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CrossFit for kids?

No, five-year-olds are not mastering Olympic lifts. But they are doing a form of CrossFit designed to build confidence and fitness-loving habits.
A kids class at CrossFit Gantry in Long Island City. (Photo: CrossFit Gantry)
A kids class at CrossFit Gantry in Long Island City. (Photo: CrossFit Gantry)


The newest converts to fitness phenomenon CrossFit are not the muscled guys (or the bad-ass women) you’d expect. They’re kids.

While the official CrossFit Kids program was founded almost 10 years ago on the West Coast, it’s picked up a lot of steam in New York this year. Coach Michele Kelber is now teaching the program at CrossFit Virtuousity, CrossFit Gantry, and Brooklyn CrossFit Columbia Street and is kicking off classes at CrossFit Queens in November. EVF Performance’s kids program is now in full (kettlebell) swing, too.

Kelber says part of the recent growth can be attributed simply to CrossFit’s overall growth and movement towards the mainstream. After all, its expansion to kids feels a lot like yoga’s a few years ago. But it may also have to do with the fact that CrossFit’s dedicated adults are growing up. “Many of the original athletes are now parents,” she says.

Michele Kelber
CrossFit Kids coach Michele Kelber with one of her dedicated students.

So are we talking about toddlers mastering Olympic lifts? In short, no. Kelber emphasizes that CrossFit kids is not a scaled-down version of the original, it’s a totally different program. Kids are grouped by age (3–5, 6–12, and 13–18), and the youngest don’t ever lift a thing.

“I teach foundational movements, but in a way that’s safe and that they can understand,” she explains. “With the 3–5 year-olds, I don’t talk about the mechanics of a squat, I’m like ‘How does a frog sit?’ It’s all about games and movement and them just having fun.”

And beyond having a good time, Kelber says CrossFit Kids presents little ones “with an opportunity to succeed every time they come in,” which helps build confidence, self-esteem, and leadership skills. “We’re also teaching them to have a lifelong love of fitness,” something that means a lot when childhood obesity is such a huge national issue.

The cutest part? “They love the movements that we as adults hate, like burpees,” Kelber says. If they can ingrain that love in them long-term, they’ll certainly be ahead of the rest of us. —Lisa Elaine Held