If you are a parent or involved in youth sports, you may have wondered if and when you should start strength training for young athletes. Strength training (also referred to as resistance training) is a form of exercise that uses outside resistance to cause muscle contractions. The end goal of these muscle contractions is to increase maximal strength.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), strength training benefits kids in many ways, including improving strength and endurance, improving heart health, increasing bone density, and decreasing repetitive motion injuries.
So strength training for kids can be beneficial, but is there a proper age to start kids’ strength training? Some experts say that a good rule of thumb is that children ready to participate in organized sports can also begin strength training.
Generally, you can introduce children as young as 7 to 8 years old to strength training with proper guidance and supervision. Supervision is essential because kids need to be taught the correct lifting techniques by a strength training expert.
Another important question about strength training for kids is, what are the best exercises for children? There are many effective muscular strength exercises for kids, such as calf raises, burpees, and bench step-ups. We’ll break down these three exercises and even more of the best strength training exercises for kids.
It is important to differentiate between the best exercises for the upper body and lower body because different movements target specific body parts, and it is essential to have a well-rounded training program.
18 Strength-Training Exercises for Kids
Here are 18 of the best strength training exercises for kids to implement once they are ready.
- Calf Raises
- Bench Step-Ups
- Crab Walks
- Crab Toe Touches
- Handstands Against a Wall
- Hip Bridges
- Side Leg Raises
- Squat Jumps
- Side Planks
- Straight-Arm Planks With Arm Row
These are not necessarily the 18 best exercises for kids, but these movements are a phenomenal foundation that will provide muscular stimulus to the entire body.
Selecting a wide variety of strength training exercises is vital for any age, especially for children. Using a range of activities helps keep kids from getting bored and losing interest in training. A wide range of movements also ensures no body part is left underdeveloped.
Here are 18 of the best strength training exercises you should consider including in your kids’ strength training program.
1. Calf Raises
To perform calf raises, start from a standing position. Then rise onto your tiptoes, hold the position for a second, and lower back down. Calf raises target the calves, which consist of two different muscles called the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles.
Calf raises for kids protect against injuries, including sprains and shin splints, by helping strengthen the ankles and Achilles tendons. Kids should maintain an upright posture and perform calf raises with good balance.
Calf raises are a great strength training movement for kids because they’re safe and easy to do. Many children already do a similar movement naturally while playing.
To do a burpee, start from a standing position. Squat, place your hands on the ground, then jump your feet into a plank. Do a push-up, and then repeat the movements in reverse until you’re standing again.
Burpees are beneficial for kids because they build strength and cardiovascular performance. Burpees are a full-body movement that will strengthen the legs, chest, shoulders, and more.
When kids are learning to do burpees, it can help to break down the movement into the squat, plank, and push-up movements. Burpees can be challenging, but they are easy to learn and safe for kids to perform.
3. Bench Step-Ups
To do this exercise, grab a low bench or box and stand facing it. Step up with your right foot, then bring up your left foot. Step down and then repeat the movement but with the left foot first.
Bench step-ups are a great kids’ exercise for strengthening their legs, teaching balance, and developing coordination, which is valuable in every sport as well as in daily life. Step-ups target the lower body, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. This movement is also excellent for strengthening the core muscles in the abs and back.
When teaching the step-up, focus on an upright posture and controlled movement. The foot on the ground shouldn’t push off, and the knee of the working leg should be in line with the foot.
Barfix is a training app available from the Apple Store. Barfix provides strength training workouts that utilize a pull-up bar, also known as a chin-up bar. The app is rated for ages 4+ and offers multiple bodyweight strength training workouts.
Exercises that use a pull-up bar increase upper body strength. Utilizing the Barfix app, kids will work their grip, arms, shoulders, back, and abdominals. Children also learn the correct form for supporting their body’s weight with their arms.
Any hanging exercise involves a risk of losing your grip or falling. It is critical only to use exercises the child is ready to perform. Also, ensure that they can safely dismount from the bar whenever necessary.
