Exercises for Early Ages - The teen years

The teenager is approaching maturity in both the physical and the emotional senses. During these years between the ages of 13 and 19, most teens develop an interest in team sports and games. Growth may continue throughout the entire period. Activities requiring stamina become part of the teen's life. If no total or maintenance fitness program has been introduced into the young person's schedule in the earlier years, the time for such a program may have arrived. Various factors suggest that conclusion. Many teens reduce the range of their physical activities to make time for school work, social activities, television, and other interests. Many walk less as they learn to drive the family car. As the teen years move on, bicycling comes to be regarded as demeaning or “too much work.”

It may help for the parents to take part in fitness activities with their teenagers. But many teens have the maturity to start and continue a total fitness program on their own.

The Goals

The overall goal remains fitness—fitness for school; for homework; for the part-time job, if any; for dancing; for anything else requiring alertness, bodily movement, and endurance. But more limited goals may be set if the teen does not appear to be ready for an ambitious, graduated program.

Parental eagerness may have to be tempered with moderation in this regard. Remember, if the program seems overly ambitious, the young person will be less likely to stick with it. And if the teen does not stay with the program, the overall goals will never be met.

Goals of a more specific nature range across the basic spectrum established for this book. The teen should work—as the adult does—toward circulorespiratory endurance, good body composition, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility. Training for specific sports and games can be included if that is desired. A 30-minute exercise session three times a week should constitute minimal exposure.

The teen's needs and preferences should always be respected. Few persons, teen or adult, can continue a fitness program if they feel no personal involvement or interest.


The precautions already noted with reference to preteens apply equally to teens. Where a teen has encountered special problems in earlier years, a doctor should be consulted before a program is launched.

Just as adults should be tested, so should teens. The stress test may be accompanied by physical strength and endurance tests similar to those prescribed for adults.

Some teens will want to practice exercises before starting a total program or when adding new movements to an initially limited program. If so, they should be allowed to take as much time as necessary to learn the various movements. A week or two usually suffices.

The Exercises

The exercises that are adapted particularly to teen use echo some of those that have already been introduced. But many of them add or subtract an element to ensure that they are actually suited to the teenage group. The first three of the teen exercises described below may be regarded as warm-ups.

1. The deep breather: To perform this circulorespiratory warm-up, you simply stand at attention. On the count of 1, moving slowly and rhythmically, rise on your toes and simultaneously circle your arms inward and upward so that they cross in front of you. Move slowly. Inhale deeply. Completing the 1-count, raise your arms overhead. On the count of 2, circle your arms backward and downward. Lower your heels to the floor and exhale. Repeat for one to two minutes.

2. The wing stretcher: To increase your flexibility, try the wing stretcher. Standing straight with your elbows at shoulder height, fists clenched, hold your palms in front of your chest. Throw your elbows back vigorously. Then bring them back forward just as vigorously. Keep your head erect. Your elbows should remain at shoulder height. Repeat for one to two minutes.

3. The one-foot balance: In this balancing exercise, first stand at attention. On count 1, stretch your left leg backward. Bend your trunk forward, extending your arms sideward until you are “flying.” Your head is up, your upper body parallel to the floor, and your left leg is extended back and up, toes pointed. Try to hold this position for five to ten seconds, then return. On count 2, switch to the other leg and repeat. Continue the repetitions for one to two minutes.

4. The jumping jack: In this coordination exercise, first stand at attention. On the count of 1, swing your arms sideward and up. Touch your hands above your head with your arms straight. At the same time move your feet apart toward the sides in a single jumping motion. On count 2, bring your feet back together and your hands to your sides. Repeat for two minutes.

5. The body bender: This flexibility exercise has four counts or separate movements. To prepare, simply stand erect with your hands against the back of your head. On count 1, bend sideways to the left as far as you can, moving only from the hips. While keeping your feet stationary and your toes pointed forward, return to the starting position on count 2. On count 3, repeat, but bend to the right. At count 4, return to the starting position. Continue for 15 to 30 repetitions.

6. The windmill: Another four-count exercise, the windmill promotes flexibility in the middle body. Stand with your knees flexed and apart and your feet spread to shoulder width. Your arms should be extended outward to the sides at shoulder level. On count 1, twist and bend your trunk while bringing your right hand to the left toe. Keep your arms straight and your knees flexed. The other three counts bring you (2) back to the starting position, (3) twisting and bending while bringing your left hand to your right toe, and (4) returning to the starting position. Repeat 10 to 20 times.

7. Back stretcher: In this exercise for the lower back and thighs, while standing with your feet apart extend your arms overhead. On the count of 1, bend forward from your hips, bending your knees, and touch the floor by extending your arms between your legs and behind them. On count 2, return to the starting position.

8. The jump and touch: In this leg exercise, go into a half crouch. Pretend you are going to start a broad jump. Your arms should be extended backward. Springing upward, bring your knees toward your chest and your heels toward your buttocks. While b the air swing your arms down and around your legs and attempt to bring your hands together. Come down in the starting position and repeat 5 to 15 times.

9. The squat thrust: A circulorespiratory exercise, the squat thrust was described earlier. The teen version exactly parallels the adult version. Repeat 10 to 20 times.

10. The bear hug: In the bear hug, a thigh thinner, stand with your feet spread comfortably and your hands on your hips. On the count of 1, step out diagonally to the right. Keep your left foot anchored. Circle your arms around your right thigh, “tackling” your right leg. On count 2, return to the starting position. On counts 3 and 4, perform the exercise on the left side. Repeat 15 to 30 times.

11. The Coordinator: Stand at attention to start this cardiorespiratory conditioner. On count 1, hop on your left foot. Swing your right leg forward and touch your right toe to the floor in front of your left foot. At the same time raise both arms in front of your body until they reach shoulder level. On count 2, hop again on the left foot. Swing your right foot out to the right and touch the toe to the floor. At the same time bring your arms sideward at shoulder level.

