Developing a strength training course within a physical education curriculum.

Why do people lift weights? Do all strength programs create the same results? How do I get bigger and stronger? Will strength training make me slower and stiffer? These are just some of the questions that I have attempted to answer in my Weight Training II (Theory and Design) course at VMI.

When I attended college we did not have classes that examined the design and theory of strength training. Luckily now those classes exist and I am fortunate to be a professor who is teaching these exciting courses. Strength and Conditioning classes have become very popular for students at the High School and Collegiate level and they are commonplace among many Physical Education programs throughout the nation. Many people value the importance of resistance training as a means to improve upon one's physical performance, appearance, reduction of injury, and their psychological well being (Faigenbaum and Polakowski, 1999, p. 73).

It seems that many strength training courses are becoming more prevalent and popular, but there is still a relatively small percentage of people participating in strength training activities (Chevan, 2008, p. 554). "Accordingly, CDC analysts found that the prevalence of strength training has only increased slightly in the 1998-2004 period from 17.7 to 19.6% and that 21.9% of men and 17.5% of women were strength training 2 or more times per week in 2004" (Chevan, 2008, p. 554). Although small, the number of people strength training is increasing and that is promising. Education is the key to providing key information that is pertinent and applicable to people that are interested in starting a strength program. Many people are starting to obtain this information through classes offered in High School and Colleges. This is a welcome trend since many people obtain their information through "muscle magazines" that may not provide researched information that can be used for the implementation of a sound physical training program.

What should be included in a Strength (Weight) Training course? What should the curriculum entail? Should it be held in the classroom or the weight room? Should the course take a more practical approach or be a theoretical class in design? This article is devoted to the design of a strength training course for a college undergraduate Physical Education curriculum. Although this is designed for a college curriculum this information can be modified to accommodate a High School's Physical Education program.

This course is designed to introduce various strength training methodologies to the student by using a practical approach to strength training techniques. Furthermore, this course will provide the students with scientifically researched information for the purpose of designing and understanding the implementation of a strength training program. Goals are important and setting goals for a strength course is absolutely essential. "Goal setting helps direct and focus attention on the things that really matter" (Stone, Stone and Sands, 2007, p. 234). There are five goals that should be obtained by participating in this course. These five goals are:

1. To introduce pertinent terminology and definitions that will enable the student to understand the basic concepts and theory's pertaining to strength training.

2. To introduce proper and effective strength training programs.

3. To incorporate recent research in the field of physical training.

4. To utilize and incorporate proper safety procedures and protocol.

5. To introduce proper and effective strength training techniques to the student.

The format of the strength course is composed of scientific and practical material that will introduce the student to the practice of strength training. This course is divided into two distinct sections. The first section will provide the student with a scientific background that is concurrent with scientifically researched material. The second section of the course will provide the student with basic safety protocol, exercise technique acquisition, and program design implementation. In simplistic terms, the first section will provide the necessary scientific background to elicit an understanding of basic training concepts and philosophies. This section is consequently followed by a practical application section which will focus on exercise techniques, safety protocol, and program development. Therefore, the first section will be based in the classroom while the second section will be based in the weight room. The intention of the course is to expose the student to both the science and the practical application of strength training.

An outline for the strength course will be presented below. The outline will consist of the two sections and the teaching objectives for each of the 15 weeks.

Section I--Section I of the strength course will consist of 7 weeks that will meet in the classroom. (Exercise science and Principles of strength training)

Week 1 Anatomy and Strength training terminology

Week 1 will focus on the anatomy of the human body as well as understanding and comprehending the various strength training terminology that is used within the field. (i.e.--various bones, muscles, tendons, compound sets, super sets, conjugate method)

Week 2 Bioenergetics of Resistance Training

Week 2 will focus on the body's ability to produce energy and how that will relate into the development of strength programs. "Understanding energy use and production in biological systems forms the metabolic basis for the concept of specificity of exercise and training. Understanding how energy is produced for various exercises, and how energy production can be modified by specific types of training, makes it possible to design more efficient and productive training programs" (Stone et. al., 2008, p. 63).

