 16, 6 foot 1 and 150lbs. i have been training for about 4 months and have made no real gains due to lack of diet knowledge but have recently started a diet plan and increased my calories. i play rugby so really need to bulk up but stay lean. due to rugby, i can only get to the gym 3 days per week- i do: chest+biceps
i also consume about 2800 calories per day with about 130g protein, coming from whole food with 2 whey shakes.....is this routine/diet ok and how can i make gains?

thanks in advance, sam

Alex Stewart
Posted on: Fri, 10/15/2010 - 13:31

Hey Sam:

It is Fine to workout 3 times a week but if you are going to do a Muscle Group split I would hit is like this

Back and Chest
Shoulders arms
Legs and abs

The diet looks like it is enough calories but I would try and up your protein to 150 grams at least lb per body weight

Here is a High Calorie Shakes I do when trying to put on weight

2 Scoops of Big Blend Protein
1/2 Cup of Oatmeal
1/4 Cup of Blueberries
1 Banana or 2 Tablespoons of Natural Peanut Butter
Skim milk

Posted on: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 23:16

hi, i am only 13 y old is it bad to lift weights over my head? will it stop my growth??

Alex Stewart
Posted on: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 22:18


Lifting weight over your head will not stunt growth...at your age I would first Focus on mastering bodyweight exercises in perfect form like, Pushups, Situps, Pullups, Dips, Squats and Lunges

Mateo Gomez
Posted on: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 20:26

Hey Mr stewart, I am a sophmore in high school. i have been working out for about 2 months now, and have seen the beginnig gains. It has been a month since I have seen any other changes, this may be asking to much from you but could you structure a workout program for me.

Alex Stewart
Posted on: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 11:38


Send me an email: alexbigstew@gmail.com and we will talk some about helping you out

Posted on: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 19:03

Hi Alex. I'm 20 yrs old and a sophomore in college right now and started working out this week. My goals are to get bigger arms,abs,chest and legs. My workout routine is mon biceps,tue triceps and chest,wed legs, thurs abs. Is this a good combination of muscle groups? I do a 30 min cardio session before i start working these muscle. Also do you recommend taking any supplement that could help me achieve my goal? I hear that it is important to have a certain amount of protein every three hours to help develope your muscle quicker, what would be a good source of protein that can be taken on go? Your help would be greatly appreciated.

Alex Stewart
Posted on: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 11:36


Regarding your split you are missing 2 major Muscle Groups the Shoulders and Back

Try something like this

Mon: Chest and Tricep
Tues: Back and Biceps
Wed: off
Thur: Legs
Fri: Shoulder
Sat: arms
Sun: off

Ab you can do at the end of 2-3 workouts during the week

Here is the some Supplements I use:

Pre-Workout: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/store/bullnox-androrush.html
Protein: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/store/big-blend.html
Recovery: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/store/bullrush-recelerator.html

Posted on: Tue, 08/31/2010 - 21:35

Hi Alex. Im a freshman in college and am gonna try and make the football team next year. do you have any suggestions on wat kind of lifting schedule i should be doing. As of now i am doing Steve shaws Density and strength 4 day split. Is this a good, sound lifting routine that would give me the results im looking for. Thanks for your time

Alex Stewart
Posted on: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 23:07

I would stick with that program that Steve Laid out for you it is a quality routine

Alex Hirte
Posted on: Tue, 08/31/2010 - 13:15

Hey Alex....I am 20 and my future workout routine from sept will be chest & biceps on monday,tuesday legs, thursday shoulders & traps and on saturday back & triceps. I am going to follow a diet of 3500 calories per day. For the small muscle groups(biceps & triceps especially) I'll do 8-9 sets and for the bigger ones 11-15 depending on the muscle. How does this sound? Tnx

Alex Stewart
Posted on: Tue, 08/31/2010 - 23:30

That sounds Excellent...Is your goal to Bulk at this point..What kind of supplements are you taking?

Alex Hirte
Posted on: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 13:30

Sorry for the late reply Alex. Yeah, my goal is to bulk. Im using whey protein,creatine and thinking of adding glutamine as well. I wanna bulk as much as possible and after Im going to follow a cutting plan. Sounds okay? By the way...how many months before summer(june/july is the goal) should I start the cutting diet? Tnx

Posted on: Tue, 08/31/2010 - 10:51

Hi I was wondering is it ok to work the same muscle group every day and has it been proven? How long should I wait before trining them again? thx.

Alex Stewart
Posted on: Tue, 08/31/2010 - 23:29

Hey Buddy,

Working the same muscle everyday would be considered Overtraining that muscle...When you workout a muscle you are actually breaking down the muscle tissue...Then the muscle repairs itself over a 72 hr period to become bigger and stronger (if proper nutrition is avaiable) If there is no time for the repair process then you muscle will continue to get broken down and eventually become smaller. That is not a good thing

Posted on: Mon, 08/30/2010 - 18:43

hey im 20 and ive been working out for a good couple years on an off but im going to start going and stick with it. im doing chest bis mon, tues legs, wed shoulders and tris, thurs is back calves and abs. and i run a mile every day i work out which is going to go up as i get more comfortable with it. does it seem like im over training at all

Alex Stewart
Posted on: Mon, 08/30/2010 - 23:39


What do you do for the rest of the week Friday, Sat and Sun???

Posted on: Mon, 08/30/2010 - 14:44

hi im a teen myself and are you saying that we cant have a cheat meal on the weekends ?

Alex Stewart
Posted on: Mon, 08/30/2010 - 23:36


Not at all, Cheat meals are fine but as long as they dont turn into cheat days or become a regular thing in your diet each day...Use Cheat meals to reward yourself for all your hard work every couple days

Posted on: Mon, 08/30/2010 - 06:19

Greetings Alex and congrats for anorther excellent article. When it comes to cardio and specifically the term "intensity", are we reffering mainly to the km/hour that we are walking/running on the treadmill?

Alex Stewart
Posted on: Mon, 08/30/2010 - 23:33


When I refer to Cardio and Intensity I basically break Cardio into 2 Categorys for Bodybuilder, Low Intensity which would be brisk walking pace or very light Jog or HIGH intensity...Which would be something along the lines of Sprints

Posted on: Thu, 09/02/2010 - 10:05

Absolutely understood! Keep up the good work!