When Cole Christopher started teaching at MACCRAY, the weightlifting elective had only 6 students. Now, the weightlifting elective has grown to 6 sections with over 20 students per class. Beyond the dedicated weightlifting electives, MACCRAY has transitioned to making the weight room a focal point throughout the 7th-12th grade curriculum. In total, the school is seeing the positive impact of weight lifting and fitness-focused curriculum for students. We break down MACCRAY’s steps to make weightlifting a school staple.
MACCRAY’s Big Picture Approach To Weightlifting
At MACCRAY, the small school district in Minnesota has all students K-12 on one campus. Cole saw this as an opportunity to map out a big-picture approach to consistently getting students into the weight room throughout middle and high school.
In 7th and 8th grade, MACCRAY students start every class in the weight room before transitioning to the unit or activity of the day. Cole says that this exposes students to the weight room while building key skills,
“When our younger students learn to use the weight room, they can become confident and comfortable. Even spending 10-15 minutes before our activity of the day helps students see the weight room as a lifetime fitness opportunity.”
By 9th and 10th grade, Cole transitions the curriculum to 2 days dedicated to the weight room and 2 days focused on a game or activity unit. Cole says this balance empowers all the different students at MACCRAY,
“Because PE is still required for 9th and 10th graders, it allows them to find something they like within fitness. For many students, especially athletes, that is the weightlifting. But simultaneously, you can light a fire in kids with different units and activities. For example, we just started a floor hockey unit everyone loves right now.”
A Growing Weightlifting Elective
After 10th grade, physical education becomes an optional elective at MACCRAY. When Cole first started teaching at MACCRAY 7 years ago, the weightlifting elective had only a handful of students. Now, he says it has become one of the most popular classes for 11th and 12th graders,
“It is amazing to see how much the weightlifting program has grown throughout the last few years. Better yet, the class has become the favorite part of students’ day. So while it is an optional elective, we still see a huge number of the 11th and 12th graders.”
And because so many students were engaged and enjoying class, they started asking a lot of questions about their progress and growth. Cole says that he didn’t have a great way to track and monitor progress,
“We would write workouts on the whiteboard. And while it worked well, as the program grew, we couldn’t keep track and manage everyone’s weights and progress at the level we wanted.”
Time For Technology
With a growing program, Cole set out to find a way to better deliver and track workouts. However, he was hesitant about adding technology to a class that was all about getting students active,
“We are always pushed as teachers to incorporate technology, if it made sense having technology in physical education.”
And while Cole had always been tentative about technology in the weight room, he heard from another school in the area using a training app,
“A school down the road from us was using PLT4M and had great things to say. And it seemed like it could be a good fit for our school as we continued to grow our weightlifting program.”
Cole decided that it was time for technology if he wanted to continue growing the MACCRAY weightlifting program.
MACCRAY’s Weight Room In Action
With the addition of technology last year, MACCRAY has transitioned its workout delivery and tracking to PLT4M. Now, students come to class with their phones or Chromebooks to log workouts. Cole says the integration of technology has been a game-changer for students and teachers,
Even better, Cole says that it has opened up new opportunities for students who want to try new things during class,
“Our older students can navigate PLT4M and find what they like. For example, if some students don’t love weightlifting, they can try yoga or other options in the app.”
And for Cole and his fellow teachers and coaches like Seth Falk, the added flexibility has helped them to continue pushing the program in the right direction,
“We have created our own workouts within PLT4M, alongside what the app offers, and it gives us the perfect blend of options to support all the different students at MACCRAY. It has been awesome for our program.”
Bonus: Every exercise assigned in PLT4M comes fully loaded with an instructional video that breaks down form and technique. Check out an example from a popular, yet challenging movement, the deadlift!
Continuing To Grow At MACCRAY
Cole has set out to make weightlifting a staple of MACCRAY. And he sees it as a long-term opportunity for health and fitness,
“The program has obvious and immediate benefits for our students and athletes. Especially at a small school, now all our students can workout during the day, which is huge. But beyond that, all our students are building skills they can take with them past high school and when sports careers end.”
As MACCRAY continues to evolve the program with new programs and technology, Cole looks forward to more progress to come,
“I think we are just scratching the surface. We are proud of what we have done to grow the program so far, but excited about seeing the results continue to improve across the student-body.”
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