Intro to Strength & Conditioning – 5 Tips For Success

Intro to Strength & Conditioning – 5 Tips For Success

Every year, a new wave of high school students enter the weight room for the first time. Some students arrive excited and eager to work hard. Other students come nervous and scared about what the weight room has to offer. And of course, we all have the few students that think they already know it all. 

As the only high school Physical Education teacher at my small school in Nebraska, I get each and every student for an intro class. At Conestoga Jr-Sr High School, every freshmen student takes an Introduction to Strength and Conditioning class, where I introduce fitness and weight training.  

These are the 5 tips that I use to make sure my students are set up for success in class and beyond. 

1) Make The Weight Room Welcoming 

It is important to remember that many of these students have never been in a weight room before. To expect students to jump in headfirst into weight training is like expecting a new swimmer to dive headfirst into the deep end. 

The weight room can be intimidating! Make it welcoming by starting off each day with something fun. 

At Conestoga, we start out the class with some sort of ‘Instant Activity.’ The goal of the Instant Activity is to let students get interested, get engaged, and get comfortable with class. Most of them are coming from sitting at a desk all day, so this helps them kick start their time in Introduction to Strength & Conditioning. 

Examples of Instant Activities:

  • Rocks, Paper Scissor 
  • Red Light – Green Light 
  • Tag
  • Cone Reaction 

Even as we get more comfortable as the semester goes on, I continue to do our Instant Activities so that students always start the session on a positive note. 

2) Teach Movements Over Muscles 

Many students walk into the weight room, looking for a chest workout, arm workout, or leg workout. My goal as a teacher is to make sure that students develop a vocabulary of strength and conditioning language they can take with them far past my class. 

In class, we make it a point to emphasize movements over muscles when it comes to what we are going to be working on. To help build the vocabulary, I will break it down for the students in some broader categories. 

  • Squat
  • Hinge
  • Asymmetrical Squat 
  • Horizontal Push 
  • Horizontal Pull
  • Vertical Push 
  • Vertical Pull
  • Force Production
  • Force Absorption 
  • Torso 

As we start to introduce and teach new exercises, we can circle back to our overarching movement categories. This helps the students to begin to map out in their minds the larger world of strength and conditioning with movements, exercises, and muscles. 

3) Provide Constant Feedback – For Everyone, From Everyone

As we start to develop this wide range of foundational movements and exercises, students must receive feedback. 

While, of course, I am providing feedback throughout the weight room, I am not the only teacher. Students are expected to give each other feedback on their lifts and movements. And as teachers, we need to deliberately make this peer-peer instruction a part of the class. 

Example Workout Group of 4: 

Student 1) Main Exercise 

Student 2) Spotting 

Student 3) Watching and Giving Feedback

Student 4) Accessory Exercise

By intentionally creating a place for students to give each other feedback, it requires they also start to build their vocabulary. Past just the understanding of movement categories, students begin to develop a more performance-based vocabulary through my lessons and watching instructional videos. 

Check out how PLT4M partners with coaches and teachers like Coach Clausen in the weight room!

4) Meet Students Where They Are

For some students, it will just click. Other students will continue to struggle to figure out the basics. Meet each group where they are in their development and training. 

Because of the established framework set up, I can provide different modifications, progressions, and guided feedback based on how students are doing.  

A great example is the different challenges teaching the hinge will present, and how I can modify and alter movements for students. 

As we start to progress in the hinge and add in some lightweight dumbbells or barbells, students will struggle to maintain a neutral lumbar spine. To help students struggling, I will incorporate the Landmine RDL. I find it helps to ‘groove’ the hinge pattern for those that might be struggling to do so with more traditional exercises. 

Regardless of the variations being done, the entire class is still focusing on the hinge.

5) Remember this is just the beginning 

For young freshmen students that are introduced to strength and conditioning, this is just the beginning. 

By helping students to feel both comfortable and confident in the weight room, we have the opportunity to empower them far past our class. 

Remember this Introduction to Strength and Conditioning class might not cover each and everything you wanted. Still, hopefully, you left students wanting more. Whether they come back for more with you or go seek out different exercise opportunities, your class will set them up for whatever will happen next. 

Meet the Author: Trent Clausen, CSCS, RSCC, USAW-2

  • PE Teacher, Strength & Conditioning Coordinator, Head Football Coach, Powerlifting Coach at Conestoga Jr-Sr High School
  • Previous experience as an Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach at the University of Maryland (Football S&C) and the Director of Sports Performance at Athletes’ Training Center in Omaha, Nebraska
  • Completed S&C internships at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln (Football S&C) and Texas Christian University (All Sports S&C)
  • Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in Nutrition, Exercise, and Health Science
  • Master’s Degree from Ball State University in Physical Education and Sport Coaching
  • Earned Teaching Certification from the University of Nebraska at Kearney

Chalk Talk – Episode 44 – Standards vs ‘Buy-In’ feat. Brian Kight

Brian Kight PLT4M

Brian Kight

“Discipline is the shortcut from where you are today to where you want to be in the future. Discipline is to study, learn, train, and apply a system of standards. Discipline compounds your talent & skill with effort & focus. “

Chalk Talk – Episode 44 – Standards vs ‘Buy-In’ feat. Brian Kight 

PLT4M is proud to partner with Brian Kight. Come check out how you can partner with PLT4M in your pursuit of better!

Dysfunction is uncomfortable. Elite is uncomfortable. One leads you to nothing and the other leads you to the ultimate goal.

Brian Kight discusses the benefits of having standards instead of aimlessly hoping for ‘buy-in’. 

Time Stamps: 
  • Intro to Brian Kight (00:00)
  • Teacher and Coach Alignment (2:00) -“There is not a right and wrong way to do things. Who decides that?” (4:55)
  • We Need Standards. Period. (7:00)
  • Conflicting Ideas. I don’t agree, does not mean I dislike you. Or at least it shouldn’t. (10:05)
  • When you draw lines, some people will be in, some will be out. You have to be okay with that (12:30)
  • Complainers. Still a good person, but we don’t operate the same (16:00)
  • Disfunction and Elite Are Uncomfortable – Which One Gives You Something? (21:00)
  • Not a Decision Maker – Build Trust (24:30)
  • How do we define ‘Buy-In’? (28:30)
  • Language We Use: Pre-Existing Standard (34:26)
  • Always Begging For Buy-In – And Player Lead (38:00)
  • Introducing New Standards – Empathy vs Expectations (43:34)
  • Things Are Difficult – What Is The Job? (46:10)
  • Standards Past The Team – This Is Life (48:46)
Here’s how to make sure you never miss an episode:
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Chalk Talk – Episode 43 – Supplements – Part 1: Protein

# 43 – Supplements – Part 1: Protein

Student-athletes excited about training often turn to supplements for a competitive edge. Before your student-athletes go buy the next tub of protein, Coach Bres encourages us to ask some simple questions. What is your diet like? How much sleep are you getting?

Chalk Talk gives the honest and fair shake on the conversation around protein supplements!


Time Stamps: 
  • Wanting to find an edge (2:304:20)
  • Supplementation is not evil. But we need to talk about it! (4:2010:00)
  • Tubs of Protein – “Coach I want to add muscle mass!” (10:0015:00)
  • Bigger Picture Of Diets – Where to Start (15:0018:00)
  • Quick and Easy Aspect of Protein Shake – On the go! (18:0021:30)
  • Considerations Of The Label (21:3025:00)
  • Is Too Much Protein A Thing? (25:0029:37)

Check out Part 2 – Creatine:

Check Out Part 3 – Pre Workout:

Want to learn more about how PLT4M could partner with your school?
Here’s how to make sure you never miss an episode:
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Improving Instruction By Talking Less

Meet The Author: Seth Eckler, Ph.D. – University of Louisville

Improving Instruction By Talking Less

 I often tell future and current practitioners, when attempting to describe the type of teacher I was at the beginning of my career, that I was someone who thought of himself as the — “content-commander.” Strong and bold, the dictator of expectations, and ruler of progress. If it was meant to be, it was up to me. 