Week 3 Nutrition

Nutrition will be the focus of discussion for week 3. Proper nutrition will elicit a positive training effect for endurance and power athletes. "The science of sports nutrition has also helped us understand the different nutrition demands associated with different types of activities. A failure to consider the nutrition implications of the activity will most certainly lead to problems in training and to performance outcomes that are below the capabilities of the athlete" (Benardot, 2006, p. 234).

Week 4 Biomechanics

Biomechanics of strength training is a very important entity to grasp. Gaining an understanding in Biomechanics will give the student the ability to comprehend movement of the muscle at the cellular level and also movement of whole muscle. "Biological mechanics deals with the application of physical laws to biological motion. In humans, biomechanics concerns the interaction of the skeletal and neuromuscular systems in creating movement" (Stone et. al., 2008, p. 45).

Week 5 Types of Strength Training Exercises

Descriptions of various types of strength training exercises will be discussed during Week 5. "Strength exercises are classified in various ways. For example, they may be static (isometric) or dynamic (concentric, eccentric, reversible, isokinetic). They may concentrate on particular muscle groups, whose comparative strengths are called strength topography. Or they may be classified according to how specific they are to the sport task" (Zatsiorsky and Kraemer, 2006, p. 135). Therefore, it is imperative for the student to comprehend different strength training exercises and methods. This will enable the student to choose exercises that may benefit their needs and goals.

Week 6 Concepts of Resistance Training

This week's instruction will focus primarily on the various types of resistance training programs. For example, power lifting programs are very different in technique and design than Olympic lifting programs (Fry et. al., 2003). "Weightlifting (Olympic lifting), power lifting, bodybuilding, supplementary resistance training (athletic training), and physiotherapy" (Siff, 2003, p. 6), are all resistance training programs that will elicit a very specific and diverse outcome.

Week 7 Resistance Training Design Variables

This week's class periods is devoted to the comprehension of the "resistance training program design variables" (Baechle and Earle, 2008, p. 382). These training variables are keys to successfully designing and implementing a sound resistance training program. "Designing a resistance training program is a complex process that requires the recognition and manipulation of seven program design variables" (Baechle and Earle, 2008, p. 382).

Section II--Section II of the strength course will consist of 8 weeks that will meet in the strength training facility (weight room). (Exercise safety, exercise technique, and Program Implementation will be addressed during this section.)

Week 8 Bench Press Technique and Upper Body Assistance Exercises

(Safety and Technique)

The bench press exercise is one of the most popular exercises that people incorporate to improve upon the strength of the upper body. This class will dedicate time to emphasize proper technique that will help students perform a safe and effective bench press exercise. Class time will also be dedicated to teach and implement exercises that are designed to improve the strength of the upper body. Exercises for the chest, back, arms, abdominals, and traps will be introduced and performed. "No matter how sound an exercise program is, it won't be effective without the proper execution of the exercises that make up that program" (Stoppani, 2006, p. 221).

Week 9 Squatting Technique and Lower Body Assistance Exercises

(Safety and Technique)

Students will learn how to perform the back squat and the front squat. Other squatting techniques will also be obtained during this class period. "All squats are not the same (like any other exercises), with each variation producing different training results" (Siff, 2003, P. 40). Many lower body assistance exercises will also be demonstrated and implemented. Therefore, exercises that focus on the gluteus maximus, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles will be a priority.

Week 10 Power Clean Teaching Progression

(Safety and Technique)

The power clean is an Olympic lifting exercise that develops power. Therefore, this exercise incorporates speed, a distance the bar has to travel, and a load (weight). "The power clean can be a very valuable exercise, since it involves the powerful action of many joints and muscles, as well as promoting speed and coordination under loading" (Siff, 2003, p. 49). Olympic lifting is more complex to perform; hence the exercise progression must be more intricate. Variations of the power clean, such as; clean pulls, power clean from mid-thigh, Olympic deadlift to knee, and front squats will be demonstrated and executed during this week's class.

Week 11 Power Snatch & Push Jerk Teaching Progression

(Safety and Technique)

The power snatch and the push jerk are Olympic lifting exercises. Both exercises are used to increase one's power output. Just like the power clean, the power snatch and the push jerk are exercises that incorporate speed, a distance the bar has to travel, and a load (weight). "Many times, structural exercises involve the need for advanced lifting techniques (e.g., power cleans, power snatches), which require additional exercise technique coaching beyond simple movement patterns" (Fleck and Kraemer, 2004, p. 159). Therefore, we have devoted two weeks to introduce Olympic lifting exercises to the student.

