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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
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Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion


Calisthenics is a form of exercise performed without the use of any apparatus or equipment, instead, using one’s body weight for resistance. It is a functional movement that increases body strength and muscular endurance. Because there is an absence of equipment, there is no progressive overload but by varying the types of exercises, one can improve strength. (Harrison, 2010) It involves a series of continuous movement that incorporates the head, arms, trunk and legs, essentially the entire body. Through bending, jumping, swinging, twisting and kicking movements, it facilitates the development of coordination, balance and posture as well as increasing body strength and flexibility (Kumaraswamy & Surender , 2013).

Different Forms of Calisthenics

Exercises that focus on bodyweight as resistence are calisthenic in nature. Gymnastics, yoga and jump training are all considered a form of calisthenics that works on strength and endurance which increases body control through a mind- muscle connection.(Harrison,2010)


Calisthenics originated in Germany. It was performed in gymnastics schools in a collective group setting called “group calisthenics.” It was considered a less rigid form of exercise that was more creative in nature. Adolf Spiess, the father of german gymnastics gave structure to the less rigid form of group calisthenics by including ”uniform commands, the order movement, marching movement, apparatus exercise, freestanding exercise, and property exercise.” (Kuanrou, Xuexin, and Xin, 2110) This form of group calisthenics made its application into military warm-ups and schools. In china, gymnastics schools were also set-up which included physical education based on “freestanding exercise, Wushu solider gymnastics and music dancing” This type of training later developed into warm-ups for schools in China. (Kuanrou et. al, 2010)


A major advantage of performing calisthenics exercises is that it can be done at any place, at any time. Because they do not require weights, or any fitness machines or apparatus, calisthenics is an ideal form of exercise for individuals who are interested in maintaining fitness but do not have access to exercise equipment. Movements are varied, relatively straightforward to learn, and enjoyable to execute. Although one’s body weight acts as the only resistance, most calisthenics movements require multiple muscle groups to be engaged, leading to gains in muscle mass and over all body strength (Baxter et al., 2003) Additionally, studies have shown that having to move different body parts simultaneously in a rhythmical matter when performing the movements leads to development of coordination and proprioception (Kaya et al., 2012). Improvement in flexibility is also an added benefit to calisthenics due to the fact the exercises have an extended movement amplitude, allowing the limbs to be fully extended and to go through a wide range of motion (Kaya et al., 2012). Furthermore, many movements require the individual to engage and stabilize the core which can lead to improvements in balance and postural control (Kumaraswamy & Surender , 2013). Research has shown that being engaged in sports or basic physical activity ensures a healthy state of mind and can help against the feelings of distress (Dishman, 1995)It has been suggested that performing simple calisthenics, due to its low level of difficulty and accessibility, can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.

There is also the added development of muscular strength and endurance through bodyweight alone with no equipment. Calisthenics is considered a closed chain movement which helps strengthen the whole body instead of isolating one part of a muscle. Functional training will produce relative strength as opposed to absolute strength. Absolute strength is the maximal amount of force that is moved in a movement regardless of body weight. Relative strength is in accordance to bodyweight. Another added benefit is the simple use of just bodyweight as resistance. This promotes less strain on the joints and benefits all types of the population such as the elderly and maturing youth. The use of gym machines also has its disadvantage and most do not take into consideration limb length. (Harisson, 2010) People with injuries also may find it easier to execute this form of exercise due to less weight on a specific muscle. Of course calisthenics can be also challenging by changing the position of the body, varying the hand and leg position and increasing repetitions, sets and speeds. Another form of calisthenics called “broadcast calisthenics” is performed to rhythmic music from the radio and may be more pleasurable and enjoyable to the participant. (Cui et al., 2011)

Common Movements


The squat is a full body exercise that targets primarily the gluteus, quadriceps, hamstrings and the calves. The subject starts off standing with their feet placed shoulder width apart. Movement is initiated by flexing the knees and bringing the hips back and down until the thighs are parallel to the floor. Extend the knees and hips while pushing feet into the ground with the heels to return to the initial position to execute the final phase of the movement. Some different forms of squats include: jump squats, half squats and one legged squats (pistol squats


The push-up targets mainly the shoulders but also develops chest and arms This exercise movement begins with the subject lying prone on the floor with hands slightly wider than shoulder width. The movement is executed by extending the arms, while maintaining a rigid torso and straightened spine, to raise the body up off the floor. Bend the elbows and lower the straightened body back to the initial position until the subjects chest or chin touches the floor. Some different forms for the push-up include: wall-push-up, wide push-up, incline/ decline push-up, knee push-up and clapping push-up.


