Endurance/Speed Work for Young Boys

My brothers (ages 10 and 11) have started doing a lot of bodyweight strength training in the past few months. Three times a week they’ll do movements like pushups, inverted rows, chinups, situps, back extensions, GHR’s, hip thrusts, squats and split squats. At the moment, no weight is used for any movements. Typically just use harder versions of movements to make it harder (pushups → close grip pushups, or something like that).

The 10 year old plays soccer in the fall and spring, and the 11 year old plays basketball in the winter. The 10 year old may also start wrestling this year. They just play those because they enjoy them - we’re not a huge sports family.

Wondering if there’s any work that can be done to help build up their speed and endurance? I feel like there’s been a decent speed increase just from the posterior chain work they’ve been doing, but they both lack much endurance. Could just be that it’s not what they’re naturally gifted at since they both are quite fast at short sprints, but I know they can still improve.

I thought about adding in some sled work. Maybe some short sprints with heavier weight and then some long distance (not entirely sure what I’d do…maybe the length of a succer field?) ones with lighter weight.

As far as running, I didn’t know what to do. I used to run XC and got pretty good endurance but my opinion on long distance running has changed, and now it seems most experts believe that there are better options than that to build up endurance…

We may start having access to an aerodyne bike and a rowing machine soon, if that helps.

Any suggestions as far as what to do for some speed/endurance work? Thanks

While there is a transfer between sprinting and endurance, if you want to up their aerobic capacity, regular old cardio is the best way to do it. There is no reason for sled work or weights at this point. Keep up the calisthenics and increase reps and difficulty, and slowly increase distance/time for cardio.

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Good post.

Interval training can be good, but the benefits are pretty short term, and if you do too much you just tend to go stale, and get really diminishing returns, if they are already playing football a lot they’ll probably get most of the benefits they could out of it. So to improve endurance, just old school steady cardio.

That said while better fitter will allow you to go closer to your top speed more and be effectively faster, it won’t do much for you top speed and acceleration. So you could maybe add a small amount of sprint training. This isn’t CV training, the recoveries should be long, in the 7min range, you need to warm up properly for them, and the distances should be short, maybe something like 60m. Be careful because it’s pretty neurally taxing.

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By regular old cardio do you just mean getting out and running?

And if yes, just curious, but why would you recommend that over sled work? The one thing that comes to mind with that is the possible joint damage mid or long distance running could produce on young, developing bodies, and the possibility sled work could have to avoid that, as well as build some strength.

Asked another user this, but by steady cardio do you just mean running?

Might give the sprinting a shot - if it was like 40m-60m, with long rests in between, how many times would you recommend doing it?

Well the form of cardio that would carryover best to running long distances is running long distances, but yes - the wear and tear on joints from long distance running is such that he shouldn’t do it all day every day. A few options to add to lifting: elliptical is fairly good for low-impact cardio, and the bike is great too. So is rowing. All of these things will improve his aerobic capacity. Prowler sprints are great, but they’re anaerobic if done properly.

One thing that helped me run my half marathon in the Marines was plotting courses around big hills and sprinting up those hills, giving me a few mile run with a combination of aerobic and anaerobic threshold training. I hate running (why then, did I decide to run a half marathon? Cause I’m stupid) and that noticeably improved my long distance runs without me having to be running all the time.

Yeah there’s one big hill where we live (it’s extremely flat here) and I thought maybe just going up that a few times would be good, for endurance, and for building some leg strength. (From what I’ve read Wendler is a big fan of hill runs.) That’s cool that it improved your time with less work than flat-land running would’ve required.

They could run, and I’m hoping to get a bike and/or a rower by winter…how often would you recommend? Running 3-4 days a week? Is there a limit you think some preteens can handle as far as distance? I know when I was into running I’d often go do 8-14 miles for fun, but I think if you can handle 3-5 without too much trouble it’d make more sense to get those few miles faster and faster, rather than just upping the mileage forever.

And since biking/rowing are easier on the body, how often would you recommend that? And for time, or distance?

Thanks for all the advice - this is really helpful.

I think he should be running 3 times a week - 4 at most. So if he has 3 practices, you should only have him actually run one non-practice day, and try to make it not on the next consecutive day after he was running. The rest of the days you can alternate rowing and biking. Distance, I can’t help you with - I don’t know how far he usually runs, how far he’s comfortable running, etc. I’d just say err on the side of caution, and make sure he knows the difference between pain and injury.

I think the best form of cardio for them would be to play their sport of choice more.

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I got mixed up between your posts about the 17 year old you work with and this - @SOUL_FIGHTER is correct, sports for cardio at that age. If they want to, all the other cardio I mentioned would be fine, but it’s best to keep it simple when they’re young, and keep lifting to calisthenics.

(It’s two boys - 10 and 11 years old.)

They both are in elementary level, recreational sports, so when they are in-season, they only have 1 practice a week, and 1 game a week.

Neither has really “ran” and by that I mean just gone out for a run with the intent of getting more endurance in mind.

But ok - I’ll probably start with 1-2 days a week, and go for a mile or so, building up by half miles or so once a decent time is established and no injuries have occured. And then doing some biking/rowing as well, but that should be easier on them.

OK sounds good. Just wrote a reply but yeah, continuing to do their strength training and then a very conservative amount of cardio, making slow progressions.


I think what they’re doing is great, and extra running is better than nothing.

But if they have the option to play sports with older kids or adults, they should. I’m not sure what time of year they play soccer, but that would be ideal. Not only would they get they get that extra conditioning time, but they would also develop skills for their sport, and skills that can transfer over to other sports.

For example, if they can’t play soccer out of season, the conditioning and skills they get from basketball or tennis would help their overall athleticism.

Most of my friends in middle school and HS did sports for this - kids who would do cross country for wrestling the next season, kids who did spring soccer and summer swimming to be in shape for football. Kids who ran track or threw for football. In my opinion, it all builds upon each other and it’s a free service if you’re in public school.

The one plays soccer in the fall and spring, and the other just plays basketball in the winter. The soccer player may start wresting, and the basketball player may try soccer next spring. Both want to do track once old enough, and the basketball player wants to do football once old enough.

Both also really enjoy their strength training, and love the idea of being stronger and bigger than their peers, so hopefully the fun and motivation of it keeps them in it for a while.

So yeah, I think they both will start expanding, and just start getting more and more involved as they get older, which will help, and we’ll see what we can do about just being able to play more and more often, hopefully with, like you said, those with more experience.

Yeah, they look like they’ll be busy year round!

I’ve never trained kids but this is the advice I’d give to my kids if they enjoyed sports and strength training. I think what they’re doing now will help give them work capacity to put in some weight room time before or after practice in whatever they do.