July 11, 2020

Best Triceps Exercises For Building Bigger and Stronger Arms and More…

In today’s digest we bring you articles on, Best Triceps Exercises For Building Bigger and Stronger Arms, Lift Slower, Build Muscle Three Times Faster, Science Says and How to Exercise With Your Kids: The Ultimate Guide for Working out as a Family. Hope you enjoy them…

Best Triceps Exercises For Building Bigger and Stronger Arms

If you want to improve and maximize the appearance of your upper arms while reaching your full strength potential, then you must prioritize triceps training. When most people (who are not familiar with aesthetics) think about muscular arms, they no doubt visualize bulging biceps. Consequently, when many people begin a training regime, they focus too…

If you want to improve and maximize the appearance of your upper arms while reaching your full strength potential, then you must prioritize triceps training. When most people (who are not familiar with aesthetics) think about muscular arms, they no doubt visualize bulging biceps. Consequently, when many people begin a training regime, they focus too much on the biceps and not enough on the triceps.

But the biceps consist of two heads whereas the triceps have three. As a result, the triceps generally contribute to more mass and overall strength comparatively. So, to ensure you’re adequately training this three-headed muscle, we chose the best triceps exercises that you should absolutely be doing.

Read on to learn about these exercises and how each one contributes to the development of your triceps. 

Triceps Anatomy

The triceps brachii is located on the back of the upper arm and runs along the humerus (upper arm bone) between the shoulder and elbow. And as previously mentioned, the triceps consists of three heads: lateral (outer), medial (middle), and long (inner).

Triceps Anatomy Basic
Triceps Anatomy Basic

All heads have a different origin although they’re joined distally (away from the origin) to form one tendon. While the lateral and medial heads originate from the humerus, the long head originates from the infraglenoid tubercle of the scapula.

Now, the main function of the triceps is the extension of the elbow joint whereas the biceps is an elbow flexor. It can also stabilize the elbow joint during certain actions (e.g. writing).

But because the long head attaches the scapula, it plays a small functional role in movement at the shoulder joint in addition to adduction (moving the arm toward the midline of the body), extension, and stabilization of the shoulder.

It also helps to keep the humerus within the glenoid cavity during arm adduction.

The medial head, unlike the long head, does not attach to the scapula and therefore, it does not contribute to action at the shoulder joint. Although, it’s important for forearm extension whether supinated or printed. This head is mostly covered by the other two heads.

The lateral head also does not play a role at the shoulder joint. It also helps to extend the forearm at the elbow joint.

Best Triceps Exercises For Mass and Strength

OK, so now it’s time to get into the exercises that are very effective for building bigger and stronger triceps.

Dips

The dip is among the most basic triceps exercises in all of existence. It was popular during Arnold Schwarzenegger’s era of bodybuilding and it’s just as popular, 40+ years later.

Arnold Doing Dips At Home
Arnold Doing Dips At Home

But perhaps the most appealing aspect of the dip is that there are just so many different ways to do it. You have bodyweight dips, weighted dips, and machine dips. But you can even do different variations within these options. Not to mention, the convenience is one reason many people include this exercise when training the triceps. You only need a solid object such as a chair, bench, bed, or any similar object that’s raised a few feet off the ground.

And if done properly, even the more advanced exercisers will find it challenging.

One ACE (American Council on Exercise) study also found that dips highly activate the triceps muscles compared to many common variations.

Dips Variations

Captain’s chair/power tower

The Captain’s chair or power tower is a common piece of workout equipment found in most fitness centers. It usually has dip bars, pull-up bars, and a padded back so that you can do leg lifts all in one station. It’s more ideal for stronger individuals who are able to support their entire body weight using their upper body muscles.

It’s also easier to use additional resistance with a weight belt or even by holding a dumbbell between your feet. But not only that, you can shift your body weight forward and really train your chest and shoulder muscles too. The versatility of this piece of training equipment makes it a very popular choice for a variety of training needs.

Machine dips

Machine dips are a great alternative to bodyweight dips, especially for people who aren’t strong enough to do the latter variation. The two common types of machines include an assisted dip machine and a seated dip machine. Either of these will get the job done.

Bench/chair dips

If you have a bench, chair, countertop, or anything similar, you can do dips. In fact, many prefer to do it this way rather than using the power tower. And that’s really why so many people love this exercise in particular.

If you do it correctly, it can be very challenging. Plus, you can add a plate on your lap whether you do it with either your knees bent, legs straight out on the floor, or legs elevated. You can also perform dips using two chairs faced back-to-back of which you’ll place your hands on the top of the chair backs (just be careful as the chairs can flip over).

Then, if you really want to take it up a notch, try the one-arm bench dip.

Close-grip bench press

Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press
Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press

If you really want to pack on size to all three heads of the triceps, well, most would agree that the close-grip bench press should be included in your training regime. The biggest benefit of this movement is the fact that you can load it very heavy.

The range of motion needed for the close-grip bench press is short compared to the basic bench press. This allows you to press using mostly triceps while limiting chest activation as a result.

