Weight training is not usually the first thing that comes to mind for pediatric therapy but its a big part of it. We are big believers in strength/weight training for our kiddos to help improve their function. It helps them to more efficiently activate their muscles, improves muscle isolation, helps movement to be more efficient and cuts down on compensatory movements and strategies. For some of the kiddos we see in the clinic based setting we are able to use the Universal Exercise Unit to help promote strengthening, however not all of our kids come to the clinic or are able to use this piece of equipment so I have had to get creative on ways to strengthen that is still fun for the kids. Here are some of the exercises we do for strengthening:
Leg Press – To get a good leg press I like to use resistance tubing. I have bought one that has handles already built in that work great. I have the child lie down on the ground and wrap the tubing around a stable object at their head (a table leg can often work). I then put their foot in the handles and I control their leg while they push out (making sure that they don’t hyper extend their knees). Its easiest to do this one leg at a time.
Hip and Knee Flexion – To do this one, I just reverse the above exercise. I have them lie down with their feet facing towards the table and put one foot in the handle (the band should be resting taut) and then have them pull their foot up by bending their hip and knee. Again, make sure you control their leg to avoid and torque at the knee.
Scapular (shoulder blade) Retraction – Take the same resistance tubing as above and tie it around a door knob (make sure the door is shut). You can also hold it for them (like in the pictures). Then have the child stand (or sit) across from it. They are going to hold one end in each hand and slowly pull back while squeezing their shoulder blades together. Make sure they keep their elbows bent at approximately 90 degrees the whole time. Once they have pulled back, then they are going to slowly bring their arms forward again.Their body should be staying still during all of this, and the only movement should be from the arms and shoulders.
Weighted Squats – You can use a weighted ball, heavy cans of food, a bag of flour, or anything else that your child may consider to be heavy. Have them squat down to pick it up off the floor and then stand up and place it in your hands or on a table or other surface. If you’re using a ball, my favorite way to get them to do more is to have them give it to me and then pretend I drop it and ask them to pick it up again. They generally think its funny that I can’t hold onto it!