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Functional Fitness for Kids

Functional Fitness for Kids

Scenario 1: Gym class starts and the teacher announces, “Today we will be playing basketball.” The class may run a few drills or practice dribbling a ball before getting split up into two teams. Those teams will either be chosen by the PE teacher, or the old fashioned way where two team captains choose the pick of the litter athletes one by one until only the uninterested and less athletically gifted kids are left. They too are put on a team and made to stand around for an hour barely participating in a sport they have no interest in learning. The class ends with a few students feeling great about their ability to shoot a basketball, and a few students day-dreaming about their bagged lunch.

Scenario 2: Gym class starts and the teacher announces, “Today we will be practicing our pushups, wall balls, and 10 meter shuttle sprints.” Granted, some of the kids may not be able to do strict push ups or may need to use a lighter medicine ball or may not run the 10m sprints as quickly as some of the others, the difference here is that EVERY child works out to the highest of their own individual abilities. At the end of the class, the most athletic and the least athletic students are both breathing heavy, sweating, and smiling and have both bettered their level of fitness today.

Scenario 1 is the traditional gym class in the United States, and most likely the one you grew up knowing. Unfortunately, as evidenced by the simplified stories above, it is outdated and ineffective at getting kids moving and interested in the importance of their own fitness. Gym class, and physical fitness related activities should not only be enjoyed by the naturally athletic. The fitness of our youth is far too important to only rely on shooting a basketball or running “the mile” twice a year. We strongly believe that a “sport specific” approach to physical fitness is far too ineffective at achieving what should be the goal of “PE Class,” which is physical education – teaching kids how to maintain their physical fitness.


              Photo provided by therounds.stanly.org

Ok so that all makes sense, but what exactly is Functional Fitness? Functional Fitness can be defined in many fancy ways, but essentially it just means that you are able to perform day-to-day activities, planned or unplanned, without experiencing fatigue. These “activities” obviously vary enormously for each person, however we are talking about kids here. The important thing to understand is that with a solid foundation of fitness and an understanding of exactly why they are doing what they are doing; children will grow up with a greater appreciation for their body and their health. 

Many gym classes around the country are slowly starting to adopt some of the principles of CrossFit, which holds the definition “constantly varied, functional movements, performed at high intensity.” Using the CrossFit method and some simple CrossFit equipment (medicine balls, jump ropes, pull-up bars, plyo boxes, body weight, etc.) our kids are able to perform the same workout as their peers, scaled to their own abilities, and perform it at an appropriate intensity level for them. These “functional” movements (squatting, running, jumping, throwing, pulling, picking things up) are performed on a daily basis by almost everyone. By building upon these naturally occurring motions of life and making them efficient and strong, the possibility for overall physical potential increases dramatically. Therefore, solid foundations within these basic movements will not only help the entire group by living stronger, healthier, and longer lives, but also the more athletically inclined kids have the potential to improve within their sport of choice. Strengthening the natural and most basic of movements before trying to perfect a jump shot or baseball swing just seems like common sense, and yet it happens in schools all over this country everyday.

Some of the students from Scenario 2 may go on to be doctors, others teachers, a select few may even go on to professional sports. Regardless of profession or anything else that may happen in their lives, they all have one life long similarity; they have a body. Functional fitness and CrossFit help teach students from an early age to use that body to its fullest potential.


             Photo provided by www.iruntheinternet.com

Example Workout for Kids aged Preschool through Varsity:


Varsity, Junior Varsity and Beginner:

3 rounds

10 sit-ups

10 lunges

3 pull ups

50m high knee skip

10 air squats


Elementary and Preschool:

3 Rounds

5 sit-ups

5 lunges

25m high knee skip

5 air squats



Varsity/Junior Varsity:

5 rounds

25 squats

200m sprint

5 burpee broad jumps



4 rounds

25 squats

200m sprint

5 broad jumps



3 rounds

10 squats

100m sprint

3 broad jumps



3 rounds

5 squats

35m sprint

3 broad jumps


Cool down:

10 jumping jacks

Stretching, hold stretches for 1-2 minutes


For further information, browse some of the links below!


CrossFit Kids – Forging the Future of Fitness

Steve’s Club – CrossFit for At-Risk Youth

Mayo Clinic – Functional Fitness Training

Kids.gov Exercise, Fitness and Nutrition

MedlinePlus Exercise for Children

President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition

Mountlake Terrace High School CrossFit Club

Is CrossFit Training Good For Kids?