The Best Strength Training Routine For Kids (And Maybe You) | Wender Mind Kids

The Best Strength Training Routine For Kids (And Maybe You)

Image for article titled The Best Strength Training Routine For Kids (And Maybe You)

photo: Nomad_Soul (Shutterstock)

For years, my kids have followed me to my garage gym. (Even before we had a proper home gym, they stole stray dumbbells or yoga balls that I thought I bought for myself.) I’d pique her interest, but I wondered: HHow can I encourage them to make exercise a habit? It took a while but I think I figured it out.

My three children are now between 6 and 12 years old. The eldest is definitely ready for structured strength training : HHe wants to get stronger for the sport he plays and is organized to have a daily routine that includes a visit to the garage gym. However, when I’ve tried to walk him through a workout, he tends to get bored or frustrated. (Imagine the “Are we there yet?” whining of a car ride, but here it is “How many sets are left?”) I’d rather make him enjoy it and form a habit than work it through I decided is optimal for Education.

The younger ones are still in it just for fun, which is great, but then they’ll be wandering off to the gym in the meantime I am try to lift and demand that i give them a workout, to. So I was looking for a lifting routine that would be easy enough to suggest on the fly, but fun and interesting enough to stave off the whining while trying to do my own workout. And I think I’ve found it.

I wrote this or something very similar on a whiteboard at the gym:


2 sets of 5: cup squats

2 sets of 5: kettlebell deadlifts

2 sets of 5: bench press

2 sets of 5: Kroc rows

2 carries any heavy object of your choice

The name and set/rep scheme are truncated from a Book I’ve heard about it, but admittedly haven’t read it. (There is a version of the Easy Strength program here, if you want to get a feel for where it’s coming from and how to modify it for more serious athletes.) I want to clarify that any changes I’ve made to the program are not endorsed by the authors; and also that I don’t know what they are because I just grabbed the central ideas and ran with them.

The basic structure I stole looks like this:

  • Each exercise is performed for ten repetitions, broken down here into two sets of five repetitions.
  • There are always five exercises that fit into the squat, hinge, push, pull, and carry categories.
  • You can do this every day.
  • Add weight if it feels too easy.

It was a resounding success. The eldest has broken the habit a couple of times but always gets back to it without a nudge from me. Sometimes his little brother comes along and they train together. And even my youngest can do the five exercises on the board, although she needs my help with some.

Why my kids love this

At first they were sold under the name. If you’re a kid who gets easily winded or discouraged in gym class, the idea that exercise can be “easy” is appealing, even revolutionary. according to a paper describing the Easy Strength program, the first exercise should be easy enough to feel like a 5 or 6 on a scale of 1 to 10. In other words, you do five reps of each exercise with a weight that you could do nine or ten reps with if you wanted to. (You can add weight if you’re feeling playful, but it should never feel like it difficult.)

Second, we chose exercises that they enjoy. I’d love to see my kids do more push-ups, but the older ones prefer bench presses (and they know how to do it right, with the fuses in our rack). They hate pretty much all types of squats except cup squats, so: good. Better a cup than nothing.

Third, and I think this is key, we chose exercises that are require no set-up time. We have small, medium and large kettlebells. Depending on the kid, use medium or large for the deadlift and small or medium for the squat. I had thought at first that they could start chaining small plates to the kettlebells to add weight, but they preferred to keep working with the same bell until it felt too easy, and then tried the next size up . Hey – that works.

Why It’s Secretly A Really Solid Training Program

At first glance, it looks almost ridiculous. Just two sets any exercise? When my oldest did it for the first time, he was at the gym in less than 15 minutes. Now that he knows where to find everything and how to do the minimal setup, he can do it in under 10 some days.

But here’s the thing :TThe sweet spot for building muscle and strength is somewhere in the 10-20 sets per muscle per week range, although beginners can get away with slightly less. If you do two sets every day, that’s 14 in a week. If you only train for five days and take the weekends off, that’s still 10 sets. And if you’re a kid who hits the gym a few times a week and forgets about it the rest of the time, that’s still six sets a week, which is way more than zero.

Don’t they need rest days? I hear you mumbling on your screen. Not necessarily. Remember that if you do a lot of work that you’ve adapted to (or that’s small to begin with), you can do it pretty much every day. For example, you can go for a walk every day. Craftsmen come to work every day.

In other words, no one would bat an eyelid at a program with three or four sets of each exercise on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It’s the same, only spread over several days. It’s the same amount of work. (And no, there is It’s not a law of nature that you have to take a day off between strength training sessions; Rest days are for convenient planning only.)

How to do this with your kids (or yourself).

If you’re looking to set up something similar for yourself or your own family, here are some tips to get you started.

The most important thing is that the children (or you) should know how to perform the exercises that are part of the program. When a child needs to learn how to squat and how to deadlift and anything else, the chances of getting through the first day without crying are not good. But if you’ve already coached them through some air squats, or reminded them to keep their back flat when they get curious about lifting your kettlebell, then they might be ready to add these exercises to their routine. If you’re not sure where to start, ask them what they did in gym class.

Once they know the exercises and can do them safely, you can let them do the routine themselves, age permitting. This is where the zero setup rule comes in: MMake sure they can walk in and get going without having to ask you to load the latch. Kettlebells and fixed (non-adjustable) dumbbells are great for this, but remember that bodyweight movements also require little to no setup.

For example, you can have the kids do push-ups with their hands on a bench. If they get stronger, they can make them on the ground and then make them putt Foot on the bench. Step-ups are a great option when air squats become too easy. Inverted rows are a good “pull” exercise and can work up to pull-ups if you have a bar. Look in here our list of bodyweight movements good for building strengthand pick some things that work for your little ones (or not-so-little ones).

And if you do this for yourself Consider the version called “Even Easier Strength” that is explained here. You have the opportunity to build up to a heavy single every other week and sometimes do sets of 10 reps. And where your kids value familiarity with the exercises, you can swap things out every two weeks or whenever you like. For example, in the slot dedicated to squats, you can cycle through squats, lunges, step-ups, and single-leg squats with no weight up to a box (or whatever variation you address).

Is this the best way to build strength and muscle? I mean, I wouldn’t train that way for a powerlifting competition. But any routine you will actually do beats the heck out of doing nothing. So if you’re not challenging yourself with hard training schedules, go for it stay healthy easy for yourself by setting up a routine that’s quick enough to fit into your day and designed to be fun. After all, why should kids have all the fun?