Teen Weight Training Article by Marty Gallagher at IRON COMPANY

Teen Weight Training - There's No School Like Old School

Similarities between weight training modes used by boys seeking to morph themselves in 1965 and 2022

Chicks dig me! Making gains and fired up for more: 15-year-old after one year of result-producing training

I weight train teenage boys on a regular and reoccurring basis. I like working with youngsters, assuming they are self-motivated. I sniff out and pass on father-motivated teens. I will not work with the unmotivated, regardless of age. I look for a certain type of teen, one totally dissatisfied with their current physical state. It has been my experience that those afflicted with this deep dissatisfaction make for hard and determined workers.

I expose teens to tried-and-proven Old School hardcore weight training methods. Real progress, adding muscle and strength, stripping off body fat and attaining true fitness (regardless of age) requires backbreaking work, combined with proven-effective, battle-tested systems. I can provide the battle-tested systems if they can provide the back-breaking work.

I was one of those boys that burned for transformation. In my day we scoured the muscle magazines for photographic inspiration and weight training information. Our information was extremely limited but extremely good. The muscle mags, Strength & Health, Muscle Builder, Muscular Development, All American Athlete, and Iron Man, provided excellent information on a wide range of strength sports: Olympic weightlifting, bodybuilding, powerlifting, training for sport. So much of that truly Old School information I first gleaned in the 60s and 70s, has proven prophetic.

So many of the weight training methods I first learned (and used to transform myself) from John McCallum, Tommy Suggs, Bill Starr, Ric Wayne, Tommy Kono, Bill Pearl, Averill Taggert, John Grimek, et. al, have stood the test of time and form the foundational principles I use in 2022 to train modern teens. Nowadays teens go online seeking weight training advice. This is akin to drinking from a firehose. Trying to find sound advice in 2022 is as likely as finding the golden needle in the giant haystack.

When motivated teens find me, I teach them highly specific techniques, full range-of-motion squats, bench presses, deadlifts, overhead press, power cleans. I strength train them once or twice a week: we stress absolute strength and explosive strength. During the week they engage in intense sport, or practice sustained strength cardio drills utilizing the “burst” approach, i.e., go all out, recover, repeat for the duration of the training session.  

There is a psychology behind motivating teens and keeping teens motivated: you need to obtain results for young boys and do so quickly. If they train hard, eat big, and rest big, weekly gains for diligent teens are obtained in every measurable benchmark. Each week power improves, explosiveness increases, locomotive-like endurance built. If they follow Old School advice, it is physiologically impossible not to make dramatic gains.

Bodyweight goals are established and set into periodized timeframes: is the youngster overweight and seeking to lean out? Is the individual skinny, undersized and seeking to muscle up? For the former, each successive week the goal is a slight decrease in bodyweight; for the later, a slight increase in bodyweight would be proscribed.

  • An overweight 260-pound 17-year-old football tackle seeking to lean out might drop 2-pounds of scale weight per week over the life of a 12-week periodization cycle. (24 pounds of fat in 12 weeks)
  • An underweight 6-2, 150-pound basketball player seeking to muscle up might add 1-pound of bodyweight per week over the life of a 12-week cycle. (12-pounds of muscle added in 12-weeks)

Each successive week predetermined, periodized goals are attained in lifting, cardio, and bodyweight. The proverbial elephant is consumed one bite at a time and eaten slowly. Each week the teen athlete becomes slightly stronger, slightly fitter, slightly leaner, slightly more muscular. At the end of an unbroken 12-week cycle, the teen athlete is an enhanced, improved version of their previous self. And hungry for more. The wonderful fact about teen boys that commit to our “holistic process” (though we would never describe it as such them) is that gains come at an astoundingly fast rate.

If hardcore resistance weight training occurs as the teen is passing through puberty, results skyrocket. Male puberty occurs when testosterone production commences. Up until this biologic rite-of-passage, children are more similar than dissimilar. That all changes with the introduction of male testosterone into the boy body. If the male tweenie happens to be weight training, hard and heavy when his testosterone production commences, dramatic increases in muscle size and strength occur with mind-blowing rapidity.

Heavy lifting, intense physical effort, stimulates even more testosterone production: the boy’s new testosterone production assembly line goes into overdrive. The more the teen lifts, the more testosterone is created and fuel-injected into the bloodstream. The lifting triggers hypertrophy, more muscle built, more strength created. Tendons, ligaments, bone density, muscle insertion points, all strengthened and hardened.

The next phase of the “growth cycle” is for the young lifter to stuff themselves with quality calories creating supercompensation. The growth cycle is completed when, after shattering muscles in a training session, after super-compensating with a massive intake of clean calories, the teen lifter sleeps like a hibernating bear. Much growth occurs during deep REM sleep. Growth hormone loves to seep into the system after a hard-ass day of training and big eating. Physical exhaustion is a wonderful sleep inducer. The boy athlete wakes up bigger, stronger, and more muscular than when he fell asleep the previous night. What a way to start a day. Chicks dig me!

There is a nutritional pitfall: if the teen athlete, crushing it in the weight room, sleeping deep and often, chooses to eat nothing but “bad” calories, they will accumulate an unacceptable amount of body fat. If the teen athlete lives on insulin-spiking foods from the time they awake until bedtime, body fat must be created. A teen lifter that lives on pop tarts, fruit juice, donuts, pizza, ice cream, sodas, chips, and Big Macs will, for every pound of muscle gained add 1-2 pounds of body fat.

We all have foods we like that are beneficial and encouraged. “Heavy up” on the good foods to the point of satiation. After eating a half chicken, rice, a salad, and a giant glass of milk, the athlete has less room and desire for bad stuff. Cardio training is critical. Lifting heavy, stuffing your face on bad calories, being a slug, avoiding cardio, is an express train to obesity.

Another interesting aspect to hardcore teen weight training: muscle gains last for life. More accurately, muscle memory exists a lifetime. If as a teen a boy builds a muscular 16-inch arm and 26-inch thighs at age 18, though he might quit training altogether, if he recommences at age 40 he will have muscle memory up to a 16-inch arm and 26-inch thighs: having once built them, reattaining 16-inch arms 26-inch legs again is doable – you have muscle memory. It is easier to reattain having once pushed to that size. It is harder for someone at age 40 trying to construct 16-inch arms for the first time.

The bottom-line conclusion: the absolute best time for a person to commence weight training is to morph into a teen boy heading into puberty. This is the optimal time to harden and grow muscle, morph from weak child into muscled-up teen. I underwent this optimized state and realized the best gains of my life.

I love showing the testosterone-overdosed males how to avoid all the pitfalls and roadblocks I encountered. I show them the short cuts and I hold them accountable. I teach them how to train, eat, and rest as they pass through Nature’s once-in-a-lifetime Performance Enhancing drug cycle. The diligent improve every week – for years! Oh, to be young again – and to know what I know now. Youth is wasted on the young!


About the Author - Marty Gallagher
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of multiple books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher Biography for a more in depth look at his credentials as an athlete, coach and writer.