5. Crab Walks
To perform a crab walk, start by sitting on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your palms behind you and lift your hips off the ground. You can then “walk” forwards and backward.
Crab walks are fun for kids, improving cardiovascular health, increasing bilateral coordination, and promoting motor control. Crab walks are a full body strength movement that requires a child to use their arms, legs, and core to hold themselves up and move back and forth.
Crab walks are not only fun, but they’re safe too. You should teach your kids to move with control and coordination. Moving too fast will lead to slips and falls. Keeping the midsection tight and the hips raised off the ground is also essential.
6. Crab Toe Touches
To do this movement, start by sitting with your feet flat on the ground. Place your palms flat on the ground behind you. Raise your hips to form a “tabletop” position. Next, raise your left arm and right foot and touch them together. Return to the tabletop position and repeat with the other limbs.
Similar to crab walks, crab toe touches are considered a total body exercise that challenges the arms, legs, and core muscles. Crab toe touches are a fantastic kids’ exercise for developing balance, coordination, and shoulder and hip mobility.
This movement is all about coordinating the actions and maintaining balance. Crab toe touches are simple and safe to teach children of any age.
7. Handstands Against a Wall
Start by getting on all fours with your back to a wall. Next, press the bottoms of your feet flat against the wall and walk your feet up the wall. Simultaneously, move your hands towards the wall until you’re in a handstand position.
Handstands are beneficial for kids because they teach coordination and balance. Handstands will work the upper body and core, especially the shoulders, triceps, and abdominal muscles.
The trickiest part of performing handstands against a wall is getting into and out of the handstand position. It is crucial to make sure a child is strong enough to hold themselves up and that they dismount safely.
With proper technique and coaching, handstands are a safe and effective exercise. Please don’t allow a child to put excessive force or weight on their head or neck, as this could lead to injury.
8. Hip Bridges
Start by lying on your back with your feet and hands flat on the ground. Push your feet into the ground while lifting your hips and lower back off the floor. Hold that position for a few seconds and lower back down to complete the movement.
Hip bridges are a great strength and flexibility exercise for kids that target the lower back, abs, and glutes. They can also be beneficial for children who do not have the strength or comfort level to perform crab walks or crab toe touches yet.
When performing hip bridges, it is important to keep the midsection straight. Do not allow the back to sag or the hips to dip.
To do an inchworm, begin in a standing position. Next, bend over with your knees slightly bent until you can place your hands on the ground. Then, walk your hands away from your feet until you are in a plank position. Finally, walk your feet up to your hands and stand back up to the start position.
Because of the extensive range of motion, inchworms are a total body exercise that strengthens the shoulders, arms, chest, legs, and core muscles. Inchworms also increase flexibility and coordination in the legs and arms.
Generally, inchworms are very safe and easy to learn. You can make them more accessible by having the kids put their knees on the ground in the plank position.
To do a plank, lie down on the ground on your stomach. Raise yourself on your hands and feet while keeping your back straight. Hold this position for as long as desired before returning to the ground.
Planks primarily target the core, but they are a tremendous whole-body movement that will also work the shoulders, hips, and legs. Kids benefit from planks because the exercise improves core stability.
Planks are easy to learn and pose little risk of injury. When doing planks, focus on keeping your back straight with your shoulders, butt, and heels in line.
11. Side Leg Raises
Lying on your side with your upper body supported on your elbow, raise your top leg straight up. Hold your leg parallel to the ground for a few seconds before returning to the starting position.
Side Leg Raises are another excellent core strengthening exercise that will help children develop their back and abdominal muscles.
This exercise is easy and safe to teach kids of all ages. Keeping the body in a straight line is vital, with the hips off the ground and the legs straight. The only contact points on the ground should be the bottom foot and elbow.
Start at the top of the plank position. While keeping your back straight, bend your elbows and lower your chest to the ground. Push up to the start position to complete the movement.
Push-ups target the upper body, primarily the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Teaching children this classic exercise is important because it is one of the most effective chest exercises for any age group, including adults.
