Bodyweight Exercises for Kids
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, resistance training has a beneficial effect on strength, bone mineral density, body composition, cardiovascular fitness, blood lipid profiles and mental health in children. Strength training also improves sports performance and reduces injuries among young athletes. For the most progress, children should do these workouts two or three times per week. Before your child begins a resistance training program, however, make sure he or she understands how to correctly perform the exercises. Body weight exercises are a good place to start, because they are safer for young children and they don't require the use of equipment.
This classic body weight exercise strengthens your child's pectorals, deltoids and triceps. To perform a pushup, have your child lie face down on the floor with her body straight and feet slightly spread apart. Have her place her palms on the floor so they are slightly more than shoulder-width apart. While keeping her body straight, she should press herself up until her arms are fully extended and only her hands and toes are touching the floor. Ask her to slowly lower her body by bending her elbows until her chest touches the floor. Then she should push herself up again. Your child should perform two or three sets of as many pushups as she can do. If traditional pushups are too difficult at first, she may perform them with her knees on the floor.
Squats strengthen your child's lower body. This exercise targets the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. Your child should begin the squat from a standing position with her hands on her hips and feet about hip-width apart. Ask her to slowly bend her knees until her thighs are parallel to the floor. Then she should stand straight up. Tell your child to pretend she is sitting in a chair while performing squats. She should perform two sets of six to eight repetitions.
Core-strengthening exercises improve your child's posture and balance. Crunches target the core, more specifically the abs. To perform a crunch, your child should lie down with her knees bent and the bottoms of her feet on the floor. Have her place her hands on her thighs with her arms extended. She should slowly lift her shoulders and upper back off the floor while sliding her hands up her thighs. Her lower back should remain on the floor throughout this exercise. When she touches her kneecaps, ask her to pause and then return to the starting position. Your child should perform one or two sets of as many crunches as she can complete with good form.
The Superman, which targets the back muscles, is a fun body weight exercise for children. Your child should lie face down on the floor. Ask her to extend her arms straight out in front of her head. Then she should simultaneously raise her legs and arms a few inches off the floor. Have her pause and then lower her arms and legs back to the floor. Your child should complete one or two sets of six to eight repetitions. Tell her to pretend she is Superman flying through the air. Add some laughs by telling her to watch out for birds and planes.
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Strength Training by Children and Adolescents
- KidsHealth: Strength Training and Your Child
- Strength & Power for Young Athletes; Avery Faigenbaum and Wayne Westcott
- RimDream/iStock/Getty Images