Week 12 Athletic Workout (Workout #1) (Practical Implementation)

The students will perform an athletic workout that will consist of Olympic lifts, core strength movements (e.g., bench press, back squats), and assistance exercises. The course instructor should pick a workout that will be specific to a sport like soccer, football, or basketball. Goals and objectives will be given by the instructor prior to the workout so the students may comprehend the desired direction of the strength workout.

Week 13 Powerlifting Workout (Workout #2) (Practical Implementation)

Students will perform a workout that will contain elements of a powerlifting program. Therefore, the student will be introduced to exercises that are concurrent with a conjugate training method program. This method contains "max strength day" movements and "dynamic-speed day" movements designed to produce maximal strength on the three competitive powerlifting exercises (back squat, bench press, deadlift).

Week 14 Olympic Lifting Workout (Workout #3) (Practical Implementation)

This workout will contain exercises that are specific to the enhancement of the competitive Olympic lifts (Clean and Jerk, Snatch). The complete lifts of the clean, jerk, and snatch will be performed by the student, as well, as variations of each lift. "Olympic-style weightlifting is an excellent training method for developing power. It consists of two movements, the clean and jerk and the snatch. The derivatives of those movements are what make up the majority of the training exercises" (Gambetta, 2007, p.189).

Week 15 Bodybuilding Workout (Workout #4) (Practical Implementation)

Students will perform a bodybuilding workout during this week's class. Bodybuilding principles and training regimes will be followed by the student. Students will be reminded that the main physical goal of bodybuilding is the development of hypertrophy, which is the enlargement of the muscle being trained (Baechle and Earle, 2008, p.100). Therefore, the volume and load of the workout will be manipulated to follow a bodybuilding regime.


This course is designed to expose students to strength training theories, program design procedures, exercise physiology concepts, safety, and exercise technique protocol. Although the students will be exposed to many strength training concepts they will in no way be considered masters of all methodologies and exercise techniques pertaining to the field of strength training. Therefore this course is designed for students to establish a basic knowledge and understanding of strength training philosophies and theories. It is recognized that many concepts and theories are not covered within this course. Time is a constraint, therefore many of the important concepts and theories have been presented while others have not. This is unfortunate but beyond the scope of a one semester course to cover all pertinent material.

"Strength training accords many health benefits and is associated with reducing the risk of a number of disease processes among adults including osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes" (Chevan, 2008, p. 553). Strength training is important to, not only, people seeking athletic improvement but it is also important for one's overall health and fitness. It is imperative that people incorporate a strength program within their daily lives and education can be a catalyst for this healthy endeavor.


Baechle, T. & Earle, R. (2008). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. 3rd ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Benardot, D. (2006). Advanced Sports Nutrition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Chevan, J. (2008). Demographic Determinants of Participation in Strength Training Activities Among U.S. Adults. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 22 (2), 553-554.

Faigenbaum, A.D. & Polakowski, C. (1999). Olympic--Style Weightlifting, Kid Style. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 21(3), 73.

Fleck, S.J. & Kraemer, W.J. (2004). Designing Resistance Training Programs. 3rd ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 159.

Fry et. al. (2003). Muscle Fiber Characteristics of Competitive Power Lifters. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 17 (2), 402.

Gambetta, V. (2007). Athletic Development: The Art & Science of Functional Sports Conditioning. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Siff, M.C. (2003). Facts and Fallacies of Fitness. 6th ed. Denver, CO Supertraining Institute.

Siff, M.C. (2003). Supertraining. 6th ed. Denver, CO: Supertraining Institute.

Stoppani, J. (2006). Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Stone, M.H. & Stone, M. & Sands, W.A. (2007). Principles and Practice of Resistance Training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Zatsiorsky, VM. & Kraemer, W.J. (2006). Science and Practice of Strength Training. 2nd ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Jack B. Johnson, Ph.D., CSCS, Assistant Professor, Virginia Military Institute

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