Close-grip bench press variations

Barbell close-grip press

The most common variation is the barbell close-grip bench press. Aside from being able to train heavy on this movement, it also helps to develop stabilizer muscles due to having to balance the weight.

Dumbbell close-grip press

The close-grip dumbbell press is another great option usually performed with the hands in a neutral position and close together. Dumbbells are a very functional tool that can help identify and correct right-to-left imbalances, in addition to allowing for more versatility (e.g. hand position, portability, don’t need a spotter, etc).

Not to mention, dumbbells require more stabilization than do barbells which is a functional benefit.

Smith machine close-grip press

The Smith machine is a great variation because you’re better balanced and stabilized due to being locked into the apparatus. It can be harder to stabilize a free weight barbell with the hands close together and so you could definitely understand why this variation is often preferred.

And with the Smith machine, you don’t have to focus as much on overall body stabilization which allows you to focus more on the press.

Floor press

Floor Press
Floor Press

The floor press limits your range of motion because your elbows cannot lower past your torso. Therefore, you’re not activating the chest to the same degree as you would with most pressing variations. That’s why many lifters will utilize this movement to improve lockout strength. The triceps play a significant role in this aspect of the press.

Floor press variations

Barbell floor press

For this variation, it’s recommended that you do it next to a power rack so that you can rack and unrack the bar. It’s also a good idea to have a spotter nearby if lifting heavy as you don’t have the luxury of just dropping the weight as you do when using dumbbells.

But using a barbell is a good idea if you’re looking to build your overall pressing strength and/or improve your lifts in powerlifting competition.

Dumbbell floor press

Like we just discussed, using dumbbells can be a safer way to do this exercise especially for the less experienced. Although, you still have to be careful about how and where you drop the weights. You also have the luxury of being able to more comfortably position your hands.

Machine floor press

There are dedicated floor press machines that are actually very good to use due to the advancements in technology. However, the Smith machine is a much more common piece of equipment. These machines are obviously going to be your safest options because when you’re done with a set, the weight stays locked into one position.

So, you don’t really need a spotter or to throw your dumbbells on the floor.

Kickbacks

Tricep Kickbacks
Tricep Kickbacks

Tricep kickbacks may be thought of by many hardcore lifters as a sissy exercise. Because for one, you can’t go very heavy compared to compound exercises. And secondly, it likely has a bad reputation due to a common belief that it’s a toning exercise from having been featured in countless cardio training videos with the exerciser using pink 5lb dumbbells.

But believe us when we tell you, the tricep kickback is a phenomenal tricep builder. In fact, many of the world’s best trainers would agree because it offers something that most triceps exercises don’t.

It’s a superior exercise for working the long head of the triceps due to its attachment to the shoulder. And the only way to really maximize the activation of this head is to extend the arm back behind the body which engages the action of the tricep at the shoulder joint.

To better understand how this works, do this:

  • Stand upright and really flex your tricep with your arm/s extended by your side/s. Make a mental note of the degree of muscle contraction.
  • Now, lean forward, then extend your arm/s behind your body so that they’re parallel to the floor. Really flex your tricep.

You should have felt the contraction better when your arm was extended behind your body. And this is what we were trying to explain regarding the attachment to the shoulder.

To further prove how effective the tricep kickback is, the same ACE-sponsored study we provided for dips found the kickback to elicit an impressive amount of muscle activation. In fact, it finished ahead of dips, pushdowns, extensions, and the close-grip bench press. This was determined by using volunteers and electromyographic (EMG) testing.

In addition, the head researcher for this study, John Porcari, Ph.D., explained that “Most people’s triceps are relatively weak, especially if you isolate them. If you’re doing the kickbacks correctly, it doesn’t really take a whole lot of weight to get a good workout.”

And there’s your answer if you thought the kickback was a sissy exercise. Due to the position required for this exercise to be performed correctly, it’s a very challenging exercise and you don’t need a lot of weight. So yes, you can build lots of muscle as long as you’re utilizing progressive overload (e.g adding more weight or performing more reps in an effective rep range).

Kickbacks variations

Dumbbell kickback

The dumbbell kickback is possibly the most common variation. However, it can quickly become less effective and largely, a waste of your time if done incorrectly.

What we’re pretty much trying to say is that the eccentric (negative) portion of this exercise should not be a hammer curl. Oftentimes, you’ll see people lower the weight from the extended position and proceed to curl the dumbbell toward their chest.

Why shouldn’t you do this? It’s simple. You’re taking the tension off of the triceps and you’re doing extra, unnecessary work that’ll tire you out faster and throw off your technique.

There’s no need to bend your arms past 90 degrees and you may even benefit more from stopping short of 90 degrees which will keep more tension on the triceps.

Cable kickback 

Many would argue that the cable kickback is superior to the dumbbell variation. That’s because cables keep tension on the muscles throughout. However, we’d say it just depends on how you perform the exercise. Either can most likely be equally effective with proper technique and ideal range of motion.

