I have referenced the “pirate game” several times in the past in the context of utilizing a fun game to provide several aspects of fitness to young athletes 6-9 years old. As a backdrop, we must remember that our programming for this age group must be rooted in body awareness/movement exploration, coordination, object manipulation, and game play/cooperation. By extension, when programming for young athletes, you need to approach things from a systemic standpoint while maximizing neural or bio-motor development.
By Dr. Kwame M. Brown
It would help to read the following article before reading this post, but I will try to summarize below.
The title of the article: “Is PE a waste of time?”, by Barbara Lantin of the Sunday Times. Yet another provocative title. I guess that’s useful, but the problem is that most do not read through articles like this. I do. So, I am going to first communicate that this title is not supported at ALL by the contents.
The gist here is the author and others grossly misinterpreting some longitudinal research done in the EarlyBird Diabetes Study in England.
The purpose of the study was to look at potential causal factors in the development of Type II (obese) diabetes. They studied overall activity levels of kids, and observed that no matter the activity level offered kids, they chose their own activity level (opting out or in) and effort level.
The researchers concluded from this that activity level must be genetically predetermined by some “activitystat” gene.[dna]
Nice hypothesis, but there is one major problem with this conclusion:
Genes are old. The problems with rampant childhood obesity are relatively new. Therefore, we must consider… Gene expression itself is heavily determined / influenced by environment.
I am certain that such a genetically influenced trend like an “activitystat” exists.
To attribute it as the sole cause of many kids getting little to no exercise and kids fitness non existent at all is a fallacy.
They make some really strong conclusions on their website (while fighting for what is reportedly an unlikely funding renewal):
Unfortunately, they make definitive statements like:
“Children’s activity not determined by environmental opportunity Green spaces and sports centres do not influence the physical activity of children Like most things biological, a child’s activity level seems to be ‘set’ by the brain, and therefore strongly defended against change”
What they are missing: No matter what exists in the environment – children don’t have cars. If the parent does not bring, the child does not go! Anyone who works with children every day would know this. So to look just at the presence of green spaces and centres “around” where the child lives is an insufficient parameter.
The author fails in the article “Is PE a waste of time” and the researchers fail in the findings section of their own website to recognize the interaction of availability of play spaces in the neighborhood with the will of the parent, despite saying right above…
“Obese children – parents unaware and unconcerned. Today’s parents are oblivious of their children’s weight. Parents are key partners in the drive to halt obesity, but will have little impact unless educated to recognize the problem”
So, let me get this straight: You are making the conclusion that low activity is genetically predetermined and highly resistant to change, but recognize parental education as a major factor? How can both be true? C’mon SON!!!
Now, I will turn my attention to the title “Is PE a waste of time”. Clearly not, if well designed, by their own admission, because also in the findings section of the EarlyBird website is the following:
Children who keep active are no lighter, but they are metabolically healthier: The UK and US Governments advise at least 60 minutes moderate physical activity every day.
Only 42% of the EarlyBird boys and 11% of the girls met this guideline consistently over the three-year period from 5-8yr. Importantly (because governments use BMI as their outcome measure), there were no differences in the trend for BMI over the four time points in either sex, but the more active children became metabolically healthier.
The study questions the utility of BMI as the outcome measure of physical activity programmes in children and also whether the bar for girls should be lowered (girls systematically record less physical activity than boys). (Metcalf BS – Arch Dis Child 2008).
Look at the last statement above – BMI has been consistently used as a parameter for years in studies on childhood obesity / inactivity. This is why the article and many others are missing the point. This is not about weight. It is about the habits that CREATE the higher weight in some kids, but adversely AFFECT ALL CHILDREN.
Despite my bashing this study, it provides some really valuable information on kids fitness. Pretty well designed and executed (it seems), the EarlyBird study helps us delve deeper in to the causal factors in childhood obesity/inactivity.
My quarrel is with the conclusions made by some of the researchers, and with the result that this will have in creating a certain appearance to the layperson. As an aside, I never use the term layperson in an insulting way. I know very little about solar panel engineering, so I am a layperson. It has nothing to do with intelligence level, just amount and intensity of study
Is PE a waste of time? If you only care about what children weigh when left to their own devices, yes. But yet again, I feel compelled to say as I often have – obesity is the sneeze.
Physical play, when done with children’s needs (and yes, wants) in mind, treats the disease of inactivity and lack of physical enjoyment. PE that concentrates on caloric expenditure and measuring BMI treats the symptom. This placates politicians and statisticians, but does very little for children.
Children need thoughtful play time and play spaces dedicated to and designed for their natural proclivities. They also need time playing with adults. Furthermore, adults need to be proactive in providing healthy foods to support the play.
Help End The Madness!
