PARENTS
10/14/2013 07:31 pm ET | Updated Oct 02, 2014

CrossFit For Kids Expands The Fitness Craze To The Toddler Set

Courtesy of CrossFit Gantry

There are many questions a parent might ask about CrossFit: Should you do it while pregnant or not? Is it supposed to hurt this much? Is it really that much harder than wrangling toddlers? One question we didn't expect to hear is whether you should sign up your kids.

And yet, now kids as young as 3 in can start training. At CrossFit gantry in Long Island City, New York, they have special classes, just for children.

While the program has gained negative attention, with media outlets questioning such an "extreme" workouts for kids, Michele Kelber, a representative for the gym, clarifies that the kids' program is not a scaled down version of the regular version. It's designed especially for young athletes.

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CrossFit Kids classes are constantly varied, Kelber explains. "In one day we can do forward rolls, box jumps, crab walks and squats," she wrote in an email to The Huffington Post.

The program teaches kids physical lessons that are applicable to real world. "So for instance you and I would pick up a backpack by dead lifting, i.e.: with our feet about hip distance apart, bending at the knees, chest up and use our legs to lift, not our backs. Typically a backpack is a much bigger object for a child to pick up, so we teach them to sumo dead lift, i.e.: feet wide apart like a sumo wrestler, then they set up like a gorilla, chest up, knees bent and pick the backpack up!," Kelber writes.

The similarities to regular CrossFit are found outside of the physical aspects. Both programs are designed to build participants' self-esteem, leadership skills and character. "It's similar to adult CrossFit because everyone walks away with a sense of pride and accomplishment after a class. Learning a new skill and exceeding your own expectation is the same for kids and adults, it fills you with pride," Kelber writes.

But still, not all are convinced. On XOJane, Laura Barcella writes, "There are so many sports, games and fun outdoor activities kids have access to at that age; why not encourage them to try play-based exercise instead of learning the art of the perfect squat?"

Lisa Fogarty over on The Stir echoes that sentiment writing, "Simply allowing them to run around like maniacs in the grass, throw and catch balls, and make it across the monkey bars at the playground seems far healthier to me than bringing them to a CrossFit and introducing them to the no pain, no gain mentality of adult workouts."

But according to NPR, many sports medicine specialists believe that strength training is beneficial for kids. Writer Lauren Silverman cites a recent change to AAP's recommendation about kids weightlifting -- previously they advised against it, but have now determined light weightlifting is OK after age 8. (In CrossFit Gantry's kids' program, weights are not used. Children are taught traditional movements but perform them without weights.)

Kelber mentioned another invaluable benefit. "I once asked a child do you play any sports, he said, 'I play my iPad.' It's break time away from a screen," she wrote.

CrossFit Kids Program

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