You can also use any handle that’ll work (e.g. single rope, single-grip, etc). Or, a lot of people just grip the end of the cable which also works really well.

Resistance band kickback

Resistance bands are one of the handiest and most versatile training tools available. Not to mention, you can get them for a cheap price and you pretty much have a low-cost cable setup that you can use at home or anywhere. You can stand on the bands or wrap it around a low object and it’s just as good as using cables or even dumbbells.

Tricep Extensions

Single Arm Overhead Triceps Extensions
Single Arm Overhead Triceps Extensions

Tricep extensions are a must simply because of the deep stretch that you get in the muscles which you don’t really get with any other exercise. And we all know how beneficial it is to get a good stretch in a muscle. In fact, some research suggests that the stretch under load may be equally or even more important than the contraction for hypertrophy. (1)

However, there is much debate about this and some believe the concentric portion is more important. But based on what we know, you don’t want to leave either portion out if you want to experience maximum gains.

Now, compared to other triceps exercises, extensions tend to cause elbow pain and discomfort. It’s definitely not for everyone but for most healthy individuals, the best way to avoid this is to warm up with other triceps exercises or do them after those exercises.

Extensions variations

Lying extension

The lying extension is a very good variation that may even allow for a better stretch than does a seated extension. It also offers a few advantages because you can adjust your position to where it’s not placing a lot of stress in the shoulders. This is often called the skull crusher because the bar is lowered to the forehead rather than behind the head.

You can also use relatively heavy weight with the lying extension and as far as options, any training tool will work. Although, it’s always good to mix things up as well. So feel free to use a barbell, dumbbells, or cables.

Overhead extension

The overhead extension is also a very good tricep exercise that allows you to get a good stretch. It even placed above the lying extension for muscle activation in the ACE study on the most effective triceps exercises.

You can use a fixed barbell, dumbbells, cables, machines, etc for this movement.

There are a few issues with using big dumbbells though. They can knock into the back of your head and place uncomfortable stress on your shoulders due to having to keep the barbell away from your head. If you’ve been training for a while and are proficient with a dumbbell/s then that’s great.

Otherwise, we’re just throwing the possible inconveniences out there.

Machine extension

There are some really state-of-the-art machines that allow you to mimic the triceps extension. Some even allow you to extend your arms down by your sides working against the resistance while others have you extending your arms directly out in front of you.

And to be honest, they all feel really good when training the triceps.

Triangle/diamond push-ups

Diamond push-ups
Diamond push-ups

In the same ACE study that we mentioned several times previously, the triangle push-up came out on top for triceps activation compared to other common exercises. And as a matter of fact, it scored perfectly for hitting the long and lateral head whereas none of the others did.

But how?…

According to John Porcari, the triangle push-up showed better tricep activation because you can’t really cheat with this bodyweight exercise.

This makes total sense and if you really think about it, if you’re doing push-ups correctly, the only way you’re completing a rep is if you can push yourself up. That’s not to say you’ll cheat or use momentum with other triceps exercises. But the temptation is definitely there with certain exercises.

Push-ups variations

Basic triangle push-up

The basic version is essentially the same thing as a regular push-up, except your hands are close together to form a triangle. This places a majority of the load on the triceps and this is really an ideal type of exercise because you can do it anywhere.

If you don’t have much upper body strength, you can do triangle push-ups on your knees, which is also an effective method for continuing a set if you’ve burnt out during the standard variation.

Decline triangle push-up

We really love decline push-up variations for emphasizing the upper chest muscles, in addition to training the shoulders and shifting a lot of load onto the triceps. For this advanced push-up exercise, you’ll elevate your feet up onto a raised object while your hands are on the ground.

If you’re not decently strong, work on the basic variation and then try this one out.

Incline triangle push-up

This variation involves elevating your upper body onto an object while your feet remain on the floor. Aside from blasting your triceps, by doing push-ups with your arms positioned lower than your pecs, you emphasize the lower chest fibers or abdominal head.

This is also an easier variation than the first two because you’re pushing against a smaller percentage of your overall body weight. Therefore, if you lack optimal upper body strength then this is a great starting point because you can use a variety of objects to do your push-ups (e.g. bench, chair, stairs, wall, etc).

Cable pushdowns

Triceps Cable Pushdowns
Triceps Cable Pushdowns

Pushdown variations are not only one of the best tricep exercises that you can do. But we’d be willing to bet they’re the most commonly utilized among gym-goers.

Quite possibly, this has something to do with the amazing contraction that you get compared to other triceps exercises (the dip is up there too). It’s a common belief that pushdowns emphasize more of the lateral or outer head of the triceps comparatively which might be true.

However, it definitely works all three heads pretty good and is a strong go-to when the goal is building muscular triceps.

Cable pushdowns variations

Rope pushdowns

Because we use a neutral grip for rope pushdowns, many prefer it over a pronated (overhand) grip variation. It may even allow you to feel a better contraction in the lateral head because you can pull the rope handles laterally away from each other resulting in a pronounced contraction.

