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

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
lee

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
Ellie

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 Fri, 01/13/2017 - 22:03
mike

I am 15 and half started working out at 13. hardly no gains first year and half. one year ago I was 6 ft 1 and 145 pounds today I am 6ft 3 and weigh 195 . Gained 50 pounds of muscle last year . I have a 220 bench press a 340 dead lift and a 260 squat . I have 16.5 inch arms what I'm saying is keep eating and working don't expect to much to soon it will come if you stay at it. I also work out 5 days a week 2 hours per day.

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Posted Wed, 01/18/2017 - 11:53
lee

what is your diet plan?

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Posted Sat, 01/21/2017 - 10:02
mike

I eat for breakfast a protein pancake I use two scoops of protein 2 bananas 4 egg whites 1 cup oats after done I smear peanut butter all over then surp then protein shake. For lunch I have to eat whatever school serves. After school 2 boiled chicken breast with rice and protein shake before work out. After workout I will eat lot's of whatever mom cook's for supper then eat snacks until bed.Always a protein shake before bed. Some good foods for gain I eat egg whites, sweet potatoes, raw oaks with milk, lots of boiled chicken breast, lots of rice and pasta. I try for 150 to 200 grams of protein each day and six to seven thousand calories per day. Don't eat for taste eat for gains., also drink lots of whole milk. You have to eat all the time.

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Posted Wed, 01/04/2017 - 23:16
Josh dockery

I'm a 6'0, 15 year old playing baseball. I've always wanted to be ripped and toned. I weight 190 right now, I'm athletic but not as athletic as I want to be. I've been working out on and off for about 3 months but now I am going to be working out every day M-F in my weight training class at school. I also have a membership at the YMCA. Wanting to get ripped and toned before this summer baseball season beacuase now I can be looked at and I want to be the best. I need a way I can be the best I can be and the most athletic out there. Lifting weights, running, and the best diet out there. I was to get to 175-180 and trying hard now. Any help?

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Posted Mon, 01/02/2017 - 14:00
Brendan

Hi, I'm 16 and I've been lifting on and off for about a year, but never consistently, as I'm a competetive mountain bike racer. I have gained, but I'm 6'2 and only 157 lbs, so now I want to commit, and this article has been great. I do, however, have a few questions.
1. Normally I've done split body routines (which I now realize is not the best way to start), so I am wondering how the full body workouts listed above will work all of my muscles. For example, there are not any excersizes that specifically work calves or traps. Should I add in shrugs and calf raises, or just trust that these workouts will be enough.
2. Is it better to do protein shakes before of after workouts, because I've heard reasons for both? Does it even matter?
3. How much rest should I be putting in between sets and excersizes? I am honestly not entirely sure on this.
Thanks again for the article, its very helpful.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Tue, 01/03/2017 - 11:25
JoshEngland

Hey Brendan!

Very cool dude! I'm going to try to answer these questions below in order:

1. Split workouts are completely fine for both levels of fitness. What is important is making sure to execute each lift with precise form. Full body workouts tend to be the best bang for your buck as you can do a lot more work, burn a lot more calories, in less time. You don't necessarily have to focus on your calves and/or traps as both get worked indirectly through other lifts and throughout every day activities. You're more than welcome to add in additional calf/trap work if you feel that these body parts are really lagging and causing muscle imbalances.

2. You can drink protein both before and after. What is truly important is that you get plenty of protein to promote muscle growth throughout the day. Anywhere between .8-1.2g per lb of bodyweight should do the trick.

3. If you're training in hypertophy rep ranges (8 reps or more) you'll want to keep rest between 45-90 seconds. If you're training in strength and power output (1-5) ranges you'll want to keep rest between 2-3 minutes.

Hope this helps man! Good luck with all of your fitness goals!

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Posted Thu, 01/05/2017 - 16:34
Brendan

Hey Josh!
Thanks so much for the response. It was very helpful and clears things up. I really appreciate it!

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Posted Fri, 12/30/2016 - 02:05
Ben

Hey I'm a 15 year old 5'10 football player and I have exceptional arms even when I didn't work out and now hat I started again on this plan it has helped a lot thanks guys! PS diet is key and never give up or stop!

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Posted Sat, 10/29/2016 - 13:40
Riley Flynn

What if you're stage 5? Im 16 and ive been working out in the worst possible way off and on for months. just adding more and more work load into my regular routine. Is there a link to an article on wokouts if you're stage 5?

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Posted Mon, 10/24/2016 - 22:58
Erik Castruita

Hey guys, so I'm a 15 year boy. I weigh 100 pounds and I'm 5'2, I play varsity soccer as starter and have always been fast and shifty. It's just that I'm always the smallest and weakest one out there. It get rough sometimes always being picked on and constantly getting knocked down like a feather. I'm sick of it I want to get bigger gain muscle, but I don't know how I want help and I'm serious about gaining muscle. I willing to do what it takes. I just don't know where to start.

