Advice High School Lifters Will Ignore (But Shouldn't)

TAGS: training in high school, high school lifters, novice lifter, cardiovascular health, pre-workout supplements, training advice, david allen


Last year I went to a local high school and spoke with the student body about training, nutrition, and general health. I appreciated the opportunity because it allowed me to reflect on my own time training as a teenager. The weight room played a major role in my development as a young man, and during that period I did a lot of good things and a lot of dumb things. As I was putting together my speech, I thought about the things I wish someone would have told me in high school and I questioned whether or not I would have even listened to them.

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At that age, I was pretty delusional, and most of the advice I was given I didn’t pay any attention to until I screwed up enough to realize they were right. So this article is in the spirit of being a teenager who didn’t listen, and knowing other teenagers probably won't listen either. 

1. Train Like a Beginner, Now or Later

I used to read every single publication of Flex magazine in high school. I’d keep it in my math book and read it during class instead of paying attention to the teacher. I would do all the workouts listed because I wanted to be like the pros in the pictures, and those were the workouts that they did (supposedly). I never had anyone teach me about technique, programming, etc. When I went to college, I followed the program they gave us but still didn’t get any instruction on form. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties and had been training for about 10 years already that I was exposed to good technique and intelligent programming.

highschool athlete

The point is that, somewhere along your journey, you’re going to have to take the time to lower the weight a bit and dial in your technique. At some point you’re going to have to actually follow an intelligent training program. At some point, you’re going to need to invest in someone more experienced and/or more knowledgeable than you to help you along the way. It is far better to do this early in your lifting career and set the foundation than to wait until you’re older, injured, and have bad habits built up.

The best way to address all of these is to work with a qualified coach early in your lifting career and start your education early. The difficult part is learning who is qualified and where to get your educational material. is the best place to start for both.

2. Stop Spending All Your Parents' Money on Supplements

I started taking supplements in ninth grade. I used to drink Cell-Tech and Nitro-Tech immediately after lunch (I can’t remember why I took them after lunch but I know it wasn’t for a good reason). I remember they tasted terrible and would completely destroy my stomach to the point that I’d be running to the bathroom between classes. I also somehow convinced my mom (she had no idea what she was buying) to buy me ephedrine and prohormones in high school. The magazines constantly had pictures of the pros taking all of the supplements, so I figured I needed to be taking them too.

These did little for my progress and caused me significantly more harm than good in the long run. I would have been far better off taking that money and putting it towards quality food, a nutritionist, and some books. During the speech, every kid wanted to know what pre-workout they needed to take. Here was my answer: none. Instead, take the time to learn to shop, cook, and organize your food so that you are properly fueling your body. I’m not saying that all supplements are bad and that they can’t make a positive impact; I am saying that in high school the focus needs to be on building the nutritional foundation of food and not supplements.

3. Stretch, Walk, and Don’t Get Fat

Most high school lifters aren’t thinking about their long-term health. They’re young, healthy, and don’t have any immediate issues to concern themselves with. As you get older, those things tend to change. It’s significantly easier to maintain health than it is to gain it back after neglecting it for a couple years (or decades), so play the long game. Spend some time working on your mobility and flexibility every week. Keep up your cardiovascular health. Don’t eat yourself into higher than necessary body fat levels in the pursuit of size and strength. You can definitely sacrifice these for quicker results, but what you gain in the short term you will lose in the long term, as your lifting will be stalled to address issues that stem from that sacrifice later on.

Let me know what pieces of advice you wish someone would have told you in high school and whether or not you would have ignored it.

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