Incorporating muscular strength and power training into physical education classes for students can be a great way to help them develop healthy habits and promote physical fitness. Bodyweight exercises are a form of strength training that uses the body's own weight to create resistance, rather than traditional weights or machines. Using just bodyweight for strength and power development is simple and effective, and can be done anywhere without any special equipment. This type of exercises is also adaptable to the individual fitness level of each student, making it a great choice for a variety of ages and abilities.
This blog post will uncover the benefits of adding bodyweight exercises and movements that emphasize muscular strength and power into your physical education classes. By delving into why muscular strength and power are so essential, I will showcase how these abilities can provide tremendous benefit to all students of any age, grade, or capability. We'll see that not only can strength and power be beneficial in physical education classes, they can also transfer to any athletic activities or other forms of movement outside of school.
In addition, I'm excited to share with you the best strategies for adding bodyweight strength activities into your lessons, and give you 16 fun and engaging muscular strength and power movements for your PE classes. I will also provide 11 solid methods for implementing strength and power activities in a typical physical education class lesson.
What is Muscular Strength?
Muscular strength is a term used in fitness to describe the amount of force that a muscle or group of muscles can generate in a single maximum effort. (Maximal force)
It is an essential component of physical fitness, and plays a crucial role in many activities of daily living and sports performance. Muscular strength is typically measured using a one-rep max test, which involves lifting a maximal weight for one repetition. The benefits of muscular strength training include improved posture, increased bone density, decreased risk of injury, and enhanced athletic performance. Muscular strength and muscular endurance an be developed through a variety of training methods, including weight training, bodyweight exercises, and resistance training. It is important to gradually increase the intensity and volume of training to prevent injury and ensure progress.
What is Power?
Power is a fitness term that refers to the ability of the body to generate force quickly.
It is a combination of strength and speed, and is important in many athletic activities that require explosive movements such as jumping, sprinting, and throwing. Muscular power is typically measured using tests such as the vertical jump or standing long jump. Power output involves exercises that focus on developing speed and explosiveness, such as plyometrics, Olympic lifting, and medicine ball throws. The benefits of power training include increased athletic performance, improved reaction time, and decreased risk of injury. It is important to gradually increase the intensity and volume of power training to prevent injury and ensure progress. Power training can be incorporated into a well-rounded fitness program to improve overall fitness and performance.
Benefits of Incorporating Strength and Power Activities in Physical Education
Incorporating muscular strength and power training into physical education classes can provide numerous benefits for both younger and older students. Here is a list of some of the benefits of incorporating muscular strength and power training into physical education classes:
Benefits for Younger Students:
Improved physical development: Incorporating muscular strength and power training in physical education classes can help younger students improve their physical development. Developing muscular strength and power can enhance their motor skills, coordination, and balance.
Better academic performance: Research suggests that physical activity can have a positive impact on academic performance. By incorporating muscular strength and power training in physical education classes, younger students can experience improved cognitive function, memory, and attention span.
Increased self-esteem: Physical activity can help boost self-esteem and confidence in younger students. Developing muscular strength and power can help them feel stronger and more capable in their physical abilities, which can translate to other aspects of their lives.
Better overall health: Developing muscular strength and power can improve younger students' overall health and wellness. Physical activity that involves strength training can help prevent obesity, improve cardiovascular health, strengthen bones and muscles, and encourage a healthy body weight.
Improved social skills: Incorporating muscular strength and power training in physical education classes through group games and activities can encourage teamwork, communication, and social interaction among younger students.
Benefits for Older Students:
Improved athletic performance: Developing muscular strength and power can enhance athletic performance in older students. Incorporating strength and power training in physical education classes can help them improve their speed, agility, and explosive power.
Reduced risk of injury: By incorporating muscular strength and power training in physical education classes, older students can reduce their risk of injury during sports and other physical activities. Developing muscular strength and power can also help to improve their flexibility, balance, and coordination.
Enhanced mental health: Physical activity can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression in older students. Incorporating muscular strength and power training in physical education classes can help them improve their mental health and overall well-being.
Better overall health: Developing muscular strength and power can improve older students' overall health and wellness. Physical activity can help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Improved quality of life: Incorporating muscular strength and power training in physical education classes can set students on the right path to help them maintain their independence, mobility, and quality of life as they age.
Does Implementing Strength and Power in PE Help Meet Required Standards?