Whether that’s really the case, well, it’s hard to confirm. Although, many believe that building muscle is based largely on feel and intuition.

Reverse-grip pushdowns

The same thing applies with the reverse grip pushdown as does what we just discussed about the rope pushdown variation. Using different hand positions seems to result in some sort of difference in how the contraction of a muscle feels.  Although, this can also be said for many exercises too.

Using a single-grip handle for the reverse pushdown allows for a freer range of movement and most people would probably find that it feels better with this variation in particular.

Close-grip pushdowns

This variation replicates the close-grip press except you’re standing and, of course, using cables instead of a barbell or dumbbells. And it’s actually a very effective one.

Now, there is a difference between the cable close-grip pushdown and other pushdown variations. To replicate the close-grip press, your elbows should be flared out and typically, you’ll lean forward over the bar to maximize your pressing power.

This really forces the triceps to work and overall, it’s a great mass and strength builder.

3 Benefits of Training Your Triceps

The triceps are a very important muscle of the upper arm and we’d recommend that everyone make an effort to maximize their development.

A stronger press

Any press whether that’s a bench press, overhead press, push-up or dip, requires triceps strength. The stronger your triceps, the better you’ll be at pressing. Of course, these pressing variations require sufficient strength from other pushing muscles such as the chest and shoulders.

But for the sake of this article focused on the triceps, this three-headed muscle plays an important role in pressing movements.

Upper-body strength

You might be thinking, “doesn’t a stronger press mean the same thing?”. It does and it doesn’t with the difference being, we’re simply referring to the need for decent upper body strength.

Many people surprisingly have very little upper-body strength which can make certain daily tasks much more difficult. For example, having to get down to clean and not being able to get back up.

Elderly people can definitely benefit from having stronger triceps for the reason mentioned above, In addition, aging causes gradual muscle loss (sarcopenia) which can result in falls and injuries due to insufficient upper body support. But according to a published piece from the Cleveland Clinic, resistance training can decelerate this process or even prevent it for many more years.

“The best way to limit the extent of loss of muscle strength is by staying physically active all through life,” explained physical therapist Gary Calabrese, DPT. “But if you’ve been sedentary and have lost strength, the answer is still exercise.”

Lee Priest Triceps
Lee Priest Triceps

Arm aesthetics

The appearance of your arms is largely based on your genetics. You might do everything right and still be underwhelmed and disappointed that your triceps don’t look like horseshoes. And that’s completely OK. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do all you can to develop your triceps.

In fact, you’ll maximize the appearance of your upper arms by developing them the best you can. Plus, it’s always nice to show off your hard work when wearing a short sleeve or sleeveless shirt.

But also remember that building muscle takes time and many years of consistent, hard work in the gym and kitchen, not to mention, your sleep needs to be on point too.

How Many Sets/Reps For Bigger and Stronger Triceps? 

This honestly depends on several different factors which include…

  • Exercise intensity
  • Training frequency
  • Weights loads
  • The individual

Exercise intensity

If you want to see results as quickly as possible, you need to train with some intensity. This means really pushing yourself and not being afraid to use challenging weights. If you’re just going through the motions and lifting weights that you can perform 50 reps with, you’re not doing much.

It’s perfectly fine and even recommended to utilize various rep ranges but the goal here is to build muscle and strength. Therefore, stick within the 5-25 rep range for the majority of your training. Your sets shouldn’t be easy.

Research shows that training heavy with low rep ranges is superior for building strength. Although, higher rep ranges (although not too high) are just as effective for hypertrophy when both loads are taken to failure. (2)

Use this information to plan out your sessions and to ensure you’re getting optimal results.

Lee Priest
Lee Priest

Training frequency

Generally, if you typically train a muscle very infrequently, you need to do more sets/reps in a session. That’s because you want to make sure to train with sufficient volume to adequately stimulate the muscle fibers in order to elicit maximum growth.

In contrast, the more frequently you train a muscle, the fewer sets/reps you need to do per each session. You don’t want to overtrain which is definitely a real thing. Then your efforts would be counterproductive to what you’re trying to achieve.

Keep this in mind and plan out your weekly training regime accordingly.

Weight loads

If you’re training relatively heavy during a session, keep the volume down (‘training’ volume). Doing too many sets and reps with heavy weight can drain you and it’s not good for your nervous system or joints. On the other hand, if you’re doing light to moderate training, then you’ll benefit from adding more volume to create that necessary stress for growth.

There are many variables that you have to consider when constructing a good training program. But it’s honestly good to incorporate different forms of training as each has its advantages.

The individual

At the end of the day, you have to figure out what works best for you. This is found through trial and error but it’s also good to have some knowledge about training so that you can find what works best for you a little quicker.

Also, being consistent, eating the right nutrition, and getting sufficient sleep also play a big role in how much training you can do. Training is more than looking good. It’s about being healthy and listening to your body. And that’s when you have a good experience and start to really see progress.

