- Monster Walks
- Toy Soliders
- Bottom Kicks
- High Knees
- Lateral Shuffle
- Red Light, Green Light - Running and crawling
MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT
- Balance Beam Walk
- Balance Beam Obstacle Race
- Balance Beam Balloon Fights!
3 sets of 10 each, 1 min rest between each set
athletes start in athletic position with "hot feet" and react to coach's hand signals.
With ever increasing demands on young students schools have begun to cut out physical education and recess to make more time for other classes. We may be headed in the opposite direction with this change because research suggests what we all know to be true... exercise is vital to maximizing capability and attention in the classroom. Exercise improves not only physical health but mental health, and improves thinking capability as well. A study published by Hillman et al. in Pediatrics and summarized nicely in articles referenced shows that physically active children show improved thinking skills when compared to children who are not as active. (1)
The researchers looked at a group of children participating in an after school program called Fitness Improves Thinking (FITKids). The group would eat snacks and learn fitness and nutrition information then they would play for 70 minutes. Upon testing the children who participated in FITKids showed significant improvements in executive control (resisting distraction, maintaining focus), working memory, and cognitive flexibility (switching between tasks).
Further, brain scans of the children participating in FITKids showed increased brain activity in an area of the brain corresponding to focus. Interestingly, the changes in brain activity correlated to the amount of time kids spent in the program. The more times they have attended, the greater the change. Also worth noting that even one exercise session lasting 30 minutes or more has been shown to have some impact on higher function.
The lead researcher in this particular study suggests the significant effects resulted from minute changes in physical health. Hillman states "We're not taking them from low-fit to high-fit. We're taking them from low-fit to slightly-less low-fit." These children don't need to be training for a marathon to see significant increases in attention orientation and multitasking, rather they simply need to play!
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is one of the most common childhood disorders affecting the child's ability to focus or control behavior. The preferred method of treatment by the numbers is clearly medication with drugs as powerful as stimulants and amphetamines. The number of prescriptions has reached 48.4 million in 2011. With research mounting it seems completely evident that physical activity is a much safer and more logical resolution. Armed with this knowledge parents need to take action and be sure their kids are moving! Enroll them in sports, throw away the video games for now and be sure the school board does not cut one more minute from physical education and recess time. The Hillman study referenced above was published just this morning but lets run through a few from earlier this year.
Last month another study was conducted looking specifically at the effects of exercise on children with ADHD by the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinic of North America. The conclusion... "Physical exercise enhances brain development and neurobehavioral functioning in areas believed to be impaired in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)" The researchers suggest the data implies a strong rationale for a program of structured physical exercise as a form of intervention for children with ADHD. (2)
In april an article published in the Chinese Journal of Pediatrics suggested that exercise improves ADHD symptoms while also improving cerebellar function and balance. And in March of this year the Journal of Attention Disorders concluded a systematic review of the literature by stating "30 minutes of exercise reportedly improves executive function in children with ADHD. (3)
These studies are just the tip of the ice berg and only a bit of what has been published this year alone! With this insurmountable body of evidence exercise is still not widely accepted as an intervention for ADHD. On the National Institute of Mental Health's website they do not even mention exercise in the treatment tab, rather they list pages of possible side effects from common medications.
Exercise induces dopamine and serotonin release. In the brain dopamine acts as a neurotransmitter, a chemical released from a nerve ending to communicate with other nerve cells. The chemical plays a vital role in the pleasure-reward signaling. A pleasurable experience will release dopamine and stimulate a rewarding feeling, often motivating the person to seek that behavior again. This is not the only job of dopamine however, it also plays a part in motor control pathways, which can result in debilitating disease such as Parkinson's when degeneration of dopamine production center takes place. Altered dopamine neurotransmission is implicated in ADHD specifically and drugs that help produce more dopamine or help receptors receive them more readily have helped keep the disorder in check, however if exercise can help the brain naturally produce more dopamine than it becomes the natural "drug" of choice.
Interestingly serotonin is primarily produced in the gut but also has a significant effect on brain activity. Its effect on the central nervous system seems to be balancing mood and preventing depression. Again, as exercise induces more serotonin production it becomes a natural and logical intervention in children suffering from ADHD.
Battle ropes can be a fantastic workout challenging explosive power and strength. The possible movements are only limited by the trainers imagination. Interval sessions of even 30 seconds can seem like an eternity with ropes and you'll immediately know why they can be so helpful on your way to athletic performance. The EP4Kids athletes got busy with ropes this week and showed us exactly what we expected. We didn't need to teach basic movements like the hip hinge to the kids, they just do it because it is the most efficient way to pick up a rope and slam it on the ground.
