T Nation

Teaching a Strength Training Class


Hi all!

I have been hired to teach an introduction to strength training class next semester for the Kinesiology faculty at my University. I have taught the class once before, but I was not entirely happy with the way it went.

The class will hav 20-24 students, mostly either Kinesiology or Education students. Some will be varsity athletes and some will never have picked up a weight before in their lives.

What I'm looking for is some opinions on what material to cover in the class and how do I keep it relevant and interesting to such a diverse group?

While the main focus of the class is 'hands on' exercise technique, I also want to cover basic anatomy and physiology. I am somewhat limited in that in the past we only had one session a week in the fitness centre and the rest were in the gymnasium.

So, if you could go back to when you were a beginner, what do you know now that you wish you knew then? For all you beginners, what information would you value the most? How do I dispell some commonly held myths about strength training without them thinking I'm full of shit?


What do I wish I knew then?

Progression. Keeping a training log.

Intensity. You need to work hard.

Intake. Eat big.

Rest. Sleep big.


As a beginner myself I will tell you that the most engaging thing to me when learning about strength training are the "whys" behind different program designs and periodization schemes. Explain the difference between sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy and how different means of strength training affect muscles in different ways.

One way that I know I've learned about this is studying CT's articles, especially on block training where he discusses structural hypertrophy, functional hypertrophy, limit strength and power development, it seems like studying one of those programs would make it easy to explain that to a group.

I agree with sxio that teaching them how to log progress and then the different ways they can progress. That has definitly been the most valuable to me.


best thing i could recommend is expose the students to a variety of 'strength' related endevours. I know had I learned how amazing it felt to train using the 'Westside Method', I'd never have dabbled in bodybuilding.

Maybe let them experience strongman training, powerlifting, "bodybuilding" workouts, etc.

What i would recommend is going over the 'training myths' out there, and explaining the WHY behind training facts. More importantly- give your students the WHY behind everything. Why bench to your upper abs? Why squat with an arched back and expand your abs? Why focus on 'core' strength before starting to train the limbs?

Why are bodyweight exercises a great introduction for those new to training in general? Give them more why's than necessary- as this is where they will do their real learning.

good luck


dont forget the 'whys?'...people are shy and wont ask but it will bug the shit out of, and confuse, them.


What I'd teach:

Basic biomechanics. Issues of safety, optimum leverages, muscle balance, and, most importantly, how to implement these things on major exercises.

Basic physiology. Obviously it's a beginning class, so I'd go with basic energy systems and muscular contraction.

Basic anatomy. All the muscles with focus on the major muscle groups; agonists, antagonists, synergists, and stabilizers.

Basic periodization. I'd emphasize the concepts of specific training for specific goals, not the many models available, although those should be mentioned as starting points.

Exercise form and function.

Real basic physics like power, force, etc., maybe in the biomechanics section.

Not sure what to do about nutrition, not sure what things are like up in Canada in that regard. I'd just cover basic ideas of energy expenditure with the energy systems section.

I have no idea how much time this would actually take to teach or how it would fit in a semester schedule. Just what I would have liked to have known that first year of training.



Simple, but to the point. I certainly didn't talk enough about the importance of nutrition and rest the last time.


One thing I did talk a lot about the last time was progression and the different ways you can go about it. The final assignment was to design a training program. One of the requirements was that there was some kind of logical progression built into the program. I was not overly fussy about the type of progression so long as it was appropriate to the stated goal. They could increase weight, increase volume, decrease rest periods etc.


Good stuff! I was already thinking about exposing them to different types of training (bodybuilding, powerlifting, Oly lifting). I will have to think about incorporating some strongman stuff too.

I hear you on addressong the why's behind everything. I think I did this fairly well the last time. It wasn't planned, it just seemed to flow naturally out of the discussion.


Good post! One thing I wished I had done more the last time was to talk more about basic physiology and biomechanics. Some of the biomechanics worked it's way into discussions on exercise technique, but I want to talk more about things like the different classes of levers etc. this time.


Thanks for the input guys!


Constantly remind them of the term, "preogressive weight training".
Constantly challenge the organism in some way: resistance, speed, volume, etc.. Training is not doing the same shit day after day.

A beginner class is really tough, because you can't figure out where to start and there is soooooooo much to cover. After about 5 years it all seems to come together, but with a beginner class you don't have that much time. Good luck.



I'd be inclined NOT to start with something as simple as;
] Eat alot
] Lift alot
] Sleep alot
] Repeat... alot

It's too simple, no matter much I tell this stuff to people starting out they don't listen - they want to think they're getting something cutting edge.

I'd start with a review of joint structures (shoulders/hips/knees/ankles) and then show how good training methods avoid endangering them. (I'm guessing kinesiology students like that stuff right?). They may have seen the joints etc. before, but showing how they are loaded in a heavy squat or something would probably be new.

Personally I think common myth debunking and injury prevention are also top of the list for beginners.

Incidentally, I wouldn't see any problem with wrapping up the course by emphasising the 'Eat alot/Lift alot/Sleep alot/Repeat... alot' stuff. They'ld hopefully have more appreciation for it then?

Anyway, good luck with it.


One more thing I should have mentioned. This is only a 1 credit hour activity class, not a full 3 credit hour course. It runs MWF from Feb 27, 2006 - Apr 12. I counted the total number of hours that I have to teach at about 20 hours. This seriously limits the amount of theory and scientific background I can talk about in class time. I do plan on giving them reading to take home though.


  1. Start off with a basic knowledge of Biomechanics.
  2. Then Muscle physiology (how muscle work, basic not to advanced)
  3. Use the text book Designing Resistance Training Programs-3rd Edition
    by Steven J. Fleck, William J. Kraemer as the class text, it?s a very good intro level book on resistance training. The publisher is human kinetics.
  4. Final exam, have the students write a 12 week fully integrated resistance training program. The students should present the final exam to the class.

At least that?s how I did it when I was in the same situation as you.


As a kinesiology graduate I had to take some of these classes.

The first one was really cool. We talked about periodization and discussed the various types of training (basically circuit and bodybuilding style), ran through the exercises and did a couple circuit workouts to get used to weights (maybe 2 workouts) and then were expected by the start of the third week to have a routine written up for the rest of the quarter (8 more weeks). The teacher critiqued it and made suggestions and then it was up to the class to test out the routine and see if it achieved their goals. During the class the teacher walked around and talked to people, answering questions, making suggestions on form.

I think good form and proper planning are worth more than all the 5$ words in the world.