Cross-Training Tips for Kids Involved in Multiple Sports

Filed under: Tweens, Teens, Activities: Babies, Sports

Each week, personal trainer Reggie Reyes shares with us a child-related health and/or fitness concern that he's been approached with, and how he's helped clients to solve the problem.

Problem
Mr. Smith and his 15-year-old son came in looking for training advice. His son plays high-level ice hockey and competes in long-distance running. His hockey coach wants him to bulk up and put on weight while his running coach wants him to stay light and lean. As his competitive season's overlap, how can he effectively train for both sports?

About the Child
(Let's call him Steve)
Steve had a slight build. He was tall and lean and definitely more (physically) suited for distance running. I could see why his hockey coach wanted him to put on weight. He seemed keen on putting on some muscle mass "as long as it didn't affect his running."

My thoughts and recommendations, after the jump...
My Initial Thoughts

If Steve wants to compete at the college or professional level, then he is at an age where he can start to specialize. If it were up to me, I would recommend he start focusing on his running since his tall and lean stature presents a great advantage. He can continue playing hockey for fun at a less competitive level. However, if he simply enjoys competing in both sports, than I recommend cross-training.

Whenever I train an athlete for multiple sports, the first thing I look for is a common training denominator. In this case (and in most cases), strength is a common factor directly related to improving performance in both sports. Lower body and core strength are important for both hockey and distance running. Strength in these areas will help Steve be stronger on the puck, protect him while body-checking and also allow for efficient and longer strides over time in his distance running. Many ice hockey trainers place too much emphasis on upper body mass. In Steve's case, I differentiate between upper body "size" and "strength." In both cases, you lift very heavy weights. The difference is in the number of repetitions per exercise. Heavy weights with very low repetitions (three to six) is the key.

The Plan
Because the sports are so different in nature, sport-specific weight training is not possible during the competitive season. The focus of training is full body strength. Exercises should be minimal and involve many muscles.

The Program
Here is the program I recommended for Steve during his competitive season:

1. Warm-up: 5-10 minutes on bike or treadmill
2. Stretch: 5 minutes, total body
3. Weights: (The numbers in brackets are the repetitions to be completed for each set of the exercise)

  • Military shoulder press (10-6-6-6)
  • Push-ups (20-20-20-20)
  • Squats/Leg press (15-8-6-6)
  • Dead lifts/Leg curls (15-8-6-6)
  • Seated rows (15-8-6-6)
  • Sit-ups (20-20-20-20)

Final Thoughts
Many kids participate in multiple sports. As their competitions begin to overlap, parents and coaches should monitor their amount of activity to ensure they are not over-training. Too many games and practices will eventually lead to a drop in performance and injury. Cross training with minimal exercises is the best way to maintain strength during the competitive season.

Reggie Reyes is a certified kinesiologist and personal trainer. He is the president and founder of pt4kids a company that creates specialized training programs for kids all ages and fitness levels.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.