PowerFit! Sounds awesome. Sounds like something that should really kick some butt. Powerfit is a class that kids can take in high school. It provides them with the absolute GIFT of daily training time during school hours. The students can work out for 45-60 minutes, 4-5 times per week. The classes are taught by Phys. Ed. teachers. Now, please keep in mind that not only am I married to a Phys. Ed. teacher and count many Phys. Ed teachers as my friends, but I would also love to be one. So, I am not aiming anything at my Phys. Eddies. In fact, I’m hoping that this topic will help them figure out what to do with the kids in their powerfit classes.
The variety of body shapes and sizes in a grade 10 class is shocking. Amongst the boys, testosterone is the hormone that we can finger out as the direct cause of muscle and attitude growth. In some boys, it can kick in really early. In others, there is a year or two delay compared to their muscular friends. Amongst the girls, similar hormonal changes leave the group in varying states of physical maturity.
A common assignment for these students is the design, implementation and completion of a training program. The tools provided are usually found in the high school weight room.
For a grade 10 kid, a training plan should adhere closely to the following guidelines:
- Avoidance of ‘heavy’ weights – I would consider a weight ‘heavy’ at this age if the user is unable to lift it with excellent form more than 7-8 times. That repetition range increases if the user has never been shown ‘excellent’ technique.
- Training sessions should include the entire body moving in multiple planes. A grade 10 student should absolutely not use a ‘split’ routine in the weight room. Split routines are the antithesis of an athletic training program which have carried over from the world of body building.
- High intensity cardiovascular training vs. long, slow, boring cardio. Kids who sit on a stationary bike as part of a class are not doing so in order to reap the benefits on a 50-60% zone workout. They need to be adding in sprints, hills, intervals etc.
- Big movements first, little movements last. Power based exercises such as jumps, pulls, throws etc. should be performed at the beginning of a training session. Follow those up with compound movements such as goblet or front squats (no back squats in high school), standing shoulder press, rows or pull ups, then move on to finer control movements such as front or lateral raises, glute bridges or front planks.
- One day of the week dedicated to mobility and range of motion. Foam rollers, roller sticks, lacrosse balls, yoga…whatever modality they wish to study and use.
In reality, a grade 10 class doesn’t even need a ‘weight’ room. They need a plyometric, throwing, jumping, landing, slamming room. They need a space that contains medicine balls, plyo. boxes, battle ropes and broad jump spaces. In actual fact, they need things that costs significantly less than what schools often struggle to purchase.
The trick here is that they need to be convinced of this fact. For most high school students, especially boys, training means weight lifting. Not true. I know some teenagers who are literally ‘jacked’ beyond belief and they have never touched a weight. They did gymnastics, climbed or worked on the farm.
Teachers, you know better than I that no two kids are the same. Here are a few guidelines around the best options for differing body types:
Teenaged kid # 1 – The grade 10 in a grade 7 body.
This kid is a work in progress. He or she may be a great little runner, or perhaps he or she has not been involved in sports or exercise at all. Whatever the case may be, they should not be thrown into the weight room with some of the other players in this class. This person needs to learn movement, jumping, landing, push ups, pull ups and other general aspects of fitness.
Teenaged kid # 2 – the hockey, football, volleyball, running, biking, skiing, rugby, soccer kid.
This young gun can probably push, pull and squat all kinds of weights. He or she will often be the one kid that the others look to for ideas and inspiration, although that would never be made clear amongst friends. This is the kid who can be given a ‘weight’ routine, although it has to be well designed. He or she still needs to stay above that 7-8 rep threshold because their body is still growing. This student also needs to maintain focus on movement over lifting weight.
Teenaged kid # 3 – the big kid.
Overweight kids need to be encouraged to enter a weight room. They are generally stronger than their smaller cohorts. In an effort to inspire and motivate a kid like this, teachers should have strength and power tests that the student can dominate – medicine ball throws, standing shoulder presses, tug of war.
Teenaged kid # 4 – the ‘wants to be fit’ girl.
A VERY common misconception amongst young girls is that lifting weights will make them ‘bulky’ or muscular. This is not true. In most cases, young women gain some powerful self-image ideals when they work on squats, overhead press, lunges, step ups, planks and other forms of multi-dimensional exercises. They may need some positive role modelling from a peer or a teacher in order to gain the confidence to exercise in this manner but once they buy in and starting making changes to their body, they may stay ‘in.’