Workout Plans Youth Fitness

Fun and Effective Group Youth Programming Strategies

National Academy of Sports Medicine
National Academy of Sports Medicine
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When putting together group training programs for kids - fun is the name of the game.

Kids can be a challenging group to work with. As a Youth Sports Coach or Exercise Specialist it seems like you have to tow a tough line between keeping discipline on the fitness floor and making your exercise program fun.

The two ideas are often hard to accomplish in one session or program. While we may be fearful about weight training with kids, remember that kids play, jump, run and lift everyday - just not in the structured environment and method that we are using in fitness facilities. 

So instead of creating a program that fits into our professional world of weight training and cardio, make exercise fit into a kid's world by playing games that incorporate strength and stamina. Make sure "fun" is the biggest part of the program.

Create an hour of games that incorporate fun and fitness such as freeze tag, relay competitions, and challenging obstacle courses.

Freeze Tag

Leave the dumbbells on the rack and get creative on a basketball court or in a group training studio and play a hardy game of freeze tag.

Here are the rules:

  • No standing if you are not frozen! Everyone must be walking or jogging at all times!
  • In the first round, a frozen player must stand on one leg until saved (unfrozen by a live player) or must do 15 push-ups to become "unfrozen."
  • The "tagger" gets to choose an exercise that will "unfreeze" a player for the next round. (Give the "tagger" three exercises to choose from).
  • In the second round, a frozen player must hold a plank position until saved or must perform the exercise selection and number of repetitions desired by the previous "tagger."

Play the game for 15-20 minutes to serve as cardiovascular fitness for the kids.

Relay Race

Everyone loves a little friendly competition - kids especially. So make fitness fun by putting together a great relay race filled with resistance exercises and cardio fun.

Here is an example:

  • Set up two (or more) rows of 10 cones approximately 2 feet apart from one another in a vertical line (one right after another in a straight line).
  • Set up one last cone about 4 feet from the end of the 10 cones (that will serve as the exercise station).
  • The first relay race will be a running zig-zag through the cones, stop at the very last cone and do 15 crunches then run backwards - zig-zagging through the cones, at the starting cone the racer must do 10 push-ups and tag the next teammate. The next teammate in line cannot run the relay until the 10 push-ups are complete!
  • The relay will continue until the last person runs the race, returns to the start and does the 10 push-ups. The winning team is the team that finishes first. The winning team then gets to pick one additional exercise for the other team(s) to do (make sure to give them 1-2 choices to select from).
  • For the next round, incorporate the speed ladder. Place the speed ladders about 15 feet apart and line up the relay teams in front of each speed ladder.
  • Show the kids three speed ladder exercises (e.g., One-Ins, Two-Ins, Side Shuffle, In-In-Out-Out, etc.) before the relay begins and allow all the kids to practice each drill at least once.
  • Each team member must perform the speed ladder exercises (one at a time) down the ladder and back. The team who finishes first (all members perform the three speed ladder exercises) wins!

Perform 2-3 relay races (about 15-20 minutes of activity).

Obstacle Course

When you think of fun, do jumping, climbing, crawling, sprinting, hanging and tumbling cross your mind? If you are a kid they do! Kids love to climb, jump over things, run around and just act like kids - so set up the best obstacle course you can think of with tons of fun obstacles and exercise stations.

  • On a basketball court or in the park, set up 5-10 stations of exercises for kids to do.
  • Start by placing stability balls at one station - this will be where the kids will do crunches.
  • In between the first station and the second station, place 7 small hurdles. The kids will have to jump over each one on their way to the next station.
  • At the second station, place light dumbbells. The kids will have to perform 10 squats, 10 overhead presses and 10 push-ups before moving on to the next station.
  • In between station 2 and station 3, place 5 cones. Kids will have to zig-zag through the cones before they can get to station 3.
  • At station 3, place light tubing. Kids will have to perform 10 bicep curls and 10 tubing rows (make sure there is a helper or fitness advisor at station 3 to hold the tubing) before moving on to the last station, station 4.
  • In between station 3 and station 4, place the speed ladder. Kids will have to perform 1 speed ladder exercise before ending at the last station.
  • At station 4, place light (2 lbs) medicine balls (instruct the kids not to throw the balls around). Kids will perform 10 single leg Romanian dead lifts and 10 medicine ball squat jumps. When they are finished, they will sprint to the finish line.
  • Time the players and the best time wins. The winner gets to choose new drills performed between the stations (give your winner a choice of three exercises they can choose from to help organize them).

Have the kids run through the obstacle course 2-3 times. This activity will take 30-45 minutes.

ADditional resources:

For some additional youth exercise program ideas, be sure to check out the following videos from Katrina Pilkington:

Check out the Toy Parade here:


When putting together group training programs for youths - fun is the name of the game. If the kids are not having fun, chances are it will be harder to keep their attention or get them to participate. We want to associate fitness with fun, making an impression that will last for years.

Be creative with your programming. Remember that exercise does not have to always be so structured - you might find that adults may want to participate in these games as well!

The Author

National Academy of Sports Medicine

National Academy of Sports Medicine

Since 1987 the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) has been the global leader in delivering evidence-based certifications and advanced specializations to health and fitness professionals. Our products and services are scientifically and clinically proven. They are revered and utilized by leading brands and programs around the world and have launched thousands of successful careers.


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