12. Squat jump: A leg strengthener, the squat jump begins as you assume a semisquat position. Clasp your hands on top of your head with feet apart and the heel of your left foot on a line with the toes of the right foot. On count 1, spring upward in a ballet-like movement, reversing the positions of your feet while in the air. Come down to the semisquat position with your hands still on your head. The same movement is repeated on count 2, but the feet are reversed. Continue, reversing your feet on each jump, until you have jumped 10 to 20 times.

13. Knee raise ( single and double ) : This hip and abdominal-muscle flexor requires that you first lie on your back. Your knees should be slightly bent, with your feet flat on the floor and your arms at your sides. On count 1, raise one knee as high as possible, bringing it close to your chest. On count 2, extend the leg fully so that it is perpendicular to the floor. Count 3: bend your knee and return it to your chest area. Count 4: straighten the leg and return to the starting position.

During this exercise, you should alternate legs. Repeat 15 to 30 times. For variety and even better exercise, move both of your legs simultaneously.

14. Head and shoulder curl: The curl has also been described earlier. The head should be held up for a 4-count, then returned to the starting position. Repeat 15 to 30 times.

15. Leg extension: To start this hip and abdominal flexor, you should sit on the edge of a table and extend your legs. Keep your body erect and your hands on your hips. On count 1, flex your knees quickly and swing your feet backward toward your buttocks. Your toes should drag on the floor. With count 2, extend your legs back to the starting position. Keep your head and shoulders high throughout the exercise. Repeat 15 to 30 times.

16. The up oars: Begin this exercise, another hip and abdominal exercise, by lying on your back. Extend your arms above your head. On the count of 1, sit up and reach forward with the extended arms. Pull your knees up against your chest. Your arms should remain outside your knees. On count 2, return to the starting position. Remember that you are simulating rowing, and keep your movements rhythmic. Repeat 10 to 20 times.

17. Snap and twist: Still another exercise that helps the muscles of the hips and abdomen, the snap and twist has a count of 4. Lie on your back with your arms stretched out above your head. On the count of 1, sit up quickly and bring the left knee up to your chest. At the same time extend your right arm forward and your left elbow backward. The movements should be vigorous.

On count 2, return to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side on count 3, and on count 4 return to the starting position. Keep it as rhythmic as possible. Repeat 10 to 20 times.

18. The back twist: One more for the hip and abdominal muscles, this exercise requires that you lie on your back with your arms extended to the sides and your palms on the floor. Your legs should be pointed straight up. On count 1, keeping your feet together, swing your legs slowly to the left. They should almost touch the floor. Your arms, shoulders, and head should remain on the floor. On the count of 2 return to the starting position; on count 3, repeat to the right, and on count 4 return again to the starting position. Repeat 10 to 20 times.

19. Side leg raise: Designed to strengthen the lateral muscles of the leg, the side leg raise has a two-count. Lie on your side with your arms extended overhead. Rest your head on your lower arm. Your legs should be extended fully, one on top of the other. On the count of 1, raise your upper leg vertically. On count 2, bring the leg back down. Repeat 10 to 20 times and then turn to the other side and repeat an identical number of times.

20. The sprinter: In this circulorespiratory exercise, assume the sprinter's squatting position. Your hands are on the floor, your fingers pointed forward, your left leg extended far back. On the count of 1, reverse the positions of your feet. Bring the left foot forward to your hands and move the right leg back in a single motion. On count 2, reverse again and return. Repeat 15 to 30 times.

21. Push-ups: The push-up strengthens the arm, shoulder, and chest muscles. For boys, the standard push-up is recommended—with the entire body straight and supported on hands and toes. For girls the modified push-up is often preferable. The body is kept straight, but the knees rest on the floor. With practice, both boys and girls should be able to repeat the push-up 10 or 20 times.

22. Bouncing ball: Another arm-shoulder-chest exercise, the bouncing ball challenges the physically very fit person. From the regular push-up position, push yourself off the floor with your hands. Your hands should actually leave the floor. With practice, you may be able to clap your hands while you are in the air. Repeat as possible.


Other exercises, or variations of those already described, may tempt the teen fitness enthusiast. At the least, these alternatives inject some variety into the program. The following exercises, as well as those already described, can be overloaded in the three standard ways: by working out with weights, by speeding up the tempo, or by increasing the number of repetitions. (Note: these exercises require somewhat more space than the earlier ones.)

1. All fours: Get down on your hands and feet (note feet, not knees). “Walk” for two to four minutes.

2. Bear walk: From the same position, “walk” forward by moving the right arm and right leg simultaneously. Then take another step by moving the left arm and left leg in unison. Continue for two to four minutes.

3. Leap frog: This old familiar game requires at least two persons, but it can be done with virtually any number. Participants should count off by twos and, on command, the “evens” leap over the “odds.” Then the odds leap over the evens. Repeat for two to four minutes.

4. Indian walk: With your knees bent slightly and your trunk bent far forward, let your arms hang down until the backs of your hands touch the floor. Holding this position, walk forward. Continue for two to four minutes.

5. Crouch run: Leaning forward at the waist, and keeping your upper body parallel to the ground, run slowly. Continue for two to four minutes.

6. Straddle run: While running forward, leap off to the right at an angle as you put down your right foot. Leap to the left as your left foot advances. Continue for two to four minutes.

7. Knee-raised run: Run with your knees moving up as high as possible on each step. At the same time pump your arms vigorously. Continue for two to four minutes.

8. One-leg hop: Hop forward on your left foot, then on your right. Take five to ten hops on each foot in succession and continue for two to four minutes.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: