Kids Fitness Programming
by Dr. Kwame M. Brown
I had the pleasure today of observing an hour of a kids fitness’ program that, with a little work, could develop into a great program.
The Kids Fitness Program
There were about 8 kids, aged about 6 – 11. The program was written on a board ahead of time, and the instructors discussed it and made changes ahead of time. They started out with some of the standard fare warm ups (jumping jacks, high knees, butt kicks). The kids then moved to an “animal” based relay around cones. They moved like bears, crabs, bunnies, and frogs. From here, there was a 10 minute section of skill development, with instruction on bodyweight squats and shoulder presses (using light plastic sticks). This was followed by a game called Cross Fit baseball, which amounted to themed stations: burpees, box jumps, squats, shoulder presses (the two instructed exercises). The kids went through several rounds of reps according to age (to make it fun). Then there was a game called Four Corners where one child was blindfolded, picked a number, and pointed to a corner. In each corner there were stations denoting a particular exercise, and the kids basically did a musical chairs type thing to get to random stations. They stopped when the one who was choosing pointed to a corner. The exercise was performed for the number of reps chosen, and it would start over.
The program was pretty well designed, and was sensitive to developmental stage. Appropriate complexity and volume was programmed. None of the kids were over fatigued, and water was provided.
In other sessions, they work with some tire dragging and flipping, but with a small car or motorcycle tire. There seems to be a lot of variety, and they spend a good deal of time outdoors as well.
The kids walked in happy to be there, and seemed to have a good relationship with the instructors. The atmosphere was very welcoming, and the instructor played with some of the kids spontaneously as the rest arrived. They were also obviously used to both freedom and order (when necessary). All followed the instructions of the instructors, with the usual delay that comes as a part of working with kids. The instructors were so encouraging with the kids, but did correct things that were dangerous, and spent time trying to shape motor skill.
The head instructor had a good rapport with the parents as well. In fact, when one mom started barking instructions to her child, he stepped in and in a friendly but firm manner and nipped it right in the bud without offending the mom. Masterful! The parents were friendly with one another, and younger siblings were well entertained while the older siblings took part in the cross fit activities.
The mood was GREAT, I cannot stress that enough.
The Instructional Quality
Here’s where it got a little dicey. The kids on the squats and shoulder presses were instructed to “lock” their joints (repeatedly). This is a no-no for the potential of long term joint issues once they start encountering weight. Additionally, this (I believe) will retard the learning of the motor skill by reducing the CNS – muscle – CNS connection.
One thing I did think was potentially good (if it hadn’t been done in the context of locked joints), was the instructor very lightly pressing down on the sticks that the kids were pushing in the shoulder press. This cued them physically, and worked nicely with the cue “push the sky away”. If only the joints hadn’t been locked!
The instructors obviously (and by their own admission) didn’t specialize in kids fitness. The head instructor, however, is a father of three well adjusted kids. This is a big plus in my book in someone without specific educational or professional experience working with kids. This is new for them, so I hope that we can help them improve the instruction. If we can do that, they have a great thing going.
Is what you don’t know about youth fitness and sport training holding you back?
Reducing the impact you could have or money you could earn in your career?
There IS A RIGHT WAY TO TRAIN AND DEVELOP KIDS FOR FITNESS AND SPORT…
And you REALLY need to know what that is.