Bodybuilding can be a very healthy and rewarding activity for teenagers for a number of reasons away from the obvious physical benefits. However, due to their youth and the natural changes occurring in their bodies, parents often wonder if the training regimen of a teenager needs to vary drastically from that of an adult?
Most of the dangers relating to teenage bodybuilding actually have more to do with the "teenage" portion of the equation. No one, other than teenagers, would argue with the fact that teenagers can be impulsively and can be prone to ignoring the rulings and rules they find themselves faced with. Obviously, this does not apply to all teenagers, but it is something that needs to be taken into consideration.
There has been a longstanding belief that heavy weightlifting can actually stunt the growth of bones. The basis of the belief is that heavy weight lifting can speed up growth plate closure, basically stopping the bone growth. This has been suggested, but not proven, but weight lifting at an early age certainly has not stunted the growth of the many professional athletes who started young. However, they may be exceptions to the rule and the jury is technically still out with no definitive proof in either camp.
Regardless, the danger is only really associated with heavy duty lifting and only occurs prior to a teenager reaching full developmental maturity. Although it obviously varies from teenager to teenager, the average age of full developmental maturity is 15 and very few teenagers under that age are pumping heavy iron.
A teenager should not try to simply emulate the workout routines of the adults that he or she may see at the gym. The odds are that any adult worth emulating in the gym has been training for years and has vast amounts of experience and training, which the teenager is lacking.
While trainers are a good idea for everyone, they are especially important for teenagers. Bad habits in weight training can lead to serious injuries and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission states 12% of the annual accidents involving weightlifting equipment involved children between the ages of 5 and 14, and 35% involved people aged 15-24.
A good trainer will help a teenager develop the proper form, which is critical to avoiding injury. A trainer can also help reign in a teen who, in excitement and immature reasoning, may try to use weights that are simply too heavy.
Another danger for teenagers is the disturbing trend towards supplement overuse. Again, this can be attributed to a lack of intellectual maturity and experience, but teenagers seem especially prone to sucking into the mythology that supplements are a magic key to building muscles and looking better.
Despite what they may believe about their own thinking capacity, teens are especially receptive to advertisements and magazine hype. The fact that a majority of bodybuilding magazines are owned and published by companies who also produce supplements is not widely known. Obviously, these companies are going to use the magazines they produce to push the products they produce … so do not believe everything you read.
Realistically, teens are under no greater risk than adults while working out as long as it is done properly and intelligently. The key to ensuring that it's done this way is adult supervision and guidance.