Get answers to all your training and nutrition questions. This is a complete guide for teens that includes workouts and nutritional advice to help you maximize progress.
This Guide Teaches You:
  • About the 5 stages of puberty, and how you should train during each.
  • What equipment is required to build a quality amount of muscle mass.
  • Which barbell and dumbbell exercises are the best choices.
  • What proper expectations are, and how much muscle you should be building during your first 5 years of lifting.
  • How to properly track your progress using a tape measure.
  • What protein, carbohydrate and healthy fats to eat to assist with growth and recovery.
  • Which nutritional supplements may be of value to you as a teen.
Table of Contents:
  1. 1. Teen Training and Workouts
    1. 1.1. The 5 stages of puberty
    2. 1.2. What equipment is needed?
    3. 1.3. Recommended compound and isolation exercises
    4. 1.4. How to ease into training
    5. 1.5. The importance of patience and having proper expectations
    6. 1.6. How to track your progress
    7. 1.7. Training FAQ
  2. 2. Teen Muscle Building Workouts
    1. 2.1. Pre-stage 4 workout
    2. 2.2. Stage 4 prepping workout
    3. 2.3. Full Body Muscle Building Workout For Teenagers
  3. 3. Muscle Building Nutrition for Teens
    1. 3.1. Choosing between bad, good, better and best foods
    2. 3.2. Understanding the concept of calorie density
    3. 3.3. How often should I eat?
    4. 3.4. Aim for a minimum of 150 grams of protein per day
    5. 3.5. If you're not gaining weight you are not a hardgainer
    6. 3.6. A look at nutritional supplements
  4. 4. How to Fail

If you're a teen looking to build muscle odds are you face some unique challenges and circumstances. It is likely that you lack complete control over your daily eating, and you may not always have access to the best gym equipment. 

Many of you also find yourselves to be too skinny and weak. Your body has grow in height but not in muscularity. You may feel lanky, awkward, uncoordinated and wish you could perform better at sports.

On the other side of the coin are those of you who are a little overweight. You want to look better but don't know where to start. What should you eat? How should you exercise? 

Perhaps you don't fit into either of these groups. Maybe you're athletic, fairly strong, but want to maximize your results. You don't know where to start or what to change. You're already working out and making reasonable food choices.

Tenn Guide Athletic Girl

Regardless of where you are at, this guide to teenage bodybuilding will provide you with detailed information on how to:

  • Build muscle
  • Stay lean or improve your body composition
  • Gain strength
  • Improve athletic performance
  • Gain self-confidence

Teen Training And Workouts

Not all teens are created equal. How you approach training should depend on what stage of puberty you are currently in. Puberty is divided into 5 stages: 

  • Stage One - Puberty has not begun
  • Stage Two - Begins on average around the age of 11. Testicles hang lower and enlarge, and some pubic hair may start to develop. This stage lasts approximately one year.
  • Stage Three - Stage three begins around the age of 13. A teen's voice will deepen, pubic hair will finish development, and the sexual organ will reach full length and width. This stage typically lasts 10 months, but can occur as rapidly as 2 months. Some growth may occur, but it will not be as major as stage 4 growth.
  • Stage Four - This final stage of puberty is the major height and weight gain stage. Stage 4 typically begins around the age of 14, and involves a major transition into manhood. Males go through a growth spurt and get acne. Their voice starts to "break", and they begin to see the initial development of facial hair. This stage may continue on for as long as 3 years.
  • Stage Five - Body hair continues to grow, and some teens may continue to grow taller. This late stage of puberty can continue on until the late teens or early 20s.

Why is any of this important? Before stage 4 it is unlikely that a teen will experience much in the way of muscle growth. A Virginia Tech study revealed that teens can build muscle before stage 4, but not effectively.1 Training before this stage should focus on strengthening the body through basic bodyweight exercises, and working on exercise form using moderately light dumbbell and barbell exercises.

There is no reason to gun it and try to destroy your body in the gym before stage 4. Learn the lifts. Build a strength base, understand what proper exercise form is, and improve your conditioning and workload very gradually.

This guide contains suggested workouts for pre-stage 4 teens, as well as for those of you who are currently in stage 4 or beyond. Before we delve into workouts, let's talk about a few important things teens should understand about training.

Teen Guide Arms Crossed

What equipment is needed?

You do not need access to every bell and whistle in the gym to build muscle. In fact, it is possible to build a quality amount of muscle mass using only a pair of dumbbells, bodyweight exercises and a bench.

Progressive overload is very important; or the adding of extra resistance over time. The only thing you really need to build muscle is an adequate amount of resistance. Even if you can't squat, bench press or deadlift, there are plenty of suitable exercises that can help you reach your goals.

If you are training at home, the following pieces of equipment will suffice:

  • A weight bench
  • 2 dumbbell handles
  • 160 to 200 pounds pounds of plates
  • A pull up bar

If you don't have access to a weight bench, don't worry. Bench press and flye type movements can be performed on the floor. This is actually a very popular method of training for strength athletes.

Pull up bars are very cheap. You can purchase one for $10-20 at nearly any local mega store. Deluxe models run up to $30.

