Medicine Ball Exercises for Children
Traditional strength training—using free-weight barbells and/or dumbbells—can be dangerous for your child. Based on evidence reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics in the June 2001 issue of "Pediatrics," more than 20,000 strength-training-related injuries to youth occurred each year between 1991 and 1996. According to NPR, medicine balls provide a safer and simpler strength-training alternative for your child. Your child can perform many medicine ball exercises for all body parts.
Russian twists exercise the muscles of the abdomen and hips that rotate the body. To do a Russian twist, have your child stand with his feet about shoulder-width apart while holding a medicine ball away from his body at belly-button height. Then tell him to turn his body to the right until the ball is behind his right hip. Finally, have him turn to the left to perform the exercise in the opposite direction.
Like Russian twists, diagonal chops work the muscles that rotate the trunk, but also the muscles of the shoulders and upper back by adding a chopping motion with the arms. To perform this exercise, make your child stand with her body and left foot turned to the right while holding a medicine ball with both hands above her right ear. Next, have her turn her body and move the ball down and to the left until it is outside her left knee. Then make her reverse along the same path until the ball is above her right ear again. She should repeat this on the opposite side.
Chops exercise both upper- and lower-body muscle groups, such as the shoulders, upper and lower back, buttocks, hamstrings and quadriceps. First, position your child upright with his feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and have him hold a medicine ball with both hands directly above his head. To perform the exercise, make him move the ball quickly in front of his body until it is between his knees. While he lowers the ball, allow him to bend forward at the waist and bend his knees. Finally, have him return to the starting position by reversing the movement.
Medicine Ball Squat
This exercise strengthens the muscles of the upper legs and lower back. From the same position as Russian twists, make your child flex her hips and knees to drop her upper legs until they are parallel to the ground. Then have her return to the starting position by extending her hips and knees. Ensure that the ball remains at belly-button height throughout the exercise. Do not allow her to round her back or drop her head.
Two-Hand Wall Pass
The two-hand wall pass exercise helps build power in the upper back and arm muscles. To execute it, have your child start in the same position as chops, but with the ball behind his head. Have him powerfully throw the ball with both hands into the wall at head height to perform the exercise.
Matthew Schirm has worked in the sports-performance field since 1998. He has professional experience as a college baseball coach and weight-training instructor. He earned a Master of Science in human movement from A.T. Still University in 2009.