Total Training for Young Champions

by Tudor Bompa, Human Kinetics, Champaign IL 2000

Tudor Bompa is recognized worldwide as the foremost expert on periodization training-conditioning programs that balance the loads, lengths, and intensities of workouts for maximum performance.

Total Training for Young Champions provides coaches, instructors, teachers, and parents of potential future sports stars the best conditioning advice and programs for establishing an overall fitness base and maximizing the athletic development of young people ages 6 to 18. Specifically, the book outlines how to increase a young athlete’s coordination, flexibility, speed, endurance, and strength, thereby enabling them to excel in sports.


The fact that laboratory research demonstrates that specificity training results in faster adaptation, leading to faster increments of performance, does not mean that coaches and athletes have to follow it from an early age to physical maturation.

This is the narrow approach applied to children’s sports, in which the only scope of training is achieving quick results, irrespective of what may happen in the future of the young athlete. In their attempt to achieve the fast results, coaches expose children to highly specific and intensive training without taking the time to build a good base.

It’s important for young children to develop a variety of fundamental skills to help them become good general athletes before they start training in a specific sport. This is called multilateral development, and it is one of the most important training principles for children and youth.

We should encourage young athletes to develop the skills and motor abilities they need for success in their chosen sport and other sports. For example, a well-rounded sports program for children and youth would include low-intensity exercises for developing aerobic capacity, anaerobic capacity, muscular endurance, strength, speed, power, agility, coordination, and flexibility.

A multilateral training program that focuses on overall athletic development, along with acquiring sport-specific skills and strategies, will lead to more successful performances at a later stage of development…If we are interested in developing successful high-performance competitors, we must be prepared to delay specialization and sacrifice short-term results.

Athletes who develop gradually will likely be more capable of performing work over a long period. During adaptation to a particular training load, athletes increase their capacities to cope with the stresses and demands of training and competition.

This is essential because skills develop during training sessions and not during the games or competitions. For young athletes to constantly master the skills of the sport and develop the motor abilities for future competitions, they must have more training sessions than games.

Sport scientists and coaches claim that athletes who, as children and youths, experienced well-organized and systematic training programs usually accomplish the best performances. Impatient coaches that pressure children to achieve quick results usually fail, because the athletes often quit before attaining athletic maturation.

It is important, however, to keep in mind that children evolve at different rates. The growth rate of their bones, muscles, organs and nervous systems are different from stage to stage, and these developments largely dictate their physiological and performance capabilities. This is why a training program must consider individual differences and training potential.

A gradual, progressive program with no abrupt increases in intensities greatly increases training efficiency and reduces the chance of frustration and injury. This process is called periodization of long-term training.

We must beware that early success offers no promise of the same later on and does not guarantee future stardom. Success during childhood means more competition which leads to psychological stress and failure in skill proficiency. The higher the number of games the children play, the lower number of practices, which means skill proficiency decreases and weaker performances.

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