The most important aspects of the push-up are keeping the back straight and moving through a full range of motion. With proper form and technique, push-ups are a safe, effective exercise anyone can benefit from.
13. Squat Jumps
Start from a standing position with feet hip-width apart. Bend the knees and squat down while pushing the hips and butt back. Quickly rise into a jump and then land with knees bent to complete the movement.
The squat jump will help strengthen the upper legs and glutes as well as develop power and cardiovascular capacity. Squat jumps can be an excellent tool for teaching kids how to jump and land in a way that protects against injuries.
It is essential to focus on jumping straight up in squat jumps and landing with knees bent. Bending the knees takes stress off of the joints and helps make the exercise safer.
14. Side Planks
To do side planks, lie on your side with your elbow supporting your upper body. Lift your hips off the ground, so only your bottom elbow and foot are touching the ground. Hold this position for as long as desired.
Side planks develop the obliques, which are the abdominal muscles on the sides of the torso. The movement is also good for increasing strength in the back and improving overall balance.
When performing side planks, focus on keeping the body in a straight line by flexing the abs and not allowing the hips to dip down.
Side planks can be difficult at first due to the need for strength and balance. Perform short reps of 10-15 secs and progressively increase the duration as kids become more comfortable with the movement.
15. Straight-Arm Planks With Arm Row
For this movement, get into a plank position with your feet at shoulder width. While holding the plank, lift your right arm until your hand reaches your side. Lower your arm and repeat on the other side.
With this exercise, kids will develop strength in their chest, shoulders, and back. It is also beneficial for strengthening the core and improving overall balance.
Balance is the most crucial aspect of this movement to focus on. To safely perform this exercise, kids should move slowly enough to maintain balance and keep a good plank position.
Supermans are performed by first lying face down on the ground with your arms and legs fully extended. Lift your arms and legs off the floor while keeping your face looking down. Hold this position for as long as desired before lowering back down to the starting position.
Supermans are a fantastic, static exercise that helps children develop strength in their back, butt, and abs.
Supermans are a simple and effective exercise. Kids will also love the fun and imagination involved in training like a superhero.
While swimming requires more practice than most of the exercises on this list, it’s one of the best full-body workouts for kids. Swimming, as a strength training exercise, targets the entire body, including the legs, core, and arms. It also helps increase endurance and cardiovascular health.
Kids can perform swimming in many different ways, including free swims, swimming laps, or treading water for a time. Swimming is a fun activity that’s safe and easy for the whole family. Make sure to avoid eating at least three to four hours before engaging in this water-based exercise.
Riding a bike is a fantastic activity that increases strength in the lower body. It’s also a cardiovascular activity that can provide hours of fun for everyone in your family.
Kids can also use activities such as cycling to help maintain a healthy weight and strengthen the lungs and heart.
Children can do cycling training on a fixed exercise bike, on off-road trails, on public or private streets, and even in some gyms where bike tracks are available.
Kids can cycle using a two-wheel bike or using a bicycle with training aids. If your child is riding in the street, be sure to teach them the rules of the road and to pay attention to traffic.
What Age Can Kids Start Strength Training?
According to a meta-analysis published in the peer-reviewed journal Sports Health, multiple university studies have found that there is no age limit for strength training as long as children are capable of understanding and following instructions.
Recommendations based on the data from the meta-analysis found that kids as young as seven years old are generally old enough to begin strength training.
The appropriate age for any specific child to start strength training can differ based on several factors, including physical, cognitive, and social maturity. The child should have no ongoing medical issues and should undergo a medical examination before beginning training.
What Are the Benefits of Strength Training for Kids?
There are many benefits that children gain when they train for strength. Many of the same benefits adults gain from strength training are the same for children. Let’s look at seven of the most important benefits gained from strength training and how kids, in particular, can see positive effects from them.
