Fit 4 Life: Teaching Fitness, Part I

Medicine Ball Workout
Fitness in Education
Thankfully, physical fitness in education has seen a meteoric rise in the past decade. Fitness classes are popping up in P.E. departments all across the country. Kids aren’t just playing games anymore, they’re running, jumping rope, doing squats and push ups, etc. While just getting kids active is a big part of the puzzle, there are a number of considerations when teaching fitness in a class setting that need to be addressed if the curriculum is going to be successful in the long term. Firstly, we must establish a working understanding on how to move better, pure and simple. Just sweating isn’t good enough. Proper movement patterns allow kids to avoid injury, perform better and live healthier lives. They squat every time they get in and out of their chairs. Picking up a backpack is a deadlift. We execute a push up anytime we get up off the ground. As PE teachers, it’s our job to teach them how to do everything the RIGHT way. Next, we need to accommodate ALL. No student should be denied the benefits of learning fitness. This means we need to adjust everything we do for every ability level while still serving the overall class goal. Lastly we need to engage kids – make them excited about fitness. It’s hard for kids to understand the long-term benefits. We need to make the concept fun, and deliver tangible progress they can believe. Ultimately, our aim as educators should be to point our students in the right direction. We should work hard to give them the tools they need to go on to live healthier, fitter lives beyond the classroom.
Building a Good Foundation.
When it comes to teaching fitness, set up is vital. What we mean, here, is the actual teaching of proper movement from the ground up. It is our responsibility as teachers to provide a consistent and understandable dialogue on how to perform all of the exercises we are asking students to complete in our classrooms. Often, this is a much more difficult task than it first appears. Take the push-up for example: one of the most basic strength movements out there, it can still be difficult to teach to an audience with a wide range of abilities and experience. How do you describe the movement and its standards so that everyone understands proper form from the beginning? This is where comprehensive understanding of the movement and relevant coaching cues come into play. For a perfect example, take a look at another one of our posts – How to Teach the Push Up. One of the most common faults is hand placement and elbow path. As Coach Max describes in the video, we are looking for non-internally rotated shoulders – so he uses the cue of “elbows back, not elbows out”. This gives the athlete understandable cueing that he or she can actually use while performing the pushup over and over again. (He also provides scaling options, which we will discuss next.) We must establish a universal and consistent standard of movement for every exercise, as well as the language used to teach them. Students should be completely clear on what is expected of them, and be able to replicate the safest, most efficient, most beneficial approach to every movement you use in class.
Appropriate Movement Scaling!
One of the biggest hurdles PE teachers face when it comes to teaching fitness is the issue of non-universal ability within their classes. Student ability and experience runs a wildly large spectrum. In one class there will be experienced athletes to whom a simple push up is easy, and inexperienced students who have never even attempted one. How do we account for all experience levels within a class when attempting to teach and use a staple movement like the push up? Beyond cueing for perfect technique, you must provide scaling options for students of differing ability. What if an athlete cannot do more than one perfect rep, how do you scale the movement in order to accomplish the appropriate volume without sacrificing technique? We must offer easier alternatives that allow students to perform perfect reps to completion. With the push up, we can scale with boxes (or any flat surface) of varying heights. Not only does this allow for completion by any student, but provides a great learning progression that results in vast improvement over time. There should be absolutely no barrier to entry when it comes to fitness. No matter the student’s ability, we should be able to teach and scale a movement to the point that it can be completed and improved upon every single day.
Make it FUN.
As we all well know, students who aren’t engaged with the material, won’t put forth the effort needed to see improvement. Stay tuned for part 2 on some ways to make fitness more fun! Want to see how we can help you teach fitness? Schedule a Demo Here!

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