February 17, 2010

Weight Training For Teenagers

I noticed that most of my readers are teenagers or young adults, so I've decided to write some tips about bodybuilding, weight training, and weight loss for the young ones. Here goes.

#1 Get Lots of Sleep

Just watch out for photo-stealing girlfriends.

A growing child/teenager needs more sleep than an average adult. A hard-training athlete needs more sleep than an average adult. So how much sleep does a hard-training teenager need? Lots of it! The '8 hours of sleep per day' is a good guideline to follow for maximum growth of both height and muscle. I was a teenager and I know, with temptations like Facebook and TV, it's hard to sleep early. However, it's:

Facebook + TV vs growth (both height and muscle mass).

What's your choice?


#2 Learn to Discern Which Advice is Right

When I was younger (say, 16 years old), many uncles and aunties would come up to me and advise me on my training. Often I'll get "Don't train so hard. You're still young." They themselves, of course, have never trained hard in their life and they don't have the body that any of us will aspire to have. This is common (especially in Malaysia, where weight training and bodybuilding is still obscure). Many people will give you naive, incomplete and mostly wrong advice. Be nice to them and reply respectfully (just nod at their words, thank them for their advice) and continue what you're doing. Get your info from established magazines, websites and if possible, successful competitive bodybuilders and fitness competitors. There are many ways to climb a mountain, but only one will bring you to the peak. I'll quote some nonsense that I've heard in my training years.

"Eh, if you wanna bodybuild, don't start so young, because the protein will concentrate in your arms and not on your bones, and so you won't grow."

"Eh, you know ar, if you bodybuild, you'll turn gay?"

"Eh, don't take those supplements! They're drugs! Bad for you!"

Wow. Really?

#3 Don't Take Steroids

Most of the side effects associated with anabolic steroid usage are reversible. However, when taken by a teenager, two possible side effects are irreversible, and they're not easy to live with. First is stunted growth. Now, being short is not very desirable, right? Well, being short when you could have been taller is a worse feeling than that. The second irreversible side effect is stunted natural testosterone production. You see, the body will keep certain levels of hormones and other stuff within certain limits. So, when you artificially increase your testosterone levels using steroids, it'll try to reduce natural production to balance out the increase. If testosterone is injected in youths for prolonged periods, the body might go as far as permanently reducing the natural production. That means less muscle in the long term, guys.

#4 Not So Fast

Like I've mentioned in tip #3, it'll really suck knowing that you've done something that made you shorter than your maximum height. When is the right time to start weight training?

Me at 11, before bodybuilding. Oh look! I'm in first place!

Personally, I started weight training at the age of 11! And I mean hardcore training (not very consistent at all though). That time, I was 146cm and now I'm 168cm (5'6") tall (I'm sensitive about my height, so zip it!). So I was actually growing when I was weight-training hard. Plus, my parents aren't that tall. My dad is 5'5" and my mom is 5'1". So perhaps my height wasn't affected at all!

A few inches of extra height will be beneficial for most people.

However, I would recommend that teenagers start weight training when they are at least 15 years old or more specifically, when their growth spurt stops. Not only will this reduce the chance of stunted growth, but at that age, guys will have enough natural testosterone to actually build muscles. After all, why start when your body hasn't produced the necessary hormones for it yet?

#5 Be Humble

When I started bodybuilding, I was so passionate about it. I would pose in the mirror every night to check for progress. I would talk about it with my friends. I would invite friends to the gym. I would go on bodybuilding.com for hours. I would read all about Arnold. I would take shirtless photos and post it up on Friendster (there was no Facebook then). I would train for hours in the gym every weekend (I was following Arnold's workout then, which lasted for 2 to 3 hours per session, which now we know is too long for optimal gains).

And did the people around me interpret all that as being passionate and ambitious? Nope. Instead, some thought I was showing off and desperately trying to impress people.

Try mixing with other gym rats who share your passion.

And honestly, my young readers, this will happen. Especially if you grow up in Malaysia, just like me. In Singapore however, people are more open towards weight training but still, there's a possibility of this happening.

It's only when I started competing and grew a significant amount of muscle that people around me realised that I'm serious about this sport and started to respect what I'm doing. Even so, I try my best to keep my head on my shoulders instead of up in the sky.

Not exactly true.

So in short, be friendly and humble, find the community who are into weight training and to a certain extent, avoid cynics because they can really bring you down. And speaking of cynics, that brings us to our next point.

#6 Ignore Cynics, Tactfully

This is probably the most painful part of bodybuilding. The cynics of bodybuilding are aplenty. I've heard it all. Once they hear that someone is bodybuilding, they'll bombard the person with all kinds of false hearsay because they do not want him to have the "glory of physical superiority". Like in #5, we weight trainers should be humble. But these guys like to do it in for us. When you bump into one, remember, you DON'T have to prove them wrong, you DON'T have to dwell on their words and you CAN walk away.

"Bodybuilders have small dicks"

"Bodybuilders are vain"

"Bodybuilders are dumb and shallow"

We've heard it all. But anyone with above average IQ and EQ could tell you, these are comments made by cynics just to make themselves feel better. Because honestly, sometimes, people feel bad when they see superior bodies, as much as they will never want to admit it. So in a way, we should be tolerant towards these people, knowing that everyone has their insecurities.

Train hard! Stay strong!


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