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Youth and Calisthenics Part II

In Part I, I had mentioned our youth’s maximizing their body-weight calisthenics for athletic development.  What exactly are calisthenics? Interestingly enough, calisthenics comes from the Greek, kallos meaning‘beauty’ and  sthenos meaning ‘strength’.  Looking at the basic definition of calisthenics it means gymnastic exercises to achieve bodily fitness and grace of movement.  I found this definition suiting and needing to be recognized.

In ancient Greece, gymnastics were encouraged amongst the youth as a means of amusement with exercise.  In fact, many Greek states required this as a part of their educational regulation.  Every Greek city had a gymnasium in which the kids could wrestle, tumble, run, jump, and perform other physical feats(1).  It was only till recently that we stopped having competitive rope climbing and other “risky” physical activities.  What happened to the dedication and realization of the importance of physical activity amongst those here in the United States?  The Greeks believed you had to be in shape to think.  What does our educational system believe now regarding our youths being in shape?  It is probably not in their highest priority, although it ought to be.  Just look at how condensed and “safe” PE courses are now.  How can we develop kids into anything without them being able to play around, wrestle, hop fences, climb trees, break bones, trip, bruise, fall, twist ankles, etc?  That’s apart of development.  Youth bodies adapt and get stronger, all the while learning to cope with these injuries that are the beauty of being young.

Without being too harsh, it would seem to me that the mentality of our youth is getting soft.  Strength and movement development is occurring at a much slower rate than it should be.  With strength levels developing much slower and more emphasis on making the all-star team now, injuries are sky rocketing.  It seems as though most new youth clients that walk through our doors at Fitness Quest 10 have a knee injury or will have a future propensity for some type of injury unless they start getting stronger.  Years go by wasted for the instant gratification of making an all-star team or whatever it is.  Get your kids stronger, in better shape, let them play, and the rest will take care of itself.  Whatever gene pool they have, whether it be coming from a Ferrari or a Saturn’s… no offense…they will become better from calisthenic type training.

The next section is to explain some basic calisthenic exercises that are underrated, and often overlooked.  The whole goal for youth is to get them stronger, educate them, all the while having them fall in love with training.  Each of these can be progressed and should be progressed as the youth becomes unchallenged with the “exercises.”

The following is a list of exercises created by Jess Jarver from Modern Athlete and Coach of body-weight General Physical Preparation exercises to develop the:

•   Arms and Shoulder Musculature

•   Legs and Foot Musculature

•   Upper Body Musculature

•   Throwing Power

•   Jumping Power

•   Trunk

Exercises for each category are demonstrated in the video below, so that proper technique is shown and can be carried out by our youth trainees.  It must be noted that these exercises were performed in random order just to demonstrate various calisthenic exercises done in real time.  Consideration should be taken as to what exercises should to be performed first during the session, as well as individualization to what the youth/child is capable of doing.  All a session should be is structured play with careful consideration as to the youth’s biological age, sex, and learning ability.  Our job as a sport performance coach is to see to it that they learn to enjoy training and develop the necessary skills to carry on for the rest of their lives, whether they decide to become serious competitors or not.

Youth Calisthenics

Matt Brown earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Fitness, Nutrition, and Health from San Diego State University. Matt holds a CSCS and  NSCA – CPT credential. Matt competed in athletics from a very early age, from soccer to baseball, and eventually to high school football and track where he was a standout athlete in both. After graduating from high school Matt turned his focus from competing in sports to understanding how the body functions both during sports and everyday movement. He believes the body is an amazing organism and his passion ever since high school was to learn how this organism functioned both in high performance and everyday life.

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