Teenage Bodybuilding Guide: How To Workout, Eat & Grow

Teenage Bodybuilding Guide: How To Workout, Eat & Grow
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.
  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
  • 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.

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.

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131 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Fri, 03/13/2020 - 14:55

I am 16 years old, 5’10, and 140 pounds. I lost a lot of weight. But now I am left with flabby stomach and chest. I also want to gain back my lost muscle because I am weak. I want to eat more, but I am afraid of getting fat again. I want visible abs, and more strength. Any tips?

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Posted Sun, 02/16/2020 - 13:32
Elisha W McFarland

Hey! My name is Elisha, and I'm almost 17. I'm 6'0, 146 pounds, and currently interested in building my vertical. Any tips?

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Posted Thu, 01/30/2020 - 23:02
Ian L

Hey... so ya I’m confused about what stage I would be. I’m 13 5’ 7” and about 125-130 lbs but definitely started development earlier than most my friends. I have a decent amount of pit hair, a happy trail that’s sorta thick, and uhh (I think this sounds weird to say yk?) but also have plenty of pubes and even a little bit of hit on my balls, and have a little bit of a mustache if any of that helps. I started lifting a little on my own, doing very basic stuff but I wanted to see what the people who know what they’re doing are saying to do. Just confused as hell by the stages thing

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Posted Thu, 01/02/2020 - 10:15

I'm just starting the main workouts but I am a little confused what "max reps" means? Am I supposed to be doing as many reps as I can but keeping the amount of reps consistent for each set? Or am I supposed to do as many reps as I can do on each set even if the reps go down?

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Posted Mon, 01/13/2020 - 01:57

Max reps is how many you can do each set. You may be able to do 30 on your first set and then only 25 on your next set. When you go to your maxed rep you are pushing yourself to get that last rep in before you feel like your body is gonna give out. For example planks. You stay in the plank position for as long as you can. Then the next time you come to that you stay up as long as you can until your arms give out. And so on.

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Posted Mon, 10/14/2019 - 12:44

I'm guessing not, but does this article apply to women too? If not, how would I modify the guidelines above? I'm not looking to "tone" but to put some muscle on, not concerned and don't care about ever looking "bulky".
I'd appreciate some advice on this, there are so few teenage (female) bodybuilding articles out there.
16 yrs. 5'5", 125 lbs.

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Posted Wed, 07/24/2019 - 15:07
Sam T

Hi, I’m 16, 5ft 7 and 127 pounds, the only part I’m concerned about is the amount of protein I’d be having, some sights say to have about 50 others 100 and some 150+ like this one, I’d appreciate some advice! :)

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Posted Sat, 07/13/2019 - 17:35

This article was really helpful wow. Thank you so much for the information.

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Posted Mon, 03/25/2019 - 22:40

Hi, so the most confusing part fro me is which category i come in? I just turned 17 last week and I am 6 foot 1, i weight around 210 pounds on the heavyer side of things. Compared to all my friends I started growing Pit hair very late in grade 10, now i am in 11 and no beard just little 3cm hairs. IDK what to think i have never ever had acne tho I think some are popping up soon, I just dont know where i fit.

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Posted Sun, 05/12/2019 - 10:07

You're likely to be between stage 4/5 based on your description.

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Posted Thu, 01/24/2019 - 13:18

Ok, so I've started using the stage 4 prepping workout and have found a crucial error in it, which I feel others might agree: it is that I am unable to perform 1 good pull-up or stiff leg deadlift. The pull-up due to my basic lack of strength whereas the stiff leg deadlift due to the fact that I am simply not flexible enough. I asked my friends whether they could perform one and they also said no. Secondly, the main bodybuilding workout (the one I will soon move on to) seems to require equipment not originally listed. So effectively, my actual question is: Can we substitute certain exercises for others, i.e a Romanian deadlift instead of a stiff leg deadlift? Thanks.

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Posted Fri, 01/25/2019 - 14:31

I say u learn the moves with light weight instead of just skipping/going around it

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Posted Fri, 01/25/2019 - 14:38

I say try learning the movements instead of avoiding them. Start by recording yourself and doing it in low weight instead of going heavy then looking at your form. Also with pull ups start doing negative pull ups and doing inverted rows until u reach the strength to do them

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Posted Thu, 02/07/2019 - 12:41

Ay, Thankyou - I was very unsure

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Posted Tue, 05/14/2019 - 23:07

There are certain elastics and straps that can help make pull ups easier, i just dont know where they are available i just know that at my school, you can adjust the size of the straps to increase or decrease the resistance of the elastic

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Posted Wed, 12/12/2018 - 13:39
Alex Lozano

Im 4'10 by the way

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Posted Wed, 12/12/2018 - 13:38
Alex Lozano

Hello guys im 13 and I turned anorexic when I was 12... I was obsese my whole life and started to starve myself, I dropped to 79 pound and was 130lb. Now Im recovered and started building my muscle back and currently at 97lb. Im doing the 3 day full body workout from planet fitness. I dont know if I should maintain my weight or stay in a surplus till im 15? Please respond because I dont know if I should stay in a surplus because Im starting to loose my abs but idk if I should maintain myself in this bodyfat. thanks

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Posted Mon, 12/03/2018 - 20:13

I don't know if I fall under stage 3 or four but I am 6 foot 1 ish and weigh around 180 lbs. I mostly bench press, do some dumbbell workout, and push ups and sit ups and I'm working on eating a bit healthier.

