Skip to content

Teens being ripped, jacked & gym obsessed: Where was this sh*t 10 years ago?!

What happened to kids loving sports and ‘hanging out’? Does the prevalence of social media have anything to do with this shift in modern trends?

Hitting the gym is the new “going to the game on Saturday” for today’s teens and maybe those even younger. Rumour has it a #gymselfie is a guaranteed 250+ likes on Instagram. Serious.

With such potential ‘status’ or recognition up for grabs, it’s no wonder the youngsters of today are doing all they can to ‘fit in’. They’re seeing the boys they know uploading most muscular poses on Instagram each week.

The classic ‘Most Muscular Pose’ of bodybuilding. 

The girls are seeing their fellow females posting pics of their newly acquired abs every other day too………..

Check these out! Where are yours?? 

You’re 14 and don’t lift? Bro, get it together!

Peer pressure at it’s finest. If there’s one thing we humans have never been made for it’s isolation. We’re a tribal species. We like to be part of the clan. At the end of the day, we’re all striving to be accepted and loved by someone. The easiest way to make that happen is to share interests with those in question. This is perhaps the best catalyst for the formation of friendships we have.

It would stand to reason then, that if the demographic of people you’re in (age-wise) are showing the world how much everyone loves them as a result of their body, gym dedication and ‘sexiness’, those with similar circumstances are going to feel a sense of urgency to match what they’re seeing. Irrespective of whether that’s what they truly want to do. It’s our deep rooted desire for acceptance/popularity taking over.

I am impeccably against ignoring your heart’s desire and pursuing something that you don’t truly want to. But when we’re dealing with young people, of which are highly impressionable, easily influenced, fairly naive and deep down very insecure, we can see how these souls force themselves to be gym slaves in today’s society.


So, what’s my stance on the gym for ‘kids’ (sub 16 years old) – is the gym not for them at all? 

I believe the gym is a place which everyone can benefit from in the right circumstances and context. Children included. Now the debate of whether children should ‘weight lift’ or not is a hot one. I realise some of the most successful Olympic weight-lifters in the world have been training their sport since they were 12, 10, maybe even younger in age.

You may hear that and think this makes it fine for everyone in that demographic to go around performing heavy and highly technical barbell lifts. But, please remember the weightlifting stars trained under experienced and skilled coaches who knew how the body works and knew how to design intelligent training programs. Do you have those luxuries at your disposal?


I personally believe children should be as active as possible. I don’t believe however, they should be lifting heavy weights. Before you start screaming, when I say ‘heavy’, I mean ultra high load work. I just don’t believe a developing child needs all that extra CNS stress. Not to mention all the developing tendons and ligaments. The risks are higher than the rewards.

What’s the absolute perfect exercise recipe or kids and teens? 

First, the most toxic thing for a developing child is INACTIVITY. There’s fewer a sadder sight than an obese child barely in double figures yet age-wise. The perfect exercise approach in my opinion is, sports and bodyweight training. What this cocktail provides is a dose of kinesthetic awareness and most importantly, fun. 

The ability to have a sensory awareness of where the body is in space, and have control over it, is worth far more to developing kids than being able to decline bench press X amount of weight on a Smith Machine.

( – kids having fun, yet still developing kinesthetic awareness.

Kinesthetic awareness carries over tremendously to sports and a myriad of other life activities. And when you reach the stage of life when you’re ready, physically/mentally, to begin weight training/using external resistance, you’ll be more than a step ahead of the game. You’ll have minimal muscular imbalances, and an easier time recruiting/isolating a given muscle as your nervous system has developed a solid connection to your muscular system.

As these teens exit adolescence, the inevitable ageing process begins – it’s only subtle, but it’s there. It’s here that I remind everyone how valuable a tool resistance (weight) training is for overall health.

As we transition into our twenties, our metabolism starts to down regulate a notch. The degree of which depends on a multitude of factors; genetics, activity levels and hormonal profiles to name a few.

As this starts to happen, the introduction to weight/resistance training will be a great asset to improve glucose tolerance and reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, strokes and even cancer. Among many more!

What about cardio? 

Indoor, machine-based cardio isn’t necessarily bad, but most teenagers aren’t going to find it fun. Once you remove the fun factor, everything becomes more ‘chore-like’. Cardio for children should come from activities; sports, swimming, sprinting, jumping, rock climbing, playing tag, cycling and everything in between. Some of these will be passions for some, and when there is passion, adherence becomes effortless. The same applies for enjoyment.