The subject starts the sit-up movement lying down with their back on the floor, bending their knees and having the soles of both feet in contact with the floor. The first phase of the movement is to to lift the shoulders off the floor and to bring the chest towards the knees by tightening the abdominal muscles. The final phase is to gradually lower the back to starting position. Sit-ups target the abdominal and the hip flexors. Some different forms for the sit up include cross-legged sit-up, bicycle sit-up, elbow to knee situp and V-sit up.


Similar to the sit-up movement, crunches start off with the subject in a supine position with their knees bent and their feet flat on the ground. Unlike the sit-up, the lower back remains intact with the floor while the upper torso is lifted as high as possible. This eliminates the movement of the hip flexors and instead, isolates the abdominal muscles. Some different forms of crunches include: bicycle crunch, V crunch, and reverse crunch.


This movement focuses on strengthening the quadriceps, the gluteus and the hamstrings. It is performed by having the subject starting off in a standing position, followed by bringing one leg forward and flexing the rear leg until its almost in contact with the floor, maintaining a straight back and having the chest out is important. Return to the initial standing position by pushing off the forward foot and extending the hip. Repeat by alternating the movement with the opposite leg. Some different forms of lunges include: walking lunges, reverse lunges and side lunges.

Jumping Jacks

Jumping jacks, also known as star jumps in the UK, is a whole body aerobic exercise. The subject starts with their feet together and hands to the side of the body, followed by executing a jump to a position with the legs spread out and arms and hands raised over head. Another jump is executed soon after landing the first jump to the initial position with feet together and hands to the side of the body. Some different forms of jumping jacks include: power jumping jacks.


The plank is an isometric exercise that targets the abdominal muscles. The subject starts off lying on the floor in a prone position, forearms in contact with the floor, elbows positioned under the shoulder and their legs together. The plank is executed by having the subject raising the body and maintaining a straight spine and holding the position for a prolonged period of time. Some different forms of planks include: side plank, plank twists and plank with leg raised,

Flutter Kick

The flutter kick, also known as the lying scissor kick, is a kicking movement used to strengthen hip flexors, abdominal muscles and the legs. This calisthenics movement starts off with the person lying in supine position with their hands under their buttocks to support the pelvis, and their feet and head slightly off the ground. Maintaining a straight leg and keeping their toes pointing away from the body, the subject will alternate lifting legs to a 45-degree angle. Some different forms of flutter kicks include standing leg lift or sitting leg lift.

Plyometric Jumps

Plyometric jumps target the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves. Having the feet shoulder width apart, bend at the knees until at 90 degrees. Swing the arms forward and maintain a forward head position. Push off the ball of the feet and straighten the legs once in the air. After feet make contact with the ground, absorb the force through the feet and the legs and repeat. Some different forms of plyometric jumps include squat jump, knee tuck jump and squat to straight legged jump.

Foundational skill

Calisthenics forms basic habits that will transfer to other sports and life long physical motor skills. It helps with strength, postural stability and also flexibility. Eg. Getting out of a chair correctly. Being able to develop body awareness is critical at a young age and will prevent injury in later years. When teaching calisthenics, teachers should give feedback on the children’s limb positions while demonstrating the moves themselves. It can be used for warm-ups and even more complex conditioning exercises. (Tiwari, Rathor, Singh, 2007)


Broadcast Group Calisthenics in China

With the aim to prevent inactive lifestyle and to promote the health, physical fitness, and mental well being of more than 260 million elementary and middle school students in China, the Ministry of Education introduced the National Broadcast Group Calisthenics as part of a school-based physical activity intervention project (Cui et al., 2011). Broadcast group calisthenics is an economical and effective form of physical conditioning exercise consisting of mostly low-impact motions and movements, performed as a group in time to rhythmical music. The exercises are easy to follow and are not strenuous, require no equipment and focuses on movement of different muscle groups through flexion and extension, and most importantly it is enjoyable for the participants (Cui et al., 2011). A routine lasts 4 minutes and 30 seconds and is divided into eight segments. The participant’s heart rate and energy output is designed to peak in the 7th segment and decrease in the last (Cui et al., 2011). Starting from the upper portion, and progressing downwards, each segment is aimed to move different areas of the body.