Yes, implementing strengthening exercises and activities in physical education can help meet required standards for student achievement. They are essential components of physical fitness and are important for overall health and well-being. Incorporating muscular strength and power help meet the requirements for SHAPE America Standard 3 which states: The physically literate individual demonstrates the knowledge and skills to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical activity and fitness.
By incorporating these bodyweight movements into PE classes, physical education teachers can help students meet these standards in a simple and effective way.
Tips for Implementing Muscular Strength and Power Activities in PE
Here are some tips for implementing muscular strength and power activities in physical education classes for elementary, middle, and high school students:
1 - Start with proper warm-up exercises: Before beginning any strength and power training exercises, it is important to properly warm up the body to avoid injury. Start with a light cardiovascular exercise such as jogging or jumping jacks for three to five minutes, followed by dynamic stretching exercises such as lunges, leg swings, and arm circles.
2 - Incorporate bodyweight movements: Bodyweight exercises are a great way to incorporate muscular strength and power training into your elementary-aged physical education classes. These exercises are perfect for developing muscle strength, endurance, and power using the body's weight as resistance. Some of the best bodyweight exercises for elementary and middle school- aged students include pushups, squats, planks, burpees, walking lunges, and mountain climbers.
3 - Teach proper form: Proper form is essential when performing strength and power training exercises to avoid injury and maximize the benefits. Demonstrate each exercise/movement and take the time to explain and correct any improper form. Use age-appropriate language and visuals.
4 - Incorporate simple exercises: Start with simple exercises that can be easily performed by students of all ages and fitness levels. For example, push-ups, squats, lunges, and planks are simple and effective bodyweight exercises that can be modified as needed.
5 - Make it fun: Children and adolescents learn best through play, so incorporate games and challenges into the workouts to make them more engaging and enjoyable. Try using relays and tag games that include strength and power exercises.
6 - Use PE equipment props: Incorporate fun props such as cones, steps, hula hoops, and jump ropes to make the exercises more exciting and engaging for students. Use these props to create obstacle courses or to perform exercises such as jumping jacks or squats.
7 - Implement circuit training or strength stations: Circuit training is a great way to incorporate muscular strength and power training, using bodyweight, into your physical education classes. A circuit training workout involves performing a series of exercises in a specific order with little or no rest between exercises. This type of training can help students develop endurance, muscular strength, and power in a short amount of time.
8 - Keep it short and sweet: Students have short attention spans, so it's important to keep the workouts short and sweet. Aim for 15-20 minute sessions and only include a few exercises at a time.
9 - Vary the exercises and activities: Incorporate a variety of exercises, games and activities to keep your lessons interesting and challenging. Look below for some GREAT examples!
10 - Keep Safety first: Ensure that all equipment and facilities are safe and appropriate for students of different ages and fitness levels. Monitor students during exercises and provide appropriate guidance and supervision.
Examples of Muscular Strength Exercises for PE
Below are 8 examples of muscular strength exercises (fitness task cards) that can be incorporated into your physical education lesson:
Reverse Lunges: Start standing and step backwards with one foot. Land on the ball of your foot and bend your knees to create two 90-degree angles. Repeat on the other side.
Hip Risers: While laying on your back, lift your legs straight up above you. Use your core muscles to lift your hips up in the air. Let your hips come back down and repeat.
V-Ups: From a lying position, lift your hands and feet to meet over your torso, Lower your arms and legs back to the floor. Repeat.
Squats: Start by standing up straight and then squat down like you are sitting in a chair. Go back up straight and repeat.
Arm Curls: Using a light dumbbell or a small weighted object, curl your arm up from a straight position to fully bent. Repeat using your other arm.
Sit-Ups: Lay on your back with your knees bent and arms across your chest. Lift your body up using your abdominal muscles and return back down.
Seated Lift: Start by sitting with your hands placed on a mat or on the floor. Keep them slightly in front of your hips. Lift your entire body up off the ground and hold.
Wall Sit: Put your back flat up against a wall. Squat down like you are sitting in a chair and hold that position. Count to 10 and repeat.
The STRENGTH task card visuals depicted above can be found at Cap'n Pete's Power PE site located here
Examples of Power Exercises for PE
Below are 8 examples of power exercises (fitness task cards) that can be incorporated into your physical education lesson:
Box Jumps: Start by standing on top of a box or stool. Jump down and perform a vertical jump as high as you can when you hit the ground. Repeat
Tuck Jumps: Start by standing up straight. Then jump up high and grab your knees in the air and land back straight.
