It’s important to instill good exercise habits with your children but it is difficult to balance exercise with everything else going on in your life. With so much to do, adding a trip to a fitness center just sounds like too much trouble. Don’t despair though. You can have an exercise routine that:
- You can do at home
- Your kids can do with you
- Does not require expensive equipment
- Can be done quickly
- Builds strength and cardio at the same time
The secret is bodyweight exercises. Bodyweight exercises use your natural weight to provide the resistance necessary for strength training. They are also a very safe form of exercise compared to machines or free weights. Here’s how you can build your own quick workout routine.
The Four Core Exercises
Bodyweight exercises teach your body to use different muscle groups in unison, but you still need to balance things out. There are four main exercises that, when done properly, will provide a foundation of strength for you and your family. These exercises are:
- The push up
- The pull up
- The leg raise
- The squat
The key thing to know for any bodyweight routine is how to do it with proper form. Doing these exercises improperly is a recipe for imbalance and potential injury over time. Here’s how to perform these four exercises properly.
Proper Push Up Form
- Feet together
- Hips tucked and your glutes (rump muscles), core (belly and back muscles), and quads (muscles on the front of the legs) tight. No belly slouching or rumps up in the air!
- Hands under your shoulders and a little wider than shoulder width
- Head in line with your spine (not drooping, not arched up)
- Go down smoothly and come up smoothly. Breathe in as you go down and out when you come up.
- As best as you can, send your elbows backward rather than to the side.
- Feel the push up pivoting on your toes. Your whole body moves at the same time and as one unit.
- Try to feel your entire body helping you out with the pushup
Comeback Momma Note: If a full push-up is too challenging, drop to your knees. As you feel stronger, try a few fulll push-ups. Before you know it, you’ll be doing more full pushups and less on your knees.
Proper Pull Up Form
- Head forward, not tilted up or down
- Palms facing outward and a little over shoulder-width apart
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and sink your shoulders
- Tighten your core and your glutes
- Leave your legs straight or cross your ankles
- When pulling, think of leading up with your chest and pulling down with your elbows
- Don’t swing or “kip” to get momentum. Develop honest strength!
- Lower yourself smoothly both up and down
Comeback Momma Note: Pull-ups are an advanced move. Above are examples of a variety of ways to modify pull-ups. Some gyms have assisted pull-up machines. Other examples are to use a swing at the playground to assist your body in raising up. Other options include pulling up on a lower bar. I have even pulled up under my dining table (just watch your head). You can also use a Suspension Trainer attached to an anchor point can be another way to pull your body up to simulate a pull-up.
Proper Leg Raise Form
- Lie flat on your back with your hands palms down along your sides.
- Tuck your hips in and engage your core muscles
- Keeping both legs as straight as possible, lift them using your stomach muscles until they reach 90 degrees
- Lower them back down until they are about six inches from the floor
- Don’t let the lower back curl upward! Keep it flat.
- Make sure that your core is doing the work. People with strong legs can fake their way through this with leg strength alone.
Comeback Momma Note: As in the photo, you can also lower your legs to the ground and rest for a beat before coming back up. This helps relieve strain on the low back. Another option is to keep your legs bent when you raise and lower and slowly work toward straightening your legs as you get stronger.
Comeback Momma Note: Squats are a relatively easy exercise, but if you have bad knees, don’t go down this far. Another option is to lean your back flat against a wall and gently slide down to your comfort level and back up.
Proper Squat Form
- Keep your eyes forward
- Stretch your arms out in front of you at shoulder height
- Think about closing a door with your butt then descend. Don’t lean forward. Let your weight sink back as if you were going to sit in a chair.
- Go down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Pause briefly, then stand back up.
- Do NOT let your knees go forward further than your toes! ALWAYS keep your knees in line with your feet! Failure to do this can lead to knee strain or injury.
Getting Your Kids Involved
Young kids love to be active, and you can turn these exercises into a game. Learn to enjoy performing exercise with your kids, and fire up their competitive spirit. For example, when you’re watching a television show with them you can agree to do a few pushups during the commercial breaks. It doesn’t have to be formal, and it’s better if it’s not. Children will come up with their own exercise games if you let them!
You may have to wait until your children are older or build special pull up bars before they can try that exercise. As an alternative until they get tall enough, find a safe tree they can climb and encourage them to play in it (under supervision of course.) Anything that can encourage a child to climb will work the same muscle groups. Later, when they’re strong enough to hold their own body weight, you can encourage pull ups.
Getting a head start on your children’s fitness early will give them big benefits in class. It’s one less class they will have to worry about, and athletic children tend to be looked up to in school. There’s no need for your children to fear exercise. Show them how fun it can be.
Brenda Wallace has been in love with physical fitness and her pull up bar for 5 years. She currently lives with her husband and two girls in San Diego, California. When she’s not working out, she enjoys reading, playing the recorder, and being a foodie.