My personal approach to teaching then wasn’t unique, hardly; to be honest, it’s probably still the most observed teaching-style in our profession. This often led me to over-instructing, talking too much, and providing detail where detail wasn’t needed. But over-instruction, specifically observed in this more direct style of teaching is a thing, and we would be wise in our field to avoid it.   

 There have been many studies over the years that have analyzed impact behaviors (that being the behaviors physical educators display in-lesson) and how those behaviors ultimately impact student-related outcomes, such as activity levels or skill-development. However, only a few studies have actually yielded significant results. Some have found that properly timed consistent and specific feedback to students about their performance provides autonomous support that fosters growth; others have identified behaviors and strategies such as teacher/peer-modeling and “questioning” as powerful behaviors that can yield results. 

 In my experience, both in research and practice, I will admit that I am still not 100% sure what really matters. In one project we conducted we found that students were most active in environments that limited instructional time. In fact, of the nine teachers that were being evaluated, the ones that had the least amount of time in a variable we called “instruction time” had the highest amount of student activity. 

Don’t get me wrong. We are teachers. We are coaches. We need to provide instruction. But how? If we are called to provide opportunities not only to be active but to learn to be active independently, how much should we really be talking? 

 As with many things in life, instruction is best in moderation. Providing our students with the starting point is paramount; the foundation is what lasts. However, many teachers, because they are the content experts, believe that learning occurs solely in a vacuum. I talk, you listen, you do, you learn… if you don’t learn, I talk some more. It can be frustrating to watch, believe me. I come across it almost on a daily basis, and when I do, here are some strategies that I encourage practitioners to employ.

1: Utilize Interval Instruction

Take all of the relevant information the students need to get started and concentrate it. Limit each time you are providing “big picture” instruction to 45 seconds. By condensing the information, you are accomplishing two things. 1.) You are allowing them to get started without being overwhelmed, therefore facilitating movement and growth at a higher rate. And 2.) You are allowing yourself, the teacher, to see where their confusion lies or where their deficits are within the skill or activity. This eliminates, to a large degree, the questions that you answer during your instruction that the students don’t end up asking.  

2: Avoid Large Group Instruction

In the study mentioned earlier, one variable that was observed was teacher/student interaction. In short, this measured with whom each teacher behavior was displayed. The study found that 59% of the time, the teacher was interacting with the class as a whole, 32% of the time with individuals, and 8% of the time with small groups. 

Undoubtedly there are times when we need to talk to the class as a whole, but lasting impacts can be made on individual progression if we can flip those numbers. The chunk of our detailed instruction should be given to small groups or individually. Breadth to the sum, depth to the parts. 

Check out how PLT4M partners with Physical Education programs across the country:

3: Focus Your Feedback

There is no doubt that specific feedback impacts performance. But be careful what feedback you are giving. Often times, as the content expert, we identify areas for growth and don’t acknowledge the areas that have grown. When you provide feedback to students, acknowledge the things they are doing right and the growth they have shown in their skill-performance. 

Corrective feedback and feedback that is meant to facilitate growth is a necessity, but oftentimes we concentrate too much of what they need to improve and not what they have improved. Try to keep a ratio of 3/1, “Wow Jack, I really like the way your pressing through your heels on the upward movement, try keeping your chest up and back straight throughout, good job with your breathing.” Simple enough, Jack has heard three comments that acknowledge growth and one comment to facilitate it. 

4: Foster A Growth Environment

We talk a lot in our field about the “growth-mindset,” however, this mindset isn’t innate in individuals, and oftentimes our physical education environment promotes competition and winning more than growth. It is important that our physical education environment and our instruction within that environment promote the journey for wellness and not the destination of wellness. 

