Biggest Mistakes Teen Bodybuilders Make

Teenager doing pullups on outside bar
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It's easy for teens to make mistakes when they get started with bodybuilding. You may think if you train super hard and follow a proper bodybuilding diet, you'll look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in 3-4 months, especially if you do everything "by the book." While you might make outstanding gains since it's the first time you're training with weights, you'll still be very far away from looking like Arnold.

Unrealistic bodybuilding goals are just one of many mistakes that teenage bodybuilders make when they first get started. Learn how to avoid them and you will be on the fast track to great bodybuilding results.

Unrealistic Goals

It's easy to have unrealistic expectations when you start bodybuilding. While we cannot really say how much muscle you can expect to gain since everybody gains muscle at different rates, we can tell you that if you gain 20 lbs of solid muscle in the first year then you are doing phenomenal.

Building a championship body takes time and consistent application of a good bodybuilding workout, a proper bodybuilding diet, and adequate rest. Bodybuilding is an activity where you need to be patient. However, you can stay motivated, and also ensure that you are moving in the right direction if you track your progress.

Take digital images of yourself every four weeks, and track your weight and your measurements. If you can have someone who is competent take your skinfold caliper measurements even better. In this manner, every four weeks you can see where your body is going and adjust your program accordingly. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words and you will be amazed at how much more pictures can tell you about your progress over simply taking measurements.

For example, if you were to take measurements without pictures and you measured your arms at 14 inches and four weeks later they measure the same (and your weight has remained constant), you would think that you have made no progress. However, if you took pictures and you can see more shape and definition in your pictures, then that tells you that even though your measurements remained steady, muscle mass was gained and fat was burned.

If you recorded skinfold caliper readings as well and the skinfold measurements went down, then you know that you lost fat and gained muscle for sure. If you use an Excel sheet to keep track of all this information (and you can even save digital pictures on Excel) you will be amazed at how far you will have come along in a year if you applied every aspect of your bodybuilding program consistently.

Lack of Consistency

Some teens think that if they lift for three weeks and they take 2 weeks off, they can come back and start off where they left. However, this could not be any further from the truth. This lack of consistency will hold you back and prevent bodybuilding gains from coming your way.

Be determined and consistent with every aspect of your bodybuilding program (training, diet, and rest)! At the end of the day, consistency will be your most powerful ally for making long-lasting bodybuilding gains.

Going to the Gym Without a Planned Workout

Some teenagers (and adults) wander around the gym just doing one exercise after the other, as heavy as they possibly can, without rhyme nor reason. This not only is a path to mediocre results but also to possibly getting injured.

It is crucial that you have a good training plan put together before you go to the gym. Take a look at the training articles of this website for more information on what a good bodybuilding training routine should look like.

Following the Champion Routines

On the other side of the coin we have teens who do have a planned workout; perhaps that of a high-level competitive bodybuilding champion. However, this schedule is far too advanced for the beginning to intermediate teenage bodybuilder.

Once a bodybuilder has been training for over ten years, he/she learns how their body best responds to training. At that point in time, the training routine is designed to address weak body parts while maintaining the strong ones. In addition, the pro routine may also have more isolation exercises than a routine for a beginner or intermediate teen bodybuilder should have. Finally, the training volume and frequency of a pro training schedule reflect the individual's unique capacity for training volume, which may be much higher than that of a teen bodybuilder.

Because of everything just mentioned, the advanced routine from a pro bodybuilding competitor or a high-level national competitor may end up leaving the teen bodybuilder overtrained in some areas while undertrained in others. Also, if the training volume and frequency are too high it may end up leading to overtraining and then injury.

Using the Wrong Exercises

Again, this is a mistake that happens when more advanced training routines are followed. Mass building routines should be brief (1 hour tops) and focus mainly on free weight, basic, multi-jointed exercises. Too many machines and too many isolation movements will lead to slow results if any.

Too Much Weight With Improper Form

We have all seen the over-ambitious teen bodybuilders who put way too much weight on the bench press in an attempt to "max out." Teen bodybuilders should not be maxing out as during these ages the muscles grow stronger much quicker than the tendons and ligaments. "Maxing out," which is doing the most weight one can lift for one repetition, can exponentially increase the chances of injury, especially when proper form is not being used. Keep in mind that in bodybuilding the weight is just a means to an end. We use the weights as tools to induce controlled stress on the muscle and thus cause hypertrophy (muscle grow).

We are not powerlifters. So focus on performing sets of 8-15 repetitions with perfect form so that the weight stimulates the muscle (as opposed to taxing the joints) and you will be amazed at the types of gains that you will safely be able to make with the lighter weights.

Not Paying Enough Attention to the Diet

Many teens have the training part of the equation figured out but yet they fail to make any significant progress. Nine times out of ten the reason for that is a bad diet.

Keep in mind that intelligent training sparks the muscle growth process but it is the nutrition the one responsible for feeding that growth. Without the raw materials for new construction, there is no way that you can build a structure the size of the Empire State Building, right? The same is true for bodybuilders. No food equals no growth.

Eating Everything in Sight in Order to "Bulk Up" 

Unless you are a naturally skinny hardgainer who may indeed need to adhere to the "see-food diet", which is the one where you eat everything you see, you will only need a slight caloric surplus in order to gain quality muscle (around 500 calories on top of what you burn). Too many calories (especially if they come from simple sugars and fats) will simply make you fat.

Follow a structured eating plan like the ones discussed in this site. Remember, six small meals a day, spaced out every 2-3 hours and consisting of quality complex carbohydrates (like brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes) to fuel your workouts, lean proteins (like white fish, chicken, turkey) to build the muscle, and a small amount of good fats (like extra virgin olive oil and flaxseed oil) to ensure good hormonal production. Three real meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), combined with a good protein powder, meal replacement powder or bar in between meals will do the trick.

Lack of Sleep

This may be hard to swallow by high energy teens, especially during summertime, but remember that growth happens at night while you sleep. Deprive yourself of sleep and your hormonal activity (your natural steroid production) goes down, which ends up costing you valuable growth. Eight to nine hours of sleep at night will give you the maximum growth you are looking for. Seven would be the bare minimum you can probably get away with.

Expecting Supplements to Do All the Work

Many teens are misled by unscrupulous advertisers and misled peers into thinking that bodybuilding supplements are the most important part of the bodybuilding equation. However, this could not be further from the truth as the cornerstone for bodybuilding success is based on the consistent execution of the training, the nutrition plan, and rest. Therefore, stop obsessing over the latest and greatest discovery that will "add 30 lbs of muscle in 30 days" and concentrate on the items that count. Also concentrate on consistently taking proven supplements that we know are needed and work, like your multiple vitamins and minerals, your protein powders, and your essential fats.

Now that you know what the most common mistakes that teen bodybuilders make are, make sure you don't become victim to them.