Can You Isolate A Tricep Head With a Specific Exercise? 

The short answer is absolutely not. You can’t isolate one of the three tricep heads while leaving the other two out. However, it’s a common belief that it’s possible to emphasize a head or portion of a muscle. For example, the tricep rope pushdown performed by pulling the rope handles away from each other during the contraction may emphasize the outer head.

And we explained that because of the attachment of the long head, the best way to maximize its contraction is by extending the arms behind the body.

And just from personal experience (you’ll probably agree), it’s easy to be convinced that it’s possible to emphasize a portion of a muscle that has more than one head especially when they’re attached at different points anatomically.

Another good example of this is looking at the various muscles of the back which all have different functions. Otherwise, we wouldn’t need so many back muscles. Consequently, we know the importance of utilizing various exercises that provide resistance against those functions, therefore, activating certain muscles a bit more than others.

Although, all back muscles are engaged to an extent regardless of the exercise.

Wrapping Up

In our opinion, these are the best triceps exercises that you can do build bigger and stronger arms. Of course, your bench and overhead presses are going to also contribute. But if you want to maximize your triceps development, then we believe isolation work is also just as important.

It’s a big muscle group that needs attention and now, you have plenty of variations to choose from and include in your arm training sessions.

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Best Triceps Exercises For Building Bigger and Stronger Arms – Fitness Volt was originally published at https://fitnessvolt.com/best-triceps-exercises/

Lift Slower, Build Muscle Three Times Faster, Science Says

When it comes to determining the most effective ways to train, science should always come before anecdotal evidence. Luckily, researchers from the field of exercise science have been working pretty hard to help us get more conclusive answers as to which training method builds most muscle. Here’s the latest tip from the laboratory: playing around…

When it comes to determining the most effective ways to train, science should always come before anecdotal evidence. Luckily, researchers from the field of exercise science have been working pretty hard to help us get more conclusive answers as to which training method builds most muscle. Here’s the latest tip from the laboratory: playing around with your lifting speed can help you grow more.

Not surprised? That’s because you’ve probably already heard coaches or online bodybuilding gurus suggest that repetition speed is a huge factor in achieving muscle hypertrophy. In reality, repetition speed has always been a bit of a controversial topic among lifters, so a group of scientists in Sao Paulo, Brazil recently conducted a study in the hope of uncovering the differences between “slow speed” and “fast speed” lifting and came to some extraordinary results.

In every gym around the world, there are a handful of guys who everybody secretly hates because they seem to ignore or neglect every basic rule about effective muscle building and yet they manage to grow like crazy. This however should not discourage you to follow training tips that are reasonable and science-backed because guys like that will always exist – blame it on their great genetics.

Fast vs. Slow Lifting Speed

Wide-spread gym wisdom tells us that focusing on the eccentric portion of the lift is everything when it comes to muscle hypertrophy while emphasizing the concentric phase can produce superior strength gains. And although things are not as black and white as this “rule” make them appear, it’s true that many of the guys who also incorporate slow tempo lifting tend to add more mass than those who strictly use fast lifting speeds and perform their every rep in an explosive manner.

Based on previous studies, we can safely claim that lifting speed affects important factors that promote hypertrophy and strength development such as muscle damage, time under tension and metabolic stress. But to what degree does speed determine hypertrophy?

A group of Brazilian scientists gathered a group of twelve experienced male weightlifters, divided them in two groups and made both groups perform Scott curls twice per week for 12 weeks. The workout consisted of 3 sets of 8 reps. Before the start of the experiment the researchers recorded the 1RM of each of the subjects for later comparison.

The first group had to perform “slow speed” reps by lifting the weight in one second and lower it in three seconds. The second group performed “fast speed” reps – they lifted the weight in one second and lowered it over the course of one second as well. After 12 weeks of training, the researchers assessed muscle growth in the subjects with the help of ultrasound examination of the cross-sectional area of the brachialis biceps muscle. As a measure of strength development, they compared the previous 1RM of each subject with their current one.

The results they got were really fascinating. Namely, not only that the lifters in the “slow speed” group built 3 times more muscle, but they also showed nearly five times more progression in strength than the “fast speed” group!

So does this mean that you should completely ditch fast reps and get obsessed with slow eccentrics? Not really, because other studies have shown that alternating between slow and fast lifting tempo produces the best results in the long run. The reason for this is that if you expose your muscles to only one kind of stimulus for a long period of time, they will get “bored” and stop responding in the same positive way. Therefore, for optimal gains, try to incorporate periods of slow tempo lifting into your workouts, followed by periods of lifting with significantly faster tempos, for example 6-12 weeks of slow speed followed by 6-12 weeks of fast speed.

Have fun and stay big!

