How much training is enough, too much, or not enough? I’ve noticed some consistencies in the time I’ve spent training over the years based on how much I see young athletes training. I find some athletes who train for several hours a day and some athletes who only do 1 hour a day and call it a day.
Which is best?
It’s a worthy question to ask when you are evaluating your workload. There are a few factors that affect this as not all training elicits the same stress. Often those factors are:
- Intensity of training
- Volume of training
- Technique/strategy focus
- Type of training (ie. sprints, lifting, endurance)
- Off-season vs In-Season
Intense training sessions and active recovery days influence the overall workload differently. Doing a training session that’s very heavy on technique is different stress than simply just doing a dozen sprints. Long runs and lifting are different stresses. Too much of the same stress is not helpful, and can lead to injury, or just stagnant performance.
Here’s my synopsis based on my years coaching for schools, teams, and of course privately. It’s written as “training hours per week”. It is mindful of the above factors:
- 10-15 hours per week is optimal
- 20+ hours per week is often too much non elite athletes
- 5-10 hours per week is the bare minimum
- <5 hours weekly is not enough unless you are intentionally not training
I’ve found that athletes training 10-15 hours per week were consistently making good improvements in their progress. Often this looks like 5 days of a 2 hour practice with 2-3 days of additional training: strength training, skill training, endurance, speed, etc. Some athletes do this with a coaching practice like GHP, on their own, or as extra team work.
For multi-sport athletes who are simultaneously playing another sport (often AAU basketball folks), this is a few hours of another sport.
Exceeding 20 hours of training is often unnecessary for most non elite athletes. Partially because it’s not needed to get the training response, and partially because non elite bodies are more likely to get injured working out this much over time. This is most common with kids who are intensely doing multiple sports in addition to extra training.
Training this much can expose a young athlete to injury from not enough recovery time
Training 5-10 hours per week is the least amount of training that can work. I find this best with teams who have few, but long, practices. 3x3 hour practices throughout the week is a good training stimulus for many athletes. Most sport teams work strategy and team skills in addition to fitness training into those.
I find this hardly enough for athletes who practice 5 days a week. This can certainly suffice if you go to practice everyday, and your practice incorporates aspects that are not just sport skills and basic fitness. But that’s often not the case. Currently I coach track at a high school who has covid restrictions that only allow us to train 1hr 15min a day. It’s sooo not enough to do 6 hours. The kids who are making big improvements do a lot of suggested training outside of practice.
Training only 5 hours or less a week is appropriate for general fitness but not athletes with serious goals. It’s hard to improve your fitness and be technically sound at any sport with just 5 hours of training a week.
What have you noticed in your own training based on seasons you trained a lot and seasons you hardly trained? Leave me your insights!
Also, check out my podcast episode of Training Well Done “Are You Training Enough?” to hear my talk about this in detail!