What Is The Best Workout For Children?

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Regardless of what age your child is some form of physical activity is more important than you can possibly imagine. Take it from our forum members as they point out different strategies for the various age groups. Read on.

The Question:

With all the video games, television, computers, etc. it's no surprise children are becoming overweight and inactive. It is important to educate younger children about the importance of a healthy and active lifestyle.

The Winners:

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To prevent injury. it is important for your child to warm up before exercising. This should include about five to ten minutes of light activity, such as walking, calisthenics (jumping jacks, bending, knee lifts), and stretching.

You may modify them if necessary to suit your particular circumstances. Increase or decrease the number of repetitions according to the children's particular needs and physical ability. When you first start these exercises, correct form is more important than speed. After you become familiar with them, you may increase the speed at which you perform them.

Most of them are considered cardiovascular (aerobic) exercises as well as strength building (anaerobic) exercises. They will also help you develop balance, coordination and agility. These exercises can be performed just about anywhere with little effort. Correct supervision is a NECESSITY, and SAFETY is the primary concern.

Exercise 1 - "Jumping Jacks"

Areas Effected: leg and arm muscles:

Exercise 2 - "Slalom Jump"

Effected Areas: leg muscles:

While standing straight up with your feet together, squat down about half way, leaning slightly forward. Put your left arm in front of you and your right arm in back (running position). Lean and jump to the right while swinging your arms in the opposite position and keeping your feet together.

You should now be to the right of your original starting position with your right arm in front of you, your left arm in back and your feet together with your knees bent in a crouched position.

Now lean and jump back to your original position while swinging your arms back to their original position. (when you become comfortable with these exercises, you may increase their effectiveness by adding ankle and wrist weights (1-3 lbs.) when performing them). Perform 2 sets of 15-20 reps.

Exercise 3 - "Ski Jump"

Effected Areas: legs and arms:

From a standing position with your left leg and left arm in front of you and your right leg and right arm in the back, slightly bend your knees (running position). Jump up while swinging your arms and legs in the opposite direction before you land on the floor.

You should now have your left leg and arm in back of you and your right leg and arm in the front. Now, jump up again while swinging your arms and legs in the opposite direction before you land on the floor.

You should now have your left leg and left arm in front of you and your right leg and right arm in the back (original position). (when you become comfortable with these exercises, you may increase their effectiveness by adding ankle and wrist weights (1-3 lbs.) when performing them.) Perform 2 sets of 15-20 reps.

Exercise 4 - "Squat Thrust with Push"

Effected Areas: leg and arm muscles, chest and back:

Standing straight up with your feet about twelve inches apart and your hands down by your side. While keeping your back straight, crouch down by bending your knees until your hands touch the floor in front of your toes. This will be the "squat" position.

With your hands flat on the floor in front of your feet, kick your feet straight out in back of you. This will be the "push-up" position. While keeping your legs and back straight, bend your elbows and lower your body until your chest touches the floor.

Now straighten your elbows to raise your body back to the "push-up" position. Jump back to a "squat" position while keeping your hands on the floor. Now stand up straight to original "starting" position. Perform 2 sets of 10 reps.

Exercise 5 - "Alternate Toe Touch"

Effected Areas: legs, arms, back and shoulders:

From a standing position with your back straight and your feet about two feet apart, put your arms straight out beside you. While keeping your elbows and arms straight, bend forward and twist your body to touch your left toes with your right hand.

Your left arm will be straight above you. Now return to your original straight up position with your arms straight out beside you. Repeat this technique to touch your right toes with your left hand, then return to your original position. Perform 2 sets of 10-20 reps.

Exercise 6 - "Stair Climber"

Effected Areas: legs, ankles and feet:

Perform 2 sets of 10-15 stairs/reps each way on all 3.

Exercise 7 - "Trunk Rotations"

Effected Areas: back, sides and hips:

From a straight standing position with your hands on your hips, rotate your upper body as far as possible in each direction. This exercise should be done with a smooth even motion. Do not rotate fast or jerk your body. Perform 2 sets of 15-20 reps.

Exercise 8 - "Shuttle Runs With Ball"

Effected areas: total body:

From a standing start, participants run a 10 meter shuttle, and perform any given ball skill (soccer ball shot, rugby pass, NFL catch, medicine ball throw etc). Perform 3 sets of 3min bouts.