If you simply cant afford this, there are many things that can serve as a pull ups station. Get creative. Worse comes to worse, simply use rows instead of pull ups. There is no need obsessing over one exercise that you can't do, when there are hundreds you can do.

Used plates can typically be found on Craigslist for a very reasonable price. We have also included a muscle building workout for those of you who don't have access to a lot of weight right now. Read on for more details.

Commercial and school gym access

If you can train at a commercial or school gym, place your primary focus on barbell, dumbbell and bodyweight exercises. Cables and machines can be useful, but should not be your staple movements.

Recommended movements

Here are some of the best muscle building exercises. Most quality workout programs will contain some of the exercises listed in this section.

  • Chest - Bench press, incline bench press, chest dips, dumbbell bench press, incline dumbbell bench press, dumbbell flyes.
  • Back - Deadlifts, barbell rows, dumbbell rows, pull ups, lat pull down, T-bar rows, seated cable rows.
  • Shoulders - Military press, seated barbell press, seated dumbbell press, Arnold press, side lateral raise, bent over reverse dumbbell flyes, upright rows.
  • Quads - Squats, leg press, lunges, hack squats, goblet squats, front squats.
  • Hamstrings - Still leg deadlift, good mornings, leg curls.
  • Triceps - Close grip bench Press, dips, bench dips, cable tricep extensions, skullcrushers, overhead dumbbell extensions.
  • Biceps - Chin ups, barbell curls, dumbbell curls, hammer curls, preacher curls.
  • Traps - Power shrugs, barbell shrugs, dumbbell shrugs, upright rows.

Teen Guide Bench Press With Spotter

Easing into training

Neuromuscular adaptation. One of the common training mistakes is rushing into training. Many teens are under the impression that more is better, and the harder they train out of the gate, the faster they will build muscle. This is not the case.

When you begin a resistance training program, the body undergoes a period of neuromuscular adaptation. This simply means that the strength gains you are experiencing come from your central nervous system adapting to the act of weight training. Your brain is getting much better at communicating with your muscles how to respond to this specific demand.

You can't rush this process. Motor units are the communicators between the brain and muscle tissue. They have a limited endurance. This means that when you start to train, they will fatigue easily. As the motor units fatigue, muscle fiber recruitment diminishes and you will feel weaker.

Over time motor units build up more endurance. This allows you to recruit more muscle fibers for a longer period of time. Greater fiber recruitment leads to more prolonged levels of strength and more effective training sessions.

Neuromuscular adaptation can take about 2 months.

Exercise form. Another reason to ease into training has to do with safety. You need to take time and practice form using moderately light loads. Rushing into heavy training before you have a working understanding of exercise form increases your risk of injury.

When you are injured you can't train. When you can't train, you can't gain.

Muscle soreness. Diving headfirst into heavy training and normal volume can create excessive amounts of muscle soreness, or DOMS. While muscle soreness is not dangerous, it can be debilitating and cause trainees to lose motivation.

As you begin your journey into lifting, understand that the point isn't to beat your body up. The point is to progress each day, challenging muscles to respond and grow.

Ease into training by following the workout structure listed below. This will help keep your motivation high, and allow you time to slowly adapt to the demands that can come from the muscle building process.

Patience and Expectations

Quality gains take years, not weeks. You can't rush progress. Many teens try to improve gains by adding in additional volume and training days. This is the wrong approach.

Instead you need to focus on improvement. Try to get a little stronger each week and month.

Teen Guide Patience and Pullup

The reality of muscle building is that 90% of teens won't make it through a year of uninterrupted training. They will lose patience or focus, and quit.

Muscle building is a process that can take 3, 4 or 5 years. Learn to enjoy your training, and trust that results are coming.

The body needs to be consistently challenged for long periods of time. This only makes sense. Time is just as important of a variety as your training itself.

Muscle building expectations. Teens that are not underweight can expect to gain around the following amounts of muscle mass each year. This is assuming they are training properly and consistently, and eating right.

  • Year 1 - 12 to 16 pounds of muscle
  • Year 2 - 6 to 8 pounds of muscle
  • Year 3 - 3 to 4 pounds of muscle
  • Year 4 - 1 to 2 pounds of muscle
  • Year 5 - 1 to 2 pounds of muscle

You should be able to reach 15" arms within the first 24 months, and 16" arms within the first 3 years. Some of you will do better, but these are reasonable minimum standards.

Strength building expectations. Despite what you see on the Internet, a 300 bench is still fairly rare. Very few teens continue to train long enough to achieve it.

I recommend aiming for the following goals:

  • 200 pound bench press
  • 250 pound squat
  • 300 pound deadlift

This will be stronger that 99% of other teenagers. Once your strength levels get to this point, everything else is icing on the cake.

It may take a couple years to reach these levels, but stay focused.

How to track progress

Tracking your muscle building progress will remove the guesswork. All you will need to start is a tape measure and a piece of paper.

Before you start your first training day, take 3 measurements at each location and calculate an average for that location:

  • Arms, flexed. Around the thickest part of the arm.
  • Quads, flexed. Around the thickest part of the leg.
  • Forearms, flexed. Around the thickest part of the forearms.
  • Calves, flexed. Around the thickest part of the calves.
  • Chest, while holding a deep breath. Measure at the nipples.
  • Shoulders, relaxed. Around the thickest part of the shoulders.

