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A strength and conditioning curriculum for beginner student athletes

In this post we provide an example of how strength and conditioning can be embedded into physical education curriculums. In the example provided we explore strength and conditioning for beginner high-school/secondary school student athletes, excerpted from NSCA’s Guide to High School Strength and Conditioning.

SHAPE America framework

Using the framework recommended by SHAPE America (1), all three domains of learning (psychomotor, cognitive, and affective) should be included within a lesson. Student-athletes need to learn more than just proper exercise technique (psychomotor domain); they also need to learn how to work out with others in the gym, follow gym rules, and support each other during workouts (affective domain) as well as learn fitness terminology, how the human body moves, and how to structure workouts and programs based on their individual needs and desires (cognitive domain).

PE teachers and strength and conditioning professionals commonly have various levels of experienced and skilled individuals in class so they need to be prepared for different types of programming instruction.

Introduction to strength and conditioning for beginners

Beginner student-athletes need to learn about the body, basic principles of training, and how to perform skills, so a beginning course should include all these concepts. A high school/secondary school class that meets daily for 90 minutes is the basis of this format: eight two-week units with three training days and two academic days to learn about terms, ideas, and concepts of strength and conditioning. See table 1.1 below for an example of topics to be covered in the first week of an inexperienced and untrained curriculum.

Week One: Sample 90-minute class schedule

Introduction to the class: syllabus, schedule, rules, protocolsNotes about flexibility and range of motion

Video about sit-and-reach test

Sit-and-reach test

Dynamic stretching routine
Notes on gym etiquette

Dynamic stretching routine

Introduction to lower body bodyweight only exercises

Worksheet on exercise and stretch names
Dynamic stretching routine

Introduction to upper body bodyweight-only exercises

Static stretching routine
Video on total body workout routine

Dynamic stretching routine

Total body workout using only body weight
Table 1.1 from NSCA’s Guide to High School Strength and Conditioning

Table 1.2 below gives an example of a 16-week untrained and inexperienced strength and conditioning class with objectives.

To align the proposed strength and conditioning curriculum and unit plan, table 1.2 provides examples from the SHAPE America National Standards and Grade-Level Outcomes for psychomotor, cognitive, and affective learning domains (2). The objectives selected for this unit plan demonstrate that each lesson can include material from all three learning domains, as suggested by SHAPE America. Each cognitive and affective domain can be used, enhanced, or exchanged for any number of other outcomes for any specific class or lecture.

The code for each outcome includes a standard number, 1 to 5, educational level (H for high/secondary school, M for middle/junior school, E for elementary/primary school), and a progressive level (indicated by L1 or L2). See the SHAPE America handbook for additional outcomes that can be used (2).

Psychomotor objectives

S1.H3.L1 Demonstrates competency in 1 or more specialised skills in health-related fitness.

S2.H1.L1 Applies the terminology associated with exercise and participation in selected individual-performance activities, dance, net/wall games, target games, aquatics and/or outdoor pursuits appropriately.

S2.H2.L1 Uses movement concepts and principles to analyse and improve performance of self and/or others in a selected skill.

Cognitive objectives

S3.H1.L1 Discusses the benefits of a physically active lifestyle as it relates to college or career productivity.

S3.H6.L1 Participates several times a week in a self-selected lifetime activity, dance or fitness activity outside of the school day.

S3.H7.L1 Demonstrates appropriate technique in resistance training machines and free weights.

S3.H9.L1 Identifies types of strength exercises and stretching exercises for personal fitness development.

S3.H12.L1 Designs a fitness program, including all components of health-related fitness, for a college student and an employee in the learner’s chosen field of work.

Affective objectives

S4.H2.L1 Exhibits proper etiquette, respect for others and teamwork while engaging in physical activity and/or social dance.

S4.H3.L1 Uses communication skills and strategies that promote team or group dynamics.

S4.H4.L1 Solves problems and thinks critically in physical activity or dance settings, both as an individual and in groups.

S4.H5.L1 Applies best practices for participating safely in physical activity, exercise and dance.

S5.H3.L1 Selects and participates in physical activities or dance that meet the need for self-expression and enjoyment.

Example 16 week beginner strength and conditioning class

WeekPsychomotor objectivesCognitive objectivesAffective objectives
1Dynamic warm-up procedures and basic exercisesFlexibilityObserve rules and etiquette
2Basic exerciseSafety and spottingEvaluate peers
3Upper body exercises
AnatomyAnalyse barriers
4Lower body exercises
AnatomyRespect others
5Total body exercises
Terms and principles
Use best practices
6Routines and programming
Terms and principles
Use best practices
Frequency, intensity, time and time (FITT) principle
Solve problems
8Self-selected workouts
FITT principle
Solve problems
9Max weight projections
Program design
Select and participate in physical activity
10Self-selected workouts
Program design
Select and participate in physical activity
11Personalised program routineLogging exercises, sets and reps
Select and participate in physical activity
12Personalised program routineLogging exercises, sets and reps
Select and participate in physical activity
13Unilateral options, lower bodyUnilateral training concepts
Choose appropriate challenge
14Unilateral options, upper bodyUnilateral training conceptsChoose appropriate challenge
15Exercising with different equipmentValue of different training equipmentChoose appropriate challenge
16Exercising with different equipmentBenefits of different training equipment
Choose appropriate challenge
Table 1.2 from NSCA’s Guide to High School Strength and Conditioning

This post was adapted from NSCA’s Guide to High School Strength and Conditioning, where you can find plenty more example curriculums for beginner, intermediate and advanced.

NSCA's Guide to High School Strength and Conditioning book cover

Adapted from:

NSCA’s Guide to High School Strength and Conditioning

Editors: Patrick McHenry and Michael J. Nitka

The Essentials of Teaching Physical Education
Teaching Sport Concepts and Skills
Dynamic Physical Education


  1. Bertelsen, SL, and Thompson, B. High school weight-training curriculum: Course development considerations. Strategies 30(3):10-17, 2017.
  2.  SHAPE America. National standards and grade-level outcomes for K-12 physical education. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2014.

Header photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

This entry was posted in: Coaching & PE


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