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    Educational Philosophy, Home Education

    Swedish Drill How-To (Part 4)

    October 26, 2016 by Dawn Duran

    I hope you are all successfully incorporating Swedish Drill into your homeschool day. In this post I will share the final four exercises your students must learn to be able to perform the two complete drill routines scripted in this document.

    The final four exercises and our Beginning Swedish Drill routines are complete! Videos are complemented by free downloadable instructions!

    The first movement I’ll discuss falls into the category of Arch Flexion, but this may generate an inappropriate picture of the goal of this exercise. While the movement is called Trunk Bending Forward it does not actually involve flexion of the spine; in fact, it is intended that the trunk/spine should remain stabilized in a neutral position throughout the movement. This movement, therefore, can be classified as an abdominal exercise due to the stabilization requirement and it is also valuable as a dynamic stretch for the hamstrings as well as challenging balance.

    The ability to perform this exercise successfully involves many factors, and it may not be within reach of younger children or for those who don’t have an excellent sense of body awareness. I say this so that you do not become discouraged if your child does not seem to “get” this exercise and is unable to perform it well (there’s a reason I saved this for my final post in this series 🙂 ). Just put it away for now and bring it back at a later time when they are more developmentally appropriate to master this movement. Alternatively, you could keep it in your practice time indefinitely and continue to address the elements in need of mastery one by one (i.e., trunk stabilization initially followed by maintaining a neutral spine during movements that initiate from the hips, etc.).

    Let’s have a visual example, shall we? My newly turned 6 year old is not capable of performing this exercise appropriately, as demonstrated by the video below. My response is to table it for now, as my oldest wasn’t able to perform this well merely a few months ago — and he is nearly 9 years old.

    Pure adorableness aside, do you see how his spine flexes and his head drops down when he is performing this movement? Do you notice how his hips shoot backward in an effort to counterbalance the weight of his trunk as it bends forward? You don’t want to see this to the extreme degree Lucas demonstrates here. These errors are entirely developmentally appropriate for him at his young age and merely mean he is not ready for this exercise at this time. No harm in keeping it in your toolbox for a later date. On the other hand, Gabriel still had some issues when we first attempted this movement due to the balance challenge it involves, which you can see evidenced in this video.

    Notice how he thrusts his derriere 🙂 back before he attempts to demonstrate the movement? You don’t want to see that. He is extending the spine to do this, which significantly increases compressive forces in the spine. The goal is to keep a neutral spine throughout. In part this is a reaction to his efforts to keep the forward movement of his trunk counterbalanced. You’ll notice, too, that he doesn’t bend forward very far. That is totally okay! In fact, if he did attempt to bend further forward he would flex his spine and further lose his balance. Now, let’s take a look at him performing the movement more appropriately.

    Notice that his head is staying relatively stable with the rest of his trunk. You don’t want to see extension at the head and neck, which would be evidenced by the chin jutting forward. Notice, too, how hard his legs are working to remain stable while his trunk moves. This is an incredibly challenging multi-faceted exercise and I was surprised to see him perform it so well for his relatively young age. Finally, you’ll notice that he still isn’t bending forward very much, yet the instructions in the instruction manual show a person’s trunk parallel to the floor. This is true, but that person is also significantly older than this child. Maybe he’ll reach that level of proficiency eventually, but my guess is that he never will because there are other factors at play here.

    If you have not noticed before now 🙂 — Gabriel is a boy. Boys notoriously have tight hamstring musculature, and I must say that I am surprised to see this evident at such an early age. It is something we are starting to address regularly to prevent the myriad of issues that it can create as my boys get older. How are we doing that, you ask? Well, one way is by incorporating many of the movements you have already learned for these Drill routines! This particular exercise is an excellent dynamic stretch for the hamstrings, addressing the upper portion not typically targeted with traditional static stretching. The long sitting position is also an excellent means of working on hamstring length. Lunges also create a nice dynamic stretch across the upper hamstrings in the forward stabilizing leg as long as the student maintains a neutral spine during the movement.

