How old do you need to be to build muscle? I’m still in high school.

Marco started at 16, I started at 20. By the time I gained my first pound, Marco had gained 63. If I could go back in time, I would have started even younger than Marco. It would have been amazing to be a stronger, healthier and burlier teenager… and the benefits of training during puberty are pretty amazing—especially in the longer term.

This isn’t just my personal opinion—the research unanimously agrees that weightlifting is amazing for kids and teenagers (study, study, study, study, study, study, study).

Here are a couple quotes from some of those studies:

“Although in the past resistance and high-intensity exercise training among young children was the subject of numerous controversies, it is now well-documented that this training mode is a safe and effective means of developing maximal strength, maximal power output and athletic performance in youth, provided that exercises are performed with appropriate supervision and precautions.”

“Several studies provide consistent findings supporting the benefits of repeated, intense physical efforts in young subjects. Improved motor skills and body composition, in terms of increased fat free mass, reduced fat mass and enhanced bone health, have been extensively documented, especially if sport practice began early, when the subjects were pubescent. It can be therefore concluded that strength training is a relatively safe and healthy practice for children and adolescents.”

“Not only is regular physical activity essential for normal growth and development, but also a physically active lifestyle during the pediatric years may help to reduce the risk of developing some chronic diseases later in life. In addition to aerobic activities such as swimming and bicycling, research increasingly indicates that resistance training can offer unique benefits for children and adolescents when appropriately prescribed and supervised.”

“These results emphasize that resistance training provides an effective way for enhancing motor performance in children and adolescents.”

The cool thing about starting young—before and during puberty—is that your body is still growing and adapting. By starting to train like a beast young, you can come out of puberty permanently adapted for the better. Better motor skills, greater bone density, greater muscle-building potential, more brainpower, more willpower, better health, etc.

But you need to do it right. None of those studies recommend just jumping in without any guidance. Here are some tips:

  1. Start with moderate rep ranges in order to give your tendons and ligaments time to adapt. If you’ve never lifted weights before, I wouldn’t go lower than 10 reps for a couple months. Bodybuilding and mobility work first, not straight up strength training. You’ll still build muscle size optimally, but the emphasis on strength will come along in the coming months. (We have introductory phases for beginners that do just this.)
  2. Use progressions. No need to back squat, barbell bench press and barbell deadlift on your first day. I’d recommend starting with simpler progressions, like goblet squats (or split squats), dumbbell bench presses (or push-ups) and dumbbell sumo deadlifts (or rack pulls). They’ll allow you to build muscle quickly and safely, while also developing the strength, mobility and stability to progress.
  3. Use mostly bodyweight and free weights, not machines. Barbells, dumbbells and your own bodyweight allow your body to distribute the load properly and move in a natural way. Machines can force unnatural movement patterns and weird load distributions, making them more dangerous. They aren’t “bad”, just not quite as good at building muscle and not quite as safe.
  4. Ask your parents and doctor.
  5. Choose a good program. I recommend ours 😉

I’ll leave you with Dallas, one of our now-burly high schoolers:

How Old Do You Need to be to Lift Weights / Build Muscle / Become a Beast?


Category: 6. Can I do the Program?

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