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Posted Wed, 08/31/2016 - 11:01
Hunter

I'm 13 and started Wrestling about year ago. I practice on Monday Wednesday Thursday Compete On Saturday. For the most part can I still use this work out plan in this article .

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Posted Sat, 08/06/2016 - 05:45
Cvetomir

Hi guys. Ive been training for 4 months only in the gym. And im afraid of doing squads and deadlifts. Ive heard that they damage your waist and your joints. I am afraid of doing them on 16, but is there any danger or they are just rumours and incorrectly done exercise?
Thanks !

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Posted Mon, 08/29/2016 - 01:47
Parker

No, deadlifts and squats will not hurt your joints, if performed correctly. In fact, it will strengthen the muscles around you joints, and it's one of the best things to do for them. My advice is to look up lots of tutorials to know the exact way to do the exercises. Also, film yourself working out. You will then be able to correct your form every time you workout. Start with just the bar and practice form before moving to weights, so that you won't hurt yourself figuring it out. Hope this helps!

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Posted Sun, 07/10/2016 - 10:14
Adam

hi, i'm male and i'm 16. I want to build muscle mass, should i add some calories addition to my daily calories? my daily calories needs based on bmr calculator here is 3077 calories. Thanks before

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Posted Tue, 07/05/2016 - 05:56
Kratoss

Very nice article. You know, this article is what i have been searching for a long time. It kinda "CLEARS THE AIR" to every teend question. Keep up the good work

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Posted Fri, 05/13/2016 - 08:58
Cameron

Hey Steve, thank you so much for this article it is very interesting, I'm 16 and I'm tall thin and just not happy with my body so I thought I might as well commit to getting in shape and healthy, and I was just wondering about a good diet plan? Becuase that is my downfall i do not eat healthy at all and I really want to commit to this, so if you could get back to me that would be great, just about rough guidelines around a diet! Thank heaps

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Posted Thu, 04/21/2016 - 20:57
gabriela

what about girls ?

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Posted Wed, 04/06/2016 - 12:22
Acis

hi,
I'm 17 and it's been about two months that I have been going to the gym.I do my workout in the evening.I'm ok with my other parts all I want is to lose belly fat and a bit chest fat.I usually do HIIT in the trademill i.e. intensive running.I take 2-3 eggs per day removing the yolk.I also separate a day for other cardio and some crunches etc.Could you please tell me how can i lose belly fat and a bit of my chest fat faster.I workout nearly 90 minutes per day to 2 hours some day.Is that ok?Hoping for fast reply :)

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Posted Thu, 04/21/2016 - 17:47
Quinn

Everything that I have seen so far has said that things like running swimming jogging walking cycling and things like that are the biggest ways to get rid of belly fat. Also your muscles are like a car and gas the fat (belly fat) is the gas and as long as you are eating right and using the biggest muscles and most at a time the belly fat should go away. But it will take some time trust me I'm trying brother Haha. I'm 14 and can bench 120 max so far.

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Posted Fri, 04/29/2016 - 16:03
Gabe

One thing that you dont want to do is work out too long. It is recomended that you only workout for a maximum of 1 hour. Granted there are many people that dont follow this recomendation but working out longer is not allways better. If you are trying to get rid of fat do less running and more compound muscle exercises. This a method backed by science and got me results. I recomend going to youtube and check out the channel SixPackShortcuts. They also have workouts that are guided and great for begginers. Good luck!

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Posted Sun, 03/06/2016 - 11:49
Josh

A critique for the food selection and extemely high protein numbers, I myself was on a high protein diet getting about 125 grams of protein a day and to achieve that I had to consume protein shakes and lots of greek yogurt and meats, basically low nutrient dense foods. The more protein you intake the more has to be detoxified by your kidneys. I have now been vegan for 4 months and I lost little to no strength when switching to this diet, my gains have been on point if not better than before I was vegan, now I only get about 40-70g of protein a day, I also get about 600-1000 calories from fruit daily

MikeWines's picture
Posted Mon, 03/07/2016 - 10:43
MikeWines

Josh,
If you're a normal, healthy individual without pre-existing kidney problems then the urea that is generated from protein processing is not going to harmful to your body. The myth of kidney problems being associated with high protein consumption if antiquated at best and fear mongering at worst. The data from research simply does not back up those claims: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/4-protein-myths

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Posted Mon, 02/15/2016 - 11:20
James

It sounds stupid, but how do you do mountain climbers?

MikeWines's picture
Posted Mon, 03/07/2016 - 10:45
MikeWines

James,
Here's an excellent tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=De3Gl-nC7IQ

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Posted Sun, 02/07/2016 - 05:28
TOBIN

very usefull tips...thank you ssomuch:)

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Posted Thu, 01/28/2016 - 20:58
Caleb

Hi I am 16 and have been working out for about a year and a half is it bad to work out everyday if you alternate muscles

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Posted Wed, 09/30/2015 - 09:29
Henry H

Firstly great article, a lot of useful and helpful information. I just have some questions.
1. Performing the full body routine will guarantee results (gaining muscle mass all over body: arms, legs, back)?
2. How long should I follow this routine for before moving onto a more advanced one?
3. Is it necessary to take protein and supplements?