Lift Slower, Build Muscle Three Times Faster, Science Says was originally published at https://www.fitnessandpower.com/build-muscle/lift-slower-build-muscle-three-times-faster

How to Exercise With Your Kids: The Ultimate Guide for Working out as a Family

So you’ve got kids running around the house…  And you need to work out, but can’t seem to distract the little monsters any longer? No problem! We’ve been teaching people how to exercise at home since 2009. These days, since everyone’s trapped together, we’ve been sharing fun ways to get the kids involved too.  If…

This picture shows a LEGO on a bike with a stroller attached.

So you’ve got kids running around the house… 

And you need to work out, but can’t seem to distract the little monsters any longer?

No problem!

We’ve been teaching people how to exercise at home since 2009. These days, since everyone’s trapped together, we’ve been sharing fun ways to get the kids involved too. 

If you need some ideas on how to work out as a whole family, this guide is for you.

(Sign up in the box below and I’ll send you even more home workout goodies). 

 

Here’s what we’ll cover in today’s guide:

Let’s jump right in!

How to Workout With Your Kids (Video Tutorial)

LEGO Maggie doing the iconic James Bond intro.

Quite a few of our Nerd Fitness Coaches are parents, so they know firsthand how challenging it can be to train while you have a three-year-old running around in the background.

When I asked them for advice for this guide, the most common response I received went something like:

“During quarantine, life is going to be chaos. This is not normal, and neither will your workout be. That’s okay. Do the best you can.”

In other words, it might be challenging to hit personal records (PRs) in your deadlift while also watching over a four-year-old (if you somehow managed to score home gym equipment).

This doesn’t mean “Don’t bother working out.”

It just means you should forgive yourself ahead of time if all doesn’t go according to plan.

A funny scene of a disaster with Leslie Nielsen.

If you want proof of how working out with kids can be “a hot mess,” watch Coach Matt exercising with his young children.

The video is all sorts of adorbs. 

THE BEGINNER BODYWEIGHT WORKOUT (KIDS EDITION):

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When working out with kids, remember:

#1) Meet kids where they are. For young kids, invite them to be a partner. Maybe they can count your reps, tell you when to start, etc.

On the other hand, older kids might be able to participate more fully, and maybe even train alongside you.

No matter what, it’s a good idea to invite kids to join when and IF they want, without requiring it.

#2 ) While every kid is different, here are some very general guidelines from Coach Matt’s experience:

  • 2-6 Years Old. These kids are often way more interested in just playing, wrestling, etc. So doing a specific workout may be challenging. However, these kids may still want to be a part of things, so look for ways to get them involved.
  • 7-12 Years Old. At this age, they can start handling a little more structure. They will probably really enjoy “skills” training (more on this below), as well as many play aspects.
  • 13+ (Depending on the Kid). They may be ready to step in and join you more fully in a workout if they want to.

#3) Consider a focus on skills/practice. It can be really frustrating to have a timed exercise or workout interrupted.

A gif of Stewie from Family Guy shouting for attention.

Instead, consider thinking of it like “practice time” of building a skill. You can practice for a couple of minutes, take a break, come back to it, etc.

Kids might respond better to “skills” training instead of “exercises” too. Together, you can practice:

  • Crawling
  • Jumping
  • Swinging
  • Getting up and down off the floor
  • Dancing
  • Throwing/Catching

This might go over better than “let’s do squats” or “push-ups.”

#4) There are lots of different ways to get workouts in throughout the day:

  • Short workouts: a lot of times Coach Matt finds himself squeezing a workout in 10 mins or less.
  • Accumulation: take little micro-breaks throughout the day to do a couple of reps of some bodyweight exercises. Kind of like “exercise snacks.”
  • Longer workouts: maybe creating that time and space for your training is still important. If possible, defend this time and let the kids move in and out of the frame as they are interested.
  • “I go, you go”: you may snag a workout set in, then play a game with your kids, then go back to the workout set. Breaking it up like this can make them still feel engaged and give you a little more time to train.

#5) Whatever happens is okay! Remember, do the best you can, and it’s perfectly fine if your workout gets cut short because your kid starts drawing on the walls.

The 8 Best Exercises to Do With Young Kids

A kid holding himself up with one arm on a jungle gym.

If your kids are light enough, you can actually use them as makeshift weights during your workout.

Just be careful, and if anything feels unsafe, don’t do it.

But if things DO feel good, here are some exercises you can do along with kiddos (or using them as weight).

#1) Bodyweight Squats (with Child) 

Matt has his kiddo resting on his shoulders, almost like a safety squat bar would.

This is much like a normal bodyweight squat, but with your kids sitting on your shoulders.

Coach Matt recommends having your kid’s legs come forward, and for you to grab them, almost like you would with a safety squat bar.

Before attempting this, make sure you can do squats with comparable weight!

#2) Lunges

Much like the bodyweight squats above, but instead do a lunge:

Same idea as our bodyweight squat, your kid will rest on your shoulders as you do your lunge.

Since you’re engaging one leg at a time, this can be really challenging with a kid on your shoulders.

#3) Touch the Sky

This gif shows both Matt and his kid going from a squat to standing tall, arms up.