Next, you will want to take and record measurements each month. Don't worry about minor variations. Measurement error can account for some seemingly odd short term changes.

These measurements should be looked at closely every 3 to 4 months. Because gains require time and consistency, we are often fooled into believing that we are making no progress at all. Measurements allow you to look at hard facts. They do not lie.

You should also weigh yourself once a month. If the scale is not moving at all, you will need to increase your calories.

Training FAQ

What type of workout program do I need?

Stick with a program that focuses on basic barbell, dumbbell and bodyweight exercises. You will find sample programs below.

The exercises listed in these programs are effective. They have a reputation for being some of the best muscle building movements, and are featured in the programs of most experienced lifters.

You do not need complicated routines filled with all kinds of advanced training tricks and practices. The basic exercises are also the most potent. If you dramatically improve your strength on these lifts you will build plenty of muscle mass.

Resist the urge to train more than 3 days per week for a while. Spend a year using this training frequency. Develop a track record of building muscle before you consider trying a 4-day per week program.

Don't attempt to create your own workout. If you do so there's a good chance it will be unbalanced or lacking. 

If you choose not to use the programs in this guide, then stick to a reputable beginner program. There are many on Muscle & Strength.

Teen Guide Pushup

How many sets do I need per training day?

Limit your working sets to a maximum of 20 to 25 per training day. You won't need more than this.

Quality work builds muscle. Resist the urge to try and speed up the process by adding more volume. Right now you will build muscle rapidly without volume. Focus on proper eating, getting stronger, and remaining consistent.

What rep ranges are best?

Stick to 5 to 12 reps for most compound exercises. Isolation exercises typically work/feel better between the 8 and 15 rep range.

Legs can go as high as 20 reps per set.

Understand that these are guidelines and not rules. It's ok to make minor tweaks to rep ranges for a given exercise.

Resist the urge to train heavy sets using less than 5 reps. These intense sets are not needed for strength or muscle building.

Also, don't worry about testing your one rep max. By building strength in convention muscle building rep ranges your one rep max will increase. If you want to test it, spend at least 6 months building strength and muscle, and working to improve form first.

Special considerations for teen females

First and foremost, understand that weight training won't make you bulky. It will improve your athleticism, coordination, and make your body look more healthy and fit.

You may need to use a slightly higher number of reps per set. This is ok if you are working at getting stronger (using progressive overload).

Workouts For Teens

Pre-Stage 4 Workout

This first routine is for teens who are not yet at stage 4 of development. It focuses on building up bodyweight strength, improving confidence and also introduces you you to some of the basic movements: pressing, squatting and pulling.

Spend at least a month performing this workout twice a week. Take it relatively easy during this time, adding reps when you can, but not pushing yourself too hard. Make sure you get a good feel for each exercise before you try to add reps.

Once you feel confident with the exercises, it will be ok to use this program 3 times per week and push each set a little harder.

A sample twice a week schedule might look like this:

  • Monday - Workout
  • Thursday - Workout

Here is the daily plan:

Pre-Stage 4
Full Body Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Push Ups 2-3 15-20
Inverted Rows or Pull Ups 2-3 10-15
Burpees 2-3 15-20
Mountain Climbers (Each leg) 2-3 25-50
Plank 2-3 up to 60 seconds
Bodyweight Squats 2-3 20-25
Sprints 4-5 20 meters

Stage 4 Prepping Workout

Once you reach stage 4 of physical development, it's time to transition over to a more conventional style of training. Use this twice a week for 30 days, keeping the weight very light and practicing exercise form.

During the next 30 days you will move on to 3 day per week training. You will want to add weight very slowly. I repeat, very slowly. Continue to work on form.

After this 60 day prepping stage you will be ready for the next workout, which is when the real muscle and strength building begins.

Your three will look something like this:

  • Monday - Workout
  • Wednesday - Workout
  • Friday - Workout
Pre-Stage 4
Full Body Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Goblet Squats (Warm up) 2 8
Barbell Squats 3 8
Barbell Bench Press 3 8
Bent Over Barbell Row 3 8
Military Press 3 8
Stiff Leg Deadlifts 3 8
Push Ups 3 25
Pull Ups 3 10-25
Plank 3 up to 60 seconds

Full Body Muscle Building Workout For Teenagers

You will be working out 3 days per week as follows:

  • Day 1 - Workout A - Heavy
  • Day 2 - Off
  • Day 3 - Workout B - Light
  • Day 4 - Off
  • Day 5 - Workout C - Moderate
  • Day 6 - Off
  • Day 7 - Off

Workout A will focus on building muscle and strength using lower rep sets and more potent compound exercises. Workout B is a higher rep day that builds muscle with more isolation-style exercises and bodyweight movements. Workout C features rep ranges between 8-12 and moderate exercises.

Workout A
Full Body Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats 3 5
Bench Press 3 5
Barbell Row 3 5
Military Press 3 5
Dips 3 Max Reps
Barbell Curls 3 10
Barbell Ab Rollouts 3 10
Workout B
Full Body Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Goblet Squats 3 15
Push Ups 3 Max Reps
Pull Ups or Inverted Row 3 Max Reps
Side Lateral Raise 3 15
Stiff Leg Deadlift 3 12
Skullcrushers 3 12-15
Seated Calf Raise 3 15
Workout C
Full Body Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats 1 20
Squats 2 8
Dumbbell Bench Press 3 8-12
One Arm Dumbbell Row 3 8-12
Seated Arnold Press 3 8-12
French Press 3 8-12
Alternating Dumbbell Curls 3 8-12
Planks 3 Max Time
A note on adding weight

Use the same weight for each set of a given exercise. When you are able to reach the upper rep range for that exercise, add weight.  It's ok for the reps to drop slightly after adding weight, that's normal. Continue working to add quality reps.

Diet Plans For Teens

Here are some tips to help you eat properly so that you maximize your training.

It is important to know that you do not need to eat perfectly to reach your goals. Focus on listening to your body, eating when hungry, reducing junk foods and soda, and eating plenty of healthier foods.

Teen Guide Healthier Foods

The body needs raw materials to build muscle. If you deny your body of these materials, or restrict your calories, you will slow your gains.

Tip #1 - Understand bad, good, better, best

There are no perfect foods. There are bad food choices, such as Doritos, nacho cheese and Mountain Dew. There are good food choices, such as boxed pasta, beef jerky and orange juice.

There are better food choices such as white rice, canned tuna and 2% milk. There are BEST food choices such as fresh veggies and fruits, quinoa, oatmeal, whole milk and unprocessed meat.

Eat the best food choices when you can, and plenty of them. When they aren't available, eat until you are satisfied moving down the ladder to better, good and even bad foods.

If you are hungry and only have junk foods at your disposal, it's far better off to eat them than to go to bed hungry.

Your eating plan does not have to be 100% healthy; not at all. You simply need to learn to make better food choices when possible.

Tip #2 - Listen to your body

Weight training will increase your appetite. If you are hungry in between meals, then snack. Eat string cheese and a banana, or whole milk with whey protein and some almonds.

When you are hungry, eat until satiety. Satiety is a fancy word meaning eat until your hunger goes away.

Tip #3 - Understand calorie density

Many teens in this era fear fat gains. Understand that most teens don't gain weight from eating a lot of good food, they gain weight from eating too many bad foods. In many cases they may not even be overeating the bad foods, but still gaining weight.

Why? Calorie density. 

Processed foods and junk foods can be very calorie dense. A bag of tortilla chips and a jar of salsa contain over 2,000 calories. It is easy for most teen males to eat the entire bag in one sitting if they are hungry. On the other hand, a teen would need to eat over 12 baked potatoes to reach that same calorie level.

The healthy foods that are calorie dense aren't typically easy to consume in large quantities. You would have to eat an incredible amount of cheese or avocados to equal the total calories in a bag of Doritos.

Tip #4 - How often should I eat?

Stick to your normal eating habits and meal frequency as long as it's reasonable. You should be eating several times per day. Add healthy snack options in between meals when you are hungry.

You won't need to change your eating habits, but you will need to think about the foods you eat during these times. We will get into that very soon.

Many teens do not have the time for a substantial breakfast. This is certainly ok, but I do recommend eating something that is healthy and protein rich. A banana, oatmeal and protein shake take only minutes to make and are a better choice than Pop-tarts or similar breakfast convenience foods.

The only thing I recommend against is eating only once or twice per day. Your body needs fuel and there is a strong chance you have a very fast metabolism. Not only that, but when you are trying to build muscle you need to take in a minimum amount of daily protein and calories. This can be hard to do when you're eating only once or twice a day.

Teen Guide Meal Frequency

Tip #5 - Aim for a minimum of 150 grams of protein per day

When trying to build muscle, your minimum protein intake each day should be 150 grams. You will likely be better served by eating 180 to 220 grams per day. Not only are you trying to repair and build muscle tissue, but your body is still growing.

For these reasons, try not to ride too close to the 150 gram minimum. When it comes to building muscle, it's better to eat a little more protein than a little less.

Females should aim for 80 to 100 grams minimum.

Quality protein food choices include:

  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Whole milk
  • Cheese/string cheese
  • Pork
  • Seafood
  • Turkey
  • Whey & casein protein shakes
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Beans
  • Nuts & seeds

You want to take in protein during every meal. This will help you to reach your daily intake goal. Make a habit of reading food labels. This will help you to understand how many grams of protein are in each serving.

It can be hard to intake enough protein from your school meals and dinner alone. Snacks such as string cheese, almonds, Greek yogurt and whole milk can really help. You may also want to consider adding in a couple of whey shakes per day. Whey protein shakes are an excellent way of adding in extra protein without filling you up.

Tip #6 - Fat intake is important

The body needs fat intake to assist with proper development and growth. Healthy fats also assist with energy levels, regulating hormones, help the brain to develop and function properly, and assist in maintaining healthy skin.

You also need to understand that eating fat does not make you fat. Teens gain extra fat from relying on junk food and processed food while limiting their exercise. You, on the other hand, will be reducing junk food and increasing exercise.

You want to avoid trans fats. Trans fats are manufactured fats that have been shown to raise your bad cholesterol levels while lowering your good cholesterol levels. Foods that can contain trans fats include:

  • Fried foods like donuts and French fries
  • Baked goods such as cookies, crackers and pie crusts
  • Margarine

Check product labels for these types of foods and do your best to avoid all trans fats.

Now, let's talk about the healthy fats you should be eating. Here are some example of high fat foods that are good for you.

  • Milk and cheese
  • Heavy cream and sour cream
  • Avocados
  • Peanut butter
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Butter and olive oil
  • Cuts of meat that aren't lean
  • Eggs
  • Olive oil and coconut oil

If you're having a hard time taking in a proper amount of healthy fats you can add a little shredded cheese on top of your meals or veggies, add sour cream and butter to your potatoes or baked potatoes, use a little butter on your veggies, add in a couple of tall glasses of whole milk each day, eat more eggs, snack on nuts and seeds, or add 1-2 ounces of heavy cream to your milk or protein shakes.

Teen Guide Protein Shake

Tip #7 - Choose your carbs wisely

Carbs, or carbohydrates, are a major energy source for teens. Unfortunately there are plenty of foods that contain plenty of junk carbs. These can be hard to avoid.

It's a good idea to eat plenty of quality carbohydrate foods.

The "bad" carbohydrates you want to cut back on include:

  • Cookies
  • Chips
  • Crackers
  • Ice cream
  • Energy drinks & soda
  • Foods with a lot of white sugar
  • Foods with a lot of white flour

"Good" carbohydrate choices include:

  • Oatmeal
  • Fruits and veggies
  • Beans and legumes
  • Brown rice and quinoa
  • Potatoes and yams
  • Whole grain breads
Tip #8 - If you're not gaining weight you are not a hardgainer

If you're not gaining weight you will need to focus on eating more food. It is not uncommon for teens to fall into the pit created by bodybuilding magazines and articles and believe they can only eat chicken, tuna, broccoli and rice. This is not a balanced way of eating, and it makes it darn near impossible to get your daily calories in.

If this is not you, and you feel like you are already eating plenty of food and not gaining weight, it's time to get more scientific. Spend a week writing down everything you eat and drink. Do your best to calculate your average daily calorie.

Once you have an understand of what you eat and drink, think of creative ways to increase your calories. Here are some of my favorite ways:

  • Whole Milk. Add one cup of whole milk to a meal each day. This adds 150 calories.
  • Shredded Cheese. Add one ounce of shredded cheese to a meal each day. This adds 110 calories.
  • Sour Cream. Add one ounce of sour cream to a meal each day. This adds 60 calories.
  • Banana. Add in a banana as a snack. This adds 100 calories.
  • Butter. Add one pat of butter to a serving of veggies. This adds 35 calories.
  • Almonds. Add in one ounce of almonds as a snack. This adds 165 calories.
  • Heavy cream. Add in one ounce to a whey shake. This adds 100 calories.

These simple 7 tips don't require you to eat that much more food, yet they increase your daily calorie levels by 720.

If worse comes to worse, don't hesitate to add in that bowl of ice cream or bag of Doritos. Eating some junkier foods isn't going to hurt you when you are eating primarily quality, healthy foods.

Teen Guide Primarily Healthy

Supplements For Teens

Nutritional supplements are meant to bolster a quality eating plan, not make up for a bad one. The following supplements are worth considering. Always discuss nutritional supplementation and proper dosages with your parents before incorporating them into your nutritional plan.

  • Whey Protein Powder - Whey is a fast digesting protein source derived from milk. It is a great choice in between meals, post-workout and when you are overly hungry and want to quickly get some protein into your system. 
  • Casein Protein Powder - Casein is the most abundant protein source found in milk. It is a top pre-bedtime protein choice of muscleheads because it digests slowly.
  • Multivitamin/Mineral - A quality multivitamin/mineral supplement can help fill in the nutritional gaps caused by inconsistent eating patterns or food quality levels. If you don't have access to a lot of healthy food choices and unprocessed meals, a multivitamin is worth consideration.
  • Fish Oil - Many teens don't have access to a lot of quality, healthy fat foods. In this case, supplementing with fish oil can add in some omega-3 fatty acids which are great for heart health, brain function, and growth and development.
  • Vitamin D - Vitamin D is synthesized when you are exposed to the sun. If you see very little sunlight, a vitamin D supplement is a smart choice. Vitamin D helps with hormone regulation, and with the absorption of minerals such as calcium and phosphorous.
  • BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids)- If you need a healthy and flavorful alternative to soda and energy drinks, this is a top choice. BCAA drinks are great intra and post-workout, or can simply be consumed during the day when you need a drink with taste, but not the calories. BCAAs can help with recovery and muscle repair.

How to Fail at Teen Bodybuilding

Many teens fail to build muscle. These are the potential reasons why.

