Circuit training is the practice of getting a full-scale workout by doing different exercises in sequence. In a group fitness environment, such as a middle school gym class or sports practice, different athletes will be at different stations in the cycle. While the basics of circuit training remain the same regardless of age, the particulars of dealing with middle school children make some practices better than others.
Choose Appropriate Exercises
Circuit training can be applied to any type of workout, from cardio to stretching to power lifting, but personal trainer and child fitness instructor Ben Cohn says the immature skeletal structure of an adolescent makes heavy weight-lifting exercises inappropriate for children that age. Cardio and flexibility exercises are always appropriate, but body-weight exercises are the best choice when it comes to strength training.
Be Mindful of Self Consciousness
The middle school years are often the time when most children are at their most debilitatingly self-conscious. Some might even refuse to participate because they fear they might embarrass themselves by doing a single station incorrectly. Combat this problem in two ways: If possible, put in enough stations so students are alone at their own exercise. This eliminates the audience adolescents are often afraid of. Perhaps more important, demonstrate how to do each exercise before beginning the circuit. Keeping your circuit consistent from session to session can also help students feel confident in their abilities.
Keep It Fun
It can be difficult to motivate middle school students, especially if you want them to do something difficult or potentially embarrassing. Competition and conditions are your best friend in this department. A high-energy atmosphere, including popular dance music, can keep students stay energized and focused. When it comes to competition, student vs. student competition can actually be counterproductive, but competing against the clock or personal records works well for this age group.
Keep Their Attention
It's no secret many middle schoolers have short attention spans. This is one trait that makes circuit training ideal for middle schoolers. A half-hour run might not work, but three minutes at each of 10 exercises will break up the action and keep your kids engaged. You don't even have to come up with 10 exercises: you can repeat cycles so long as you have different tasks within each one.
- Ben Cohn; Fitness Coach; Hillsboro, Oregon
- Fitday: Circuit Training