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Posted Mon, 12/03/2018 - 20:06

Hey, I am a 13 year old and I don't know what exercises would be good to do and which ones I should lay off until I am a bit older.

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Posted Sat, 12/01/2018 - 17:34

In addition, I am confused as to whether the second listed workout is Stage 4 or Pre Stage 4 as labelled because the start of the paragraph introducing it reads 'once who reach stage 4 of physical development'.

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Posted Sat, 12/01/2018 - 16:46

Hey, I'm 14 yrs old, skinny and average height and do not know what stage i fall under. My voice has deepend but i wouldnt say my pubic hair has 'finsihed development' as I am still have no armpit hair. However I have had voice breaks and I do have acne. Am i stupidly confused, does someone know what stage I am?

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Posted Mon, 08/27/2018 - 21:28

Do we have to warm-up and cool down before and after working out?

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Posted Tue, 08/28/2018 - 08:34

Yes. You should.

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Posted Sat, 01/19/2019 - 11:54
Tanner Lewis

Always! No matter what your doing you always want to give your body the time it needs to cool down or warm up so it doesn't go into shock. It's like walking from a freezer into a sauna.

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Posted Sat, 06/09/2018 - 12:39
Alphonse rolan

Hey guys, im 16 years old 178 ( 5 10) and 59kg , I started lifting 3 weeks ago and i drink whey protein after working out. I workout monday-tuesday-thursday-saturday i eat healthy. Any advice?

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Posted Sat, 09/15/2018 - 13:34

Keep going and stay motivated!

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Posted Tue, 05/22/2018 - 15:36
luke labuschagne

Hey guys/ladies...i am 75KG and 185cm tall...i am currently taking part in mixed martial arts and would like to get stronger and toned...any help and advice would be amazing as i am struggling and dont want to give up. Thanks to whoever helps.

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Posted Sat, 05/05/2018 - 11:37

HEY,i have16yrs of age.Having 55kg weight and 174cm height.I have bought 26 kg fitness pack
containing 6kg[pair]-dumbell
PLZ provide me with appropriate planning

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Posted Sat, 03/03/2018 - 00:58
Lou Ferrigno Jr.

Hey I'm 12 and trying to bulk up my arms quickly, what would be the best workout for that? Also I'm not sure if my first post went through.

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Posted Sat, 09/15/2018 - 13:37

I'd say that since you are Stage 1, you should not workout too much because your body is still developing. My advice is doing a little bit of dumbell exercises. About 10-15 minutes of dumbell exercises a day for about 3 days a week with 1-2 kg in each arm should be alright for your age. Also DON'T OVERWORKOUT YOURSELF, your body is too young. Remember that more isn't always better. Have fun exercising!

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Posted Tue, 11/28/2017 - 15:10

i am 11 years old i am was starting body bulid from 10 years old and i have a little like 4 pack and still working out no weights that are more than 50 grams i am a male and weight is 55

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Posted Mon, 10/16/2017 - 15:36
Matthew Simon

Hey, I'm a 16-year-old, 128lb male. I've been working out for about a year, but not consistently. I've seen gains when I did commit each week, but have fallen off track and am wanting to take lifting and gaining muscle a lot more seriously. Any suggestions on where to start back up? When I was working out I was using weights, bench, squats, dumbells, rows, etc.

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Posted Wed, 08/16/2017 - 12:48
Aiden Pasia

I am 13 and I'm 90 pounds I am weak and skinny I NEED a day to say schedule on workout and lifting plan

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Posted Thu, 09/28/2017 - 06:32
Bradley Roesch

hey Aiden wats ur xbox gamertag

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Posted Wed, 08/16/2017 - 01:20

Hey I'm a 16 year old male and I'm 5' 11" and weigh 55kg, I was just wondering how much weight I should be lifting for each exercise...

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Posted Fri, 08/11/2017 - 16:57

Thanks for the great article. I am 16 and would love to try out this program but I don't have a barbell at home and don't have the money to buy one. Are there any other exercises I could use to make up for this or do you have any other suggestions?

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Posted Thu, 07/20/2017 - 00:23
Sean rybus

Hello I am 13 and am starting to go to the gym more. My question is that because I am a swimmer I have a higher fat percentage and there are no plans on here to loose those calories, so my question is that should we run on our resting days. Of course not long distances but like a mile or 2. Anyways great article and I would love a response. Please respond thank you.

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Posted Mon, 07/17/2017 - 15:10

Hey there guys. I am a 16 year old boy and I am very skinny. I am very shy about my body and I want to change my look and strengthen my confidence. If you can help me by motivating me or giving me some tips that would be great. I don't have a choice about what I eat. Please help.

