Should teenagers train the same way like adults?


In the days where obesity among your people is a huge (pun intended) problem, it makes sense to look how a training program for older kids/teenagers should look like. Side bar: obesity is very hard to cure since the obese teenager will grow more fat cells and less muscle from an early age on.

Additionally , an obese young adult will produce less testosterone  and growth hormone as opposed to a person of regular weight, thereby making building muscle and losing fat much harder. lastly, since he won’t be playing much due to fear of embarrassment etc, his coordination will be off making workouts less effective.

I guess this is just a very long winded way of saying that you must prevent obesity at an early stage. But how to go about it?  ” Go out and play” does not work anymore.

In most urban dwellings the days of just going-out-and-play are long gone so physical activity (sports) must be scheduled and organized.

Kids today have more academic responsibilities to carry while being exposed to more (mainly electronic) distractions so, unless a workout is scheduled, it is probably not going to happen. The advantage of gyms is that their opening hours put you, the parent or advisor, in charge of the schedule as opposed to having to follow a preset schedule in a class setting.
Of course, being a personal trainer in NYC I do have an interest in getting more people into the gym.  ( the urban jungle of Manhattan does not lend itself for pick up games..)

But before we discuss the actual workout and diet for fat loss and muscle gain, let’s tackle some common questions:

First things first: does weight training stun growth? Thats what I was told many, many moons ago when I first picked up a pair of dumbbells. Well, as purely anecdotal evidence consider this: I grew to 6,2″, my brother even to 6,8″.. But lets look at the since: will picking up dumbbells end your growth prematurely?

No. That is an old myth which has long been put to rest. Only steroids will close the epiphyseal growth plate early. Before gyms, kids where told to do push ups and pull ups. Now answer me the following : how is a push up different from a bench press and a pull ups from a lat pull down?

However,  a lot of kids can not do a push up, much less a pull up so the constant failure at attempting to do one will simply lead to overboiling frustrations and quitting. The smarter way to go about things is to build up confidence and strength by gradually increasing weight in the bench press and lat pulldown until the athlete can venture into the bodyweight exercise.

Also, weight lifting does NOT make you inflexible. Think about it: weight training done right is a dynamic stretch, which improves flexibility. The only way you would lose flexibility is by gaining an beyond natural amount of muscle which would be hard to do without the help of drugs.

1. When can kid start training?

From age 12 on , with the understanding that actual muscle gain will set in mainly after 16 years of age for the simple reason that most energy is diverted to growth. Strength gains however will occur along with some fat loss. Adult supervision is a must and this is where you will butt heads ( just remembering my own run ins with authority figures at that age) so it is worth a thought to get a neutral person such as a coach involved.

2. How should teenagers train?

Basically, we can put anyone ( not just teenagers) in one of two categories: those who have experience with sports and have more control over their body movements and those that have not. Those with some sport experience can be trusted with a free weight/ machine mix. Kids who are more on the sedentary side should use mainly machines and single joint exercises.

The goal should be for both groups to manage two to three whole body workouts a week for one year in order to establish consistency without overloading their recovery abilities. Once in a while, a session with a certified personal trainer could be beneficial in order to check up on form and proper technique.  At this age, we were all prone to train with weights that were too heavy in sloppy form to impress our brethren. Luckily, I never got injured but others did.

3. What to do in terms of diet?

In terms of diet, unless the child is obese, it makes sense to eat a calorie surplus since we are dealing with developing bodies an wold like stronger muscles and ligaments. Bodyweight (lbs) x 15 or bodywheight (kg) x 30 would be a good start for the daily calorie intake. Since the metabolism is super fast at that age, we easily make room for 20% junk food/80% clean. This way, the teenager can actually have a life.

4. Supplements?

There really is no need for supplements, albeit a multivitamin might help combatting the usual teenagers adversity toward anything green. Most teenagers are cash strapped so you will be doing them a favor by preventing wasteful spending.

5. What to do after one year of training?

After training consistently for a year, you can bump the workout frequency to 4x a week thinking a lower/ upper body set up. The critical thing is not to make training a chore, but to keep it interesting since you want to create a lifestyle, not a teenage bodybuilding champion. IF the kid is talented you will know but stay in tune with the teenagers fitness goals, not yours..

6. Other things to look for…

Like any other sport, bodybuilding offers great benefits, as it will teach the youngster passion, dedication, self-actualization and the knowledge that success does not come overnight. Make sure to keep training and the fitness journey interesting, yet challenging and the results will be motivating enough to stay on a healthy pass.

Here is the video if you prefer a different delivery!

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