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October 09, 2021 10 min read

Physical activity is important for all people, no matter their age. However, special consideration should be given to  young teens.

An important developmental period both physically and mentally, these are the years where life-long habits can be formed.

Kids who are instilled with the values of physical activity and wellness will be much more likely to bring this mindset later on in life, when illnesses and age start catching up with us. There are many different ways to go about training for 13-year-old boys, several of which we’ll take a closer look at down below.

Benefits of Resistance Exercises

Resistance exercises are those where you have to move a load in a certain plane of motion, and they’re what’s used in strength training. As the name suggests, strength training will build strength along with stamina, which will in turn help to keep your body mass lean. If weight control is one of the reasons someone is looking into working out, strength training is a great way to go.

Teenage boy engaged in the gym hall

There’s also the fact that one’s metabolic rate will improve, thereby burning more fat in the long run. A regular strength training workout is also a boon for reducing cholesterol levels and making your  bones stronger.

If the adolescent is into athletics, their sports performance will also increase.

Most importantly, however, introducing kids to workout routines will help to build fitness habits that can serve them well into adulthood, garnering further benefits of leading a healthy life.

Early Teen Development and Weightlifting

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about weight training at a young age.

Common misconceptions include things like:

  • Training will result in decreased flexibility
  • Training doesn’t help in terms of strength until puberty hits
  • Training is actually dangerous to growth plates in young people

All of these are misconceptions, and kids can actually start some form of training when they’re old enough to maintain balance and follow directions. This tends to be around the ages of 7 or 8, depending on the child. However, it’s those around the age of 13 that tend to gain more interest in weights.

The age of 13 tends to be just before, or during, the major growth spurt of puberty. While training is perfectly acceptable and safe, some precautions should be kept in mind. While growth plates aren’t harmed during regular strength training, even in kids, you should be choosing weights that aren’t extremely heavy.

To take an extreme example, no young teenagers should be trying for their 1 rep max. The most important part of training at this age is to build a solid foundation of strength, on which to build later gains. This usually takes the form of bodyweight exercises, since not much more is needed.

This is because it’s difficult for younger teens to put on any significant amount of muscle mass—that comes in the mid to late teens for most. However, a lot of this will depend on the individual and their physical maturity. Just now that there is no rush.

Things to Keep in Mind for a Good Workout

When first beginning to work out, there are a lot of things to consider and keep in mind. However, this is especially important for those who are still in their early teen years. The most important factor is to not go too heavy, but there are several other aspects to take into account.

Slow and Steady Lifting

Building off of, “don’t go too heavy,” it’s also important to ease into training. More is not necessarily better, and your body is going to need to go through a process of adapting to the new exertion expected of it. This process can’t be rushed, no matter how consistently or hard you train.

Another important part of this is proper form. It’s essential in lifting to follow the correct movement patterns. Not only will this help you get the most out of the exercise, but it’ll also help you avoid any injuries.

Dipping your toes into the movements with bodyweight variations is a great way to get yourself used to how lifts should be performed.

The slow and steady approach will also help when it comes to alleviating muscle soreness. While some muscle soreness is necessary (and a good thing) since it means you’re pushing yourself, too much can get in the way of training. Being uncomfortable and hurting yourself can also be a major demotivating factor, especially in the early days of working out regularly.

Slow and Steady Progress

This all points to one important fact: you can’t rush your training. Working out is a marathon, not a sprint, and progress will only be seen over the course of months and years, not weeks. What this means is that you have to learn to enjoy the process of training, rather than the rewards it might bring.

Most people lose patience with this within a year, and some never go back. But keeping the right mindset from the get-go will be a powerful tool in getting you to the finish line—and enjoying yourself through the process.

What’s the Right Kind of Routine?

For young teens that are just starting out, simple, basic movements are going to be the cornerstones of workouts. You can make a solid routine just using your body weight, and a dumbbell and barbell will be a massive cherry on top.

Specialized routines won’t be necessary until later, and for now, it’s most important to focus on the lifts that give the most bang-for-your-buck. Routines also don’t need to go for more than three days per week. Even starting out with two and moving onto three is preferred. Only once you’ve got a solid base should you start looking at workout systems that require more.

Sample Workout

This calisthenics workout is a great place to get started if you’re looking for a strength training routine to build muscle or burn body fat. It features a good mix of exercises to get your heart pumping, while also having plenty of popular bodyweight exercises such as pull-ups and squats. This also makes it a good workout plan for home workouts.

If you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge, feel free to either play with the sets and reps, or add weights to some of the exercises.

For example, holding onto a dumbbell can be a great way to ramp up the difficulty of squats. However, make sure that things aren’t too heavy—at least when you’re first starting out.

It’s much more important to get the movement down perfectly before advancing.

  • Push-Ups: 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Inverted Rows or Pull-Ups: 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Burpees: 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Mountain Climbers (Each leg): 2-3 sets of 25-50 reps
  • Plank: 2-3 sets of up to 60 seconds
  • Bodyweight Squats: 2-3 sets of 20-25 reps
  • Sprints: 4 sets of 20-30 meters

Sample Weight Training Program

This strength training workout is a bit more advanced, making it more of a gym workout. However, it’s a significant step up from the previous, largely bodyweight workout we look at above. Once again, it’s important to remember not to go too heavy. This will come down a lot to your age and your athletic level, but you likely shouldn’t be going for 1 rep maxes unless a personal trainer has given you the green light.

This workout plan will engage all of the major muscle groups in your body, and you’ll gain well-rounded muscle growth from it. Perform these twice a week to start before upping the number of workouts to three times weekly.

This will give you a solid basis for further progress in your workout routines and muscular development.