Health Benefits:

All exercises labelled above incorporate both cardiovascular (aerobic) and strength (anaerobic) work which involves most of the time "whole body" exercises that encourage the children to train their sense of balance and coordination which are integral in the progressive development of a child's physiological systems.

Health benefits can be derived simply from becoming more physically active, but the greatest benefits come from engaging in planned and structured exercise. Cardiovascular risk factors can be reduced and physical fitness enhanced with low to moderate levels of physical activity (40-60% of a person's maximal aerobic capacity) (Blair & Connelly, 1996).

And, low- to moderate-intensity activity is less likely than vigorous exercise to cause musculoskeletal injury and sudden heart attack death during exercise (a very rare occurrence even for vigorous exercisers), while it is more likely to promote continued adherence to activity (Blair & Connelly, 1996; NIH, 1995).

Current recommendations state that children and adolescents should strive for at least 30 minutes daily of moderate intensity physical activity (Pate, Pratt et al. 1995).

An alternate approach that may be equally beneficial would be to engage in 5- (Blair & Connelly, 1996) to 10-minute (NIH, 1995) bouts of moderate intensity activity throughout the day, for a total accumulation of at least 30 minutes for adolescents and adults and 60 minutes for children (Pangrazi, Corbin, & Welk, 1996).

Walking briskly or biking for pleasure or transportation, swimming, engaging in sports and games, participating in physical education, and doing tasks in the home and garden may all contribute to accumulated physical activity.

All things aside, at the end of the day, all a child wants to do is to have FUN! They want to be constantly stimulated from one day to the next. Their minds are always shifting from one thing to the next, so when provided with all the variables, the best workout needs to be designed specifically and especially for their needs.


How can you motivate children to workout?

What motivates children and adolescents to continue and sustain physical activity levels? Why is there such a dramatic decline in physical activity during adolescence, and how can we stem the tide of declining physical activity levels?

Physical activity has been defined as "bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure" (Pate, Pratt et al. 1995). There is no debate about the value of physical exertion/regular physical activity has significant health benefits, and even modest increases in energy expenditure can have health-enhancing effects.

The Guidelines for School and Community Programs to Promote Lifelong Physical Activity Among Young People (CDC, 1997) highlights the contributions that social-contextual, psychological, and emotional factors play in youths' physical activity behavior.

Most notably, perceptions of competence (e.g. physical ability, physical appearance), enjoyment of physical activity, and social support by parents, teachers/coaches, and peers were cited as essential influences on physical activity in children and teenagers.

Recent studies by sport and exercise psychologists provide empirical evidence for the role of these predictors of participation behavior, and specify the mechanisms by which these constructs effect change in behavior (Weiss, 2002; Weiss & Ferrer-Caja, 2003).

Motivation is defined as behavioral choice, effort, persistence, and performance and can be translated to the physiological jargon of frequency, intensity, duration, and level of physical activity.

Provide Optimal Challenges:

An optimal challenge is one that matches the difficulty level of activities to the child's capabilities. Thus children's successful mastery of skills is within reach, but they must exert necessary effort and persistence to attain the goal.

Create A Mastery Motivational Climate:

Coaches and teachers influence children's beliefs, affective responses, and behaviors by shaping the learning environment or motivational climate in which activities take place (Ames, 1992). Motivational climate focuses upon how success is defined, how children are evaluated, what is recognized and valued, and how mistakes are viewed.

Make Physical Activity Fun:

Time and again enjoyment emerges as a strong predictor of motivated behavior. When we enjoy the activities that we do, we want to do them more often. We know from studies with children and adolescents that high action and scoring, high personal involvement in the action, close games, and opportunities to affirm friendships is key to activity enjoyment (Coakley, 1993).

Help Children Help Themselves:

Mastering skills, achieving personal goals. and progressively improving are internal sources of information children and adolescents use to judge their physical competence. Goals that are specific, optimally challenging, and self-referenced will point youth in the right direction for sustaining physical activity motivation.

Physical inactivity has become a serious problem in the United States. More than half of U.S. adults do not

meet recommended levels of moderate physical activity, and one-fourth engage in no leisure time physical activity at all (PHYSICAL ACTIVITY, 1996).

