The Best No-Equipment Upper Body Exercises For Children


My father had an old saying that he used when he and I would watch boxing on TV. He would often comment that certain fighters looked like “they couldn’t punch their way out of a wet paper bag.” While obviously a bit of hyperbole, the overall concept was immediately clear - those fighters demonstrated an obvious lack of upper body strength and power.


When we’re working with children, addressing the issue of upper body strength poses many challenges. Most exercise equipment is nowhere near scaled for children’s sizes, with bars too thick for their hands and seats too high or too low for their height. Of course, there is also the ongoing debate as to whether children under certain ages should engage in any form of weight lifting at all. What’s a teacher or coach to do?

David Varnes was born in 1978 in Ventura County, California. Growing up, there were a few constants in his life: a love of learning, playing sports, and being the "fat kid" in his class. That all changed in 1991 when his family moved to Camden, South Carolina. There, after getting run over by a car, he started his life long love of fitness and weightlifting. Using equipment best described as bare-bones, David rebuilt a shattered leg and body into a two-sport athlete, setting school records in...Read more