  1. You set unrealistic goals. You expect to see amazing results within 2 weeks instead of 2 years.
  2. Lack of consistency. You should be missing only a very small handful of workouts each year, not missing numerous workouts each month.
  3. Not getting stronger. Many teens fool themselves into believing that strength is not important. While one max rep strength is not the goal of muscle building, you still must dramatically improve your strength from where it is now to build muscle.
  4. Not having a plan. Lifting without having a plan is simply a way of burning calories using dumbbells and barbells. You need a plan, and must stick to the plan to build muscle.
  5. Jumping programs. There are no magic programs. Resist the urge to keep jumping from different workout to different workout. Trust the process, embrace your training routine and grind it out.
  6. Following the advice of your bros. Your friends might be nice guys, and they might have a bigger bench press than you, but that doesn't mean they truly understand how to help you reach your goals. Over the years I've found that 98% of bro advice is nonsense or not needed. Beware.
  7. Trying to train like the pros. How an IFBB pro bodybuilder trains now isn't important. It took years of trial and error to perfect a system of training that suited them and their weaknesses. This system isn't the best for you, it's the best for them.
  8. Poor exercise selection. If you go out of your way to avoid the most challenging exercises, you will end up with a body that looks like it wasn't challenged.
  9. Sloppy form. Consistently bouncing the weight off your chest during benches, half squatting, or utilizing cheat curls is not the way to go. Focus on getting stronger using proper form. While the occasional cheat rep isn't going to mater, if every rep you do is cheating you're limiting gains.
  10. Not eating enough protein. Your body needs protein to repair and rebuild. If you don't give it the materials it needs, you can't expect the results you want.
  11. Not eating enough food. If you're not gaining some weight, you're not going to build much if any muscle. It can't be stated any more plainly that this.
  12. Not listening to your body. Eat when you are hungry. Listen to your body. You are not going to get fat eating mostly healthy foods. On the other hand, you are not going to build muscle if you restrict calorie intake.
  13. Trying to bulk too quickly. If you're gaining more than 1.5 to 2 pounds per month (on average) during your first year of training, you will likely accumulate unwanted fat. Bulks should not be too aggressive, as muscle building takes time and cannot be rushed.
  14. Not getting enough sleep. Sleep while you can. Extra rest is always a good thing. Rest helps with recovery and gains.

Teen Bodybuilding FAQ

Will weight training stunt my growth?

No. This is one of the oldest myths in the books. A teenager can take a lot of physical punishment. A few sets of barbell exercises isn't going to impact their physiological development. The human body is not this frail.

I am skinny fat or overweight, should I cut?

No. Focus on building muscle and cleaning up your diet. You didn't gain fat from eating chicken breasts and veggies. If you start to eat right, and build muscle, it will change your physique for the better.

Is creatine a steroid, or is it dangerous?

No. Creatine is the most studied and tested muscle building supplement on the planet. It is natural and proven to be safe.

How can I get rid of my man boobs?

There are 2 things that can help. First, clean up your diet and start eating healthy foods most of the time. Second, build muscle. An increase in muscle size is also an increase in surface area and body composition. Your chest area will start to look better and better each month.

Posted on: Fri, 06/28/2024 - 17:52

I'm 14. 5ft7 or 6 idk and I am kinda fat specifically
Belly and kinda on the man boobs. I want to lose weight and gain muscle on all body parts. And at some stage want to be
Very veiny and big biceps triceps 6 pack, back muscle, shoulders etc but I have no idea where to start. PLS help

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 06/28/2024 - 20:45

What's good Ethan? Thanks for reading M&S!

First thing first, I hope this is just personal goals and not something you feel like you must do. You're still a teenager and should enjoy this process.

I would suggest focusing on eating healthy and getting into a regular training routine to start off with. The program here is a good one for you to get leaner so you can see the development you want. Bigger muscles and veins will come as you advance if you stick with it. That consistency combined with the fact you are still going through puberty and will be new to training means you will be off to a great start. After a couple of months, you can reevaluate and set new goals after that.

Posted on: Mon, 05/20/2024 - 10:00

I am currently 15 years and 10 months old male, about 165 pounds I am 6'1" but skinny with broad shoulders. I can't access any sort of equipment or change my diet too much (I eat a lot and eat mostly healthy) I want to build my muscle strength and appearance. I plan on military so what bodyweight workouts would be good for me to be prepared for military? I do pushups, situps, planks, squats, lunges, and 1/2 mile run 3 days a week. Do you have any ideas for me?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 05/27/2024 - 21:14

We have a lot of bodyweight only workouts for you, Kaden. Check this link out.

Posted on: Sun, 03/10/2024 - 01:20

Hey i am currently 14 years and 4 months.i used to be skinny but during the pandemic i gained weight.I finally lost weight but i lost too much weight by doing cardio and extreme calorie deficits.I am currently with the skinny fat physique and not very strong.I have no idea where to start but my parents have no problem with me enrolling me in a gym.I have 4 dumbbells at home 2 of them are 4 kgs each and 2 of them are 5 kgs each.can you give me a few tips on where to start?and sorry for the essay.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 03/17/2024 - 16:24

Hi Jax, folks like you are exactly why we're here. So, no apology necessary.

If you want to train at home with the dumbbells, then you could do one of our dumbbell programs. You can find those here.

