American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise

During the initial training phase for kids, we develop stability of the spine, postural control, joint stability and balance to set the stage for movement training. The foundation of strength gained in phase 1 allows kids to learn more complex movement patterns in phase 2 without risking injury.

Here are the five primary movement patterns that will be the focus of training in phase 2:

Bend and lift (squatting)

Single-leg movements (lunging)

Pushing (push-ups)

Pulling (pull-ups)

Rotational (torso twists) 

It is important to include functional movement skills in the warm-up during movement training. These skills are important to any fitness program. Skills such as jumping and throwing during the warm-up help promote overall physical development.

Resistance exercises should include multi-joint movements and emphasize proper body mechanics. The goal is to develop whole-body movement patterns that utilize bodyweight against gravity as the main source of resistance.

This phase may take the longest to develop because all kids will progress at different rates. Furthermore, imbalances and strength deficiencies are common in this phase. It is important not to progress a child to the next phase of training or add weights to the movements until proper movement mechanics are mastered.

Let’s go through some basic exercises to learn each of the five movement patterns necessary to develop a strong, healthy body. Once the basic exercises have been mastered, work toward implementing the progressive exercise.

Beginner Program

Goblet squat - 10 reps x 2 sets

Reverse lunge – 11 reps each leg x 2 sets

Lateral lunge – 10 reps each leg x 2 sets

Lateral crawls – 10 yards forward and backward x 2 sets

Push-up walks – 5 reps each arm x 2 sets

Chest-to-deck push-ups – 8 reps x 2 sets

Scarecrows – 10 reps x 2 sets

Rows – 10 reps x 2 sets

Sidewinders – 10 reps each side x 2 sets

Progressive Program

Single-leg squat - 10 reps each leg x 3 sets

Walking lunge – 10 reps each leg x 3 sets

Lateral lunge – 15 reps each leg x 3 sets

Bear crawls – 10 yards forward and backwards x 3 sets

Push-up walks – 10 reps each arm x 3 sets

Chest to deck push-ups – 15 reps x 3 sets

Scarecrows – 15 reps x 3 sets

Single-arm rows – 15 reps x 3 sets

Sidewinders – 15 reps each side x 3 sets

Exercise Descriptions

Bend-and-lift Movements

Goblet squat – Begin in an athletic position (chest high, hips back, knees slightly bent, feet shoulder-width apart and a small arch in the low back). Bend your knees and lower the body toward the ground until your elbows can touch your knees. Keep your heels on the ground and chest and head upright. Slowly come back to a standing position and repeat.

PROGRESSIVE: Single-leg squat - Stand on the side of a low box (approximately 6 inches high) with the right foot. Sit the hips back and bend the knee to lower the left heel toward the floor. Remember to keep the chest and head up high and keep an extended arch in the low back. The foot on the box should remain completely flat. Press through the heel of the right foot to bring the body back up tall and complete the movement. 

Single-leg Movements

Reverse lunge - Start by standing tall with feet together. Step back with the right foot and bend the right knee toward the floor until your left thigh is parallel to the ground. Keep the chest high and the left knee directly above the left toe. Press your weight through the left heel to come back to a full standing position. Repeat on the other side.

PROGRESSIVE: Walking lunge - Start by standing tall with feet together. Take a large step forward with your left foot, landing on the heel. Gently lower your body down toward the ground, bending both knees until the left thigh is parallel to the ground. Press through the left heel to come up tall and step through with the right foot to take a large step forward and repeat the same sequence of moves.

Lateral lunge - Stand tall with feet together. Step out to the right side with the right foot so the feet are wider than shoulder-distance apart. Keep the toes, knee and hip all facing straight forward. As you land on the right foot, sit the hips back and bend the right knee to squat down toward the ground. Keep the chest high and the weight of the body on the right heel. Press up through the right heel and come back to an upright position. Repeat on the left leg.

Pushing Movements

Lateral crawls - Start in a push-up position. Begin crawling by simultaneously stepping out to the left with the left hand and left foot. Bring the right hand and right foot simultaneously to the left so that you can continue crawling to the left. Change direction and repeat this movement to the right.

PROGRESSIVE: Bear crawls - Start on the hands and feet in a semi push-up position, hips a little higher in the air than normal. Take a step forward simultaneously with the right hand and left foot. The left knee should almost touch the right elbow. Next, alternate by taking a step with the right hand and left foot, bringing the left knee close to the right elbow. Keep alternating steps and then reverse the move to come backward.

Push-up walks – Start in a push-up position with the hands directly under the shoulders. Drop down onto the right elbow first and then the left elbow to end up in a forearm plank position. Next, press up through the right hand first and then the left hand to come back up to push-up position. Repeat this move by alternating the lead arm.

Chest-to-deck push-ups - Begin in a push-up position with the feet and hands shoulder-width apart, hands under the shoulders. Allow your elbows to bend and bring the entire body flat to the ground, touching the thighs, belly and chest. Try to keep the body completely straight and lift off the ground by pressing through the hands and straightening out the arms. Repeat.

Pulling Movements

Scarecrows - Use a light resistance band or no resistance for this exercise. Begin in an athletic stance with the elbows high, even with the shoulders and elbows bent at 90 degrees. Your palms should face forward and elbows bent at 90 degrees. Slowly lower the hands down, turning the forearms from high to low and now your knuckles should face forward. Maintain the same 90-degree bend at the elbows and keep them at shoulder height. Bring the hands back up to the starting position.

Rows - Attach a light-to-moderate resistance band to a pole or fence and hold onto the band with left and right hands. Begin in an athletic position and extend the arms long toward the attachment point. Next, bring the elbows back and squeeze the shoulder blades together. The hands should come to about chest level and the elbows can be high or out to the sides. Keep an upright posture and repeat this movement.

PROGRESSIVE: Single-arm rows - Assume the same position as the rows, but use only one arm at a time to pull the resistance. 

Rotational Movement

Sidewinders - Begin in a seated position with the knees slightly bent and the heels on the ground. Bring the arms out long in front and rotate the trunk of the body to twist and lower the arms to the left side. Bring the arms back to the middle and rotate to the right . Continue to flow from the left to right sides while maintaining a flat back and keeping the body as upright as possible.