Circuit training with kids can be fun for them and you. The stations are short and the pace varies, keeping the interest of kids for the duration.
I started doing circuit training with my kids this spring because three of them had Boy Scout merit badges or achievements they were working on for physical fitness. The first day they whined a bit, but by the end of that first workout they were hooked.
Here’s what we do
First of all we have five stations each day because there are five of us, the four kids and me. Then we rotate through the stations.
- Each rotation takes about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
- We vary the stations each day.
- But every day includes the running portion, that’s a given.
- The time for each rotation depends on the runner. When the runner gets done with his course, we move to the next station. That allows us to have a regularized switching time while also motivating the runner to run fast, not walk. Peer pressure properly harnessed is invaluable.
- We alternate cardiovascular stations with strength and stretching stations.
- I let the kids participate in choosing which stations we do each day. Their choices have surprised me.
- We started going through the stations once and progressed to going through all of the stations twice.
These are the stations we choose from
Some of the stations below use expensive exercise equipment that our family has gathered over the years. But you don’t have to have any equipment at all. You can make weights from milk jugs filled with water. You can use resistance from your own body (think push-ups or planks). Or you can do things like running stairs. But also, don’t be afraid to let your kids use grown-up exercise equipment if you have it. Just make sure they are taught to do it properly, the dangers are explained, and then be sure to supervise them, especially at first.
The run is the core of our circuit training and the only station that doesn’t change. We have a lovely little course we have planned through our woods and on the lanes around our house. It takes the kids between 1.5 and 2 minutes to complete. The older kids and I have a longer course than the littler ones.
Jump roping is another cardio station that the kids often pick. They were really bad at jump roping at first, but they have improved quickly. We also do jumping jacks from time to time, it has the same cardio benefits as jumping rope, but with no equipment needed.
We have a trampoline that we sometimes add into the cardio mix. Keeping it fun is part of making the circuit training a hit.
Sometimes we use the treadmill for the run or as a second run.
Finally we have an exercise bike the kids like to use. You could also have a course for a normal bike for the kids to ride over instead of using a stationary bike.
Here are dips using a bench. You just raise and lower your upper body using your arm strength, bending only at the elbows.
The plank is the kids absolute favorite exercise, thus absolutely flabbergasting their mother who dies at the very mention of a plank. They get all competitive over it and try to hold the plank through the entire time the runner is out. This little boy is the current reigning plank champion at 3 minutes and 15 seconds.
Push-ups are another regular in our routine. Gotta build that arm strength.
Sit-ups usually share a station with push-ups. You can fit both in during the runner’s loop.
We have a few dumbbell sets and I taught the kids a few upper body weight lifting exercises. We practiced doing it right and we do lots of reps with light weights rather than trying to lift the heaviest weights possible. This one is the butterfly where you lift your arms straight out from your body from a position hanging by your legs up to a position level with your shoulders and then back, moving slowly with control the whole time.
The weight machine is popular too. We don’t do free weights on this, just the weights on pulleys so there can’t be any accidents. I also took the time to teach the boys a few techniques and how to do it properly before I set them loose. They know to use the appropriate weight amounts for their size. They love using the grown-up machines.
These bands are inexpensive and use tension to give a strength training workout for upper or lower body. Here we’re using a tree as our stationary object to pull against.
We call these “up-down-gos” because that’s what they are called in the military. Some people call them burpees. They are killer, at least for old people like me. The kids just hop up and down like it’s nothing. You start standing, squat down, then thrust your legs backward with your hands on the ground so you are in push-up position, then you hop back up to a standing position. Then repeat, again and again until you die.
Leg lifts, if done slowly, are a great way to work the muscles of the inner and outer leg, muscles that often get missed when doing other activities like biking or running.
We use our swing set as exercise equipment too. These rings are too low for the bigger kids and I to use, but the littler ones get a good workout doing gymnastics on them.
Here’s another killer exercise you don’t need equipment for. You just sit against a wall (or a tree in this case), knees at 90 degrees. For the first ten or fifteen seconds, you’re thinking it’s cake and then the burn begins.
The stretching station is popular and we often put it right after the running station so you can catch your breath. I took the time to teach the kids how to do several upper and several lower body stretches correctly, no bouncing.
After the workout, you flop into the nearest hammock for much deserved rest.
Sometimes I just tell the kids which stations we’re doing. I like to add in a brand new station every once on awhile to keep the interest up.
Sometimes I let the kids each choose a station to do.
And sometimes we choose stations out of the jar.
I wrote the names of our stations on large craft sticks and found a plastic jar to put them in. The stations are color coded. Dark blue is strength training. Light blue is cardio. And then I have two orange sticks that are for upper body stretches and lower body stretches. I did not make a stick for the run because for us it is a given and included with each workout. The color coding helps us make sure we have a good mix of cardio and strength stations.
If you have more circuit training station ideas, comment below!
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