There is differing opinion on this, so we break it down into a what those opinions are, and provide an objective answer to help you decide whether CrossFit Kids is for you, or your kids!
The prescribed age which your children can start CrossFit Kids is ages 3-17. This is further broken into age bandings: preschool (3-5), Kids band 1 (5-8), Kids band 2 (9-11) and Teens (12+). Your child can start at any age within those bandings, and the classes are carefully tailored to suit their age which dictates the exercises employed, the complexity of the movements used, the level of weights and equipment utilised, and the required engagement needed for the class.
As an example, age banding 3-5 will have no weights per se, a shorter class time, requiring the least amount of sustained concentration. The age they should start, therefore, depends on their age and current level of ability to focus.
CrossFit Kids – Instructor Training
Specific training for CrossFit Kids is delivered for gyms all over the world. They can be carried out in seminar format as per the CrossFit Level 1 training, or in webinar format. They have a list of recommended reading for candidates in their manual and cite various sources such as the American Academy of Paediatrics and the National Strength and Conditioning Association
The CrossFit LLC Training Manual is a free resource and can be found here. CrossFit recommends coaches carry out their course which can be online via webinar to learn how to successfully deliver CrossFit Kids classes including, but not limited to:
- Lectures – Lecture sessions provide CrossFit Kids training theory, the methods deployed, and coaching strategies
- Demonstration – Movement instruction is supported by videos with kids as demonstrators to exemplify child-appropriate cueing. The best approaches to training kids are also covered.
- Practical Application – Participants learn to identify sound movement mechanics and appropriate corrections for all ages.
Further perquisites for the CrossFit Kids course are a CrossFit Level 1 certification, which is the initial level of competency for CrossFit coaching in any affiliate. This would also be required for insurers of affiliated gyms.
Depending on your location, local authority of national governing bodies may also need CrossFit Kids coaches to be certified as child-safe. This may be something such as a DBS (disclosure and barring service) check, used in the UK.
The course is currently delivered in English, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. If you’re interested in taking the course, you can try find a course near you here.
Is CrossFit Kids Safe?
CrossFit Kids when programmed correctly and properly is safe.
In some ways it is no different to a PE (physical education) lesson in a school, so long as guidance is followed.
The CrossFit Kids manual informs it decisions of what each Kid banding should be carrying out by utilising data from respected bodies such as NCSA and AAP.org, among others.
Given the worldwide participation of the sport and methodology in children and teens now, safety is of course, of paramount importance. The reputation of CrossFit LLC and every CrossFit gym that offers the service replies on reputation, so health and safety are at the forefront.
If you have preconceptions that CrossFit will injure your child, it’s worth remembering they can get hurt riding their bike, falling in the jungle gym, or hurt themselves in a PE lesson too.
This interesting article highlights some of the 9 ‘weird ways’ kids can hurt themselves every day, just as a benchmark when considering this.
Can my child lift heavy weights?
Heavy weights is a subjective term. They can only lift ‘heavy’ weights at the appropriate banding noted above.
Resistance training is any exercise that causes the muscles to contract against an external resistance. The outcome is an expected increase in strength, power, hypertrophy, and/or endurance.
Examples of resistance training
An external resistance example would be dumbbells, PVC piping, your body weight, small plastic cones, a barbell with 200kg on it(!), or anything else that causes the muscles to contract.
It is recommended Kids avoid maximal lifts and related competitive weightlifting events until physical and skeletal maturity is reached. Their bodies are still developing. Being subjected to very rigorous resistance training may be damaging, worst case for long-term.
So the answer is kids can lift weight appropriate for their age, and it is actually scientifically found to have positive effects on the mind and body.
What can I expect in a CrossFit Kids class?
Here are a few examples of what kids may do in their classes, categorised by the age banding:
Preschool – 3-5 Class Time 45 mins
- Collect the cone
- Tag / you’re it
- Down ups
- Air squats
- Small obstacle course made from bumper plates or flat cones
The idea is that they have a fun, easy to follow session. Nice and simple, with a raised heart rate similar to what you’d expect in the playground. Connotations to enjoyment and play.
Kids band 1 (5-8)
- Very light dumbbell lifts (1-2.5kg)
- Sit ups
- Bodyweight Lunges
More stimulatory, and movements a small amount more in-depth that age band 3-5.
Kids band 2 (9-11)
- Light Kettlebell Swings (Russian – eye height)
- Banded pull ups
- Handstand practice
- Light Medball use
- Possibly Row/Bike erd
- Scaled gymnastic movements such as Pull Ups, Knees to Chest etc
- Use of ‘training bar’ (light aluminium barbell)
Scaled back movements of full adult movements to be deployed. 1-hour class. Use of some weight in resistance training, but very light.
- Handstand Push-Ups
- Barbell work (light)
- Kettle and Dumbbells
- Row, Ski, Bike Ergs
A typical CrossFit class, same format as the adults, but weights and movements may be scaled back.
Oftentimes older Teens will be seen training in adult CrossFit classes, with their parents or siblings! This is great for a family dynamic as it’s quality time for kids and their parents – a common interest also.
Do all Crossfit gyms offer CrossFit Kids classes?
In short, not all CrossFit Gyms offer CrossFit classes. It depends on your country and location, and it this varies widely depending on where you are.
According to this Rally Fitness study, the USA has just over 72% of CrossFit Affiliates across the world, so obviously with this marketshare they have the highest number of CrossFit Kids and Teens classes than any other county.
The US also has the highest number of competing CrossFit Teens at the Games, which takes competitors from age 14 and upwards. This is further sub-categorised down into age groups.
If my child has physical limitations, can they still do CrossFit Kids?
The physical limitation of any child (or adult) does not preclude them from taking part in CrossFit. In fact, quite the contrary. Given the sport’s ethos is its infinitely scalable solution to all exercise, it’s actually perfectly suited to those with varying physical limitations.
To read more on just how well-suited CrossFit is to those with physical limitations, read our article on adaptive CrossFit here.
Adaptive CrossFit is exactly that – it can be adapted to suit different needs. The competitive side has grown in popularity hugely over the last several years, with more categories opening up as the sport grows.
Summary of CrossFit Kids and starting age
As you will have seen, they can start very young and will do a broad range of activities, all appropriate for their age. Contact your local CrossFit gym(s) and find out what they can offer!