When it comes to teaching our kids new things, we as parents are pretty confident that we have a handle on teaching them good habits.
As the saying goes, “with age comes wisdom,” so as we get more years under our parenting belt we all become our own parenting experts, right?
But when it comes to exercise, maybe it’s time we look to our little leaguers for some expert workout advice… and the younger they are, the more we can learn.
You Don’t Know Squat
That’s because as we grow and develop from young infants to hard headed adults, we begin to lose our mobility for natural movements due to inactivity, poor posture, and bad habits.
The squat is a perfect example. It is probably the most natural human movement that was learned long before barbells were invented.
Squatting was a required natural movement for our fellow cavemen to do “#2” long before toilets came to be, as humans are meant to assume a squatting position for elimination and did so for thousands of years.
It was not until the middle of the 19th century that we started the practice of sitting instead of squatting.
Even today, people in developing countries seem to squat all the time instead of sitting on a chair… and it’s not because there isn’t an IKEA nearby.
They can sit like this for hours while most of us are lucky to stay in this position for a few minutes before drooling over our Lazy Boy.
Just think about it the next time you bend over to grab a book from a low book shelf or you squat down to put in a DVD.
When you lean over in a squat position you will probably bend over on your toes opposed to keeping your heels flat to the floor and your knees behind your toes.
(I am getting lots of practice at this lately, thanks to my daughter, as we are currently on my 23rd viewing of Elmo’s Pottie Time DVD.)
This poor mobility is what makes us vulnerable to common back injury. Wither it’s in the gym or at the office, when we squat we should be initiating the movement starting with our hips and glutes, not our quads (the muscle above our knee).
By following this natural chain of movement you take the stress off your lower back and knees, allowing for a strong and comfortable range of motion.
Time To Play
Besides being the best squatters, our kids know how to get exercise without knowing they are “exercising”. When we were young, we called running, jumping, and climbing “play”… when we grew up we called it a workout.
Well, maybe it’s time we put some fun back in fitness and make the world OUR playground.
Get out of the stinky gym while the weather is still nice and stop worrying about how many milliseconds your treadmill cardio interval is supposed to be and pick a point in the park and sprint to it as fast as you can.
Then take a few breaths, jump down and do as many pushups as you can; take a few more breaths and crawl on all fours back the distance you just ran. Rinse yourself off and repeat…
Or round up a large tractor tire from your local tire shop and put it in your backyard for one of the most intense total body workouts you will ever experience… as I recently discovered after competing in my first strongman contest.
This lift simulates another functional exercise, the deadlift, as you bend down to lift the tire off the ground. Then when you get the tire up on it’s end you simulate a standing chest press to push the tire over before the tire gets mad and pushes you over.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be named Mariusz Pudzianowski or been born in Iceland to enjoy the benefits of these strongman exercises.
But these movements are fun and challenging because they train your body the way it was meant to move in real life by pushing and pulling heavy awkward objects.
That’s why everyone from big professional athletes to lean ripped celebrities train this way — because it carries over to real life movements AND it get’s you lean and muscular faster than any other type of workout.
So instead of inviting your buddies over for poker night that only seems to increase your waistline and decrease your wallet, have your own little strongman contest in your backyard. Try flipping the tire as many times as you can in 1 minute, then while your lungs are on fire, hang on to the grass as you collapse in a pool of sweat.
For some reason a cold beer tastes a lot better after doing this, trust me.
You can also use the tire for doing complete bodyweight circuits or sledgehammer work. Yeah, that’s where you get a great workout by pounding the tire with a sledgehammer. Anyone who has used a sledgehammer for manual labor knows how physically demanding this movement can be. I can see my father now shaking his head while he yells “Your grandfather did that for 12 hours a day laying railroad tracks but he actually drove something into the ground for God’s sake!”
So with the kids heading back to school and the changing of the seasons, maybe it’s time you changed up your workout routine.
Your kids might have been off all summer, but maybe YOU learned a few things so you can be a fitter dad this fall.
Title image credit: Seven Bates
Sean Barker is a busy dad who finds time for family, fitness and fun. He likes pumping iron as well as producing it, as a heavy equipment
operator in the iron ore mines. He is ALSO a nationally certified personal trainer who writes for Fit Parent and Inside Fitness magazines and is the author of The Dad Fitness System at www.DadFitness.com. Sean also has a Dad Fitness Blog with tips, thoughts, and humor on being a fit dad at DadFitnessBlog.com.