Radio Calisthenics in Japan

Radio Calisthenics is a calisthenics routine broadcasted on public radio and TV at 6:30 a.m. daily by the Japan Broadcasting Corporation. It can be done and enjoyed despite age, from children to elderlies, which incorporates dynamic stretching, light body movements and breathing techniques synchronized to the music played. Radio Calisthenics is aired in the morning to give an awakening effect to participants by activating nerve functions and improve blood circulation to the muscle and brain (Fukue, 2009).

Radio calisthenics is integrated in the curriculum of physical education classes in schools and annual sports day as a warm up routine. It is believed to create a sense of unity, build morale, raise energy levels and encourage good health (Jocelyn, 1996).

FIT or Fundamental Integrative Training

This approach to physical education for children combines calisthenics with fitness such as aerobic and conditioning. This form is used to promote lifelong physical activity for children and help physically inactive children to be more confident in their ability to execute exercises. FIT exercises are five minute warm-ups of 8-10 stations that emphasize basic movements. Some exercises include lunges, squats, lateral shuffling and jogging. FIT lesson plans combine calisthenic workouts such as back hyper-extensions or superman raises and push-ups such as ABC pushups in combination with strength and conditioning workouts such as battling rope waves. The point of FIT is to get children active and to be aware of their bodies in space. Calisthenic exercises such as planks and plyometric jumps are progressed into advanced exercises for children such as fundamental FIT movements like inch worms and kangaroo hops. Each station last 30 seconds (Bukowsky, Faigenbaum, Myer, 2014)

Calisthenics and Child Movement Experiences

Learning basic movements will help children become more confident in their abilities and also more active in their early years. In turn, this may lead to being more confident in exercising in their teens and adult years. Calisthenics is used to get people active and it can be done by a beginner or the more advanced athlete. Children can benefit from the strength and endurance development with a very low chance of injury. This approach to fitness can be done anywhere which may help the most self-conscious of children be more confident and willing to keep exercise as a staple for adult life. (Bukowsky et al., 2014) It is imperative for children to stay active and lead a healthy life by partaking in physical activity on a regular basis. There are variations in studies on how much school-aged youth should be participating in daily physical activity, 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity is recommended (Strong, 2005). These activities should be developmentally appropriate, enjoyable and varied (Strong, 2005). Considering the lack of need in equipment or apparatus, large variation of movements, and its benefits on an individuals motor system, implementing calisthenics exercises in physical education classes is highly recommended.


Baxter, R. B., Moore, J. M., Pendergrass, T. P., Crowder, T. C., & Lynch, S. L. (2003). Improvement in sit-up performance associated with 2 different training regimens. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 33(1), 40-47. Retrieved from

Bukowsky, M., Faigenbaum, A., & Myer, G. (2014). FUNdamental Integrative Training (FIT) for Physical Education. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 85(6), 23-30. Retrieved from

Cui, Y. C., Liu, X. L., Liu, X. L., Wu, X. L., Zhao, M. Z., Ren, J. R., Yang, J. Y., & Gu, F. (2011). Evaluation of the exercise workload of broadcast calisthenics for children and adolescents aged 11–17 years.Journal of Sports Sciences, 29(4), 363-371. Retrieved from

Dishman, R. D. (1995). The role of physical activity in fitness and health. Quest, 47(3), 362-385. Retrieved from

Fukue, N. (2009, July 22). Wake up, hike out, tune in, move it. The Japan Times. Retrieved from

Harrison, J. (2010). Bodyweight Training: A Return to Basics. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 32(2), 52

Jocelyn, Y. J. (1996). Japanese radio exercises. revised.Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education , Retrieved from Radio exercises&id=ED418027

Kaya, D. K., Duzgun, I. D., Baltaci, G. B., Karacan, S. K., & Colakoglu, F. C. (2012). Effects of calisthenics and pilates exercises on coordination and proprioception in adult women: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, (21), 235-243. Retrieved from JSR_20110030 (235_243).pdf

Kuanrou, H., Xuexin, M., & Xin, W. (2011). The Historical Development of Chinese Group Callisthenics. International Journal Of The History Of Sport, 28(7), 1072-1085. doi:10.1080/09523367.2011.563643

Kumaraswamy, S. K., & Surender , Y. S. (2013). Physical education programmes in schools at pre-primary and primary stages . Asian Journal of Physical Education & Computer Science in Sports, 9(1), 85-86. Retrieved from

Strong, W. B. S. (2005). Evidence based physical activity for school-age youth. The Journal of Pediatrics,146(6), 732-737. Retrieved from

Tiwari, S., Rathor, C., & Singh, Y. (2007). Class Management: Physical Activities. In Teaching Methods of Physical Education (pp. 209-210). New Delhi: APH Publishing Cooperation.