Beginner Teen Bodybuilding: Breaking It Down

Because teens are still growing, they especially need to make sure that they aren't lifting too heavy too fast... Throughout this article you will find different tips and techniques on how teens can train properly and safely.

The best part of training is that you can start young. Many schools these days are incorporating weight training into their Physical Education classes. This not only benefits the student athletes, but it also benefits those kids who want to live a healthier lifestyle. Throughout this article you will find different tips and techniques on how teens can train properly and safely.

It's obvious that during the teen years there are a lot of physical and hormonal changes for both males and females. Without turning this into a sex education class, we will skip over all of the details and get into the exercise aspect.

Because teens are still growing, they need to make sure they aren't pushing a weight that they aren't able to properly execute with the correct form. By trying to push too hard and too heavy too quickly could result in injuries.

Obviously, this is something we are trying to avoid. Teens can safely do any exercise if done with proper form and with the proper weight. Injuries occur when teens are unsupervised and also when they put their egos before their abilities. Many teens feel the pressure of others to lift more weight than they can handle. This is where form is compromised and injuries can occur.

Now lets break things down...


  • Training can be done 3-5 days a week.
  • The sessions should be short—anywhere between 30-60 minutes.
  • It is best to train each body part once a week.
  • Teens can benefit the most by using compound exercises such as: Bench press, Squats, Shoulder Press, Rows, Deadlifts
  • If the volume is increased then it is best to keep the intensity lower. Volume and intensity are inversely related. So just the opposite is true-if the volume is low, then keep the intensity high.
  • Sets should be kept to around 5-8 per body part.
  • Sets should be based on what body part you are working. For the larger muscle groups (legs, back, chest) you can be in the upper set range and for the smaller muscle groups (shoulders, arms) you should be in the lower set range.
  • The reps can be anywhere between 8-15.

Teens will find that they will gain strength before they gain size-this is normal. As time progresses, their size gains will increase with their strength.

Here are some sample workout routines (order of days can vary):

  • Day 1: Chest/Triceps
  • Day 2: Legs/Shoulders
  • Day 3: Back/Biceps
  • Day 1: Chest/Biceps
  • Day 2: Legs/Shoulders
  • Day 3: Back/Triceps
  • Day 1: Chest
  • Day 2: Back
  • Day 3: Legs
  • Day 4: Shoulders/Arms
  • Day 1: Chest
  • Day 2: Back/Shoulders
  • Day 3: Legs
  • Day 4: Arms
  • Day 1: Chest
  • Day 2: Back
  • Day 3: Legs
  • Day 4: Shoulders
  • Day 5: Arms
  • Day 1: Chest
  • Day 2: Quads/Calves
  • Day 3: Back
  • Day 4: Hamstrings/Shoulders
  • Day 5: Arms


During the teen years is when the metabolism is generally kicked into high gear and kids can eat whatever they want and not gain an ounce of fat (I know, for some of us we wish we were still there). But this is the perfect time to establish a healthy eating style.

Lean meats/chicken and complex carbohydrates are perfect for any growing boy or girl. With school it is hard to get in the amount of meals which a normal bodybuilder/fitness enthusiast would have. The norm is anywhere from 5-7 meals a day.

It is possibly for a teen to get in most of those with breakfast, snack between classes, lunch, snack after school, dinner, and a snack in the evening. However teens and fitness enthusiasts don't think of snack in the same fashion.

Most teens think of candy bars, ice cream, donuts, cookies, and stuff loaded with sugar. Those who are health and fitness conscious think of a snack as something as simple as an apple with some peanut butter, or a yogurt with some nuts, or even some raw vegetables.

Below is a list of foods that are great for teens:


  • Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast
  • Tuna (water packed)
  • Fish (Salmon, Sea Bass, Halibut)
  • Shrimp
  • Extra Lean Ground Beef or Ground Round (92-96%)
  • Protein Powder
  • Egg Whites or Eggs
  • Ribeye Steaks or Roast
  • Top Round Steaks or Roast (aka Stew Meat, London Broil, Stir Fry)
  • Top Sirloin (aka Sirloin Top Butt)
  • Beef Tenderloin (aka Filet, Filet Mignon)
  • Top Loin (NY Strip Steak)
  • Flank Steak (Stir Fry, Fajita)
  • Eye of Round (Cube Meat, Stew Meat, Bottom Round , 96% Lean Ground Round)
  • Ground turkey, Turkey Breast Slices or cutlets (fresh meat, not deli cuts)

Complex Carbs

  • Oatmeal (Old Fashioned or Quick Oats)
  • Sweet Potatoes (Yams)
  • Beans (Pinto, Black, Kidney)
  • Oat Bran Cereal
  • Brown Rice
  • Farina (Cream of Wheat)
  • Multigrain Hot Cereal
  • Pasta
  • Rice (White, Jasmine, Basmati, Arborio, Wild)
  • Potatoes (Red, Baking, New)

Fibrous Carbs

  • Green Leafy Lettuce (Green Leaf, Red, Leaf, Romaine)
  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Spinach
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery

Other Produce and Fruits

  • Cucumber
  • Green or Red Pepper
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Fruit (if acceptable on diet): Bananas, Apples, Grapefruit, Peaches, Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries
  • Lemons or Limes

Healthy Fats

  • Natural Style Peanut Butter or Almond Butter
  • Olive Oil, Safflower Oil, Almond Oil, Flaxseed Oil
  • Nuts (Peanuts, Almonds, Walnut)
  • Olive, Canola, and Peanut—Monounsaturated Oils
  • Safflower, Sunflower, Corn, Soybean, and Cottonseed—Polyunsaturated Oils
  • Leafy Veggies, Seeds, Nuts, Grains—Omega-6
  • Veggie Oils (Safflower, Sunflower, Corn, Soybean, and Cottonseed), and poultry fat—Omega-6
  • Oils (Canola, Flaxseed, Soybean, Walnut, Wheat Germ, Canola or Soybean Oil)—Omega-3
  • Nuts and Seeds (Butternuts, Flaxseeds, Walnuts, Soybeans)—Omega-3
  • Fatty Coldwater Fish (Mackerel, Salmon, Bluefish, Mullet, Sablefish)—EPA and DHA
  • More Fish (Menhaden, Anchovy, Herring, Lake Trout, Sardines, Tuna)—EPA and DHA

Dairy and Eggs

  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Eggs
  • Low or Non-Fat Milk


Supplementation is no excuse for poor nutrition. That is the first rule that you need to learn about supplements. The second rule is that supplementation isn't for everyone. Supplements work differently for everyone and some people can have great success while others get no results.

The third rule is, when you are a teen and/or just starting out you want to keep everything basic. There is no need to purchase the newest hype out on the market and believe it will take you from skinny to buff or from overweight to six-pack abs.

The only supplements that I recommend for a teen:

Before you use any type of supplements, I strongly recommend you run things by your doctor to ensure that you will not have any adverse reactions. Under normal circumstances there shouldn't be any problem with either of these products but it is always best to make sure things are in the clear before you ingest anything.

Some protein powders have a combination of ingredients, which can include nuts, so it is especially important to read label and all of the warnings on the container before you purchase anything.


The multivitamin is a great choice for EVERYONE because your body needs the proper vitamins and minerals to function efficiently. Each vitamin and mineral does thousands of biochemical reactions in the body and helps keep hormone levels steady. You can safely take a multivitamin in the morning (which everyone should do regardless if it is a workout day or not) and also one following your workout.

Protein Powder

Protein powder is a great choice to help increase your daily protein intake. Teens should strive for one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. Your best choice for a protein powder is whey. Whey is also a great choice for those just starting out because it is inexpensive and effective.

Majority of the powders on the market have a great nutrition profile and will fill in any gap you are lacking during the day. They can be used as snack or even as meal replacements. However, the main use for the protein powders should be for post-workout nutrition. You want to feed your muscles around 40-50 grams of protein after your workout to give them the nutrients they need to repair and grow.

Fish Oil

Fish oil is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids as well as EFA's (essential fatty acids). A good fish oil should include EPA and DHA. These are the "good fats" that we all need. It also helps improve joint flexibility as well as supporting brain, nerve, and visual function. Fish oil can be found in liquid form (which most people don't like the taste) and also in pill form.


Rest is actually the portion of training where you make your gains. While training, it may appear as if your muscles are growing, when in actuality, they have a temporary pump where the muscles are engorged with blood that gives them a nice full look. This image disappears a couple hours after the workout has concluded.

Teens should try and get anywhere from 8-9 hours of sleep a night. Hormone levels are highest during the night while sleeping so this is prime time to make lean mass gains. Everyone who trains needs some time off to rest. That is why I am not recommending that teens train more than 5 days a week. During the off time is when the body will repair the muscle tissues and grow.


After reading this article you should have a better understanding of how teens should train. There is no gender bias, this article can be used for both boys and girls. All of the concepts are tried and true by many.

As always, experiment with different things especially with your training (sets/reps/exercises). Not every tip and technique works for everyone, half the battle (which is also the fun part) of training is finding the method that works the best for you. Try some things and have some fun with it. Your training should be fun, if it's not, find ways to make it fun!