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You've heard it before: Lifting weights and doing exercises like push-ups and planks will help you get (and stay) slim and build muscle. Turns out the same holds true for kids. In a recent study, teens who completed a three-month training program lost fat and got up to 50% stronger. Young people who pump iron have greater bone density and are less likely to suffer from injuries. What's more, these exercises are easy to do at home with your kids. All you need is a stability ball and 5- to 10-pound dumbbells. (As you and your workout partners get stronger, you may need heavier weights.) Three times a week, try this plan developed by Debi Pillarella, M.Ed., an American Council on Exercise (ACE) spokesperson who specializes in family fitness.
Lie facedown resting on forearms. Push up onto toes, keeping the body as straight as possible. Draw the belly button toward the spine, squeeze your glutes and abs and hold for 30 seconds. Rest one minute, then do the move again. (Repeat once.) As you get stronger, tack on more time in 15-second increments.
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Sit on a stability ball with your legs slightly wider than hip-width apart. Slowly walk feet out until the ball supports shoulders and head; shoulders, hips and knees should be in a straight line. Hold a weight in each hand with arms bent to 90 degrees, and slowly lift your arms above your chest. Exhale and gradually raise them back to the starting position. Complete 8 to 15 more.
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Stand about 6 inches in front of a chair with feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointed forward. With weight on the heels, inhale and slowly lower the hips until the butt taps the chair. Exhale, straighten legs and come up to starting position. Do this 8 to 15 times. Once you can whip through 15 reps, hold dumbbells in your hands and rest them on your shoulders.
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Get down on hands and knees, with hands slightly wider than shoulders and knees aligned with hips. Keeping abs tight, inhale and bend elbows to 90 degrees. Exhale, push up and straighten arms. Repeat 8 to 15 times. When 15 reps feels easy, switch to traditional push-ups, with your legs fully extended and weight supported on your toes.
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Lie stomach-down on the stability ball with legs straight, toes planted on the floor and arms hanging in front of the ball with a dumbbell in each hand. Raise elbows toward the ceiling until the weights align with the chest. Lower arms and repeat 8 to 15 times.
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Stand with feet apart, knees slightly bent. Press elbows into torso and rest weights on the front of the thigh. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with an underhand grip. Inhale, bend elbows and curl weights to shoulder. Then, exhale and slowly return to the starting position. Do this 8 to 15 times.
Originally published in the October 17, 2011, issue of Family Circle magazine.
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