1/20/14

Kids Can't Do Pushups

I can remember the first time I consciously chose to work out on my own. I stared into the mirror and a chunky, four eyed, freckled boy looked back at me. High school was just one year away, and my only goal at this time was to play college football. Before I could even lace up at a university, I would have to dominate in high school. Unfortunately, like the mirror expressed, I was far from being a functioning athlete. So as a budding junior-high flower, my father went out of his way to buy me a weight set. That was the beginning of the end for me, kids.


Unfortunately, I find many parents are afraid to let their kids lift weights. Sure, putting them through hours of repetitive motion is okay, but how dare we let them lift. In aspect to youth fitness, it amazes me how far behind USSR Russia we are. According to “Secrets of Soviet Sports Fitness and Training,” by Michael Yessis, children were not allowed to specialize in a sport until they had gone through several years of generalized fitness. Why? Because they realized teaching a kid how to function prevents injury and increases later performance.

Lately I have been pursuing the opportunity to work with youth select sport teams. I’ve been informed, a dozen or so times, that the parents will not want their “future hall of famer” to do generalized fitness; they want specialized training. It sucks. That is literally the only way I can describe it.
On the other hand, I have been hired to write a workout regimen for home school girls. This has allowed me to dump the knowledge I have about generalized fitness onto them. Now, I’ve said generalized fitness four times without explaining what I mean.

What do you think of when you hear generalized fitness? To me, I imagine pushups and jumping jacks. And honestly, that’s a huge portion. But another asset to generalized fitness is learning biomechanics.
Biomechanics is the study of the mechanical laws relating to the movement or structure of living organisms. If kids don’t know how move their bodies, then they will sacrifice power and health. I don’t care how specialized you are, an injury is an injury. So before I even think about teaching a volley ball player how to use her trunk to increase the velocity of her swing, I will teach her proper thoracic components; i.e. she will learn how to do a pushup.
what the heck are they doing?

Eric Lay, the head trainer at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School, did a personal study with his athletes. What he realized was equal parts upsetting and informative. His “elite” soccer players could barely muscle out a proper pushup. In a young athletes life, somewhere between orange slices and keeping score, parents and coaches have been neglecting generalized fitness.

To me, starting with generalized fitness makes perfect sense.  If you can’t run a mile you don’t make someone run a marathon. But with our kids we are doing just that. Girls are destroying their ACLs because we are teaching them to dribble a ball before we teach them knee mechanics. Half of the general population doesn’t know how to run right, because we teach our kids to walk and then jump straight into specialized sports.


Most of the Endu readers don’t have kids. In fact roughly 80% are college age; so I’m not starting a revolution. But when that day comes and we have kids, remember to teach them fitness before sports. 

Fun quote from a Jewish story I heard one time: "Children may be our future, but our elders are one generation closer to GOD."

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About Me

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BS, MS - exercise Physiology
EPC - Board Certified Exercise Physiologist

Published Thesis
The impact of three different forms of warm up on performance

Graduate from Midwestern State University, founder of Endunamoo Barbell Club, and Endunamoo Strength and Conditioning. Working to help athletes physically reach their goals and achieve scholarships while spiritually pouring into as many people as possible on all platforms.