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Posted Sun, 06/14/2015 - 13:32
rpsharma

Can a person like me little fat but it may increase as i grow older how to control it ?

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Posted Thu, 05/07/2015 - 03:10
Thomas

How many calories would you recommend me to take? I don't know currently if I should bulk or cut.
181 cm, 70 kg, 15% body fat. Thanks!

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Posted Thu, 04/23/2015 - 00:09
Ayush

hi i m 17year old and lifting weight for 5 months iwant to know which is better for me a three day split workout or a three day full body workout for muscle building and gaining mass.

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Posted Tue, 02/17/2015 - 19:23
Eric H

I am doing pretty well with my gains. 15 Y/o Squat 335, DL 340, and BP 205, I believe im 10-11% BF and I'm 157 pounds. I wanna cut down to 7-8% Bf without just eating 1500 calories a day. I want to maintain as much muscle as possible while getting more ripped, been lifting for about a year and a half. Any help appreciated

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Posted Thu, 08/27/2015 - 18:33
Harry

Hi you sound like you are doing well what you need to do is not get rid of fats all together you need to do at least 30 mins of cardio 3 times a week then slowly build it up until you are doing it every day once that has happened add 10 minutes until it's easy and so on this will burn the fat stores that your body holds onto but make sure after that you have protein otherwise your body will break down your muscle and use that to provide you with energy instead of the carbohydrates and fats which you want to and make sure pre workout about 2 hours before you take in sufficient carbohydrates to make sure that doesn't happen that will guarantee that you will not loose any muscle I would maybe take one or two workouts a week of your weight training program to allow your body to recover otherwise you will not progress at all, hope this comes to use good luck

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Posted Sat, 06/21/2014 - 05:38
anuj nagar

hi thanks

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Posted Tue, 05/20/2014 - 00:18
Dinho

Im in an emergeny. Ive been lifting for almost a year now and i have only gained like 5 lbs of muscle. Im really skinny and training at least 3 times a week and eating as much as i can. What could be the reasons im not gaining any weight?

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Posted Sun, 04/13/2014 - 22:55
Kaleb

Hey Steve, thanks alot for this article. I'm really looking forward to start it. How much weight(of muscle of course) do you think I'll be able to gain over the summer if I stick to my workout routine? I'm 135lbs right now

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Posted Fri, 12/27/2013 - 08:25
Waleed

Hey,i am 16 years old boy and i have pain in my left kidney i am using protein powder and i think protein is hurting my kidney is that true?

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Posted Thu, 12/12/2013 - 15:09
Jamie

Just Another question, doing the form practicing workout is it ok to do that more than 3 times a week? And if i did push myself on the planks would that be worth doing more than 3 times a week? I cant reach the rep ranges for the push ups and Pull ups, should i push myself on those aswell? Fantastic article Btw! Very informative and helpful :)

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Posted Thu, 12/12/2013 - 14:03
Jamie

Hi, i am currently doing the stage 4 prepping workout, is it ok to Push myself on the planks? Also when should You end a set of a Plank?

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Posted Mon, 11/11/2013 - 16:18
Jamie

Hi
How many calories should you aim for when building muscle?

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Posted Sat, 11/02/2013 - 17:26
Travis

this is such a great article, I've been training for a year and my progress has stop im demotivated because im looking for that magic program now im gonna just stick with one i like :)

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Posted Sun, 10/27/2013 - 06:29
jaydo

is there such thing as taking too much protein?
btw awesome article.....very helpful!
thanks

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 10/28/2013 - 20:50
Steven

Not really. Even large amounts of protein intake have been shown to be safe except for folks with pre-existing kidney issues. With that said you really don't need much more than 200-225 grams per day.

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Posted Wed, 10/23/2013 - 23:16
Phil

I dont own a barbell. Are there any different dumbell or bodyweight exercises i could use instead?

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Posted Mon, 10/21/2013 - 07:17
Aravind

Which is the best time to do these exercises?
Also can u list out the names of Dumbbell exercises which can used as an alternative for barbell exercises?
Thank you for giving this workout...Really helping a lot.....

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 10/21/2013 - 10:14
Steven

Hi Aravind,

Any time that's convenient. Dumbbell exercises can be found here:

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises/dumbbell

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Posted Sun, 10/20/2013 - 22:16
Collin

Hi, I am 16, about 5 ft 10 in, and weigh about 185. I am a baseball player and want to get in shape for the beginning of December. Could anyone recommend a diet plan, and exercise plan for me? Thanks.