Fitness: All Guides

Fitness: My Muscles

girl holding track shoesFitness is fun! It’s a great way to improve your overall health and wellness. Through exercise, you may even find you feel less stressed and more relaxed. You’ll have more energy during the day too! However, the number one way to make exercise a part of your life is by participating in activities you find fun and enjoyable. It may help to exercise with a friend or family member.

Exercise Safety

It’s important to consult your health care provider before starting any exercise program. The exercises featured in the strength training fitness guide here are for teens that are in good health and have no physical restrictions. Be sure to listen to your body. Exercise should feel like you are working out (your breathing should be heavier than normal and you might break a sweat), but not like you are injuring your body. If a particular exercise or stretch hurts, STOP immediately. You may be performing the exercise incorrectly, working beyond your limits, or injuring your body. If you feel dizzy, have trouble breathing, or experience any pain while you are exercising, STOP immediately, and talk to your health care provider about next steps.

Your body needs energy (food and fluids) to perform at its best. Our sports nutrition guide will help you understand what you should eat and drink before, during and after exercising so that you will feel energized, build and repair muscles, and have a safe workout.

My Muscles

Understanding the names and locations of your muscles is important when you’re exercising. If you know the specific muscles you’re using, it is easier to focus on each aspect of your workout. This helps you to be more efficient and to prevent injuries.

How to use My Muscles:

  • Learn the names of your muscles and where they are located on the body by looking at the pictures below.

Look at both views: front (anterior) and back (posterior)

Fitness: Stretches


Stretching is a way to get your body ready for exercise, improve flexibility, and increase your range of motion. Proper stretching will help your muscles feel relaxed and prevent muscle related injuries. Try the following static stretches (meaning that you will not be moving around for the stretch) demonstrated by our Peer Leaders. For each stretch, hold for 30 seconds at a time. Make sure you go into the stretch slowly and hold the position when you start to feel some tension in the muscle. If you feel pain, stop immediately- this means you may be stretching the muscle too far. Check out the My Muscles guide to see which muscles you will be stretching using these exercises.

Other great ways to stretch include dynamic stretching (a movement-based type of stretching) and foam rolling using a foam roller!

Upper Body Stretches

Lower Body Stretches

Fitness: Strength Training Exercises

girl lifting weights

Strength training can get a bad rap, especially for people who are worried about becoming “too muscular”. They avoid strength training altogether, but what a lot of people don’t realize is how important it is because of all the benefits. Strength training can improve your metabolism (the way your body uses energy from food), reduce the risk of future osteoporosis (weak bones), and help the body release stress. Try the workouts below for your upper, middle (core), and lower body!

Helpful Tips:

  • While doing these exercises, focus on your breathing (deep inhales and exhales)
  • Check out the My Muscles guide as a reference for what muscles you are working.


Workout 1: Lower Body

How to: Start with the first exercise on this list. Perform the exercise 8-12 times (if you are a beginner, aim to complete 5 repetitions of the exercise). Once you finish, move on to the next exercise, until you finish all 6 exercises. Perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions with good form.


Workout 2: Upper Body

How to: Start with the first exercise on this list. Perform the exercise 8-12 times (if you are a beginner, aim to complete 5 repetitions of the exercise). Once you finish, move on to the next exercise, until you finish all 6 exercises. Perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions with good form.


Workout 3: Core (Middle body)

How to: Start with the first exercise on this list. Perform the exercise 10-15 times OR hold the position for 20-30 seconds. Once you finish, move on to the next exercise, until you finish all 6 exercises.  Perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions with good form.

Fitness: Cardiovascular Movement

Cardiovascular exercise, often referred to simply as “cardio” is a form of aerobic exercise that gets your heart beating faster than usual and your lungs breathing heavier than normal. The other types of fitness, stretching and strength training, are important to incorporate along with cardio. All three will benefit your body and mind in both the short and long term. Cardiovascular exercise is specifically designed to make your heart and lungs stronger.

How much cardio do I need?

There is no specific amount of cardio recommended each day. However, it is recommended that teens get around 60 minutes of physical activity each day. That should include some cardio, some strength training, and some stretching. This doesn’t have to be 60 minutes of what you might consider “exercise.” Rather, the recommendation is that you move, stretch, or strengthen your body each day for a total of around an hour. The cardio portion of your physical activity can include time spent walking as long as it is fast enough to get your heart rate increasing. If you aren’t able to do an hour each day remember that any amount of activity will benefit your mind and body. Start with what feels comfortable and try to slowly increase the amount of time you move your body.

Do I have to play a sport or have a gym membership to do cardio?

Being on a sports team is a fun, social way to move your body. If there is an activity you enjoy, such as soccer, running, swimming, fencing, rowing, tennis, or volleyball, consider joining a school or community league. A gym can also be a fun, social place to exercise whether it’s using the treadmill or stationary bike next to a friend or taking a group fitness class such as Zumba, water aerobics, or kick boxing.

However, there are also plenty of other ways to be active that don’t involve team sports or going to a gym. Some of these include:

  • Walking quickly, jogging, or running: consider listening to upbeat music and walking to the beat
  • Biking or roller skating: make sure to wear protective gear such as a helmet
  • Dancing: you can find free instructional videos online
  • Stair climbing: if your house, apartment, school, or other local buildings have stairs inside or out you could use them, sort of like a Stair Master but using actual stairs!
  • Hiking: if there are large hills or mountains nearby, get out in nature while getting your blood pumping
  • Movement games or VR: many game consoles now make games that encourage movement. There are even virtual reality (VR) fitness programs that immerse you into different settings while you work out.
  • Pickup games: if you don’t want to join an organized team but enjoy shooting hoops or kicking around a ball, ask a few friends to join you in the park or find others already there who are looking for activity partners.
  • Circuit training: activities such as jumping jacks, mountain climbers, and burpees can be done anywhere. Sometimes called HIIT (high intensity interval training), you can find guides online for how to do these with no equipment needed.

Will cardio help me lose weight?

Many people think that exercise should be done in order to “burn off” calories from food and try to achieve weight loss. While it can be helpful for maintaining weight, studies generally show that a body adapts to exercise and makes up for the calories burned by eating more. But there are so many health benefits to movement beyond a person’s weight. Cardiovascular activity is called that because it helps to strengthen and therefore benefit the cardiovascular system, aka the heart. It is also beneficial for the respiratory system (lungs), and for improving sleep, keeping you mentally sharp, improving mood, and preventing some diseases.

However you choose to be active, studies have shown that you’re much more likely to stick with a fitness routine if you find joy in the movement, rather than doing it because someone else wants you to or in order to lose weight. Think about how you feel when exercising, and if it calls to mind feelings of guilt or shame, or if you feel that you are exercising compulsively and it is getting in the way of your everyday life, it might be time to reexamine your goals and how you might best achieve them with a different activity.