- Increases Muscle Strength and Endurance
- Strengthens Bones by Increasing Bone Intensity of Children
- Helps Promote Healthy Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels
- Helps Maintain a Healthy Weight for Children
- Increases Confidence and Self-Esteem for Kids
- Helps Protect Muscles and Joints From Sports-Related Injuries While Growing
- Improves Sports Performance of Children
1. Increases Muscle Strength and Endurance
Strength training leads to the development of lean body mass, aka muscle. As children grow and if they are undertaking strength training, this lean tissue increases and becomes stronger. Kids can accomplish this positive effect through the steady progression of a strength training routine and proper diet.
2. Strengthens Bones by Increasing Bone Intensity of Children
Strength training leads to stronger muscles. As muscles develop, so does the body’s need for strong bones to carry those muscles. Over time, and with consistent strength training that challenges a child’s muscular development, their bones will mineralize and become denser.
3. Helps Promote Healthy Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels
The heart is a muscular organ, so it is only logical that strength training also strengthens the heart. Additionally, anyone can improve their veins and arteries through exercise. Strength training improves the heart’s ability to pump blood and increases the pliability of arteries and veins.
A stronger heart leads to better cholesterol levels, healthier blood pressure, and better overall blood circulation.
4. Helps Maintain a Healthy Weight for Children
Lack of physical activity often leads to overindulgence of calories and, eventually, fat accumulation. However, a combination of a healthy diet and strength training can help children maintain a healthy weight.
As far as the duration of exercise is concerned, the current recommendations from pediatric and exercise science experts state that children should engage in at least 60 minutes of activity per day.
5. Increases Confidence and Self-Esteem for Kids
Strength training can help improve mental as well as physical well-being. Research shows kids who engage in strength training are better socialized, have a more positive self-perception, and have more self-esteem.
These types of studies suggest that it is not only strength training but training with others that has a significant impact on mental health.
6. Helps Protect Muscles and Joints From Sports-Related Injuries While Growing
Researchers have found a possible correlation between muscle fiber size and numbers and the likelihood of injury during sports activities. This effect means that individuals, including kids, who have more muscle and better-trained muscles are less likely to get injured, especially while engaging in sports activities.
Having your children participate in multiple, highly varied training sessions and different sports activities that develop muscular and cardiovascular health may help prevent sports injuries while growing.
7. Improves Sports Performance of Children
Any sport, whether it is football, basketball, baseball, or any of the hundreds of other options available for children, requires an element of physical skill.
Generally speaking, children who engage in strength training workouts are stronger, more coordinated, have better endurance, and understand physical movement better than less active kids.
What Is the Best Exercise Frequency and Duration for Kids?
How often your kids train and the average length of the individual workouts can vary depending on a variety of factors.
- Training experience
- Interest level
- Other activities (especially physical activities)
You can consider many other factors, but these factors are the most impactful. It is essential that children not be pushed beyond their comfort level when training.
Current guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)Trusted Source state that children between 6 and 17 should undergo strength training workouts of about 60 minutes up to three times per week.
Is It Advisable for Kids To Incorporate Weight Training Into Their Strength Training?
Yes, it is advisable for kids to incorporate weight training into their strength training. As long as children mature enough to receive coaching, and observe safety rules, they can perform weight training.
Weight training should not be the sole component of a children’s strength training routine. Play, sports, and movement-based exercise are also vital for kids. Kids should consult with an expert before beforming any weight training.
Is It Safe for Kids To Start Strength Training?
Yes, it is not only safe for kids to start strength training; it’s one of the most important things a parent or coach can do to help kids achieve their best physical potential as they go through adolescence.
Starting strength training early in life helps kids form healthy physical and mental habits that will serve them well their entire lives. Before starting, children and parents should consult with an expert.
How Does the Age of Children Change the Kid Exercise Programs?
Any kind of training, including strength training and weightlifting, needs to be adjusted for the trainee. This idea is especially important to remember when designing a workout program for children of different ages.
As kids age and their bodies develop, their physical training needs will change. Here are a few recommendations based on a 2015 study titled “Long-Term Athletic Development-Part 1: A Pathway for All Youth.”
What Are the Best Exercises for 0–5 Years Old Children?