As Coach Matt explains, getting young kids to do squats and push-ups might be tough.

But kids do like to jump!

For “Touch the Sky,” sit in a squat or frog position. Then stand-up tall, arms reaching towards the sky.

Bonus points if you jump up!

This will train many of the same muscles as you would with squats.

#4) Jumps

Coach Matt performing jumps with his kids, a great exercise to try.

Another good squat substitution to try with kids is long jumps!

You probably want to try this on some type of soft surface (or in your backyard), like the tumbling mat Coach Matt uses. As long as it’s safe, jumping can be really fun with kids.

Make a game out of it, by pointing to a line (or marking one with a soft object) and seeing who can jump over it. You’ll not only train your lower body with jumps, but you’ll also build some explosive power.

#5) Push-ups

You have a few options here.

The first, is to have your kid crawl on your back, and use them as a weight:

This is a gif of Matt doing push-ups, with his kid attached to his back.

Feel free to do knee push-ups here too if it’s a little too challenging.

The next option is to include your kid in the workout by giving them high-fives between reps:

At the top of your push-up, stick your arm out and give the kid a high-five!

Lastly, you can have your kids crawl under you between repetitions, trying to worm their way from one end to the other:

Once at the top of your push-up, have your kid crawl under you, like so.

#6) Bear Crawl

A fun exercise to do with your kids is to crawl around like a bear with them latched on!

Coach Matt crawling around with his kid on his back.

Crawling is a great functional fitness exercise that will help you stay mobile on the floor. A kid on your back will up the intensity of the workout.

Bonus points if you make growling and roaring noises.

#7) Goat Bag Hinge

This exercise has your kid clenching onto the front of your chest, while you push your hips back.

This exercise will have you strengthening your hinge muscles, kind of like you would in a kettlebell swing or deadlift.

Stand tall, clenching your kid, check to chest. Have them hold onto you too.

Push your hips back, again, like you would in a kettlebell swing. When your torso is parrellish to the ground, come back up, driving through your heels.

#8) Balancing

One leg balances can become a lot more challenging when your kid is trying to push you over:

A gif of Matt's kid trying to push him over as he balances on one leg.

Another idea is to stand on one leg, then have your kid push you, and use that force to jump onto your other leg. Attempt to only use one leg at a time to balance:

Use the force of your kid to jump from one leg to the other, as shown here.

10 Workout Games to Play as a Family

This picture some Stormtroopers and mini-stormtroopers play fighting.

Being able to lift your kid a few times for some exercises is great. But Coach Matt highlights that anything over 10 repetitions, probably isn’t happening.

The kids will get bored, whine, or revolt.

That’s why you might be better off playing some games with them.

Here are 10 fun and active games to play as a whole family:

#1) Ninja Training

This is easy: just ask your child: “Want to train like a ninja with me?”

If they’re into it, start practicing some of your jumps and crawls!

You can also hoist them up and help them hang from something (ninjas always have to climb up buildings), which would work if you have a pull-up bar:

Coach Staci showing you the bar hang

Don’t have a pull-up bar? We makeshift clever replacements in our guide to building a home gym.

Some house parkour might also be in the cards here.

#2) Chase (Cops and Robbers)

Here, you’re gonna build some type of fort. When playing this game, Coach Matt stands up his gymnastic mat tall and together, then places his kids in the middle.

Their job? Escape!

Run and track them down and send them back to jail (or your makeshift fort)

Feel free to teach them the phrase, “You’ll never catch me alive, coppers!”

#3) Freeze Ball

This might require a purchase, but foam dodgeballs are a great way to play with kids.

Have the different colored dodgeballs result in a different outcome:

  • Red: if you’re hit with the “fireball,” hop five times in a row.
  • Blue: if you’re hit with the “iceball,” you need to freeze for five seconds.
  • Green: if you’re hit with the “earthball,” it’s time to place your chest to the ground, like you would in a burpee.

#4) Animal Walks

Have someone call out an animal. Then everyone has to walk around like that!

Walking to Mordor is much tougher if you need to crawl like a snake for part of the journey.

#5) Hot Lava

With this game, you’re more or less building an obstacle course in your house, trying to jump from furniture to furniture…because the floor is now lava.

Here are some ideas on creating home obstacle courses:

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Another fun way to start this game: start counting down from 5 out loud.

After “1” shout “hot lava” and if anyone is still on the normal floor, it’s time for them to start playing like Gollum when he finally got the ring:

A scene of Gollum falling into lava from Return of the King.

This is a fun standing game to ensure spontaneous activity.

#6) Jump/Duck

This game is pretty easy: take an imaginary sword and swing high or low at the kids, or have them come at you with their imaginary weapon.

Just swing high or low at your kid, and have then duck or jump respectively.

You need to either jump if they’re coming low, or duck if they’re coming high.

This is really simple, but lots of fun, and can be done with a group of people.

#7) King of the Log (Balance Challenges)

Much like the balance exercises we showed you earlier, but as a game!