The hip hinge is a simple movement seen in lifts like the deadlift and kettle bell swing. During a hip hinge the hips are loaded and mobile while the spine is stabile. This stability in the spine allows force transfer from the lower body and hips to the upper body. This is the most efficient and injury resistant way to simply pick something up. In order to achieve a proper hip hinge however you must have proper mobility in the hips to create the proper stability in the spine. Without one you will not have the other. If the hips are not mobile you will get the mobility from the spine and instantly compromise your position and strength. We all know how mobile kids are so step one is already taken care of but can they maintain a stable spine while under load and stress? Turns out many of them don't need any coaching at all. When asked to pick up the rope, lift it high, and slam it on the ground so it makes a wave, they did just that, and demonstrated innate and impressive movement skill in the process. Check out one of our youngest athletes destroying this exercise...
And how could we have a 50 foot rope without playing a little tug-of-war. Everyone versus coach Joey was fun, and according to Chase, I'm very lucky his dad wasn't there because "he lifts ALL the weights!"
We spent June working on agility. What is agility? Your kid may tell you it is our ability to move our feet quickly, and that sure is a component but it is just a piece of the puzzle.
Agility: The ability to quickly and efficiently move and change direction
To begin working on our footwork we used the agility ladder and the crowd favorite, banana steps, which are essentially just small speed hurdles. Beginning with just one foot in each box we tried to learn to move our feet as fast as possible and minimize mistakes. Progressing to hopping, skipping a box, and lateral bounds the athletes began to incorporate change of direction. It was easy to tell when it was time to take a break because we would have to pick up the hurdles after each unsuccessful jump, but a quick water break and new exercise always did the trick. As always at EP4Kids, we didn't waste time either. During our breaks we would practice diaphragmatic breathing and discussed some cool down strategies. It was also a good time to remind the kids that getting tired is perfectly ok while exercising (and I'm sure the parents don't mind either).
We are really starting to see some great improvement in the overall athleticism of our kids. As we move forward we are going to begin incorporating our new found foot work with hand-eye coordination as the kids are asked to complete obstacle runs including the hurdles and ladder while also catching a ball at the same time. This could get a bit messy but it will definitely be fun. Quiz your little athletes on what we are learning... ask them about power, balance, intensity, or demonstrate a specific exercise like mountain climbers, burpees, push ups, jumping jacks, or deep squats.
Be sure to keep an eye on the Engineered Per4mance blog as well. Look for one coming up pertaining to long term athletic development and why early sport specialization in kids is counterproductive. You may pick up some great healthy tips to keep yourself feeling, looking, and performing your best as well!
With the NFL draft fast approaching there was a lot of football talk last month at the EP4Kids classes. We talked about what it takes to be a professional athlete specifically a professional football player. We learned about what the NFL combine is and decided to have our own and see where the kids stack up. Each session last month began with our breathing practice and interval workouts then we would complete one test from the combine including the broad jump, vertical jump, push up test, shuttle run, and 10-yard dash. As you can tell we modified the tests as only a few of our athletes could knock out 225 pound presses right? Push ups would suffice, and gave us an awesome excuse for practicing our newly mastered movement. Our older athletes did normal push ups from there feet while the youngest did wall pushups. We kept track of each stat so check your email for the awesome results from your kids and congratulate them for doing so well.
We promised the kids we would do this again in a few months to show they're getting faster, stronger, and in Will's case, one step closer to being a Packer. For now were getting back to our motor learning beginning this week to increase speed in sprinting.
We just finished up our segment in March concentrating on basic movement. Throughout the first couple of months we noticed a glaring problem. Many of our participants were still really struggling with basic movements including hoping, jumping jacks and skipping. As our premise of EP4Kids is to build a solid foundation of human movement to create a future well rounded athlete we needed to stop and address it. We took each week in March to focus on a specific movement beginning with jumping. After our warm up and exercise intervals we began breaking down the movement. Where our hands need to be and which direction our feet should point to safely jump as high or as far as possible. Then we practiced and practiced and practiced. We hopped across the room, jumped into targets, jumped backward, sideways, on one foot, etc. The next week we focused on jumping jacks. "Make an X, now make a pencil!" The following week skipping, and the last week of the month was push ups. We finished the sessions like we finish every session with core work including planks, kneeling perturbations (a crowd pleaser) and of course, participation stickers.
We surely made huge strides last month and I feel great about the movement our kids are learning. When I ask them to do jumping jacks we no longer see arms flailing but coordinated movement. Push ups look like push ups and skipping well... were still working on skipping. But we will get there!
I brought along the GoPro one day last month. We happened to be working on jumping and moving planks. We also have a few clips of our power sessions when we were kicking the ball as hard as possible. Check out our athletes!