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Posted Sun, 06/25/2017 - 00:34

HI. I am 15 years old and i weigh 145 pounds, tomorrow I am going to start these three workouts and I am wondering if I can do these exercises at home?

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Posted Tue, 06/13/2017 - 12:25

Hey guys. Wonderful article, it's really helped me a lot. The question I have is, how do you fit all the calories in during a typical day? I eat when I'm hungry and I get enough protein in, but at the end of the day, my caloric intake is around (or even under) my maintenance level. The only time that I'm hungry is in the morning when I wake up after I burned off all the energy I ate at dinner the night before. So far my weight dropped about 1.5 pounds (minus a few days where the weight was fluctuating) since I started focusing on muscle building 2 weeks ago.

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Posted Wed, 06/07/2017 - 15:09
Isaiah Stephens

I'm 17 , 6 foot 1 , I weight around 205 so I'm not a very skinny guy . Bench 225, Deadlift 385 but recently got 365 for 5. And I can squat 315 pretty easy. I know my diet is very poor and I've been training pretty hard for around 6-7 months . I'm still seeing progress and gains in strength which is my main goal . My questions is how big of a difference would diet and proper supplements make for me ? I'm determined to start a proper diet and wondering what to expect in how I feel and my progress in lifting

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Posted Wed, 06/14/2017 - 16:32

well considering your improvement in your three main compound lifts, a clean diet will give your gains a more appealing look as you will undoubtably loose body fat which will allow your hard work for the past 6-7 months to show off more. Also you will need to try to eat less calorically dense foods in order to hit your goal calories per day if you are underrating. Supplements are what they say they are, they are there to supplement your diet. Whey protein is obviously a popular choice, it will allow you to improve the amount or protein, used for protein synthesis and the growth of your muscles and recovery between workouts. creatine monohydrate is the most researched product on the market, creatine is produced in the liver and it helps provide energy to the cells in the body. it is made up of three main amino acids. A multi vitamin will help you get in vitamins into your body which, in a fish oil suspension, will be very bio available to your body, it helps you get in the micronutrients that your diet will not normally supply your body. A pre workout is optional, but it should not be relied upon to get you fired up for workouts, you should cycle it, take sometime off in order for your body's reaction to the substance to go back to normal.
hope this helps you out, feel free to contact me at 8009@rgsg.co.uk

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Posted Tue, 05/23/2017 - 08:29

I'm 14 and I'm about 6"0 ft tall. I can bench press 200, squat 275, and deadlift 325. I also can curl 90 pounds. I am currently doing both powerlifting, but i am also doing some bodybuilding workouts to help me look tone and not all chubby like a powerlifter. I play football, basketball, and soccer.

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Posted Sun, 05/07/2017 - 22:33

Hi, guys. I'm a 14-year-old boy. I weigh 52 kg (114 pounds) and am 169 cm tall (5 ft 5"). I play soccer very competitively as well as futsal. I would like to gain more muscle as I am fairly skinny. I eat well but because I am young I don't really get to choose my foods. If anyone could help plz tell me I can tell you my muscle size if you need.

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Posted Mon, 05/01/2017 - 01:51

Hi, i'm 12 years old, i'm 5 ft 1 and I weight 93 lbs so i've doing this training for about like 2 weeks and my vacations are about to end (strangely my school has vacations mid-april thru may), and there isn't a local gym, near my home. And school about to start so, I was wondering how I could make Pull Ups home.

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Posted Sun, 04/16/2017 - 06:22

Hi... i ve been going to the gym for 10 months now however havent been able to see many gains. i have become a bit stronger but not as much as i should have been. I consume enough calories everyday and also sleep well. Please tell me what i can do to build more muscle.

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Posted Thu, 01/19/2017 - 20:25
Chase Pierce

I would like to know long term what the plan is... I am told by many, many reliable sources that doing the same workout routine for an extended amount of time will soon be very ineffective. I am 17, 150 and go to the gym every other day or so. Hence, I fall under the post stage 4 category. There is a pre stage 4 60 day workout as well as workout A,B and C after the 60 day period but should we be doing workout A,B and C for however much longer we would like?

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Posted Wed, 01/18/2017 - 11:52

I am 15. I am very skinny for my age and weigh 47kg. I am desperately trying to gain muscle and strength and increase my body size. I was thinking of going on a low carb diet but am not sure about it now. also what would be the best workout plan for me. I carry heavy objects on a daily basis so weights will not be a shock to my body, I am however out of shape. please assist by supplying me with a suitable workout plan that will help me reach my goals.

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Posted Mon, 01/16/2017 - 19:56

I am 13, and have just started looking for strength training programs. The hardest part based on my lifestyle will be nutrition, because I am constantly hungry. I was wondering how I would count the calories of food without food labels. I want to see where counting calories/changing what I eat would help, but I don't know how to start. This article was also really useful to get started.

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Posted Wed, 05/10/2017 - 16:39

MyfitnessPal has an ap that is great. I suggest the first week just posting everything you eat...it also has a place to post work-outs. You can study it and figure out portion sizes and it breaks down everything to how much you are eatting. It takes a lot of the work out of it. Good luck.