However, if your parents are cool with you joining a gym, I am in favor of that because I feel being around other people trying to improve and having access to more equipment will really help you make the changes you're looking for. Let me know which way you plan to go, and I will do my best to help you figure out the training you can follow.

Posted on: Wed, 01/10/2024 - 22:40

Hello! My son is 13yrs old. He is 6’3” and 310lbs. He has just started with a weightlifting coach/personal trainer 3 days per week. We are also meal prepping and have changed his diet quite a bit. His goal is to be a better, faster, stronger lineman and overall player. He tends to stay heavy around his stomach and hips, always been shaped that way since he was a baby. Where can I find a meal plan that will keep a kid his size satisfied and fuel muscle growth and fat loss? Any supplements recommended for a kid his age to help reach his goals? Any advice and guidance would be appreciated. Thanks so much.
- his Mom

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 01/11/2024 - 09:49

Hi, Tina. Thank you for reading M&S!

If he commits to a regular training routine, then he may notice some muscle gains thanks to being so young and new to training. So, I would suggest focusing on fat loss nutrition first. This guide can help with that.

As for supplements, the only supplements we would recommend for a kid his age is a multivitamin and whey protein to help him get his protein requirements in. He's going to get stronger just from training and growth spurts, so anything beyond that may not be needed. As I am sure you would understand, many of the supplements here (like energy supps and preworkouts) on M&S are only recommended for age 18 and up.

Best of luck, and let us know how he's doing. Excited for his potential.

William Ponsford
Posted on: Sat, 12/23/2023 - 16:20

I've been working out for 8 months now and I've gotten my bench press from 85 pounds to 185 pounds is that good? Also, my squat is 260 and my deadlift is around 275.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 12/28/2023 - 21:13

Hey William, 100 pounds on your bench is great for a beginner, but that progress will eventually stall. Congrats on getting there, but now the work gets more challenging. The squat and DL are good too for a newcomer to the iron game. Stick with it!

Posted on: Thu, 08/17/2023 - 23:36

I am 14, 5’ 7”, and weigh around 115, I need to get faster for track season, and I want to put on some muscle in the upper body. I can take a lot of grueling work, and have been training on my own a bit to minimal results. Any programs and protein shakes I could use?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 08/27/2023 - 12:08

Hi, Noah. I can't pinpoint a specific brand because we sell many brands here on M&S, but if it's on this site, you can be assured it's a quality product.

As for programs, you can use any of those on this link to help you improve your upper body.

Posted on: Wed, 08/02/2023 - 17:10

Hi First Of All,
1. I am 14
2. I am 5'2 and 64 kilos
3. Hence very fat But I want to have completely better physique
4. I can access a very nice junior gym with a lot of feautures!
i am ready to devote my self for long term and 6 days a week or 7 depends

I am confused on where to start what to do? and like i would like a perfect plan or near to perfect!

So I would like to gain all possible information and build my physique


M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 08/20/2023 - 21:16

No such thing as a perfect plan. That is why we have so many options here on M&S. What works for me may not work for you. But, this one can at least get you started on the path.

Also, don't train every day. Your body needs time to recover.

Posted on: Mon, 07/10/2023 - 07:06

I am 16 and I weigh 78kg(172 I want to do 5 or 6 days a week what can I add from exercise or should I just repeat the same ABC exercise?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 07/10/2023 - 07:58

Follow the workout as shown, and you should start seeing results within a few weeks. Follow the same workouts each week.

sebbe vercauteren
Posted on: Sat, 06/17/2023 - 10:37

I am 14 and I am 5,6 and the last time I weighed myself i was 56 kilo so I guess that I now weigh like 60kg. I've been isecure with my body for a while now. I would like to work towards a better body but I don't know how to start. I do have 2 dumbells of 3kg laying around at home. Can you recommend me something for building muscle and getting rid of my belly fat.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 06/19/2023 - 06:33

Simply starting with any program will help you because you're so young and new to training. This article may help you find that first program to follow. When you pick one, feel free to ask questions along the way because we're here to help.

Posted on: Thu, 06/15/2023 - 11:22

I am 14 and i am 5'3 and i weigh 50kg i am worried that i am underweight what would u recommend me to do to for bulking and gaining stronger muscles.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 06/16/2023 - 07:21

Follow everything here as well as on this.

As for workouts, start with a local trainer so you can have first-hand guidance. Then, once you learn more about training, you can find workouts here to help you reach the next level.

Posted on: Sun, 06/11/2023 - 12:44

I am 14 years old, 5'8", and weigh 150 pounds. I am what is commonly referred to as "skinny fat," and I want to build an aesthetic body and perform as an athlete. What should I do?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 06/12/2023 - 06:47

Hi, Nick. Are you brand new to training or have you lifted weights before? I want to make sure I suggest the right program for you.

Posted on: Wed, 04/26/2023 - 19:54

I'm 14, 5'9 135 and want to gain both muscle as well as endurance when running and such. Will this work for me, should I combine 2 workouts, or focus on one or the other?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 05/02/2023 - 13:15

Stick with this. Just make sure the running is the only cardio you do.

