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Sample Class: Fun Drills for Boosting Strength

Do you love planning your strength training classes but need to find new ways to keep things interesting? If so, this is your class! Offer a challenge boost by adjusting your sequencing and repetitions. This approach helps students stay engaged and in the moment while getting more done in less time. As a bonus, you learn a variety of drills to apply to all your classes.

Class Details

Goal/emphasis: muscular strength and endurance

Total time: 40 minutes

Equipment needed: dumbbells, weighted bars

Music: 125-130 beats per minute (mainly as background)

Additional notes: This workout offers three different mix-and-match strength training drills specifically created to help with class design. Use the exercises described below or plug in your favorite moves.

  • Each drill takes about 6–8 minutes to complete. Cue students to rest for 2 minutes between drills.
  • For a more functional approach, choose moves that utilize multiple muscle groups in varying planes of motion.
  • Offer appropriate progressions and regressions to accommodate participants of all levels.
    Encourage attendees to select enough resistance to adequately overload their muscles (medium to heavy).
  • Remember that working the same muscle groups for a series of exercises within a drill will increase intensity, while working opposing muscle groups will offer less challenge.
  • Plan and practice all drills ahead of time to ensure smooth transitions.

Warmup (5 minutes)

Do 3 sets of the following exercises, 10 repetitions each.

Half-squat cat-cow. Squat to 45-degree angle at knees, place hands on thighs, flex spine, extend spine, and return to standing.

Modified burpee. Squat, step back to plank, step forward, stand. Alternate lead leg.

Inchworm. Hinge forward from hips, place hands on floor, walk hands out to plank, walk hands back toward feet, and return to standing.

Plank with knee drop. Begin in plank position (forearms and toes or hands and toes), drop knees to floor, and lift knees back to start.

Work Phase (25 minutes)

Drill One: Reverse Countdown

Equipment: Weighted Bar

Choose two exercises. Complete 10 reps of exercise 1 and 5 reps of exercise 2. Then do 9 reps of exercise 1 and 6 reps of exercise 2. Continue this pattern until you’ve completed 5 reps of exercise 1 and 10 reps of exercise 2.

Squat + shoulder flexion. Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding bar with wide, pronated grip in front of hips. Lift bar overhead (frontal raise) and squat, bending knees to about 90 degrees. Return to standing and lower bar to hips.

Pushup + downward-facing dog. Begin in plank position, hands slightly wider than shoulder width, and do pushup by bringing chest toward floor. Return to starting position. After each pushup, press hips back and bring chest toward thighs while flexing shoulders to create straight line from hands to hips: downward-facing dog.

Safety tips and modifications:

  • Brace core to stabilize spine and maintain neutral back for both exercises.
  • Do pushups from knees, if necessary.
  • Bend knees slightly on downward dog, if needed.

Drill Two: Layers

Equipment: Dumbbells

Choose five exercises. Do exercises 1 and 2 for 10 reps each, then do exercises 1, 2 and 3 for 10 reps each. Continue adding on exercises until you’ve completed all five exercises. Exercise 1 will get 50 reps, exercise 2 will get 40 reps, etc. This is a metabolic drill, so “harder” exercises repeat more often.

Thruster. Stand with feet slightly wider than hip width, toes pointed slightly out. Hold weights at shoulders, palms facing in. Squat, dropping hips below knee level. Press weights overhead while standing.

Bent-over row. Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbell in each hand. Hinge forward at hips so that torso is parallel to floor, and perform rowing motion by pulling elbows up and back toward ceiling, arms close to sides.

Front shoulder raise. Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding weights at sides. Lift dumbbells in front of body to shoulder height, palms facing down. Lower to starting position.

Rear lunge + biceps curl. Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding weights at sides. Step back into lunge, bending both knees 90 degrees, and return to start. Alternate lead leg, and do biceps curl after each rep.

Triceps pushup + knee tuck. Begin in plank position, knees down, hands shoulder-width apart. Do chaturanga-style pushup by bringing shoulders forward and lowering chest to floor, keeping elbows close to torso. Between pushups, bring one knee in toward chest, alternating sides. Return to plank; repeat.

Safety tips and modifications:

  • Reduce squat depth for less challenge on thruster.
  • Have lighter weights available for smaller muscle groups.
  • Avoid swinging weights.
  • When rowing, keep spine extended during hip hinge.

For the third drill, please see “Sample Class: Strength by Numbers” in the online IDEA Library or in the April 2018 print edition of Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at 800-999-4332, ext. 7.

Melissa Weigelt, MS

Melissa Weigelt is an ACE-certified group fitness instructor, NASM-certified personal trainer and vinyasa yoga instructor with 20 years of experience in the fitness industry. As an ACE- and AFAA-approved provider of continuing education for fitness instructors and a member of the BOSU® master trainer and development team, she enjoys sharing her knowledge and ideas with others.

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