Coach Campbell’s Tips For Strength Training Using Household Items

strength training

As a coach, sometimes I have to educate new members of the team who are hesitant to lift weights as part of their strength training. They are afraid that lifting weights will stunt their growth or make them so horribly muscle-bound that they will lose flexibility.

Both concerns are unfounded and simply not true. Research strongly suggests that resistance training for youth is beneficial, and that most children who stick with a well-supervised weight lifting program can safely increase their strength.[1]

Now, one major obstacle to a consistent strength training program is access to weights. None of my athletes have a weight set at home, and few can afford the monthly fees public gyms charge.

The solution to this problem is to teach them how to create their own resistance weight training sets at home using readily available and safe household items. For example:

  • Make an inexpensive kettle bell (similar to a dumbbell) using a plastic milk or juice jug.

Use water to fill a clean plastic 1/2 gallon jug (be sure to use a jug with a handle). One cup of water weighs approximately 1/2 pound: so, for example, a two-pound weight would need 4 cups (1 quart) of water in the jug.

  • Use canned goods that fit in your hands as simple hand weights. Most canned vegetables come in 8 – 16 ounce sizes.

That’s it.  You have all that you need to start training.

Some good beginner exercises

Before you begin lifting any weights, be sure to stretch and warm up properly first.

Also, when lifting weights for the first time, most beginners tend to hold their breath. You should always remember to breathe while lifting, so that you have enough oxygen to perform the activity. When supervising exercising children, MAKE SURE the child inhales while lifting the weight, and exhales while returning to “rest” position.

Bicep curls: With the weight in the hand, PALMS UP, stand with feet shoulder width apart, back straight, and head up.  Slowly bring the weight up to your chest, making sure to keep the elbow still.  Slowly lower the weight until your arm is straight again.

Forearm curls: Same as the bicep curl above, except that the PALMS are DOWN.  Curling the weight with the palms facing downward moves the focus away from the bicep and to the forearm.

Both curls can be performed one arm at a time, or by alternating each arm, but you will need one weight in each hand if you choose to alternate.

Shoulder raises (shrugs): Hold one weight in each hand, hang your arms comfortably at your sides, and assume the same stance as for curling.  Keeping your head up, pull your shoulders up and try to touch your ears with them….you won’t be able to, of course, but imagining that you can allows you to maintain proper technique and posture. Hold your shoulders up for two seconds, and then lower the weights back to the starting position.

There are many, many more exercises you and your child can do together with these easy homemade weights, but for now let’s keep it simple, safe, and,  most importantly, FUN!  So keep the repetitions to a low number:  do no more than 3 sets of 10 repetitions for each exercise.   Doing this 3 times a week will make a difference.

Some important strength training guidelines for children

7 and under: Introduce the child to basic exercises using little or no resistance.  The intent is to develop in the child the idea of a training session and to teach proper exercise.

8 to 10 years old: You can gradually increase the number of exercises while maintaining a focus on proper technique for all exercises.  It is important to not let the child develop any bad lifting  habits such as rocking or jerking the weights, which may result in a muscle strain.[2]

Remember, lifting weights can be a lifelong activity beneficial to strength, flexibility, good posture and strong self esteem.  Developing good habits and techniques at a young age is a great way to start a lifetime of healthy habits.

Questions?  E-mail me at

[1] “Resistance Training for Youth,” by Dr. Carla B. Sottovia, 7 October 2008

[2] Rick Philbin, MED, ATC, CSCS, National Board Member, Diabetes, Exercise & Sports Association
National Presenter, Children with Diabetes, Northeast Regional Manager, Animas Corporation, November 2004


1 million in Acceleration Grants to be Awarded to Schools Across the US

I was asked to make my readers aware of the following grants program for schools.

grants ChildObesity180’s Active Schools Acceleration Project (ASAP has announced it is awarding $1 million in Acceleration Grants to give schools across America everything they need to become active schools.

 Why is physical activity programming important? It’s simple. Active schools do better. ASAP’s Innovation Competition last year discovered incredibly innovative physical activity programs happening in schools all across the country spearheaded by grassroots champions – parents, teachers, and advocates passionate about children’s health.

 Now these fun, flexible, and creative programs are ready to share with the nation. ASAP is awarding 1,000 elementary schools each with $1,000 Acceleration Grants to kick start a new program and realize all the benefits of being an active school. That’s $1 million to get America’s kids moving again in school. You choose the best match for your school:

 BOKS – A 40-minute before-school physical activity program featuring structured group play with games and drills emphasizing aerobic exertion.

 100 Mile Club – A walk/run program where students run 100 miles over the course of the school year, logging miles and earning prizes along the way.

 Just Move – A classroom-based activity program featuring an academically integrated curriculum of in-class movement breaks.

 Winning schools will receive everything they need to get started: $1,000 in seed funding, a game plan to follow and a support network of champions across the country embarking on the same path.

 Are you ready to be a champion for this cause? Are you ready to make a difference in your school? Is your school ready to join the movement?

 Teachers, parents, coaches and all school wellness champions are encouraged to apply today! Head to to learn more and get started.

Active Schools Acceleration Project is an initiative of ChildObesity180,an organization that uses evidence-based research, multi-sector leadership and an integrated portfolio of initiatives that together accelerate systemic change to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic. Learn more at

More about ASAP:

 Active Schools Acceleration Project (ASAP) is part of a new breed of entrepreneurial non-profit that is increasing quality physical activity in schools. We do this by identifying grassroots champions, developing replicable models, and bringing the funding and resources to bring physical activity programs back to schools.

 ASAP programs are simple, unintimidating and flexible enough to accommodate the unique environment and challenges of each individual school. ASAP scoured the nation to find programs pioneered by everyday people who were inspired to say “Yes we can” and now the initiative is empowering and funding new schools to adopt these proven models that are fun, creative and can make a difference.

 ASAP gives schools everything they need to jump start new programs; seed money and simple programs in their schools to get kids moving. It makes it easy and accessible for teachers, parents and community partners to make a difference in schools across the country.  Recipients of ASAP grants are recognized within the region as innovative leaders. ASAP schools are trailblazers demonstrating that fun physical activity is a fundamental component of what defines a quality education and a great school.





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