16 Strength-Training Exercises for Kids

These exercises use body weight to help build strength. They're perfect for kids and the whole family to do together.

Whether your child is training for a 5K or an obstacle course race (or just looking to build a strong, healthy body), strength-training moves are a great addition to a workout routine at just about any age. Strength training, also called resistance training, uses resistance from your body, weight machines, exercise bands, or weights to strengthen your muscles.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the benefits of strength training for kids include:

  • Improving muscle strength and stamina
  • Improving heart health
  • Improving bone mineral density
  • Decreasing cholesterol levels
  • Increasing lean body mass
  • Preventing repetitive motion injuries in sports

As with all exercises, strength training isn't for everyone. The AAP says that kids with certain health conditions—like high blood pressure, seizure disorders, prior cancers treated with chemotherapy, and congenital heart disease—should talk to a health care provider before starting a strength training routine.

We talked to Ewunike Akpan, a certified fitness trainer with the American Council on Exercise, former regional coordinator for Build Our Kids' Success, and owner of LOTUS Fitness in Silver Spring, Maryland. Read on for Akpan's tips on getting you and your kids into shape.

Also, note that you can make modifications as needed for any of these strength-training exercises. Some children might not be strong enough to complete them with good form at first, which increases the risk of injury.

kid workout

1. Bench Step-Ups

Build leg and glute strength with step-ups. Step right foot, then left, up onto a low bench, then step down. Alternate which leg steps up first with each set. A sturdy step stool or bottom step of a staircase works great for this exercise.

2. Burpees

Build upper and lower body strength (and cardiovascular endurance) with burpees. From standing, squat down, place your hands on the ground, and jump your feet back into a plank position. Next, lower your body to the floor for a push-up. Then, push back up to a plank. Finally, hop your feet back up to your hands and stand up.

3. Calf Raises

Build calf strength with standing calf raises. From standing, lift onto your tiptoes and hold, then lower. For a balance challenge, try doing calf raises one leg at a time.

4. Cartwheels

Start with a lunge and place your hands over your head. Next, lower your arms to the ground, one in front of the other, turning your body sideways, and raise your back leg into the air. Then, using your front leg to propel yourself, kick your back leg over your head and follow with your front leg. Finally, bring your legs down one at a time on the other side, and return to a standing position.

Cartwheels take practice, so be patient! If anyone can't pull them off just yet, try to modify the move. Cartwheels are great for body awareness, core strength, and flexibility.

5. Crab Walks

Sit with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground; place your palms on the ground behind you. Lift your hips a few inches, walk forward on your hands and feet like a crab, and then walk backward. Crab walks are a good exercise for your arms, legs, and core.

6. Crab Toe Touches

Develop core strength and flexibility with crab toe touches. From your crab position, lift your left leg and right arm and try to touch your toes. Lower and repeat on the other side.

7. Handstand Against a Wall

With your back to a wall, get on all fours. Next, pressing your feet against the wall, push your bottom into the air. Finally, walk your feet up the wall until you're in a handstand position. Make it a game and see who can hold it the longest. Supported handstands are an excellent exercise for improving balance, coordination, and core strength.

8. Hip Bridges

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the ground; rest your arms by your sides. Press your feet firmly into the floor as you slowly lift your hips off the ground; hold for a few counts, then lower. Hip bridges help build strength in your core—especially your lower back. They are also good for glutes and leg muscles.

9. Inchworms

From a standing position, bend forward at the hips and place your hands on the ground with your knees slightly bent. Then walk your hands forward until you're in a plank position. Now walk your feet in to meet your hands and stand back up.

Inchworms build strength in the chest, shoulders, and upper arms. They are also good for flexibility.

10. Planks

Lie on the ground on your belly, chest lifted off the ground. Flex your feet (toes on the floor), engage your legs, and lift your body, balancing on your forearms and toes. Keep the entire body strong and your butt in line with your shoulders and heels. Hold for a count of 10, increasing the hold time with practice.

Planks are an excellent core-strengthening exercise.

11. Push-Ups

Push-ups strengthen your upper body, especially your chest and arms. They also work your core. First, get into the plank position. Then, bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the ground. Finally, push back up.

12. Side Leg Raises

Lie on one side, with your feet and hips stacked; prop yourself up on your forearm. Next, align your shoulder over your elbow. Then, lift your top leg straight up, keeping your foot parallel with the ground and flexing your toes; pause at the top, then lower. Side leg raises give you strong outer thighs and hips.

13. Side Planks

Lie on one side and prop yourself up on your forearm, stacking your feet and hips. Next, lift your hips straight off the ground and hold. Repeat on the opposite side. Side planks are a great balancing exercise. They strengthen your core, especially your back.

14. Squat Jumps

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Next, bend your knees and squat, pushing your butt back and down. Then jump straight up in the air, and land back down in the squat with your knees bent. Squat jumps work your upper leg muscles and your glutes.

15. Straight-Arm Planks With Arm Row

Get into a push-up position, with your feet slightly wider than hip-width. Hold the position while you bend your right elbow and lift it straight up, bringing your hand up by your side. Then, lower your hand and repeat on the other side.

The plank arm row works the chest and shoulder muscles while helping you maintain balance and coordination.

16. Supermans

Lie facedown with your arms and legs extended. Slowly lift your arms and legs off the ground as high as possible while keeping your neck relaxed and looking down at the ground. Hold, then lower.

Supermans help you build your lower back, butt, and core strength. They're also fun for your imagination, pretending to be a superhero!

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles