CrossFit Kids is not merely a scaled down version of CrossFit. It is absolutely CrossFit, geared and designed for a special population and the specific developmental needs of that population.
- Mikki Lee Martin, CrossFit Kids Co-Founder
Like CrossFit, Crossfit Kids combines gymnastics, body-weight calisthenics, and weightlifting elements to develop a broad foundation of fitness. There is additional emphasis on elements that encourage bone density and vestibular system development. In CrossFit Kids it is imperative to pair fitness and fun, thus creating a lifelong love of fitness for children.
There are more than just physical benefits for children who decide to pursue and enjoy CrossFit, because there is more to CrossFit than the class or the workout alone. There is a community of like-minded individuals. Children, who are always searching for a peer-group, will be given the opportunity to make friends with other children who hold similar values and have similar interests.
What may seem like a surprising number of life skills can be honed in a CrossFit classroom. Honesty about the number of repetitions of a movement a child was able to perform in a given time, integrity in performing those movements to the best of their ability, and work-ethic are just a few examples. They will learn to fail with dignity when they don’t perform as well as they had hoped, and they will learn they are always be able to come back and try again.
Children will also be given constant opportunities to succeed, and perform well or perform better than they previously had. Children in a Crossfit Kids program will be more likely to have a self-perception based on what they can do, rather than what they look like or other superficial attributes.
You the parent are probably wondering how a CrossFit Kids class will be structured.
I will be running two major groups for classes: Preschool (ages 3-5), Kids (ages 6-11). Please note that it is not the age of your child that is the deciding factor for what class he or she attends. It is largely based upon individual skill, athleticism, and maturity. This ensures your child is getting the most out of their CrossFit Kids experience. Preschool classes last 30 minutes, Kids classes will be 60 minutes, and function more like adult classes. Pre-teens who are interested in joining our program will have the option of taking classes with our Kids group, or with adults. The pre-teen, the parent, and the coaches can come to that decision based upon the individual child.
A class will generally proceed as follows: I will briefly describe what we will be doing that day on a whiteboard. The younger children will have a colorful whiteboard decorated with descriptive drawings. For example, a gorilla might be drawn if they are going to learn to squat like an angry gorilla – and this is something they really will do! Older children will be seeing a mix of words and visual depictions of the logistics and layout of the workout they will perform.
Then I will introduce functional movements to them as ‘skill work.’ These are movements that not only improve fitness, but also have meaning and applicability in both daily life and other sports. Such movements include squats, presses, deadlifts, pushups, hand-stands, pull-ups, the mechanics of the Olympic lifts, medicine ball throws, jumps and more. The emphasis will always be on quality of movement, rather than speed or load.
After skill-work there will be a warm-up, followed by a WOD, or Workout of the Day. The CrossFit prescription for WODs for adults and children is the same: constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement. For younger children, the warm-up and WOD will appear game-like. Older children will begin to be challenged with workouts structured more similarly to an adult’s. Workouts for all children will include gymnastics, body-weight calisthenics, and weightlifting elements, varying in degree by ability.
Finally, there is a game! The skills and movements the children are learning and those they have already mastered will be strategically incorporated into a wide variety of games, with the emphasis being on having fun and play. They get to let loose and be kids! Because part of what is fun for children is interacting with their peers, partner and team games will be regularly included in our program.
A note on how children get stronger and what your child will get out of a CrossFit Kids program physically: Due to their still-developing neuromuscular systems, children receive a training effect from sub-maximal efforts, and strength gains are neurological rather than the result of hypertrophy. Therefore in our program positive adaptations will occur as the result of repetition rather than heavy loading.
In both WOD and game there will be an emphasis on impact-loading exercises such as box jumps, broad jumps, tuck jumps, and jump rope. This is because impact-loading exercises are crucial in helping children boost bone mass. Bone-mass gains made in children and teenagers may be retained in adulthood, even if the program is discontinued.
There will also be an emphasis on movements that stimulate the vestibular system: gymnastics movements, forward rolls, crawling, and getting upside-down are just some examples. The vestibular system is an extremely complex system located in the inner ear, and plays a role in vision, muscle coordination, motor development, respiration, learning, cognition, language and balance.
There is also evidence that exercise – and routine high intensity exercise in particular, boosts brain function. There are various possible reasons for this: increased activity increases blood lactate levels, an alternate source of fuel for the brain; intense activity causes hormonal responses which lead to increased Brain Derived Neurotropic Factors; and the brain experiences increased blood flow during exertion, thereby delivering oxygen and nutrients to brain cells at a higher rate.
Your child can reap the benefits not only of gaining physical fitness in a CrossFit Kids class, but also building character, forging friendships, and increasing mental acuity.