    I asked Gabriel to demonstrate poor performance of this movement, too. Initially he merely performs the head movements you want to avoid, but he also demonstrates the rounding of the spine that you don’t want to see. Take heed, as these poorly demonstrated movements over a collective period of time can generate far more harm than good. As with Charlotte Mason’s emphasis on perfect execution the goal for these movements is to perform them absolutely correctly prior to incorporating them into an official routine. Allowing a child to perform the exercise with bad form establishes habits that are difficult to break and we want to create healthy movement patterns to foster a lifetime of physical health.

    Instructions for this movement are as follows:

    Trunk Bending Forward.
    Left foot sideways — place.
    Trunk forward — bend.
    Trunk upward — stretch.
    (Repeat 5-10 times, then)

    Our next exercise falls into the Abdominal class of movements. Many of you will notice that it is a precursor to the modern plank variations. Again, the emphasis must be on maintaining a neutral spine — no excessive extension and no rounding throughout the entire length — and it is not unusual for a young child to not have the capacity to perform this movement in the elementary years. Again, just keep this in your toolbox and come back to it at a later time. Let’s take a look at Gabriel performing this movement for the very first time:

    Notice that he does not demonstrate a neutral spine at first. His bottom is sticking up in the air. This is exaggerated because he is bending his head down in order to look at his feet. You don’t want this. His eyes should be gazing directly on the floor in front of him to position his head properly, which will allow the spine to assume a more neutral position. It is also important that the hands be placed directly below the shoulders, as many people tend to keep the hands in front of the shoulders instead. Did you notice how his trunk arched/sagged in his final attempt? With a simple cue, though, he was able to correct it and adopt a relatively neutral position that is, again, surprising for his young age. I do not say this to brag (although I am, naturally, a proud mama); rather, to emphasize to you that his ability to demonstrate this movement at 8 years old with relatively few attempts is not the norm. Don’t be discouraged if your kids don’t take to this movement quickly. It’s quite challenging!

    Tip: once they actually obtain the correct position don’t ask them to maintain it for too long as the endurance is just not there to allow for this in the early stages. However, it is an excellent way to increase the challenge of this movement by increasing the time they must hold the plank position before calling them back to Attention as they become more proficient.

    Instructions for this movement are as follows:

    Prone falling position — place! 1, 2.
    Attention! 1, 2.

    [Repeat 5-10 times]

    Let’s move on to an exercise in the category of Lateral Trunk Movements. This one is a little easier to grasp than was Trunk Rotation, but it is still a challenge.

    What should you look for in this movement? The arms should remain straight — don’t allow the bend in the elbow that you see my youngest demonstrating here. The palm should be facing the head — not forward, as you see my oldest doing in the video. Doing so repeatedly causes impingement of the rotator cuff muscles, while the arm positioned with the thumb pointing towards the back wall avoids this. Cue the child to maintain their upper arm “glued” to their ear while the opposite arm slides down the leg of the side toward which they are bending. They can also be cued to bend “up and over” as if they are bending sideways over a ball, rather than merely collapsing down to the side.

    Why is this a valuable exercise? Again, it challenges balance due to the shift of the center of gravity that occurs during the movement. It engages the lateral abdominal musculature (i.e., the obliques) to create the bend on one side while lengthening the opposite side. It is a means of creating a stretch at the end ranges for the pectoral and latissimus musculature by reaching the arms overhead as you bend.

    Instructions for this movement are as follows:

    Trunk Bending Sideways.
    Trunk to the Left — bend.
    Trunk upward — stretch.
    Trunk to the Right — bend.
    Trunk upward — stretch.
    [Repeat 3-5 times each side. End with…]

    Now it’s time to cool down and bring your routine to an end. This can be accomplished via Mindful Breathing.

    What do you want to see in this practice? Shoulders should remain relaxed and away from the ears (rather than elevating up towards them). You can provide a cue for the children to slide their shoulder blades down towards the floor to stabilize the scapulae if necessary. The children should send their breath into their lungs to mobilize the ribcage (and thereby the thoracic spine) rather than filling their bellies with air. The movement is illustrated in the original manual as placing the hands on the ribs without crossing the arms (think: hips firm position with hands elevated a few inches to be placed on the ribs rather than waist). I find that this causes the shoulders to rise towards the ears and generate tension that we want to avoid, so I experimented with having the boys cross their arms as shown here. It definitely resulted in the relaxed shoulders I wanted to see and has the added benefit of providing increased proprioceptive input so that the children can feel themselves sending the breath into their lungs, as they can feel the outward expansion in their crossed arms.

