Cross Fit Kids vs. IYCA

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 Atmosphere


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. 


– Kwame


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?




And you REALLY need to know what that is.


Click here and see what I mean ——-> http://IYCA.org/fitspecialist1


18 Responses

  1. Will Mbanga says:

    Great- what an awesome example of how to deal with other Fitness professionals… the KIDS at the end of the day will be the biggest WINNERS!

  2. Ron says:

    That’s a great review. Very thorough and detailed. I’ve always thought crossfit would be a pretty good program for kids. It does seem to have a large age gap as well. There’s a big difference between a six and eleven year old.

  3. Derek Shore says:

    I’m surprised and pleased to see that CrossFit has this type of approach for youth. The fact that the IYCA and CrossFit are willing to work together shows that the bottom line is to benefit the children and ultimately our profession.

  4. Dave Gleason says:

    Great feedback Kwame and thank you so much for sharing…as I am sure many members were curious – at the least.

    My concern is that this was an isolated incident. Instructor(s) involved should be commended. The issue many of us have with CrossFit in general is the entry level certification and by extension the programming unknowing instructors place on adults as well as children.

    The locking of joints is common place in CrossFit programming, or atleast the programming I have seen for myself.

    Realizing that programming considerations are only as good as the instructors administering them – it is important to stay focused on this point: It is NOT us vs. them in any situation. Our role is to educate and help anyone who shares the priviledge of working with kids. Coaches, trainers, instructors, etc.


  5. rick says:

    Nice article Kwame! I love a lot of what Croossfit offers and my kids love the workouts (especially Gorilla Tag).

    “Great- what an awesome example of how to deal with other Fitness professionals… the KIDS at the end of the day will be the biggest WINNERS!” I totally agree with you Will.

  6. Jacqueline says:

    Good stuff Kwame and Brian, would love to put a link to this at my blog with permission. Many moms and parents are reading and the more we can reach the better.


  7. Bob says:

    Great review. I must say I’m surprised. I was expecting the review to be less-then-stellar, but I’m happy to hear that overall it offers great potential.


  8. Jack MacGregor says:

    “The kids on the squats and shoulder presses were instructed to “lock” their joints (repeatedly).”

    Dr. Brown,

    Were you referring to the children being instructed to fully lock out the joints after each repetition or something else?

  9. Keith Fine says:

    Good review, I think the locking of the joints is a carry over from coaching older athletes when doing Snatches and OHS.

  10. Dr. Kwame M Brown says:


    I was referring to the locking out of the joints to finish each rep.


    Even with more experienced athletes, I can’t think of a good reason to do this if you are not a professional powerlifter. Even for them, it’s not healthy, it’s just worth the risk. For a football player, not so much worth the risk.

  11. skye says:


    great article! i was expecting it to be a crossfit bashing session to be honest at first and while i’m not really into their adult program, they serve a purpose getting thousands of people in better physical condition and if that expands to kids, then great!
    great to see articles like this that are just good info and not about selling a concept or with an eye on a prize. we’re all in this together. if we need to fight it shouldn’t be the ones within our own “industry” but the soft drink companies and fast food and TV/media capitalizing on kids and the government for cutting PE programs and etc.
    great work as always, your work is very inspiring and look forward to meeting you in Feb in KY.
    Happy New Year to all out there doing good work and inspiring play!


  12. Rob says:


    Good review and fyi, powerlifters Squat, Bench press, and Deadlift competitively and Weightlifters Snatch and Clean and Jerk, Not sure where the locking the joints in any of these activities comes in having been certified as a senior level coach in WL and a National Coach in PL. Locking of the elbows, kness, and hips is important in the completion of bench pressing, the jerk and the snatch and squat and deadlift respectively based on the rules of competition but from a coaching standpoint you are would not teach in these terms.

  13. Dean Jolly says:

    while you bought it up, what is your view on joint strengthening and it’s mobility? Developing young athlete.
    Also can you state your beliefs on ‘retarding cns connectivity’?


  14. Imerson says:

    I think it’s a great program. Incorporating the games to make exercise seem like fun (well, exercise in itself is fun to some) is a good idea!

  15. Eru says:

    The highlight of the review to me,would be the entertaining variety too keep the children entertained, cross fit have done the right thing in regards to beggining their program,and perhap’s they will get a good number returning for the next session,and so on,the locking out of the joints in my opinion is not an option,teaching weight training techniques to the younger athletes needs to be done carefully and safely.

  16. Mike Howard says:


    Very thoughtful review, Kwame!

    I echo Dan Gleason’s sentiments here as it is difficult to comment on Crossfit Kids as a whole based on observing one class conducted by one affiliate.

    As with any fitness entity, it is instructor-driven. While I’m heartened to hear that this was a very well run class, crossfit is especially notorious for mass-certifying (affiliating?) coaches without so much as an exam or any pre-requesite knowledge in anatomy, physiology, biomechanics or movement screening. The result is a watered-down down quality of instructors. So while this instructor is great, I worry that other crossfit kids instructors may not have the same passion, knowledge, attention to detail and genuiness as this particular coach. How much are the coaches expected to know in terms of child development, screening, programming, etc?

    In the end I think it’s important to not formulate an across-the-board opinion (positive or negative) on crossfit kids or any other mass-produced “system”. I sincerely hope that most crossfit kids instructors are like the instructor of this class.

  17. Brian Grasso says:

    My opinion and views reflect Mike Howard’s identically. I completely enjoyed Kwame’s report, and support any WORTHWHILE venture that helps kids gain fitness and self-esteem. I am wary, given Crossfit’s reputation, that this may or may not be reflective of Crossfit as a whole. Is there a long-term vision in mind? Is there a progressive system in place? These are just my questions and not in anyway a conclusive opinion. BG

  18. […] often I see coaches and trainers discussing the finer points of making young athletes and general kids fitness better, but only ever focus their conversation on things like speed training techniques or set and […]

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