  • Goblet Squats: 2 sets of 8 reps
  • Barbell Squats : 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Barbell Bench Press: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Bent-Over Barbell Row: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Military Press: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Stiff Leg Deadlifts: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Push-Ups: 3 sets of 25 reps
  • Pull-Ups: 3 sets of 10-25 reps
  • Plank: 3 sets of up to 60 seconds

Cardio Activity and Plyometrics

Walking, running, and biking are all fantastic activities to include in any workout routine. A young teen might already be getting these from any sports they’re involved in, but if not, some sort of aerobic activity will have amazing wellness benefits.

This is good for heart health, weight control, and a generally good idea for improving one’s mood. Strength training lifts will also be improved due to the development of endurance and muscular strength. Plyometrics is also a good idea to include in a workout routine.

These are any movements that require an explosive burst of energy to leave the ground, and they’re primarily lower body exercises. An example of a simple plyometric workout could include a double-leg jump followed by box jumps. Perform two or three sets of each with six to ten repetitions, then cool down with a light jog or walk.

Importance of Flexibility

Although younger people are already very flexible, following a flexibility routine is a good way to ensure that this flexibility sticks with them for the rest of their life. For example, something like yoga won’t just make you more flexible, but it’ll also increase muscle strength and develop mindfulness. This is a great way to keep on top of both physical development and mental development, and it’ll improve performance in strength training exercises and athletics.

Flexibility and mobility are important for avoiding injury, both in and out of the gym. A more flexible person will also be able to get more out of their strength training workouts since their range of motion will be improved, allowing one to perform movements the way they’re meant to be.

A simple yoga routine could involve beginning with a Mountain pose before moving into the Tabletop pose and then the Downward-Facing Dog pose. A yoga teacher or personal trainer would be important to ensure that the poses are being performed correctly and the appropriate breathing techniques are being followed.

The Diet for Success

Although workout routines are important, it’s the food you eat that’s going to bring you closer to your physical goals. After all, you can’t out-train a bad diet. When one is just starting out on their fitness journey as a young teen, it’s important to become aware of the different food groups and their effect on the body.

Getting accustomed to what foods are good and what foods are bad is the first step in making the right choices to lead a healthier life. Almost all of us know that pop and chips are bad for you, but what about beef jerky versus tuna? Or pasta versus oatmeal? They may fall into the same food group, but it’s necessary to find out which of these foods are healthier, and then make the right choices.

A lot of this comes down to the density of calories that food has. Processed and fried foods tend to be much more calorie-dense, meaning that it will take you much more calories to get you as full as you need to be. While maybe not as tasty, vegetables are much fewer calories dense, meaning that you’ll be satiated without consuming as many empty calories.

Eating Enough

Working out takes energy, so it follows that if you begin a workout routine you’re going to need to start eating more—especially if you’re looking for some muscle gains. Even if weight control is the overall goal, you shouldn’t necessarily be cutting out food from your diet, but rather cutting out unhealthy foods that contain a lot of calories without a lot of nutrients.

As a young teen, you should be sticking to your regular eating habits as far as the frequency of meals goes, provided that the frequency is reasonable. You should be eating more than twice a day, especially since younger people tend to have faster metabolisms. Refueling regularly with snacks between meals is the way to go—and this goes double for those who work out and are active throughout the day.

And when it comes to muscular development, protein is king. Ensure that you’re getting enough of it from meats, dairy products such as yogurt and cheese, and nuts and seeds. Eating enough fat should also not be avoided, as vilified as they’ve been. However, pay attention to what kinds you’re eating. Things like fried foods and pastries are going to contain a lot of unhealthy trans fats that are going to get in the way of your wellness.

Instead, opt for things such as:

  • Avocadoes
  • Peanut butter
  • Olive oil
  • Eggs
  • Milk, cream, and cheese
  • Fatty meats, especially fish

The same goes for carbs: there are healthier and less healthy options. Chips, ice cream, and sodas will contain a lot of unhealthy options. On the other hand, oatmeal, potatoes, whole grain pasta and bread, and beans are excellent options. Make sure that you’re getting a well-balanced portion of protein, fat, and carbs throughout the day.

What About Supplements?

If a young teen is taking a strength training workout approach seriously, it can be a good idea to supplement their training. However, it’s important to remember that most nutrients should be coming from whole, healthy foods. Supplements are, after all, just meant to supplement a healthy diet.

Saying that, a high-quality  whey protein can be a fantastic addition for those who find it difficult to put on mass. Especially if you’re young, not gaining muscle mass is likely going to come down to not eating enough. And since protein is the building block of muscles, supplementing a diet with whey protein can really help you gain muscle quicker.

Whey protein scoop. Sports nutrition.

Things such as BCAAs can also be taken to improve muscular gains, however, this will have the largest benefits once you’ve found your rhythm in the gym and are making some progress. Multivitamins can also be a great idea to ensure that your body is functioning in tip-top condition.

Although they won’t necessarily have a direct influence on your physical fitness, they will make you healthier (and happier) over the long term. But again, vitamins and nutrients should be mainly coming from a healthy diet rather than a capsule.

Getting Enough Rest

Along with working out and eating properly, the last pillar of a healthy lifestyle is getting enough rest. Sleep is when our muscles actually grow and develop, and the harder someone works out the more they’re going to need to have a  proper   sleeping schedule.

This is particularly important for kids who are still developing. At a minimum, eight hours of sleep should be scheduled each night, but this will depend largely on age.

Getting enough sleep isn’t just important for physical development, but also for mental health. If someone is looking to make just one change towards wellness, ensuring enough rest is the best choice. All of these facets of physical wellness are going to be the foundation that young teen follows for the rest of their lives.

It’s important to instill these aspects early on and make them interesting and fun. Whatever kind of workout route is taken, the most important factor that it’s taken—everything else will fall into place.