Click Here Right Now to Become a certified Youth Fitness Specialist Right Now and Contribute to the Solution of Youth Inactivity:
I’ve just released a very special video of one of my favorite presenters in the world of sport and kids fitness training, Lee Taft.
It’s from the 2010 IYCA International Summit, where Lee started off his presentation by playing Simon Says for kids fitness with the entire audience – all 300 of us!!
But it wasn’t all fun and games as he made some incredibly valid points before he took us through the game:
Kids Fitness Physiology
by Dr. Kwame M. Brown
This article will by no means be an exhaustive discussion of the evidence, but I look forward to elaborating as we get responses.
Installment #476 in things I keep hearing people say:
“You should lock out the joints at the end of a (bench press, squat, etc)”. The joints need stress to get stronger.”
By this logic I should do the following:
1. Beat my head against a wall to protect myself from brain injuries (After all I am putting my cranium under much needed stress, right?
2. Yell at kids all the time and berate them to improve their self esteem
I think we can agree that just because something needs to get stronger, this doesn’t mean that all stress on that thing is good!
I could just simply say that this is wrong, but it’s better for all concerned (especially kids) if we address the real problem. The real problem is a combination of a lack of understanding of how joints work combined with a pretty loose application of terminology.
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.
"It felt more like a family gathering than a conference"
Carlos Alvarez, one of the tremendous speakers from my Summit
two weekends ago in Louisville, wrote that on his blog just three
days after the Summit concluded.
And he’s right.
Nick, Pat, Sara and myself go out of our way to create a ‘family-
oriented’ feel about the IYCA.
It’s not self-serving.
We don’t do it because we think it’s going to get us more ‘sales’.
We do it because we think it’s necessary.
Fitness Professionals are a fragmented group.
Most fitness certification organizations offer credentials and little
They disseminate information and give you letters to put after
your last name, but don’t ever go much above or beyond that to
impact your life or improve your career.
The IYCA is going to change the world partly with our Kids Fitness Certification.
But we can’t do it without you.
You’re part of the family.
Kids Fitness coaching principles
Here they are –
Personal honor, consistence in applying your personal values
to every action.
Every young person I train is important.
They require and deserve attention and my very best.
In the highest value of integrity, I care deeply about every single
young athlete I have ever worked with and given them everything
I had in order to make them better.
I applied the same sense of integrity when creating the IYCA.
Developing The Perfect Kids Fitness Program
The commonly held belief that strength training for kids is dangerous to the growth plates is simply not accurate provided that appropriate guidelines are followed with respect to, specifically, exercise execution. In fact, improved sport performance, increased muscular endurance and enhanced bone strength are all likely benefits of resistance training for children.
More over, an increased need for correct kids fitness programs due to the rigors of a typical soccer, football or baseball game place far more of a strain on the structures of kids than does a well-executed lift. In fact, Mel Siff in his book Facts & Fallacies of Fitness suggests that “stresses imposed on the body by common sporting activities such as running, jumping and hitting generally are far larger (by as much as 300%) than those imposed by Powerlifting or Olympic Lifting.”
The real crux of this issue stems from the argument of which type of resistance training is most safe or suitable. In North America, we tend to buy into the concept that fitness machines are most safe due to their static nature and fixed paths which remove our need to stabilize during a movement – which would be fine if the body actually worked like that, but it doesn’t! This is why I am so outspoken against ‘youth sized’ strength training machines. To the uneducated eye, they certainly appear more safe and prudent than training with free weights, especially in dynamic movements such as Olympic lifts… but are they? Should kids stay away from dynamic strength training exercises like the Olympic lift?
Dangers of Lifting in Kids Fitness Programs?
If there is not a fully qualified an exceptionally experienced coach involved, than yes – without question. However, can the Olympic lifts actually be beneficial for younger athletes… let’s examine that.
While machine-based strength training for children has been shown clinically to be positive, it does not appear that the clinical evidence supports anything other than the fact that isolated strength has increased. More over, due to their static nature, it can certainly be concluded that machine-based strength training does not positively impact coordination or movement skill – something that is extremely crucial for young athletes.
Kids fitness Education Success
I spend 75% of my time with resources from trusted names I know are
great kids fitness trainers.
I spend 15% of my time with resources from trainers I have never heard of.
I spend 10% of my time with resources that I completely disagree with.
This system has been the secret to my success.
In my 10% category, I force myself to learn something about a training
philosophy or exercise program that, at face value, I have no use for.
How different is that from most kids fitness trainers?
Do you ever spend time with training resources that you know you don’t
agree with, or do you brush them off as ‘not worth your time’?
The method to my madness is simply this –
I can never learn enough.
By reading a book or listening to an audio CD about a training style that
I disagree with, one of two great things happen.
