Cross-Generational Workout: Fitting Every Generation

cross generational

Cross-Generational Workout for Father’s Day

What better way to celebrate Father’s Day than with a father/son or father/daughter strength workout? Not only is it a great way to reinforce positive lifestyle choices, but it’s also an opportunity to remind Dad that his family wants him to be around and in good health for many years to come.

Give this cross-generational workout a try…

Designing a cross-generational workout isn’t hard, even if those involved have a wide age spread and very different levels of fitness.  The key is utilizing the principle of regression to dial back the difficulty of an exercise, or the principle of progression to increase the challenge, as appropriate.

Our workout consists of five classic exercises, all of which can be adapted to varying fitness levels and to a home or gym environment.

Centering on whole-body movements, they add up to a complete workout that covers all four exercise categories: push, pull, hip-hinge, and core. Except for the plank, which is a timed exercise, try for three sets per exercise, with 8 to 15 repetitions in each set. If one of you doesn’t reach that goal, don’t worry!

On an occasion like this one, having a good time together is more important than testing your mettle.

The Plank

Cross-Generational Workout: Fitting Every Generation

A powerful, all-around core strengthener, the plank should be in everyone’s exercise repertoire but is often done with incorrect form.

The key is to keep your spine and neck in a straight line, so you generate muscular tension throughout your core – don’t stick your butt in the air or let your midsection sag!  Squeeze those glutes and abs as you hold the position, breathing normally with deep, controlled breaths the entire time. Try to hold the position for at least 20 seconds, working up to 60 seconds or more if you can.

Regression: Put your elbows on a bench so you are at an angle of 45 degrees or so to the floor.  Alternatively, the plank is easier if you do it from your knees, but be sure your hips come forward enough to establish that straight line from your neck through your spine.

Progression:  Use a bench, exercise ball, or Bosu to elevate your feet. The higher your feet, the greater the challenge.


Cross-Generational Workout: Fitting Every Generation

Squat exercises are essential for preserving mobility and providing muscular support for knee joints as the years go by.

Start with your feet parallel and at hip-width. Then hinge at the hip joints and push your glutes out in a sitting motion, as though you were sitting down in a chair. To get the most from this exercise, keep your sternum lifted as you move and maintain your natural lumbar curve. To avoid strain, be sure you don’t let your knees move inward!  Keep them pointed straight ahead throughout.

When done with a full range, the squat’s endpoint is when your knees create a 90-degree angle and your thighs are parallel to the floor.  But it doesn’t really matter how low you can squat.  Just go as far as you can while still keeping your chest lifted.

Regression:  If you can only lower your hips a few inches, it’s okay! Just keep working at it over time.  You can also use an exercise ball against a wall to add stability as you squat.  Start with the ball at your lower back and let it roll upward as your hips move down.

Progression: Add weight by holding dumbbells or a kettlebell, or putting barbells across your shoulders.  But don’t go overboard!  To avoid back or other injuries, increase weight gradually and be especially strict about your form.

Lat Pulldown

Cross-Generational Workout: Fitting Every Generation

This movement works multiple upper-body muscle groups, especially the back.

It’s the only one of our five basic exercises that use a gym machine, but you can get around that by using a resistance band over a high bar at a playground or a sturdy bracket at home (a metal garage door frame could do nicely).

Use a grip a little wider than your shoulders, and keep your chest lifted and your elbows pointed down as you pull. Focus attention on pulling from the “lat” muscles just below your armpits, rather than from your arms or shoulders.  Pull the bar to your chest—never below your chest or behind your neck.

Regression:  Use one of the lightest weights or resistance bands.

Progression:  Increase the weight or try a variation, such as the single-arm dumbbell row or inverted row. Advanced gym warriors can substitute an assisted or unassisted pull-up since it’s a similar motion.


Cross-Generational Workout: Fitting Every Generation

The lunge is great for building lower body strength and flexibility, as well as overall balance and coordination.

The goal is to lower your back knee as close to the floor as you can without touching it. As you do, keep your upper body straight, your chin up, and make sure your front knee stays in line with your ankle. Push through the heel of your forward leg as you push up to the starting position.

Regression:  Hold on to a heavy chair, bar, or railing to support some of your weight as you lunge.

Progression:  Hold dumbbells in each hand. Alternatively, do a walking lunge: after returning to the starting position, take a step forward and lunge with the other leg.


Cross-Generational Workout: Fitting Every Generation

When properly done, the push-up increases overall functional strength and is especially beneficial for core, chest, and shoulder muscles.  As with the plank, one key is to avoid any sagging of your midsection. Keep your entire body in a straight line from your toes to your head, so your glutes and abs are fully engaged. Start with your arms straight and your hands a little more than shoulder-width apart.

Another key to this exercise is achieving full range without letting gravity take over. Lower your body to the point where your shoulder blades come together, then push up. Breathing is important, too: inhale as you descend, and exhale as you push up.

Regression:  Dial down the difficulty by pushing from a bar, railing, or bench—even the wall, if you’re a beginner. Gradually increase the challenge by moving your feet farther from your hands.  You can also make the movement easier by starting from a kneeling position, keeping all the elements of good form in mind.

Progression:  Elevate your feet on a bench, exercise ball, or Bosu. The higher your feet, the more the effort will be focused on your upper chest. Another approach is to add instability by placing your hands on a medicine ball, exercise ball, or Bosu held with the flat side facing you.


Creating a workout to improve your health at any age is doable with regression.

Grab a couple of family members and friends and get started today with this cross-generational workout. Have fun, get healthy and improve your life at any age!

Illustrations by David Preiss

James P. Owen is an author and speaker whose most recent book is Just Move! A New Approach to Fitness After 50. Being published by National Geographic, the book is available for pre-order at and, and will be in bookstores nationwide this September.
James Owen
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Cross-Generational Workout: Fitting Every Generation