T Nation

Age to Start Training?


hi everyone, just wanted to get some opinions. my younger brother about to turn 14 in a month. he comes to the gym with me but basically only hits the speed bags, every now and then throws some punches at the heavy bags, and he does leg raises because i guess he wants a sixer.

just to show him what it feels like, ive had him do some assisted pullups and also assisted dips (attempted them anyways) as well as very very light weight on a preacher curl machine, and a pec deck. before i go on-- i really dont mess with machines, i just wanted him to feel the muscles working and figured the machines with light weight was the safest way to do this.

anyway, the kid is just slightly taller than me -im 5'9" and hes literally maybe 5'9" and a 1/4. hes 165lbs, which is about what i weighed a year into college.

i am not sure when i can help him start lifting. there's the theory that working out too early stunts growth, which i am not sure of. it makes perfect sense to me that heavy squats and such could harm growth plates and compress the spine during growth years and such, but at the same time im not sure what has been proven and what has not. i started working out when i was like 12yrs old and granted i didnt really know what i was doing, i cant say whether or not i believe it has anything to do with me being 5'9" while my older brother is 6'2"--i dunno, maybe i was meant to be 5'9".

basically, my brother at 165lbs looks nothing like what i looked like at 165lbs, at practically the same height. his shoulders are still pretty narrow and he just looks like an average kid, although from wrestling around and messin with him i can tell hes pretty strong for a kid.

im going to try and wrap this up...he wants to work out, but hes also heard the stunted growth thing, so i guess im wondering what anyones take on this is, and if there are certain things he can do with weights and certain things that he cant.

i guess more than anything i dont want him getting picked on in high school. while he is a "big kid" for his age right now, and so was i in 8th grade, i know high school will be another story. its like they ship the kids in from another country, or everyone else grew over that summer i dunno. but he doesnt have that tough guy/hardass attitude that i did in high school, which is probably a good thing for him, but i know that it kept me out of a lot of fights. i guess being willing to throw down in an instant makes people not want to mess with you, but like i said, hes not like that. btw- im not trying to sound cool or anything, just giving a "real life" concern/need to get stronger for him.

and then from a lifter's perspective, i think the kid has potential to be pretty big. with him looking the way he does at 165, i think he could easily be 200+lbs with a couple years of lifting and eating. shit, with knowledge ive aquired on here i could probably get him to 200lbs in a year. anyway, sorry for the long post, but its my little brother, its not hard for me to go on and on about him. thanks


I started lifting when I was 12 and although I am only 5'8" I do not believe in the stunted growth theory. I started training my youngest brother when he was 13 going on 14 at 5'7" and he is now 6'2" and around 235Lbs at age 17. I would recommend teahing him with light free weights (basic movements only) to start with and a lot of bodyweight movements such as dips, chins, and pushups with plenty of cardio. I know my brother thanks me everytime I see him for my training advice through the yrs. Good luck.


14 more than old enough take it slow and go for it.


Yah, I don't believe the stunted growth theory--but--

I believe there may be something about growth plates and ends of bones and.....all that dr. stuff. I believe though that as long as he lifts nowhere near maximum, he should be ok.


At my school, all the football players begin lifting in the 7th grade. They do higher rep stuff, but include squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. A lot of these kids end up pretty tall, too, so I doubt there will be much/any stunting of growth. I don't see why he should be relegated to the pec deck or preacher curl bench. I think that teaching him how to do the money lifts will pay off more in the end.


Search the site for a forum on training T-Kids. I think it was discussed this last summer - good stuff. There was discussion about the "stunting your growth" issue. What I gleaned is that kids can start a lot younger than your brother. Train & educate him on proper form. Beware of trying to test MAX. That might hurt him - there was some bone plate ... sorry, just look for the article. It was really good.


As a trainer I actually recommend boys to get into weight lifting (slowly!) at 14/15 years old. As for stunting the growth, sure it can if you break some bones hehe, outside of that just take it easy and give him progressive workouts. Plus weight lifting has other advantages such as discipline, which can carry over to other things in life.


What? I started working out in 9th grade and I grew a full 5' 2''! Wait. Hmm....



hey everyone thanks for the replies. i think i will slowly get him into it. im thinking starting off though the machines are the way to go just so he can get a general feel for how the muscles work in the sense of lifting weights-- because as im sure everyone would agree, we use our muscles all day long, every day, but the things we do dont exactly parallel the weight room.

what i mean by that is someone can deadlift well over 400lbs but if you give them a box that is 100+ lbs it just may feel heavier. in my case at least...i dunno


Just an addition but weight training Stun or Halt bone growth. Nah aint gonna happen. It has been shown to do the opposite and one of the reasons they are changing their tune on lifting young and Old. Resistance training and the stresses it creates actually Demands more bone growth and density.

Get him in there teach him the correct form etc. Like others said I think it is best to keep him away from maximal loads for some time. 8-10 rep range in geneal.

Oh and make it FUN.



