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The bodybuilding guide for teenagers part 1

Der Bodybuilding Ratgeber für Teenager Teil 1

This guide will cover the following topics:

  • The 5 stages of puberty and how you should train during each of them
  • What equipment you need to build quality muscle mass
  • Which barbell and dumbbell exercises are the best choicesWhat are realistic expectations and how much muscle can you build during your first five years of training
  • How to properly monitor your progress using a tape measure
  • What proteins, carbohydrates and fats you should eat to support muscle growth and recovery
  • Which supplements can be beneficial for teenagers.

If you're a teenager looking to build muscle, there's a good chance you'll encounter some challenges. It is likely that you will lack complete control over your daily diet and you may not always have access to the best gym equipment.

Many teenagers also see themselves as too skinny and weak. Your body may have grown in height, but it still lacks muscle. You feel lanky, weird, uncoordinated and wish you could perform better at sports.

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

Maybe you don't fit into any of these groups. Maybe you're athletic, relatively strong and simply want to maximize your results, but don't know where to start or what to change. You are already exercising and eating quite sensibly.

No matter where you are, this guide to teenage bodybuilding will provide you with detailed information on the following topics:

  • How to build muscle
  • How to stay lean or improve your body composition
  • How to build strength
  • How to improve your athletic performance
  • How to build self-confidence

Training for teenagers

Not all teenagers are the same. How you approach your training should depend on what stage of puberty you are currently in. Puberty is divided into the following 5 stages:

  • Stage one - Puberty has not yet begun
  • Stage two - Begins around the age of 11. The testicles hang lower and grow and a few pubic hairs begin to develop. This stage lasts about a year.
  • Stage three - Stage three begins around the age of 13. Your voice deepens and your sexual organs reach their full size. This stage will typically last 10 months, but can be completed within 2 months. Some growth may take place, but it will not be as strong as during stage 4.
  • Stage four - This final stage of puberty is the stage of greatest growth and weight gain. Stage four typically begins at age 14 and includes major transitions to adulthood. Boys go through a growth spurt and develop acne. They begin to break their voice and facial hair begins to appear. This stage can last up to 3 years.
  • Stage five - Body hair continues to grow and some teenagers are still growing. This late stage of puberty can last into the late teens or early twenties.

Why is any of this important? Before the onset of stage four, it is unlikely that a teenager will experience significant muscle growth. A study conducted at Virginia Tech showed that teenagers 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 proper exercise form using moderately light dumbbell and barbell exercises.

There is no reason to train heavy and destroy your body in the gym before stage four. Build a good strength base, learn good training form and improve your conditioning and training load slowly and gradually.

This guide covers workouts for teens before stage four, as well as teens who are currently in stage four or beyond. Before we take a closer look at these workouts, however, let's talk about a few things teens should know about training.

What equipment do you need?

You don't need access to all the bells and whistles of the gym to build muscle. In fact, it's possible to build a good amount of muscle with just a few dumbbells, a bench and some bodyweight exercises.

Progressive overload - increasing the resistance over time - is very important. The only thing you really need to build muscle is an adequate amount of resistance. Even if you can't do squats, bench presses or deadlifts, there are plenty of suitable exercises that can help you achieve your goals.

If you are training at home, the following will be sufficient:

  • A weight bench
  • 2 dumbbell bars
  • 80 to 100 kilos of weight plates
  • A pull-up bar

Don't worry if you don't have access to a weight bench, bench presses and flying movements can be done on the floor. In fact, this is a very popular method among strength athletes.

Pull-up bars are very cheap. You can get cheap ones for under 20 euros.

If you simply can't afford this, there are many things you can use as a pull-up station. Get creative. If everything goes wrong, you can use rowing instead of pull-ups. There's no point worrying about an exercise you can't do when there are hundreds of others you can use.

You can find used weight plates on Ebay and other platforms. We've also added muscle building workouts for those who don't have access to a lot of weights. More on this later.

Commercial gyms

If you can work out at a commercial gym, then your primary focus should be on barbell exercises, dumbbell exercises and bodyweight exercises. Cable pulleys and machines can be useful, but should not form the basis of your training.

Recommended exercises

Here are some of the best muscle building exercises. Most really good training programs will include some of the exercises listed in this section.