When I was in my teenage years, I didn’t even think of touching a weight. I did push-ups, I ran sprints, I loved playing tag and any games that involved sprints/running. Sure, I always wanted to be strong and loved to compete with my peers, but the notion of bulking, getting massive and building an Instagram following were as alien as quantum physics to me.

Upon reflection, I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you can’t enjoy your childhood, what can you enjoy? You should be free of pressure brought about via comparisons that are catalysed from social media. You should learn, develop, and enjoy your freedom.

In summary? 

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ll agree at least moderately, that kids are ‘wanting’ to live the gym life younger and younger. Decades back, we didn’t feel we had to compete aesthetically with media images in order to be desired by the opposite sex. Teens have repeatedly asked me the barbaric question of, “now that I visit the gym, do I need protein shakes?” Did you suffer from that uncertainty as a teen? I didn’t.

Some of you may have seen/heard/read about the ‘BigNattyDaddy’ story recently. Where a 15 year old KID was openly claiming to be using anabolic steroids and boasting about it on his Instagram account and Youtube channel. While we can talk all day about whether this was a stunt or not, and the morality and craziness of the story in general, it’s stories like these that remind us of the risks today’s children face.

Other 15 year old guys will see that and think…….”I’m 15. Shouldn’t I be doing that? Heck, why can’t I do that too?” We forget how impressionable we are when we’re young. Hence why our deepest psychological scars are often formed when we’re young, fresh, naive and vulnerable. Teenagers shouldn’t be facing such monumental conundrums such as steroid use. It’s insane.

BigNattyDaddy – just a happy teen having fun and loving life, right?

Don’t feel enslaved by the gym culture. Enjoy the stages of your life where commitment – natural commitment – is minimal. Develop kinesthetic awareness by the bucket load. Stay active. Enjoy what you do. If you do this, the world of weights will find you, and you’ll be in the weightroom when the time is right.

JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All

The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.

7 thoughts on “Teens being ripped, jacked & gym obsessed: Where was this sh*t 10 years ago?! Leave a comment

  1. I couldn’t agree more. A billion years ago when I was a kid, we got our exercise by playing outside. I’d never even heard of an organized sports program like the ones available today for youth (softball, soccer, martial arts). A bunch of us would just get together after school in a vacant lot or even on the street, map out where the bases were, bring our gloves, bats, and balls, and we’d play.

    While I can see some advantages to having more formal and sponsored sports teams for kids, weight training for kids below high school age is nuts. I’ve seen photos of 6-year-old girls lifting (and respectable weights, too) and it makes me cringe. These kids are still developing and I don’t think putting heavy loads on these children on a regular basis is good for still growing bones, muscle, and connective tissue.

    And while all kids who play games compete, sometimes I think it goes too far in pressuring the kids to win, win, win rather than just have fun and learn sportsmanship and fair play.

    • Hello James,

      Are you sure it was only a billion years ago that you were young? Haha. Just playing. Your childhood sounds very familiar to mine, although I was in my teens around 10 years ago. Nevertheless, it was still substantially different then versus now.

      We just climbed trees, roofs and anything we could. We didn’t follow structured ‘pull-up programs’. We played Tag. We didn’t post videos up of our 40 yard dash time to Youtube in order to get recognition.

      Whether right or wrong, the new shift leaves us with something; the pride of having lived our childhood as it should be, pressure free and fun filled.

  2. I think kids need to be kids. When I was younger, I didn’t have electronic devices (okay, so maybe a lot of them didn’t exist) and I was outside all the time. I didn’t need a treadmill, because I was out running around and having fun.

    Seriously, kids, you’ll have enough time to obsess about your body later. Go have some fun!

    • Hey 🙂

      Exactly! I was in my teens around 7-10 years ago, so not that long, but it was still remarkably different to now. A mobile phone and a games console were all I had as far as technology. Facebook hadn’t taken off at that time (thankfully) and it was all about the old school MSN meesenger. Remember that? Haha.

      Even just ‘playing out’ down your street with other kids is a dying tradition nowadays too! 🙁 Why meet up? We can just Snapchat, right?

Leave a Reply