As far as starting him off on machines, I think that is a very BAD idea. At his age his body is going to change from month to month and even from week to week. Training him on a machine will force him into a path of motion that may not be comfortable and/or healthy for him. Allowing him to use free weight barbells (good), dumbells (better) or strongman-type implements (best IMO) will allow him to go through a range of motion that is better for him. Also, at least in my opinion, this type of training is a lot more fun and engaging, which is certainly an issue with younger kids (I don't know how much of an issue it is with your bro). I also assume he might be interested in playing a sport or something in high school, I think we all know that free weights are generally superior to machines for athletics. In my opinion, here's some things you could/should be doing with him:

A. Monday- GPP Day
The less experienced the athlete/trainee, the more GPP they need. The Waterbury article has a great circuit for this. Have him stand under a pull up bar, jump up and do a pull-up (let him use all of the momentum from his jump to help him), then drop down and do a push-up. Repeat until he his having trouble doing the pushups (that is, a pushup takes more than 3-4 seconds to complete), then rest 2 mins. Keep going until he can't do 10 pushups quickly (probably won't be too many sets). Then have him do a few more things, he could do heavy dumbell farmers walks, overhead plate carries, or even take 8-10 45# plates, have him take them all off the rack and then put them back on as quickly as possible. Finish up with a little jump roping.

B. Upper Body Day
Have him do 3-4 sets of chin-ups, stopping 1 rep short of failure. If he can't do 5, have him do 3-4 sets of flexed arm hangs or slow chin-up negatives.
Dumbell bench/incline press. Keep the reps at like 6-8.
Floor Press- keep reps at 8-10
Dumbell Curls- go for 10-12.
Maybe finish up (or warmup) with medicine ball chest and overhead passes.

C. Lower Body Day
Teach him good form on squats and deadlifts and he'll reap the benefits for years to come. A good exercise for working weight would be heavy dumbell deadlifts (or if your gym has a hex-bar, he could use that), because the form is easier and relies less on the back.
Bulgarian Split Squats are also great exercises and will help develop his balance and coordination.
Dumbell snatches are a great exercise to throw in for his warmup. You can even let him use moderately heavy weights with this as the form is a lot easier/safer. Have him do this for his warmup and if/when he wants to learn the olympic lifts, it will make it much easier. You also would probably be well served to teach him to overhead squat with a broomstick.

Overall I guess the theme of my post is that young athletes/trainees need a lot of gpp and general development work. Their coordination and motor pool is not fully developed yet, so they need to do a lot of exercises that will help them out with that. "Maxes" and high-intensity dynamic lifts (like Oly lifts or plyos) will probably not be as beneficial because they won't be able to recruit all of their MU's, so what they can get for 1 rep they will probably able to get fairly close to that for 5 reps.

I'd like to hear some other opinions on this.


I grew six inches in two months in the summer I turned fifteen while I completed two "beginner" 10 x 10 phases of GVT.

Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.


GPP GPP and more GPP.


85% of weighlifters are the tallest member of their families. Most start by the age of 12.


To add onto this (and my own post), remember that ALL of his training now is really GPP. Unless he is some sort of prodigy in a sport at an early age, his training should remain very general until he gets a little older and his body develops and he starts to figure out what he wants to focus more on, whether that's a team sport, oly/powerlifting or body-building. Even lifting days should be thought of as GPP, because you're just looking to give him a general base of strength and coordination and teach him proper form on the lifts.


You're right on - variety is very important for everyone, but especially for developing teens. While I don't have a problem with maxes and olympic lifts when done under a qualified coach - sounds like the original poster isn't quite at the coaching level I'd be confortable having a newbie max with.

Main things to consider - form is paramount. The weight almost doesn't matter for a beginner - he needs to learn how to move correctly more than anything. That being said, use some weight as appropriate.

Variety is key - as was mentioned, his coordination is undergoing some major changes in the early teen years. Use a lot of different lifts/movements to develop coordination in many different motor patterns.

Look at the little things - knee drift, is he arching too much, is he breathing at the wrong times... now is the time to develop good habits.

Fun is also important - unless he's in the top 1%, it's tough to hold a teen guy's attention for an hour. He's also much more likely to be consistent if lifting is enjoyable. Find one or two goals to keep constant(do a chin up, bodyweight squat, something like that) and vary the rest of the movements. That way you get motor pattern variety and something measurable to progress towards.

Eric Cressey wrote a great article on beginning lifting as well, it's a great guide on how to start off right -


Best of luck,



I'm 15 and started when I was 12. I have one thing to say: don't just hand him some weights and let him go, make SURE he has PERFECT form before you start getting heavier. This is critical if you want to keep him injury free and making the best possible gains.

Give him milk, meat, and his vegetables and watch him grow!

Good luck.


My Little Bro is 16 and we boxed(trained) in our younger years but he saw that I had width to me and asked for my help and now he has some decent size to him for a 16 year old at 156lbs who used to be 115lbs. I would say just make sure he eats right and go for it!!! I wish i had someone help me at that age!


training a beginner is easy. Any weight work is going to be a greater load than they are used to.

Here are some neat exercises. Squat, deadlift, pushups, chins overhead press, row. bodyWEIGHT exercises are weight exercises. no need for a program you find on some site or google search. If he presses overhead and in good form, gets to a good 20 reps in the pushup without his body collapsing, and that then point go to a different horizontal push, chins with good form, squats with good depth and good form, and rows with good form, this will be enough.

These basics are not good forever, though. After about 20 years of training, basics may not be enough


working out with weights will not stunt his growth one bit...

things that CAN stunt growth during puberty:

1) not eating enough calories...make sure the eats like a horse, no make that two horses...

2) not getting enough sleep...get a minimum of nine hours sleep a day, preferably more...

3) don't use drugs (alcohol, pot, coke, etc.)...

good luck!