Many of you that read my blog know that I’m a Crossfitter (Crossfit King of Prussia) and know that I’m both an athlete and a coach. A friend asked me if I’d heard the controversial piece on NPR about Crossfit on Monday, and I hadn’t, but with some quick searching on the NPR website I found the piece. To listen to the 4 minute story, click here. To read a bit more about the story, on NPR’s health blog, Is Crossfit Training Good for Kids? I think this is an important question to ask, before you decide what types of activities are good for your kids you should know the facts.
I talked to a few coaches that teach the some of the Crossfit Kids classes at Crossfit King of Prussia: Aimee Lyons, Meighan Doran, Stephanie Vincent, and consulted the recent piece featured on the Be Well Philly Blog: Is Crossfit Safe for Kids that Crossfit King of Prussia gym owner, Aimee Lyons contributed to, and am summarizing their thoughts below.
What’s the number 1 reason kids should do Crossfit Kids?
In short the resounding answer here was because it’s fun. Crossfit encourages movement and activity and teaches functional fitness – like how to correctly pick things up off the ground, and develop enough strength to lug around that super-heavy backpack! Unlike adults (who have different hormones) kids don’t bulk up and get “big” like adults do. Teaching proper movements that includes strength training will help them stay active and prevent injury. Giving kids something that they can have fun with and constantly challenge their brains with new movements helps to build confidence, and will teach the importance of activity throughout life.
Why is Crossfit Kids safe for kids to do?
Because the movements and loads are scaled for children, this is something that is often missed when Crossfit (for adults) is getting berated in the news. Crossfit done right is universally scale-able meaning that anyone from a fit 20-something to your 90-year-old grandmother — if you’re 90-year-old grandmother can do it wouldn’t you think a 5-year-old could too. Crossfit Kids makes games out of functional movements, focusing on moving and being fun not max dead-lifts The programming “WODs” for Crossfit kids are not the same as the ones for adults, nor should they be, but teaching fun ways to jump on a box, climb a rope, and do forward rolls are all things that kids can do.
What is the difference in movements between Crossfit Kids and Crossfit (for adults)?
The Crossfit Kids workouts are different that adults – this is really important to understand. Take a look at the workout portrayed in the image on the right to prove my point. Crossfit Kids is not taking the adult Crossfit program and “scaling” it down for children. There is a separate theory, programming, teaching style, and science for Crossfit Kids – if you want to learn more about the type of programming check it out here. A general rule of thumb is that there are fewer movements, shorter time domains, and the focus is on games and fun verses beating your last workout time. With kids everything starts with movement and body-weight, you don’t give a 5-year-old a loaded barbell and teach them how to clean & jerk (a complicated Olympic lift). You can teach the elements of all movements, with different cues like “stand like a superhero” verses ”open your hips” which will set them up for better movement in everything they do in life. Kids stick with functional body-weight-centric movements and as they prove their capable, and get to be a little older, then they can start entering the world of barbells and weights under strict supervision of a good coach.
Any other comments, take-aways, words of wisdom?
Teaching your child how to be active and have fun at a young age is one of the best gifts that you can give them, and will be something that can be carried with them throughout their life. Unlike the boy they asked in the NPR audio (here) who said he doesn’t like coming because the workouts are really hard, Stephanie Vincent has had the opposite experience, “My daughter LOOKS FORWARD to her CrossFit Class….its not a workout she dreads…what that is building in her is worth more than any amount I would ever pay for these classes.” For her Crossfit Kids is something that she gladly continues to support.
Learning how to have fun and properly pick up your heavy backpack is a huge bonus. If you have your child in a Crossfit Kids program then the program should be teaching kids with an extreme emphasis on safe movement and a focus on fun. (Ideally, you should teach adults the same way) In Crossfit we should focus first on form /mechanics, then add load, then add intensity both for kids and adults.
There you have it – I think the verdict is that Crossfit Kids is safe for kids of all ages, 3-4 and up! If you’re in the Philadelphia suburbs and are interested, Crossfit KoP runs classes for kids, and they even have their own blog. If you take a look at it you’ll never see so many smiles, they love it! While I don’t have kids, I’d send mine to a well run Crossfit Kids program if they were interested, I can’t think of a better way to make moving fun and build confidence and community.