  • Chest - bench press, incline bench press, dips, dumbbell bench press, dumbbell incline bench press, dumbbell flyes.
  • Back - deadlifts, barbell rowing, dumbbell rowing, pull-ups, lat pull-downs, T-bar rowing, seated rowing on the cable pulley
  • Shoulders - standing shoulder presses, seated barbell shoulder presses, seated dumbbell shoulder presses, Arnold press, side raises, bent-over side raises, upright rowing
  • Quadriceps - squats, leg presses, lunges, Hackenschmidt squats, goblet squats, front squats
  • Leg curls - deadlifts with straight legs, good mornings, leg curls
  • Triceps - close bench press, dips, dips on a bench, cable tricep press, lying tricep press, overhead tricep press
  • Biceps - pull-ups, barbell curls, dumbbell curls, hammer curls, Scott curls
  • Trapezius - barbell shoulder raises, dumbbell shoulder raises, rowing upright

Start training slowly

Neuromuscular adaptation.

One of the most common training mistakes is to start training too quickly. Many teenagers think that more is better and that the harder they train from the start, the faster they will build muscle. However, this is not the case.

When you start a resistance training program, your body goes through a phase of neuromuscular adaptation. This simply means that the strength gains you feel at the beginning are due to your central nervous system adapting to the activity of weightlifting. Your brain becomes better at communicating with your muscles and responding to the specific demands of training with weights.

You cannot speed up this process. Motor units are the communicators between your brain and your muscle tissue - and they have limited endurance. This means that they will exhaust quickly when you start exercising. When the motor units become fatigued, muscle fiber recruitment decreases and you will feel weaker.

Over time, your motor units will build up greater endurance. This will allow you to recruit more muscle fibers over a longer period of time. Higher muscle fiber recruitment will lead to longer lasting strength and more effective workouts. Neuromuscular adaptation can take around 2 months.

Training form

Another reason to take it slow with training has to do with safety. You need to take your time and learn correct exercise form using moderately light weights. Starting heavy training too soon, before you have developed a sufficient understanding of correct exercise form, increases the risk of injury.

If you're injured, you can't train - and if you can't train, you can't build muscle.

Sore muscles

If you go head over heels with heavy training and a normal training volume, this can lead to excessive muscle soreness. Although muscle soreness is not dangerous, it can be painful and debilitating and can cause exercisers to lose their motivation to train.

When you start your training journey, understand that it's not about beating your body to the punch. Rather, it's all about progressing day by day and challenging your muscles to respond and grow.

Start training slowly and sensibly by following the training structure described below. This will keep your motivation high and give you the necessary time to slowly adapt to the demands associated with the muscle building process.

Patience and realistic expectations

Quality gains take years, not weeks. You cannot accelerate progress. Many teenagers try to increase their gains by adding volume and training days to their workouts, but this is the wrong approach.

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

The reality of muscle building is that 90% of teenagers can't manage to train for a year without interruption. They lose patience or focus and give up training.

Building muscle is a process that can take 3, 4 or 5 years. Learn to enjoy your training and trust that the results will come.

The body needs to be challenged consistently over long periods of time. Time is just as important as your training itself.

Muscle building expectations

Teenagers who are not underweight can expect to build the following amounts of muscle mass per year. This is assuming they train correctly and consistently and eat right.

  • Year 1 - 6 to 8 kilos of muscle
  • Year 2 - 3 to 4 kilos of muscle
  • Year 3 - 1.5 to 2 kilos of muscle
  • Year 4 - 0.5 to 1 kilo of muscle
  • Year 5 - 0.5 to 1 kilo of muscle

You should be able to build up an upper arm circumference of 38 centimetres within the first 24 months and an upper arm circumference of 40 to 41 centimetres within the first 3 years.

Strength building expectations

Despite what you see on the internet, 135 kilos on the bench is very rare. Very few teenagers train long enough to achieve this.

I recommend that you aim for the following goals:

  • 90 kilo bench press
  • 120 kilo squats
  • 135 kilos deadlift

This will make you stronger than 99% of other teenagers. Once you have reached this level of strength, everything else will be icing on the cake.

It may take you a few years to reach this level of strength, but keep training and stay focused.

How to monitor your progress

Monitoring your progress will eliminate all the guesswork. All you need to get started is a tape measure and a piece of paper.

Before you start your first day of training, take three measurements at each of the following locations and calculate the average for that location:

  • Arms tensed at the thickest point
  • Quadriceps tensed, at the thickest point
  • Forearms tensed at the thickest point
  • Calves tensed at the thickest point
  • Chest while holding your breath at nipple level
  • Shoulders relaxed at the thickest point

Repeat these measurements every month and write down the values. Don't worry about minor fluctuations and deviations. Measurement errors can be responsible for seemingly strange short-term changes.

These readings should be carefully evaluated every 3 to 4 months. Because gains take time and consistency, we often mistakenly believe that we are not making any progress. However, metrics will allow you to look at the hard facts. These facts don't lie.

You should also weigh yourself once a month. If the scale doesn't move at all, then you will need to increase your calorie intake.

In the next part of this article series, we will take a closer look at the training itself and introduce you to some sample training plans.


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