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Age-Appropriate Workouts for Children Under 12: Building a Foundation for Lifelong Fitness

Physical activity is crucial for the healthy development of children, providing benefits such as improved cardiovascular health, enhanced motor skills, and increased bone density. However, it's essential to tailor workouts for children under the age of 12 to ensure they are safe, developmentally appropriate, and enjoyable. In this comprehensive article, we will delve into evidence-based recommendations for age-appropriate workouts, focusing on general fitness and sport-specific training for activities like basketball, tennis, football, and baseball.

General Guidelines for Children's Workouts

Physical Literacy Development:

  • Encourage a variety of movements to develop physical literacy, including running, jumping, throwing, catching, and balance activities.

  • Activities should be fun and engaging to foster a lifelong love for physical fitness.

Duration and Frequency:

  • The American Heart Association recommends at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for children every day.

  • Encourage a mix of aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening activities.

Safety Precautions:

  • Emphasize proper warm-up and cool-down routines to prevent injuries.

  • Ensure age-appropriate equipment and facilities.

  • Provide adequate supervision and instruction.

Age-Appropriate Resistance Training

Resistance training can be beneficial for children when approached with caution and proper guidance. Focus on bodyweight exercises, and gradually introduce resistance as children develop strength and coordination.

Bodyweight Exercises:

  • Squats, lunges, and bodyweight squats help develop lower body strength.

  • Push-ups and modified push-ups are excellent for upper body strength.

  • Core exercises like planks and side planks enhance stability.

Light Resistance:

  • Begin with resistance bands or light dumbbells for controlled movements.

  • Perform 1-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions with a focus on proper form.

Avoid Maximal Lifts:

  • Discourage maximal or one-repetition maximum lifts to protect growing bones and joints.

Preparation for Specific Sports


Offseason Routine:

  • Focus on agility drills, such as ladder drills and cone drills.

  • Develop cardiovascular endurance through aerobic exercises like running and cycling.

In-Season Training:

  • Emphasize sport-specific skills, including dribbling, shooting, and defensive maneuvers.

  • Maintain strength and agility through targeted exercises.


Offseason Routine:

  • Incorporate footwork drills and lateral movements.

  • Strengthen the core for stability with exercises like Russian twists and medicine ball throws.

In-Season Training:

  • Fine-tune strokes and game strategy.

  • Continue agility drills and maintain overall fitness.


Offseason Routine:

  • Focus on speed and agility drills, such as shuttle runs and ladder drills.

  • Include strength training for the lower body to enhance power.

In-Season Training:

  • Emphasize position-specific skills and strategies.

  • Maintain cardiovascular fitness and strength.


Offseason Routine:

  • Incorporate throwing and catching drills for arm strength.

  • Focus on agility and speed training for base running.

In-Season Training:

  • Fine-tune batting and fielding skills.

  • Maintain overall strength and flexibility.


Balancing the need for physical activity with age-appropriate workouts is crucial for the healthy development of children. By incorporating general fitness guidelines and tailoring training programs to specific sports, we can ensure that children under 12 build a solid foundation for a lifetime of physical well-being. Always consult with healthcare professionals and certified trainers to create a safe and effective workout plan for your child.


  • American Heart Association. (2018). Physical Activity Recommendations for Children. Retrieved from

  • Faigenbaum, A. D., et al. (2016). Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position Statement Paper From the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 30(1), 59-79.

  • Lloyd, R. S., et al. (2014). Youth Resistance Training: Throw Caution to the Wind? Sports Medicine, 44(5), 641-658.

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