More and more young adolescents are starting to venture into the world of teen bodybuilding, hoping to get a head start at changing their bodies and showing off a more muscular physique by the time they hit upper high school levels.
For many teenagers, their confidence and self-esteem is closely intertwined with the proportions of their body, with those who are lesser developed really suffering from feelings of low self-esteem and feeling out of place compared to their larger counterparts.
Luckily, with a smart teen bodybuilding workout program, changes can successfully be made. It's important to know a few key points with regards to teen bodybuilding before jumping into the gym however as if the program is not carried out in the correct manner, a number of problems could arise.
5 Teen Bodybuilding Rules
1. Follow The 10% Rule
Being that you are still in the rapid growth period that typically happens during the early adolescent years, if you start up on a teen bodybuilding workout program that is too intense for what your body is able to handle, this is going to compromise all the other reactions that are taking place in the body.
Many teens hear about the rumor that weight training at a young age can stunt growth and this is the reason that this rumor got started.
You should understand that weight training itself is not going to stunt growth, but if you are weight training so intensely that the body has no energy left to use for the natural growth process, that's when you will not reach your full height.
So the main message here is watch the total intensity of your workouts during the week and also make sure you're eating enough total calories so that you still have plenty of energy for the body to grow and function normally.
It's also a smart plan to aim for increasing the intensity by only 10% at a time, so your body is better able to adapt to the training stimulus you are providing it.
2. Do Bodyweight/Lightweight Exercises For At Least One Month
If you're a teen who is new to bodybuilding, the second thing you should keep in mind is that it would be a very smart plan to spend a good month or so performing only bodyweight exercises.
This will help your body get used to the resistance training type of stimulus without the very high load that accompanies traditional weight lifting workouts.
You can also perform some of the exercises you do plan on doing such as squats, bench press, shoulder press, and so on using very light weights (10-20 pounds) so that you are able to ensure you're using proper form.
Getting proper form down pat before continuing on will be vital to setting you up for a reduced injury rate in the future.
If you rush into lifting weights too soon, you could compromise your ability to use good form and develop very bad habits that will be much harder to break later on.
3. Correctly Understand The Changes That Are Taking Place In The Body
When you begin a weight lifting program as a teenager, your body is not going to react in exactly the same manner as someone who is in their early twenties or thirties would.
In these younger years you don't have the levels of testosterone going through your body that older individuals do, or is your body capable of generating muscle tissue as quickly.
One research study that was conducted out of the Harvard Medical School in Boston showed that typically when resistance training is carried out at the younger years, although strength gains can definitely be demonstrated, usually these specific strength gains are actually due to the result of increased neuromuscular activation and coordination, not actual muscle hypertrophy.
Because of this fact, if training is stopped suddenly, there is an increased chance that the individual will lose some of the size he has gained quicker than someone at an older age would.
This shouldn't be a deferring factor in getting started on a resistance training workout, but rather use the information to understand what's going on in your body so that if something forces you to stop doing your workouts for a period of time, you don't get too discouraged if you see some size loss.
Typically this size will come back quickly again as soon as you resume training, especially if the break period only lasts for a month or two.
This study also reported that those young athletes who were engaging in the resistance training were also not at any higher risk of injury than those who were not, laying to rest the myth that teen bodybuilders are asking for injury. Keep in mind though this assumes proper form and technique are being used.
4. Fuel Your Muscles Properly
As you go about your teen bodybuilding workout program, you need to be sure you take the time to look after your nutrition.
As we touched upon briefly above, if you aren't fueling your body properly, this does pose a significant threat to proper growth, and since reaching full height potential is quite important to most teenagers, this is something you're concerned about.
Remember that you already require a higher number of calories per day on average during your prime growth years, so then you must add more calories to this daily total in order to support the workouts, and even more yet if you do want to grow larger.
A good range to shoot for as far as most teen bodybuilders are concerned is seventeen to twenty calories per pound.
If you already know you are someone who does tend to put body fat on a bit easier, then you will want to start at the lower end, while if you're someone who is thin as a pole right now, move towards the high end.
It's clear that your metabolism is in high gear and if you don't supply enough calories you could even begin losing more weight.
You, as a teenager, should also not be attempting any intricate diet practices such as very low-carb diets or otherwise, but rather focusing on a mix of healthy proteins, carbohydrates, and dietary fats.
Limiting the macronutrients at this time could rob your body of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that are needed for proper growth and development.
5. Maintain Perspective And Balance
Finally, the fifth thing you should be doing if you're a teenager who is getting started into teen bodybuilding is maintaining proper perspective and balance.
There are a growing number of teens who do not quite see their real body looking back at them when they look in the mirror because they are developing body dysmorphia, which essentially makes them think they are fatter/thinner than what they really are.
If you begin to find yourself becoming obsessed with gaining size or losing weight, it's time to take a step back and refocus yourself on what really matters at this point in your life.
While you do definitely want to work towards a body you are proud off, there is a fine line between wanting to look your best and feeling as though your success as a person depends on it.
By maintaining balance with your workout goals and the other activities in your life, you will set yourself up for many years of healthy working out, which will get you the body you are looking for in the long run.
- Maffulli, N. & Pintore, E. (1990). Intensive training in young adults. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 24:237-239.
- Jeffrey, A & Micheli, L.J. (2001). Strength Training for Children and Adolescents. Journal of American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Vol. 9, No 1, 29-36.