Calisthenics are perfect exercises that the whole family can enjoy, and benefit from, together.  This video fitness tip shows how an 8-year old child can perform the four cornerstone calisthenics movements.

The four major fitness calisthenics movements are jumping jacks, squat thrusts, leg drives and push-ups, and the sooner that people are introduced to these movements the sooner they will improve their fitness level.  Regardless of age or fitness/ability level, calisthenics should be an important part of everybody’s training routine, as they can be used to warm-up or as an effective cardiovascular workout.

These four moves make up what I call the “Calisthenics Fitness Test” that can be used to gauge progress while also providing a great workout.  To get the most out of this test perform the circuit of 30 jumping jacks, 10 squat thrusts, 30 leg drives and 10 push-ups four times, resting 20 seconds between sets and 60 seconds at the end of each circuit.  This fitness routine provides a goal/starting point for beginners or children learning calisthenics.

This week’s video clip features my 8-year old son and serves as a great illustration of how young kids can, and should, perform these exercises.  These exercises are great because parents and children can do calisthenics together and participate in family fitness, any place and without the need for equipment.

For jumping jacks, stay balanced and don’t jump the feet too far apart.  Keeping weight on the toes aids balance and helps to stay “bouncy” and move quickly.  Jumping jacks are great for conditioning and can also serve as great preparation for jumping rope. Most children should have no problem completing 30 jacks.

Squat thrusts, one of the best all-around calisthenics exercises, are a little more difficult, especially for children.  Anyone who cannot perform a regular squat thrust should check out my video fitness tip from last week and watch the proper progression to learn this movement.

Just like with jumping jacks, with squat thrusts always stay on the toes to maintain balance and be able to move quickly.  Any time you’re flat-footed you’re going to have a tough time moving quickly, and as a result, be off balance.   Beginners and children should shoot for five squat thrusts, but don’t sacrifice form in order to do a few more reps.

Leg drives are deceptively difficult and will definitely get anybody’s heart rate going.  The technique is pretty straight-forward and the key points are to keep the back flat and make sure that the balls of each foot touches the ground at the top and bottom of each stride.  Most children should be capable of doing 20-30 leg drives.

Push-ups can be difficult calisthenics moves for children and adults to perform correctly.  There are many misconceptions dealing with the proper way for people to learn how to do this exercise, as some fitness folks think that doing bent knee push-ups is part of the teaching progression.

The only way to learn how to do real push-ups is to do real push-ups.  Doing bent knee push-ups will actually make it tougher to develop the strength needed to perform proper push-ups.  You will develop more strength, the specific strength necessary to perform real push-ups, by working in the full push-up position.  Holding your body in the starting position – shoulders over hands, back flat and abs tight with toes on the ground – will develop strength, something bent knee push-ups don’t do.

Children – and adults – who can’t do a push-up should work on getting into the proper starting position and holding it for 30 seconds.  Once this position is mastered, work on lowering the body to the floor slowly and under control – without trying to actually push back to the starting position – for several repetitions. 

These “push-up negatives” will help to develop the strength necessary to be able to perform a proper push-up.  An upcoming video fitness tip will cover the teaching progression for performing a proper push-up.

Calisthenics are an activity that the entire family, including children, can take part in together, regardless of the differences in age and fitness levels.  These four calisthenics movements offer families a great opportunity to promote family fitness and spend some time together.



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