Incorporate short-term goal achievement that leads to long-term goals success, consistently encourage students by showing them where they started, how they’ve grown, and how it will lead to where they want to be. Once a student is done with your class, whether it be at the end of the year, the semester, or the quarter, the take-away should never be an either-or; I did it, or I failed, it should always be – I grew. 

These tools, strategies, and behaviors are not the “magic pill” for your teaching, they don’t individually or collectively lead to students’ success, but they will help you facilitate meaningful opportunities for student growth and ultimately lead to you becoming more impactful in your schools, for your teams, and with your students. 

Chalk Talk – Episode 42 – PE 4 Every Kid feat. Mike Graham

# 42 -PE 4 Every Kid feat. Mike Graham

Every Physical Education class is an opportunity for student growth and development. Mike Graham approaches his Elementary Physical Education classes with creativity and ingenuity.

While Chalk Talk typically talks with teachers and coaches at the secondary level, this is a great episode for all of our listeners because it breaks down tech, advocacy and all things PE!

Meet Mike Graham

A passionate presenter and teacher, Mike Graham has taught Physical Education since 1996 and currently works at Williamsburg Elementary School in Geneva, Illinois.  He was named the 2019 Illinois AHPERD Elementary PE Teacher of the Year.  He serves on the IAHPERD executive board as the Social Media chair and is also on the Technology committee and the Curriculum, Assessment, &e Instruction committee. He is the Past-President of the Northern District of IAHPERD and works as an endorsed presenter & activity creator for Palos Sports.  You can connect with Mike and find out more about his #PhysEd program on his website at or connect via Twitter:  @pe4everykid 

Time Stamps: 
  • Mike Graham – Illinois Elementary PE Teacher Of The Year (0:00 – 3:20)
  • Every Teacher Wants To Give Back (3:20 – 8:25)
  • Technology in PE!?! – How To Make It Work (8:25 – 13:00)
  • I Teach Physical Education. I am not a Physical Activity Specialist. It Is About Learning (13:00 – 15:25)
  • Using Technology – GIFs, Videos, and References (15:25 – 19:51)
  • Advocacy to PE – Getting Others To Buy In (19:51 – 26:57)
  • Personal Goals – Building Relationships With Students (26:57 – 32:20)
Check out how Physical Education Teachers partner with PLT4M!
Here’s how to make sure you never miss an episode:
  • Rate & review us to tell us what you’re loving and help us to reach more listeners.
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Chalk Talk – Episode 41 – The Clean – The What, Why and How of an OLY Lift

# 41 – The Clean – The What, Why, How of an OLY Lift

Some coaches look at ‘the clean’ and avoid it like the plague in all forms. Coach Bres defines what the clean is in all of its parts, so that we can start to talk about why and how the clean can be incorporated into high school strength and conditioning programs.

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Time Stamps: 
Part 1: Definitions and Variations 
  • The Clean as an Olympic Lift (0:00- 4:51)
  • Defining the Starting and Receiving Position Of The Clean (4:51 -10:00)
  • Why Use The Clean In Your Programs (10:00 -15:54)
  • The Mystique Of Teaching The Clean (16:00 – 17:35)
  • Why People Avoid The Clean – Valid Reasons For Not Using The Clean (17:35 – 22:40)
  • To Teach The Clean – What Have You Done Before? -Hinge? Jump? Squat? (22:40 – 27:15)
Part 2: Starting To Actually Teach It
  • PVC as a Drill and Introduction (27:15 – 30:43)
  • Starting To Add The Bar (30:43 – 33:54)
  • Starting at High Hang – ‘position 1’ (33:54 – 36:21)
  • Expanding the movement from High Hang, Hang, From the Ground (36:21 – 40:10)
  • “The Full Clean” – Not All Or Nothing (40:10 – 46:20)
Here’s how to make sure you never miss an episode:
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Want to think  start teaching the clean but don’t know where to start? Come check out PLT4M!