Inactivity is more prevalent among those with lower income and education, and, beginning in adolescence, affects females more than males (NIH, 1995; Physical Activity, 1996). A pattern of inactivity, also known as sedentism, begins early in life, making the promotion of physical activity among children imperative.


Which age do you think is suitable for one to train with weights? Why?

This is a rather delicate and long debated question in the health and fitness industry. Since children lack adequate levels of circulating androgens to stimulate increases in muscle hypertrophy, it is believed that neural adaptations are primarily responsible for training induced strength gains during childhood.

The observed training induced gains in muscle strength in children have been attributed to neural adaptations including changes in motor unit activation and motor unit coordination, recruitment and firing.

Researchers also postulate that intrinsic muscle adaptations as well as improvements in motor skill performance and the coordination of the involved muscle groups could be partly responsible for training-induced strength gains in children (Ramsay, Blimkey, Smith, Garner, MacDougall, & Sale, 1990).

However, my decision regarding the most suitable age to start weight training is adolescents. As I put forward to the case against children (up to 12) weight training, regardless of what the research says, I foresee the main problem as being complacency.

Children are constantly looking to move and change, they will rarely contain the dedication and persistence to stick to a well structured program, instead, opting to "mix-it-up" and therefore opening the door to inevitable injury due to lack of body maturation.

Whereas, during adolescence, training-induced strength gains in boys are associated with an increase in fat free mass due to hormonal influences (e.g. testosterone) whereas muscular development in girls is limited by lower levels of androgens. By the time youth reach their adolescence, they too can be open to the same lack of persistence as with children; however, it is other factors which now drive adolescents into weights.

To impress peers and the other gender, to increase their self-esteem, to take the next step into improving their athletic performance, and to advance their exercise related knowledge.

It has been recommended that children(up to age 12) and adolescents (13-18) resistance train two or three days per week on nonconsecutive days and perform 1 to 3 sets of 6 to 15 repetitions on a variety of exercises that focus on the major muscle groups (Faigenbaum et al. 1996).

However, when beginning a resistance training program, performing a single set of 10 to 15 repetitions per exercise twice per week will not only allow for positive changes in muscle function, but will also provide an opportunity for participants to gain confidence in their abilities before progressing to more advanced levels (Faigenbaum, Westcott, Loud, & Long, 1999).

Research into the effects of resistance exercise on children and adolescents has increased over the past decade, and the qualified acceptance of youth strength training by medical and fitness organizations has become almost universal.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (2001), the American College of Sports Medicine (2000), the American Orthopedic Society of Sports Medicine (1988), and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (Faigenbaum et al. 1996) support participation in youth resistance training activities provided the program is appropriately designed and competently supervised.

It should also be stated that the following guidelines should be considered by those who are interested in helping children and adolescents participate in resistance training programs.

  1. The program is adapted to the participant's developmental level.
  2. Proper instruction is given by qualified professionals.
  3. Start gradually and progressively increase the overload.
  4. It is critical to adhere to sound training principles appropriate to the participant.
  5. Proper technique should be taught and reinforced.
  6. Place an emphasis on intrinsic (internal/personal) enjoyment.
  7. Ensure variety is incorporated into the program.
  8. Consider multiple goals.
  9. Listen to the participant and teach them to listen to their bodies.

Resistance training can be recommended to children and adolescents as one part of a well-rounded physical activity program that also includes games and activities designed to enhance cardiorespiratory fitness, flexibility, agility, and balance.

  1. Ames, C. (1992). Achievement goals, motivational climate, and motivational processes. In G.C. Roberts (Ed.), Motivation in sport and exercise (pp. 161-176). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  2. Blair, S. N. & Connelly, J. C. (1996). How much physical activity should we do? The case for moderate amounts and intensities of physical activity. RESEARCH QUARTERLY FOR EXERCISE AND SPORT, 67(2), 193-205. EJ 533 437
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1997). Guidelines for school and community programs to promote lifelong physical activity among young people. MMWR, 46 (No. RR-6).
  4. Coakley, J.J. (1993). Social dimensions of intensive training and participation in youth sports. In B.R. Cahill & A.J. Pearl (Eds.), Intensive participation in children's sports (pp. 77-94). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  5. Faigenbaum, A. Kraemer,W. Cahill, B. Chandler, J. Dziados, J. Elfrink, L. Forman, E. Gaudiose, M. Micheli, L. Nitka, M. & Roberts, S. (1996). Youth resistance training: Position statement paper and literature review. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 18(6), 62-75.
  6. Faigenbaum, A.,Westcott,W. Loud, R. & Long, C. (1999). The effects of different resistance training protocols on muscular strength and endurance development in children. Pediatrics. 104 (1), e5.
  7. National Institutes of Health. (1995). PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH: NIH CONSENSUS STATEMENT. Kensington, MD: NIH Consensus Program Information Center.
  8. Pangrazi, R. P. Corbin, C. B. & Welk, G. J. (1996). Physical activity for children and youth. JOPERD, 67(4), 38-43. EJ 528 648.
  9. Pate, R. R. Pratt, et al. (1995). Physical activity and public health: A recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine. JAMA, 273(5), 402-407.
  10. PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND HEALTH: A REPORT OF THE SURGEON GENERAL. (1996). Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  11. Ramsay, J. Blimkie, C. Smith, K. Garner, S. MacDougall, J. & Sale, D. (1990). Strength training effects in prepubescent boys. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 22(5), 605-614.
  12. Weiss, M.R. (2003). Social influences on children's psychosocial development in youth sports. In R.M. Malina & M.A. Clark (Eds.), Youth sports - Perspectives for a new century (pp. 109-126). Monterey, CA: Coaches Choice.
  13. Weiss, M.R. & Ferrer Caja, E. (2002). Motivational orientations and sport behavior. In T.S. Horn (Ed.), Advances in sport psychology (2nd ed. pp. 101-183). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

2nd Place - TUnit

Myth Of Stunting Growth

First of all, the notion that lifting weights stunts growth needs to be dispelled. Numerous studies, doctors, and trainers have proven that lifting weights does not close the growth plates. Groups such as the American Academy for Pediatrics and the National Strength and Conditioning Association of America have made position stands that weight training can be quite beneficial to a child's health.

The forces in jumping, running, and other daily activities are far greater than any child will experience by lifting weights. However, they shouldn't lift maximal weights until they have been lifting weights for quite some time, which is why higher reps are prescribed in the sample programs presented.

Concerned parents should read these studies and talk to pediatricians about lifting weights and their effects on the growth plates. Not letting a child workout can in the long run hamper athletic progress.

Secondly, it is my belief that a child should first learn to efficiently move their own bodyweight so that they don't have to start with ridiculously low weights in the first place.

Thirdly, a child should learn how to perform all the major lifts from a strength coach or certified trainer so that injuries can be minimized. Gradual progressive overload is the key to a child's success and willingness to participate in a strength program.

Here are a few articles concerning strength training and stunting growth:


Secondly, obesity in America is a big problem. As proven by this demographic and geographic analysis, the percentage of obese people in America has been on the rise in the past few years: [ online ]

This is caused by poor diet, lack of exercise, watching too much TV, and playing video games too much. Getting children to workout maybe very difficult at first because they would be starting something completely new and would actually have to move around, not just sit on a couch the whole day and do nothing.

However, with proper motivation and presentation of the various benefits achieved from working out, children would want to look and feel better. Keep in mind that a workout program is very important to a child's success; however, a proper diet consisting of healthy amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats needs to be maintained.


What is the best workout for children? Be specific.

When a child is new to training, they should be introduced to basic bodyweight movements that will get them into decent physical shape and with a proper diet, help build muscle. Unilateral movements should be employed so that imbalances between legs do not occur.

Flexibility should be focused on as well so that it is not an issue once heavy weight training begins. Moving your own bodyweight usually produces less stress on the Central Nervous System (CNS).

Children should also have fun doing a workout program and you should try to motivate them as much as you can if they are lacking enthusiasm. At first, get them to be active in neighborhood games and then get them to participate in an organized sport that they like. Then they will probably be motivate enough on their own to start a workout program - one that the parents will be able to oversee.

General Warm-Up/Flexibility Routine (6-7 Days Per Week)

  • Touch Toes - 15 Reps (Touch toes quickly, come right back up and repeat)
  • Lunges - 10 reps/leg
  • Side Lunges - 10 reps each direction
  • Butt Kicks - 25 yards
  • High Knees - 25 yards
  • Arm Circles - 20 reps
  • Trunk Twists - 20 reps
  • Side Bends - 20 reps

Source: www.bodybuilding.com

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