In the month of April we are beginning the EP4Kids combine! I'm sure you've seen the NFL combine in which incredible collegiate athletes are tested in strength, speed, and skill. EP4Kids is mimicking the tests and seeing where we stack up beginning with broad jumps. The kids were stoked to begin preparing to play for some of their favorite teams including the "Packers, Bears, Hawkeyes and Alligators?" I don't know who the Alligators are either but I'm sure they rock. Stay tuned!
Quote of the week: "Power, I know what that is, it's what makes you fly." - Cameron F.
To start our second month off right we began training our young athletes to create power! I urge you to check out Dr. Greg Rose with Titleist Performance Institute, as he is leading the way in athletic development for juniors. TPI asked many of their best PGA professionals what it was that made them so good and the answers lead to some very interesting findings that ultimately lead to TPI's long term athletic development program. This is the idea of having kids perform age appropriate skills to maximize athletic potential before adding sport specific skill. With the same end goal in mind, we want to build the well rounded athlete before sport specialization comes into play and the ability to generate and use maximal power is essential to a solid athlete. Grinding hours of pitching mechanics into a child 3-5 years old doesn't make a lot of sense as they will inevitably go through a rapid growth spurt in which all of that muscle coordination that may or may not be there now will surely be lost, or at least very disorganized. So how do we go about teaching children at this age how to create power? Simple, we say throw/kick/hit this as hard as you possibly can! And what sounds more fun than that to a 5 year old? When Bo Jackson was a child he learned to create power by throwing crab apples at bullies. Although I don't condone this behavior, it is very interesting. People often picked on him for a speech impediment and he would throw apples at them in revenge. Bo once said "They thought they were safe when they would get behind a screen door" as he laughed. You can imagine apples slicing through the screen. We all know what an exceptional athlete Bo became and his example is not the only one that leads to the conclusion that power can be developed very early on. Bo is one example of mine but you can find many more including Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the lecture linked by Dr. Rose.
At EP4Kids we began our power segment by throwing bean bags as hard as we could at a mat. I wanted to hear a big BANG when the bag hit the mat. With very little concentration on form (the only requirement being an overhand throw), the children wound up and slung the bags across the PIT. Very little emphasis was placed on anything but power. Form, mechanics, and even accuracy all took a back seat, and to the detriment of the PIT television, which was an unfortunate casualty.
Power is a function of force times velocity. Simply, power is the ability to generate as much force as fast as possible. A vertical jump, hitting a baseball, kicking a soccer ball, a hang clean are all examples of power. You can see how important this is in sport but you can also imagine how power helps outside of sport such as running up stairs or chasing your little ones (who are surely getting faster with all of this training). It is possible for you to become more powerful too. At Engineered Per4mance the amount of power you can generate is an important parameter that is tested upon your initial consultation via the vertical jump and rechecked down the road to ensure progression. Power is trained in adults at Engineered Per4mance with many great medicine ball drills, olympic lifting, TRX rip trainers, and kettle bells to name a few. This is one of my favorite parameters of fitness to address because simply it is the most fun to work on and correlates so well with athletic expression.
Remember to practice your new skills at home. Play catch, or more like dodge, with your little one as they rocket the ball as fast as possible. Learn from my mistake, take it outside or at least away from the television. On second thought, break the TV, I guess I'm cool with that too. See you next week!
If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Greg Rose's long term athletic development or the TPI juniors program check out the following presentation:
Quote of the week: "I can run as fast as two turbos and I am as strong as a bunny." -Kobie B.
In our final week of the kickoff month we listened to the kids and began a segment to learn to run faster! This week's motor skill development focused on cross-body coordination. In essence, it is the basic ability to disassociate your lower body from your upper body and it is essential in all athletic movement including running, throwing, hitting, and shooting. We learned quickly that this skill is going to take a lot of practice so be sure to work with your little ones at home. Start them in a staggered stance with one foot in front of the other and the opposite arm forward, as if you were in the middle of sprinting, much like our friend Usain Bolt in the following picture although standing in place.
Next tell your little athlete to "switch" in which instant they jump and switch the from right foot forward to left, and from left arm forward to right. You'll notice the tendency to keep the ipsilateral arm and leg together in movement and this disassociation is what we are working on to keep proper running mechanics, balance, and express full power and athletic potential with each stride.
Our exercise portion of the class this week included obstacle runs with burpees, hopping on each foot, sprinting, crawling, jumping jacks, and push ups. Some serious team bonding was created when we encouraged cheering on our friends and the PIT was on fire! We loved the energy this week and can't wait to continue to work on our motor skills and get faster, stronger, and more athletic next month. See you there!
Quote of the week: "Remember last week when you told me I could be a football player? I think I'm going to now." - Landon C.