Posted on: Mon, 02/27/2023 - 22:33

The food at my school is super unhealthy most days what should I do to eat healthier on school food. How should I burn abdominal fat when I'm already at low body fat. I'm 13 5,5 and weigh 107 pounds. But am in a school gym and I am constantly active.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 03/09/2023 - 15:18

If you don't bring your own food, then you have to deal the best way to know how with what you got, Tucker. Eat the protein first, then focus on veggies or fruits, then have whatever is left, or skip it if you want. As for the bodyfat, it just takes consistency and patience. You can't isolate a bodypart for fat loss. As long as you stick with it, it will happen.

Posted on: Wed, 02/22/2023 - 16:54

Just wondering what the best way to build core strength is

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 02/26/2023 - 21:57
Posted on: Mon, 02/20/2023 - 12:49

I have no gym available to me until summer and my house is not built for me to start the pre stage 60 day workout. Is it okay if I stick to pushups , squats and Burpees for a few months to build a core then follow workout ABC in summer. I'm 16 and 5'9 and want to have a strong build by 18. I'm following the Pre Stage as I don't have equipment for the next 4 or so months so will this give me an advantage or should I wait to start the Pre Stage

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 02/26/2023 - 10:59

Do whatever you can with whatever you have. If that is all you have available to you, then give those exercises all you got!

Posted on: Wed, 02/01/2023 - 11:58

I am 16 years old and I am a endomorph I want to build muscle in a year do you think its possible

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 02/20/2023 - 20:54

Yep. This should help you make it happen, Henry.

Posted on: Wed, 02/01/2023 - 04:56

I am 17, 130 lbs. I’ve been lifting for around a year now with the main goal to build mass and strength. My strength has gotten a lot better over that time but I’ve pretty much stayed the same size only gaining a couple pounds in weight, and some definition. What can I do to increase my size and actually make me look as strong as I am

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 02/20/2023 - 20:50
M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 02/20/2023 - 20:50
Posted on: Wed, 01/18/2023 - 13:06

I am 240 - 5’9” -14 yr old I play football and lift weight I want to cut body fat and gain muscle without losing strength.

Posted on: Thu, 01/05/2023 - 20:32

Hello, thanks for the advice, however, I would like to ask as a 14-year-old in 7 months how should I train? because I'm also joining a soccer club with 2 days of practice and one match a week, so I want to be athletic and have muscle mass. I also am currently doing a workout program focused on that but it's time to change it. I have a good base in the weights and okay in the body weight. I want to stay light and not gain weight for my sport and health and I'd like to keep my abs. I have a home gym but with light weights for barbell exercises so it's hard to up the weight.

Thank you so much so for the long question!!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 01/17/2023 - 13:51

Hey James, full-body workouts would be best for you because you want to stimulate the muscle without sacrificing your performance on the field. Full-body workouts provide that stimulus. This can also help you maintain size and keep in good cardio shape. If you want a specific program, let us know and we will see what we can find for you. There are many here on M&S to choose from.

Posted on: Tue, 12/27/2022 - 16:10

Hi, I am a 13 year old 40-45Kg 5’’0. Do I need 150g or protein do build muscle and strength or do I stick to 50-100

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 12/30/2022 - 16:30

100 should work for you, Emre. Thanks for reading M&S, and keep us posted on the progress.

Posted on: Fri, 12/23/2022 - 01:58

I am turning 16 in 3 months, I am 55kg (120 lb) should I do the A B and c program? Also I have trouble gaining weight.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 12/28/2022 - 18:22

Hi, Abbas. Yes, you should follow the A, B, C workouts on this article. This guide should help you when it comes to gaining weight. I've been where you are. When I started, I was 17, 125 pounds (56.6 kg), and had a lot of trouble at first. You can do it.

Posted on: Mon, 10/10/2022 - 17:57

I'm 16, 5'9" and I weigh around 185, and I have fat that I want to lose. I take care of my diet. I want to look fit and get healthier will this program be ok or do I need more workout time?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 10/11/2022 - 07:04

I believe this would be a solid choice for you, Ahmed. Good luck!

Posted on: Tue, 10/04/2022 - 14:40

I'm 14 , 5'11" and 180 pounds and I want to lose weight for my girlfriend, how long will it be before I get to 155-165?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 10/08/2022 - 17:12

Hard to say, Braden. Depends on your overall health, if you're following a sound nutrition plan, and how consistent you can be while training.

Also, glad you have motivation with the girlfriend, but do it for you first. This advice will serve you well when you become an adult.

Posted on: Mon, 03/20/2023 - 16:01

As a mom researching for her son, coming across this comment was a pleasure. Way to go MS that was great advice.

Posted on: Tue, 07/26/2022 - 07:25

How long should I break between sets when doing the prep for stage 4 workout? Also how can I determine what weight I start lifting the dumbbells and barbells?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 08/01/2022 - 10:18

Rest for 90-120 seconds between sets. As for the weight to use, start light and go by feel. If you start doing reps and it feels easy, go ahead and bump up. Take note of how the weights feel so you know what to start with next time.

Hope this helps!

Posted on: Wed, 07/20/2022 - 03:36

Hi thanks for the article. I'm 16 , 17 in September
I'm going to do the pre-stage 4 prep workout.
How long should I break after every exercise?
How much weight should I start with on the barbell for each exercise?