Your child should exercise regularly to stay healthy and minimize the risk of developing chronic diseases as an adult, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Part of your child’s exercise regimen should include abdominal exercises. According to strength and conditioning specialist Marilyn Hintz, abdominal exercises can help your child more effectively perform tasks she often needs and wants to do, such as walking and running. They can also help improve your child’s posture. Your child can choose from a variety of abdominal exercises to achieve these goals.
Crunches are classic abdominal exercises. They work on all the major muscles of your child’s abdomen by using his body weight for resistance. To perform crunches, ask your child to lie on his back with his knees bent and repeatedly raise his shoulders approximately 6 inches toward his knees and lower them back down. If your child is not strong enough to raise his shoulders at first, you can provide light assistance.
Leg raises, like crunches, work all the abdominal muscles but focus on your child’s lower abdomen. To do the exercise, first ask your child to lie on her back with her legs extended and feet close together. Then have her repeatedly lift her legs vertically and slowly lower them back to the ground. Ensure that she keeps her legs as straight as possible during the movement without locking her knees. You may need to help your child stabilize her upper body on the exercise mat during the exercise.
Leg twists exercise your child’s oblique muscles on either side of his abdomen. Just as in leg raises, if your child cannot keep his upper body on the ground during the exercise, you should assist him. To perform leg twists, have your child lie on his back with his arms extended to each side of his body, legs bent, and feet elevated. Then show him how to twist at his waist to drop his knees to the ground on either side of his body, lift them back up, and drop them to the opposite side. Your child should continue alternating sides in this fashion for your desired number of repetitions.
Besides moving the spine, your child’s abdominal muscles also function to help stabilize her spine to hold her body upright. The plank exercise strengthens her abdominals to do this effectively. To perform the exercise, first ask your child to lie face down on the ground with her elbows below her shoulders. Then show her how to lift her torso and legs off the ground and hold for 10 seconds or more. She may need you to help her lift and hold her body initially, but she will become strong enough over time to perform the exercise independently.
The side plank exercise is similar to the plank but emphasizes the muscles on either side of your child’s abdomen, such as the oblique muscles and the transversus abdominis. To do the exercise, the child lies on either side with his elbow on the ground below his shoulder and legs stacked. Then he presses into the ground through his elbow and feet to lift his body. Ensure that he keeps his head, back and legs aligned while off the ground. Challenge him try to stay up for at least 10 seconds. As in the plank exercise, assist your child as needed.
- "The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research"; Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position Statement Paper from the National Strength and Conditioning Association; Avery D. Faigenbaum, William J. Kraemer, Cameron J.R. Blimkie, Ian Jeffreys, Lyle J. Micheli, Mike Nitka, and Thomas W. Rowland; 2009
- Efficient Movement: Good to the Core: Children and the importance of core stability
- American Council on Exercise: Core Workout