The Child’s Play Workout

Kids just want to have fun. Here’s an exercise routine that will get your youngest clients (and maybe some of your adult ones) fit and strong while keeping smiles on their faces!

Today’s kids have a lot of structure in their lives. The last thing they want is to follow a rigidly structured exercise program. Yet they have the same—if not more—stability, strength, and endurance needs as adults, and you still need to progress them through the Optimum Performance Training™ (OPT™) model as you would your adult clientele. The trick is to make it into a game, so they feel like they’re playing with their peers, not “working out.” 

“I usually partner them up,” says Latreal Mitchell, NASM-CPT, CES, YES, a celebrity trainer based in the Los Angeles area and New York City who founded the Fitness Bunch Foundation to help combat childhood obesity. “It makes it easier to work with bands and balls when you’re paired with a buddy, and it feels more fun.” 

To keep the fun theme rolling—and because ability levels in a group of kids can vary greatly—Mitchell doesn’t recommend doing traditional sets and reps, but rather training by time. “You can just say, ‘OK! We’re going to do frog hops for 30 seconds! Go!’ And everyone just starts hopping like mad,” she says. The benefit of using time is that each kid does what they can and they’re not preoccupied with counting and they don’t end up feeling bad because they’re still trying to get through 20 hops when the kid next to them finished in a blink of an eye.

Mitchell designed the following YES-inspired workout to combine all of the facets of OPT training in a fun, partner-based, recess-like routine. Have kids perform each move for 20 to 30 seconds with 30 to 45 seconds of rest in between. Each trio of exercises can be done in circuit fashion twice through before moving on to the next series. 

Warm Up (solo)
Choose fun, functional moves and gradually build up the intensity over a 10-minute period. Try: crab walks, side shuffles, bear crawls, high knees, butt kickers, and mountain climbers. The goal is to fire up their neuromuscular system and get their heart rate up.

CIRCUIT ONE

Lateral Hop to Balance (solo)
Image Credit: BROCK LEFFERTS (EXERCISE MOVES)

Lateral Hop to Balance (solo)

HOW TO DO IT
A. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and pointed straight ahead. Bend your left knee and balance on your right foot. 

B. Swing your arms back and forward to hop to the left. Land softly, bending your knee to absorb the impact. Balance for a second. Then hop to the right. Continue for 20 seconds. 

Floor Touch to High Five (partner)

Floor Touch to High Five (partner) 

HOW TO DO IT
A. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, facing your partner about arm’s length away. Each of you, lift your right foot off the floor and balance on the left. Extend your left arm overhead.

B. Keeping your back flat, hinge forward, reaching to the floor with your left hand. Return to the starting position and give your partner a high five. Repeat for the full 20 seconds, then switch sides.

Spider-Man Crawl (solo)

Spider-Man Crawl (solo)

HOW TO DO IT
A. Assume a full plank position, arms extended, hands directly beneath shoulders.

B. Extend your left arm forward and bend both arms lowering your body toward the floor while simultaneously bending your right knee out and up toward your right elbow. Press back up and repeat the motion to the opposite side. Continue crawling Spider-Man style.

CIRCUIT TWO

Alternating Resistance-Band Partner Row (partner)

Alternating Resistance-Band Partner Row (partner)
 
HOW TO DO IT
A. Take two pieces of resistance tubing with handles and cross them to interlink them and create a four-handled pattern. Stand facing your partner, both holding a handle in each hand, feet shoulder-width apart, one foot slightly in front of the other for stability, knees and hips slightly bent. Both of you squeeze your shoulder blades and pull the handles toward your rib cage, keeping elbows wide. Hold that position.

B. Straighten your right arm, “punching” toward your partner, keeping left arm pulled back. Pull the right arm back and punch forward with the left arm. Continue alternating.

Medicine Ball Overhead Press (solo)

Medicine Ball Overhead Press (solo)
 
HOW TO DO IT
A. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a medicine ball with both hands, positioned in front of your chest, elbows bent down.

B. Keeping your chin level with the ground and gaze forward, press the ball overhead, maintaining a slight bend in your elbows at the top of the press. Return the ball to the starting position. Repeat.

Resistance-Band Partner Press (partner)

Resistance-Band Partner Press (partner)
 
HOW TO DO IT
A. Take two pieces of resistance tubing with handles and cross them to interlink them and create a four-handled pattern. Both partners hold a handle in each hand and stands facing away from the other. Position arms parallel to the ground with a 45-degree bend in your elbows. Step far enough away from each other that the tubing is taut. Place feet in a slightly staggered stance, keeping knees slightly bent for stability.

B. Simultaneously extend your arms, pressing the tube handles forward. Slowly bend arms back to the starting position. Repeat.

CIRCUIT THREE

Squat to Medicine Ball Chest Press (partner)

Squat to Medicine Ball Chest Press (partner)
 
HOW TO DO IT
A. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed straight ahead. One partner holds a medicine ball at their chest with both hands.

B. The partner with the ball performs a squat, pushing hips back and bending knees until thighs are parallel with the floor. Then drive your heels into the floor, press back up to the starting position, and push the ball forward, passing it to your partner, who catches the ball and immediately drops into a squat and repeats the motion, passing the ball back.

Medicine Ball Slams (solo)

Medicine Ball Slams (solo)
 
HOW TO DO IT
A. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed straight ahead. Hold a medicine ball in both hands directly overhead, arms fully extended.

B. Quickly throw the medicine ball toward the floor, allowing your arms to follow through. Catch the medicine ball (if it bounces) or pick it up and repeat.

Frog Hops (solo)

Frog Hops (solo)
 
HOW TO DO IT
A. Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Bend your hips and knees and lower yourself into a deep squat. Bring your hands to the ground in front of you and allow your pelvis to hang between your legs, like a frog’s stance.

B. Jump off the ground and leap up and forward. As you land, immediately return to the frog stance. Then leap again.
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