Power Lunges: Start standing with your feet together. Jump up and while in the air switch your legs and land in a lunge with the opposite leg forward. Repeat and switch legs.
Power Squats: Start by standing up straight and then squat down like you are sitting in a chair. Explode up and jump up high in the air. Repeat.
Bounding Leaps: Bound from one foot to the other by taking long leaping steps. Start at a polyspot and travel around and end cone and back.
Distance Jumps: Keep your knees bent and your arms back. Push off the ground with the balls of your feet. Swing your arms up hard and forcefully extend your legs.
High March Steps: Alternate lifting each knee up high as you move and march. Start at a polyspot and travel around and end cone and back.
Straddle Jumps: Start by standing straight and then jump up high in the air into a straddle position. Land and repeat.
The POWER task card visuals depicted above can be found at Cap'n Pete's Power PE site located here
11 Effective Methods for Incorporating Muscular Strength and Power in PE
Physical education teachers can help students improve their strength and power through a variety of activities and exercises. Here are ten effective ways to include these fitness components in your PE lesson plans:
1. Four Corner Fitness - Strength and Power: This activity involves having students use a variety of locomotor movement (i.e. skipping, hopping, jogging, walking, slide stepping, etc.) to travel between four corners of a room, each with a different muscular strength and power exercise to perform such as pushups, standing squats, standing long jumps, planks, etc. It is recommended that students perform each exercise for 20-40 seconds before travelling to the next corner.
2. Circuit Training: Circuit training is a type of exercise where students perform a series of exercises in a specific order with little or no rest between exercises. Each exercise is performed for a set amount of time or a specific number of repetitions before moving on to the next exercise. Circuit training is an excellent way for students to work build strength for multiple muscle groups and can include bodyweight exercises such as squats, lunges, push-ups, and planks, as well as cardio exercises such as jumping jacks or burpees.
Strength and Power Circuit
3. Paper Plate Activate: Several laminated paper plates can be distributed across a learning space such as the gym floor. Each plate should have an exercise focused on strength or power written onto it for students to utilize in their workout. Students begin at one of the exercise plates and move when the music is playing and travel to a new plate when the music is paused. The music should be paused every 20-30 seconds and the overall exercise should take 5 - 10 minutes, depending on the students' ages and/or ability levels.
4. Obstacle Courses: Obstacle courses are an excellent way for students to work on their strength and power during a PE class. Obstacle courses typically include a series of physical challenges that require the use of different muscle groups and physical skills. Students can work on their strength and power by including exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges, and jumps as part of the obstacles.
By incorporating these exercises, students can develop their muscular strength and power while also improving their endurance, balance, and coordination. For example, students can crawl under or over obstacles, climb walls or ropes, jump over hurdles or cones, or carry weights or objects as part of the obstacle course. Obstacle courses can be customized to meet the students' fitness levels and interests, making them a fun and engaging way to improve strength and power during PE class.
5. Strength and Power Stations: Physical education stations are a set of activity areas set up in a gymnasium, sports field, or outdoor area where students can participate in different physical activities. Students rotate through each station for a set amount of time or until they complete a specific task, allowing them to participate in a variety of activities during a physical education class. The strength and power stations can be used to provide a fun, engaging, and varied approach to physical education, encouraging students to develop a range of physical skills while having fun and being active.
Here are some sample strength and power stations for a PE class:
Medicine ball station: At this station, students can work on their power by performing medicine ball throws against a wall or to a partner. Encourage students to throw the ball with as much power as they can.
Plyometric station: Plyometric exercises such as box jumps or jump squats are great for developing explosive power. Set up a platform or box for students to jump onto, or have them do jump squats for a set amount of time.
Pull-up/flexed arm hang station: This station is great for working on upper body strength and power. Have students do as many pull-ups as they can in a set amount of time or flexed arm hang for as long as possible.
Resistance band station: Resistance bands are a versatile tool for working on strength and power. Students can use them for exercises such as bicep curls, tricep extensions, and rows.
6. Fidget Spinner Fitness: Amplify your strength and power exercises by creating a pie chart visual. Utilize the slices of the circle to graphically represent different movements you'll be performing. Refer to the example below for guidance. Have your students spin the fidget spinner placed on the board, and whatever it stops at will be the exercise or movement for everyone to practice! The Fidget Spinner is not only engaging for strength movement choices, but it also serves as an effective timer for students to monitor the duration of their physical activity. They “move” while it “spins”!
7. Relays and Power Shuttle Activities: Muscular strength and power movements can easily be incorporated into relay races and groups shuttle activities. In small groups, students can take turns moving from one line to another by executing locomotor movements such as slide stepping, sprinting, or skipping and upon reaching the end line and/or at the mid-way point completing strength and power exercises. In a relay, students start at the same line and return after accomplishing their mission. With shuttle activities however, teams stop at the other end for another team member to go back to where it all began.
Power Shuttle Fitness
8. Fitness Task Cards: Strength and power task cards are visuals with instructional cues and rep or time suggestions. They are used to provide students with specific, step-by-step instructions for different exercises. Teachers can create their own using various platforms such as PowerPoint, Canva or Comic Life. They can also be simple cards with written instructions and cues. Students can complete the cards either in groups, partners, or individually, and they can be modified for different age groups or ability levels.
The fitness cards are ideal for PE teachers to reinforce teaching cues in a fitness unit or could be used as a warm up, cool down or an instant activity. Classroom teachers could also use a few task cards to make a small circuit inside their classrooms or multiple cards outside in a playing area such as a playground or field
9. Climbing Wall: Incorporating climbing on a school's wall during physical education class is an excellent way for students to become stronger and more physically fit. A typical school-based wall provides the perfect outlet for this type of activity, offering fun exercise and building endurance in the process. Climbing the wall requires the use of multiple muscle groups, including the upper body, core, and lower body. Students can work on their strength by traversing, doing pull-ups, hangs, and wall sits on the climbing wall. Encouraging students to try different routes and handholds will challenge them and help develop their balance and coordination. It's important to ensure that students are using proper form and technique for each exercise to prevent injury and maximize the effectiveness of the activity.
10. Playground Play: Students can work on their strength during a PE class on a typical school playground by utilizing the equipment available to them. Here are some exercises that can help students develop their strength using playground equipment:
Monkey bars: Monkey bars are an excellent way for students to work on their upper body strength. Encourage students to climb across the monkey bars using only their arms, or to try hanging from the bars for as long as possible.
Pull-up bars: Many playgrounds have pull-up bars that can be used for exercises such as pull-ups or chin-ups. These exercises target the upper body and can help students develop their back, biceps, and shoulders.
Climbing structures: Students can climb up and down the various climbing structures on the playground to work their upper and lower body strength. They can also perform step-ups on the platforms or use the bars to perform dips or push-ups.
Slides: Students can use the slide to work on their lower body strength. They can climb up the ladder and then slide down, repeating this exercise for several sets.
Balance beams: Balance beams are great for working on lower body strength and stability. Encourage students to walk across the balance beam, or to try balancing on one foot.
11- Fitness Testing: The Fitnessgram is a comprehensive physical fitness assessment program used in schools to assess students' overall fitness levels. The program includes a variety of fitness tests, including tests specifically for muscular strength. The push-up test measures students' upper body strength. Students are required to do as many push-
ups as they can in a set amount of time. The curl-up test measures students' abdominal muscle strength. Students are required to do as many curl-ups as they can in a set amount of time.
These tests can provide valuable information about students' muscular strength and areas where they may need improvement. It's important to note that Fitnessgram tests are not meant to compare students to each other but instead provide individual feedback to help them improve their overall fitness levels.
It is clear that there are many ways to incorporate activities that target muscular strength and power into physical education classes. From circuit training and strength stations to task cards and climbing walls, teachers have a variety of activities at their disposal for helping students build their muscle strength and power in an engaging way. Each activity provides an opportunity for individualized feedback so that each student can track his or her progress over time. As always, it is important to ensure that all exercises and movements are done with proper form and technique in order to prevent injury and maximize the effectiveness of each activity.
By following the tips and strategies outlined in this article, teachers have an opportunity to craft an engaging physical education class that will keep their students motivated while helping them increase muscular strength and power. This not only creates healthier habits for kids now but sets them up for greater overall physical wellbeing throughout life. As a PE teacher, you also have the capability to develop your own strategies and activities that emphasize strength and power movements. So unleash your creativity and begin empowering your students by engaging them in strength-building activities today!
Do you have any other ways you incorporate muscular strength and power in your PE program? What are some of your favorite strength-based activities that you teach in your classes? We'd all love to know what you're thinking! Voice your ideas by commenting below.
*SHAPE America. (2013). National Standards for K-12 Physical Education. Reston, VA: Author
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