Either I learn something I didn’t know (which often happens when you
actually read a book that you didn’t think you were going to like) or I
reaffirm and become more closely connected to the belief-system that I
Learn something new or validate that your system is the right one…
how is that anything but a positive experience?
The 15% category is reserved for trainers that I have never heard of before.
Because some of the best trainers I have ever met are simply NOT
They don’t have websites, they don’t market themselves and they don’t
try to become well known.
They just train people and then publish what they know to be true.
Professionals like David Jack and Carlos Alvarez come to mind.
David runs a CATZ training facility near Boston and Carlos is the Head
Strength Coach for a prominent high school in Ohio.
Both spend roughly 50 hours a week training young athletes from various
sports and kids fitness programs— and they do so successfully.
David has sent countless high school graduates on to successful college
careers and Carlos is responsible for the fitness levels of the 2007 National
High School Champion football program.
They don’t broadcast themselves.
They don’t have websites.
They don’t ‘beat their own drums’.
But they’re incredibly talented and insightful Coaches who know exactly
how to develop top level athletes.
And they’re both speaking at my International Summit in February.
Two guys in your 15%.
Two guys who know exactly what it takes to be the best.
And two guys you will absolutely never learn from again if you aren’t
at the IYCA Summit.
Something to consider…..
Okay, so I admit to being overwhelmed.
When I sent yesterday’s email out asking for people to offer
their thoughts on the matter of Kids Fitness Program and ‘training kids under twelve’,
I wasn’t expecting such a huge outpouring of passionate
My blog is loaded with comments.
I received no fewer than 20 emails on the topic.
I even had 4 people call me to tell me what they thought.
The IYCA certainly is comprised of some passionate people…
… And I love that!
And now that we’ve established the fact that training
children under the age of 12 is an absolute must, it begs
the question – how do you do it?
Weight training – Is that safe for a kids fitness program?
Speed and Agility – How do you teach that to pre-adolescents?
Plyometrics – How much volume, sets or reps?
So while I’m glad that everyone who responded seems to
understand the need for training and instruction with kids
under 12, do they know how to design and implement
programs for this age group?
But it is a very tricky science.
Especially when you factor in the reality that you’re likely
going to be dealing with several kids, all of whom have
different learning styles and abilities, and the potential of
over-zealous Coaches and Parents who are looking for
results NOW… As completely silly as that is.
Here’s a quick crash course for you on how to program for
kids under 12 years old –
:: Always start by arranging your training group into a semi-
circle around you being sure to avoid any natural hierarchy’s
that typically plague this age group
:: Introduce the first exercise being sure to verbally explain and
then visually demonstrate
:: Be positive with all commentary and feedback
:: The program itself should follow this sequence –
a. Coordination 1 (demo)
b. Game Play
c. Coordination 2 (demo)
d. Game Play
e. Technical Instruction
f. Game Play
:: Choose coordination exercise that stimulating any of the
following physical characteristics –
b. Kinesthetic Differentiation
d. Spatial Awareness
e. Movement Adequacy
And that’s how you create successful kids fitness program under
the age of 12!
Want the rest of the story?
All the specifics and some samples of how it works?
Click the link below and get your hands on my brand-new Kids Fitness Program
‘Secrets to Program Design’ course.
More than 1,000 Fitness Professionals worldwide have already
purchased this groundbreaking course and have become better
Coaches and Trainers IMMEDIATELY because of it.
Here’s your link –
‘Till next time,
During the ‘Activation/Torso’ portion of my training session.
That’s when I do it.
I literally walk around and chat with each athlete while they go through their
basic activation or torso drills.
And that’s where I ascertain and mentally plot the session.
Have a look –
It never stops amazing me how 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 rep ranges.
COACHING and COMMUNICATION are the real keys to
Developing a system of training that works and then understanding how to
effectively implement it.
That’s what makes a great coach.
And not surprisingly….
…. Great athletes.
In Complete Athlete Development I took the time to create both for you.
My template complete with a training system that involves 5 separate categories
in a given session along with every instruction imaginable on how to implement the
entire program effectively.
Have a look at Complete Athlete Development through the link below and see for
Kids Fitness Coaching Tip. By Brian Grasso
Lots of talent.
But very quiet and tends to get left out in other kids fitness partner drills.
It’s very faint in the video, but you can just barely hear me talking to him.
I’m inspiring him based on what I’ve seen about his personality.
Talking just to him.
Notice the ‘high five’ and quick pat on the stomach at the end of his set.
Sometimes it’s good to motivate loudly.
Other times it’s effective to be highly energetic and charismatic.
But you have to understand your audience and determine how best they will listen to your message.
In this case, I felt it was critical to let him know I thought he did a great job without being overly exuberant about it.
The Art of Coaching Kids fitness at work…