One of the more common questions we get here from parents is "How often should my child work out?"
Kids who play sports are already quite busy, so adding workouts on top of that schedule can be tricky. There is of course the practical side for families, as in how often they can actually get to a training facility within the parameters of work and other commitments.
But from the training side, there are factors that can help you to understand what is the right amount for your situation.
It really boils down to these five factors:
How Old Is Your Child?
For actual speed and strength training, the age of the athlete is critical to understanding how often to train.
For those ages 13 and under, one or two sessions per week is enough. Any more than that and you risk overworking their bodies to the point that training would become counterproductive.
At high school ages, training could ramp up to three or even four days per week if none of the factors below limit it.
At the college and pro ages, five days would be the upper recommended limit. Any more than that and you risk not getting enough rest time in to actually grow and develop from all your hard work.
How Experienced Are They With Training?
Within the ranges given above, a more experienced athlete is likely to get greater benefit from the upper limit. And the inexperienced athlete would likely see very good results while sticking with the lower limit.
Training is a stressor to the body. Any time you introduce a new stimulus the response is greater. So a 14 year old who never trained before would see much better results from a two session per week schedule than one who has been training for years.
How Hard Do You Train?
This is a very much overlooked factor, but is critical for kids with tight schedules.
If you are training 4 to 5 days per week as a high school athlete or younger, you probably aren't training very hard. In fact, most younger athletes train at well below their capabilities on a fairly regular basis.
The idea is to push at a level that forces your body to adapt and create the change you need to excel in your sport. That is hard.
It isn't enough to just 'work out', it is how you work out that matters. Anyone high school age or younger that isn't seeing steady progress should be looking at how hard they challenge themselves before adding more workout sessions.
The beauty of this for younger people is you don't have to be in the gym all the time to see results, it doesn't need to be a huge time commitment for it to help you if you're training properly.
Are You Currently In-Season?
Any athlete who is in the midst of a grueling competitive season should not be training more than once or twice a week, in a capacity that is less intensive than an off-season workout should be.
There are incredible performance and injury-prevention benefits to in-season workouts, especially considering many teams do not capitalize on it still, but there must be a balance. Too much is going to deter game performance, whereas not enough will effectively be a waste of valuable time.
Done properly, a well-designed one day per week in-season workout plan can be hugely beneficial.
What Are Your Priorities?
If gaining muscle and/or strength is a top development need for you, workouts should currently be your top priority. Even over sport commitments, if it truly is the thing you need most to play at a higher level.
This means that an athlete age 13 or under should consistently make time for 2 good workouts each week. A high school athlete should get in 3 or 4 (if they're experienced) each week. This means actual, highly challenging training.
Blending all those factors together, here would be our suggestions:
1 Workout Per Week - For athletes under 13, and HS athletes in-season
2 Workouts Per Week - Off-season athletes under age 13, inexperienced age 14-15 year olds, HS athletes in-season for contact sports
3 Workouts Per Week - Age 14 and up in the off-season part of their schedule
4 Workouts Per Week - Age 14 and up, off-season, experienced with training, already push hard and are ready for a bigger challenge
5 Workouts Per Week - Ages 20+ who aren't seeing enough results from 4 sessions per week