    Instructions for this movement are as follows:

    Mindful breathing.
    Hands to ribs — place.
    Breathe in, breathe out.
    [Repeat as many repetitions as you’d like, then finish with….]
    At ease.

    There you have it — two entire drill routines to incorporate into your homeschool’s physical education regimen. I hope they will provide much enjoyment for your children and that you will continue to progress what I have shared with you here by picking up the Swedish Drill teacher for yourself. You now have the tools to make this work!


    This is the final post in the current Swedish Drill series here on Afterthoughts, but it is not going away forever. Would you prefer a lot of the Swedish Drill information found in past and future posts in one easy to read place? My eBook Swedish Drill Revisited is 50+ pages of Swedish Drill information, a complete open-and-go curriculum that will assist you in instructing your children two complete Swedish Drill routines. It’s entirely self-contained and has everything you need to make Swedish Drill happen consistently in your homeschool or co-op. Click here to read more or click here to purchase.

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  • Reply Tim February 17, 2020 at 2:30 am

    Thanks for posting Dawn. The videos are a great reference alongside the Swedish drill revisited book. I love how you’re boys play up a bit- they do make the videos enjoyable to watch ??

    • Reply Dawn Duran February 17, 2020 at 2:06 pm

      Thank you for the feedback, Tim. I am glad that you are finding the videos useful. My sons are natural hams, which is helpful at times:).

  • Reply Amy November 6, 2016 at 10:58 am

    Just wanted to say thank you for taking these videos and taking the time to post the instructions. I click back to your posts several times a week for our Swedish drill time!

    I wanted to add that I do see the children refreshed and ready to enter back into their schoolwork. We no longer take breaks in our school morning. These drills provide just the amount of refreshment we need. I can see how they help us expend some energy and bring us right back ready to work. When I used to give the kids a break, it always was so hard to bring them back. They didn’t want to start again and seemed more lazy then ready to work again. It was as if we went off the rails completely. Now with these exercises we continue on the rails, just refueled.

    • Reply Dawn Duran November 7, 2016 at 2:11 am

      Oh, Amy, I cannot thank you enough for your feedback. It is incredibly encouraging to read about your results, and also to know that you are making use of the videos consistently and with good success. It makes my desire to help other people adopt this fun and useful physical education technique in their home schools feel like it is being fulfilled in a way. Thank you so very much!!

  • Reply Michelle November 2, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    Dawn, Just Thank You so so much for this series! I have enjoyed it so much and thank you for taking the time to make the videos and share this information! Swedish Drill is starting to make sense!

    • Reply Dawn Duran November 2, 2016 at 2:53 pm

      I am so very glad to hear that, Michelle. I hope you will continue to progress in your Drill efforts and come back every now and then to give us an update:).

  • Reply Carol October 28, 2016 at 5:17 am

    Dawn, your boys have been so good. I can certainly see some personality coming across, which makes it all the more fun to watch, not to mention, real. Great effort!

    • Reply Dawn Duran November 2, 2016 at 2:53 pm

      I thought I had responded to you earlier, Carol. My apologies for the delay! Thank you so much for the feedback. We certainly have personality in spades in our house:).

  • Reply Kathy Wickward October 26, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    Wonderful! I would be so curious to see if mamas who incorporate this routine see an improvement in their kids attention.

    • Reply Dawn Duran October 26, 2016 at 4:57 pm

      Ooooo – me, too, Kathy!! I hope that people will come back and share their results. I’d really love to hear about them.

  • Reply Brandy Vencel October 26, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Dawn, thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us over the past few months! ♥

    • Reply Dawn Duran October 26, 2016 at 9:17 am

      It’s been a lot of fun to put together, Brandy. I greatly appreciate you hosting this series so that I could make this resource available to families interested in incorporating Drill into their homeschool routines.

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