We continue our hand-eye coordination segment this week by practicing throwing. Just as catching, many sports require an athlete to throw an object with accuracy. We learned to focus on the target and how to properly throw overhand. Beginning with an easy slam dunk and moving all the way across the PIT, the kids improved very quickly and some were able to drain a shot at a range that was impressive to passing adults. Be sure to keep practicing at home! We also ran obstacle runs to be the first to get a sticker and discovered a very competitive spirit in some of the little athletes.
The science is relatively the same as last week so I will spare you this week and instead add a plug for my favorite sport in my favorite sporting event... Olympic hockey! After a devastating loss in the woman's game yesterday I think our men can extract vengeance. GO USA!
Quote of the week: "My armpits are getting really warm!" - Will S.
We continue our first month of EP4Kids by progressing our little athletes with a segment on hand-eye coordination development. Good hand-eye coordination is demonstrated early by picking up objects and progresses to the ability to write or catch a ball. In nearly all sports the athlete with solid hand-eye coordination will have the most success. Connecting the bat to the ball, catching a football, or throwing a pass all rely on the skill. Although there is a ton of physiology behind hand-eye coordination, practicing and developing it is relatively easy and a ton of fun! We began the segment this week by working on catching. We learned to track the ball all the way to our hands. We played catch with friends using both hands, our dominate hand, and some exceptional little ones were even proficient with their non dominate hand as well. You would think these seemingly simple skills may bore a child but when we connect the dots of motor skills and athletic performance the kids become fully engaged and some take on a whole new persona as if already training for the pros!
Just like our discussion on balance last week the visual system plays an immensely important role in this week's skill as well. The information perceived by the eyes are interpreted by nearly all aspects of the brain including the cerebral cortex, more specifically the parieto-occiptial junction, and cerebellum as we plan and execute the reacting movement. This physiology is termed the visuomotor control system. For example, when we play catch our eyes see the ball while our brains simultaneously interpret the size, shape and vector of the ball while also planning our movement to react and catch it! All of that fun set aside, all I have to say to the kids is "Who thinks they can catch?" and their brains take care of all the science with a big smile on their faces.
In the first week of EP4Kids we focused our skill development on balance. One of our many goals with EP4Kids is to teach the children to move efficiently while avoiding dysfunctional movement strategies. To move efficiently you must first have control of your central body alignment, in other words, you must have balance. In most sports you will encounter different angles of terrain and it is important to be able to recover from these offsets with proper balancing strategies. Also, in contact sports such as football when a player takes a hit you must be able to regain central alignment and remain on your feet, or flip over the opposing player and land on your feet (see the video below). As you can see this is a great place to start with our aspiring athletes. We trained dynamic and static balance with the children this week using bean bag games. While balancing the bean bag on our head we become aware of our central alignment. Then we make the activity fun attempting to walk in all directions, spin, and even squat while maintaining the bean bag's and therefore our body's central position.
As humans we use three systems of input to control balance, that is our vestibular system, our visual system, and proprioception. The vestibular system is a receptor organ located in the inner ear and senses movement in all planes. We use our eyes as our visual system to see changing terrain or upcoming obstacles. Proprioception is the sense of where our body is in space. We use tiny muscles throughout our body even in the soles of our feet to perceive proprioception. The input collected through these three systems is now transmitted to the brain, specifically the cerebellum which miraculously interprets all this information and responds with fine motor movement to maintain equilibrium. Unbelievable right? There is little more impressive than the human body. As you can see we have merely scratched the surface with balance training but we are off to a great start. In an upcoming week we will be training the different systems individually. Balance is key to unlocking athletic potential and simply leading an injury resistant life, so encourage your little ones to practice what they learned today!
Engineered Per4mance is off to a roaring start with EP4Kids, a program designed specifically for children between the ages of 2 and 5. Our goal at EP4kids is to develop fundamental motor skills while also exercising! Our culture is changing, with the removal of PE and recess from schools and ever advancing technology fun games are replacing outside time. I mean... who wants to play outside when you can be an entire NBA team who can dunk from half court right?* Our kids need to get back to REAL activity! EP4Kids will provide a fun environment where we will practice motor skills such as catching, throwing, hopping, and skipping, which are the basis of athleticism, all while exercising using fun interval sessions of movements including high jumps, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, and wall push-ups. EP4Kids will also teach your children the importance of movement to health and the parents will receive weekly information about why we exercise the way we do, and what motor skills your children worked on that day. We will be offering weekly classes with friends from the same classroom on a per month basis. Please see your Generation Next front office to pick up a brochure and more information on how to sign up. We can't wait to meet your little ones and get them moving toward a fit future!
*Yes, I just made an NBA Jam reference. It might be the last video game I've played and it was awesome.