Children learn essential motor functions and establish neural pathways for coordination at the earliest ages. For kids ages 0-5, exercise should primarily focus on general movement and play. For this age group, consider the following exercises.
- T-ball (baseball)
- Crab walks
What Are the Best Exercises for 5–10 Years Old Children?
You can begin to introduce kids to more sports and some limited strength training when they are between 5 and 10 years old. Allowing kids to try multiple sports and activities is a good idea as it encourages different movement patterns and fundamental skills.
In addition to the exercises from the previous age group, some activities that work for 5 to 10-year-old kids are listed below.
- Strength-specific training movements such as push-ups and planks
As mentioned earlier, starting with strength training at this age helps promote muscular development, improves bone density, and enhances healthy mental development.
What Are the Best Exercises for 10–15 Years Old Children?
Pre-teen and teenage children can benefit from focused strength training and competitive sports. Strength training in this age range continues to encourage a healthy lifestyle, improves muscular strength and endurance, and improves sports performance.
In addition to the exercises from the previous age group, some activities for kids ages 10 to 15 years old are listed below.
- Competitive sports
- Weight training such as weighted squats and presses
What Are Best Children’s Exercises for Different Body Parts?
Some exercises only target specific muscles, such as push-ups, which primarily work the chest and shoulder muscles, or squats which work the quadriceps and hamstrings.
It can be okay for individual workouts to focus on particular muscles. Still, for balanced development, children need a well-rounded strength training routine that develops every part of the body.
What Are the Best Upper Body Exercises for Kids?
For strength training, the upper body consists of the muscles in the shoulders, arms, chest, back, and midsection (abs). Below are some of the best upper body exercises for kids.
- Pull-ups (and other climbing activities)
- Handstand push-ups
- Bear crawls
Some of these movements, such as bear crawls and planks, can provide a little stimulus to the lower body muscles but are primarily for upper body strength.
What Are the Best Lower Body Exercises for Kids?
For strength training, the lower body consists of the muscles in the legs and lower back. These muscles include the hips, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles. Some of the best lower body exercises for kids are below.
- Calf raises
- Hip bridges
- Wall sits
Any movement-based exercise such as running, jumping, or cycling will also primarily develop strength and endurance in the lower body. Implementing lower-body specific training is vital to ensure that children’s physical development is balanced and provides long-term health benefits.
How To Make Children Get Used To Exercise?
Making exercise a habit early in life will help children maintain a healthy lifestyle as they age. You can do several things to help kids adapt to a strength training routine.
- Be a role model and do the training with your kids.
- Make exercise a social activity.
- Make competition a positive motivator.
- Give gifts that encourage physical activity, such as bikes and sports equipment.
- Plan activities and vacations such as hiking, swimming, and camping.
- Limit sedentary activities such as tv and video games.
Getting children into the habit of being physically active is one of the most effective ways to ensure they will continue to be involved in strength training throughout their childhood. It is vital to make exercise a positive experience that kids are eager to engage in as opposed to being a chore that they feel obligated to do.
Can Children Perform Weightlifting Exercises?
Yes, children can train with weights. There is no definitive age for kids to start training with weights. As long as the child can understand a coach’s instructions and can perform the movements with proper form, they can participate in weightlifting exercises.
It is essential to start slowly when your children are beginning to use weightlifting exercises. You should never push young children to perform maximal strength 1-rep tests or any kind of exercise that could lead to injuries.
Can Children Perform Gym Workouts?
Yes, similar to any kind of strength or weight training, as long as a child can perform the movements safely, they can participate in gym workouts. Gym workouts can be a great way to incorporate socializing into a child’s exercise program by giving them a chance to work out with their friends or family members.
If you want to take your child to a public gym, contact the gym’s staff and read through their rules and policies. Some gyms may limit areas where children may be present.
Additionally, manufacturers design workout machines and other gym equipment for adults. Children may not be able to utilize the equipment in a gym safely or effectively. Review your gym’s policies and equipment before bringing your child in for a workout.