Find some territory (a mat, some comfy carpet, grass) and try to push the other off it. Let your kiddos team up on you for a more even match.

#8) Wolf & Rabbit

Create a mark or identify a “safe place” within a short sprint away.

Have two people face each other, but keep enough distance that the “Rabbit” feels comfortable reaching safety.

The Rabbit stays frozen, until the Wolf makes a move. Then the Rabbit attempts to sprint to safety before the Wolf can tag it.

#9) Ninja Red Light, Green Light

If you’ve ever played “Red Light, Green Light” this is similar, although it involves some sneaking around, because ninjas.

A gif of a ninja doing ninja stuff.

“The Mark” walks around aimlessly, taking turns liberally, while the Ninja tries to sneak up behind and tag them.

If the Mark faces the Ninja, the Ninja must freeze.

Otherwise, the Ninja is free to tag the Mark.

#9) Commando

This game is kind of like Ninja Red Light, Green Light.

You have a Counter (normally the adult).

You have Runners (kids).

The Counter picks a number from five to ten, then counts down.

Before doing so, they announce “Fast” or “Slow.”

  • Fast, you would count “5, dot, 4, dot, 3, dot, 2, dot, 1.”
  • Slow, you would count “5, dot, dot, 4, dot, dot, 3, dot, dot, 2, dot, dot, 1.”

So twice as many “dots” are said allowed.

While the Counter counts, they move about (carefully) with their eyes closed. They make sure to turn around a lot to keep the Runners on their toes.

When the Counter reaches “1,” they freeze and open their eyes.

Any Runners caught in the Counter’s eyes has to do a silly “croak” finality.

This dog does a good "play dead" in this gif

Quarantining With Kids: A Discussion With Two Nerd Fitness Coaches (And Parents)

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Being quarantined at home is one thing. Being quarantined at home with your kids is quite another. 

In the video above, streamed live to Nerd Fitness Prime members, “The Matts” talk to you about how they’re handling this new lifestyle.

Some highlights of the “Quarantine with Kids” discussion:

  • Doing the best you can (a common theme in our “Apocalypse” content)
  • The importance of having a schedule with kids
  • Open communication between spouses
  • Creating a “school space” within your home
  • How to find “balance” during quarantine
  • The importance of “quiet time”

And much more!

If you’re juggling working remotely and homeschooling for the first time, give the video a watch.

How to Workout as a Family (Next Steps)

This picture shows a family on the beach looking into the sunset.

The most important thing about working out with your kids: have fun!

If kids see you having fun, they might want to join you.

If you make your exercise together enjoyable by including some game elements, they might want to keep doing it.

That would be great!

If you need more ideas, here are 40 ways to exercise without realizing it. 

However, if your kids are not into it, that’s okay. Just try to sneak in whatever workout you can, when you can.

These are unusual times, so our training will likely also be unusual.

Do the best you can. It’s something we bring up throughout our guide on How to Stay in Shape (While Staying Inside).

The most important thing you can do now: try an exercise or game with your kids!

You’ll never know how your kids deal with your workouts, until you try it out.

So pick one of the exercises or games we highlighted and give it a whirl.

If it devolves to chaos, you can always try again with a different workout or strategy.

Again, just do the best you can.

This girl is ready to strength train. Are you?

If you want some more help, Nerd Fitness is here for you.

We have three options on how to continue with us. Pick the option that best aligns with your goals:

Option #1) Liked the videos we showed in today’s guide? Want to watch them live and get your questions answered? Join Nerd Fitness Prime!

Nerd Fitness Prime is our premium membership program that contains at-home exercise routines, live-streamed workouts with NF Coaches, a supportive online community, group challenges, and much more!

Oh, and you can create a character and level up by completing real world challenges!

 

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Option #2) If you want a professional coach in your pocket, who can do video form checks, provide feedback, and adjust your workouts based on the equipment you have available, check out our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program! 

For example, let’s say you find yourself stuck indoors during a pandemic, and you want somebody to custom-build you a workout program based on the equipment and furniture you have. That’s where an online coach is a game-changer!

Personally, I’ve been working with the same online coach since 2015 and it’s changed my life. You can learn more by clicking on the box below:

 

Option #3) Become part of the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Sign up in the box below to enlist and get our Rebel Starter Kit, which includes all of our “work out from home” guides.

Alright, I want to hear from you and your experience with working out with your children!

Are you a parent who is now learning how to exercise with your kids?

Any tips or tricks for training with screaming kids in the background?

Any fun games we missed?

Let me know in the comments!

-Steve

P.S. If you have older kids, they might be more into doing a workout right alongside you. If so, have them pick a routine from The 7 Best At-Home Workouts and try it together!

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Photo Source: Cargo bike family, The clones are working hard, Family looking into sunset, Untitled, Simpson…Maggie Simpson.

How to Exercise With Your Kids: The Ultimate Guide for Working out as a Family was originally published at https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/how-to-exercise-with-your-kids-work-out-as-a-family/