Dr. Pangrazi’s Secret to Successful Fitness Circuits in PE

I want to talk a bit about interval training and why it’s probably the best choice to use when you’re designing fitness routines for your students.

One of the great things about interval training is that you alternate aerobic segments with stretching and strength development activities. The reason that’s so important is because younger students quickly fatigue and go off task. By keeping the intervals short, they’re going to have time to recover aerobically when stretching or doing muscular development activities.

Types of Interval Training

The most common intervals that we use for students is 30 seconds of aerobic activity, followed by 30 seconds of stretching or strength development activity. That gives them time to rest in between the two and for too long we’ve led students through fitness activities using intensity, number of repetitions, speed or distance, all things that favor the gifted. Even though we talk about doing your best fitness instruction always seems to resort back to these overload variables. Instead, use time as your variable and encourage students to do their best within the timeframe. That means that gifted students may do more in the same amount of time, but it will also sell students on effort and doing their best without comparison – particularly those students who may be less gifted and are trying hard but could never do as many as their more gifted peers.

Why Interval Training?

Interval training is one of the most important fitness training approaches because it alternates work and rest interval. Most fitness routines you do can be adapted to intervals. For example, circuit training, parachute exercises, continuity exercises, race track fitness, fitness challenges, and movement challenges, just to name a few. The bottom line of all this is if you use time as your overload variable, it will allow your students to do their best without having to measure up to one set standard. Who cares if all students don’t do the same number of repetitions or perform at the same intensity? Doing your best in a set time interval will ultimately help students feel successful regardless of their genetic gifts. Success is always the best motivator for staying committed to a lifetime of fitness.

5 Responses

  1. I know Dr. Pangrazi’s take on fitness gains with elementary and middle school students and I agree. What does Dr. Bob feel about fitness gains with high school students? 9th graders? 10th graders? I realize fitness is individual, but I would like to know about fitness gains with high school age students!


    Greg Bert, NBCT EAYA/Physical Education
    Black Hills HIgh School, Tumwater, WA.

    1. Thanks for asking. Yes, there is an opportunity for true fitness gains once a student goes through puberty. Most high school students will be able to improve their fitness scores to some degree. There are many factors that control fitness improvement and many of them are controlled by one’s genetic makeup. Studies show that approximately 1 of 5 people do not respond to training and show little or no fitness improvement from training. If you want to read more about fitness and sport achievement, an excellent book to read is “The Sports Gene” by David Epstein. Fitness and sports performance is always controlled by many factors and only a few can be changed by the individual. I try to believe that all students would like to improve and be the best, but not all were given the tools. Learn the habit of fitness and worry less about the level or product of fitness.

      All the best,

  2. I have been a Math and Science teacher for the past 16 years and now finally transitioned to becoming a PE Specialist K-5. Can you provide or direct me as to where I can find specific lesson plans on Circuit Training and/or stations?

    1. Hi Virginia, Congrats on your new role! Here are a few resources:
      1) Dynamic PE ASAP – A free site that allows you to browse and create FREE lesson plans. Check out the fitness development activities – lots of circuits!
      2) IntroFit Circuit Station Boards & Teacher Cards – These are specifically designed with Elementary students in mind.
      3) PE Universe – There are a variety of station ideas and videos uploaded by Physical Educators on PE Universe

    2. Hi Virginia: Good to hear from you. I have put my entire curriculum in lesson plan form on the web (courtesy of Gopher) and it includes many circuit training plans and much more. It is free of charge and all you need to do is log in an go to it. It includes “how-to” videos, videos of expert teachers, standards and outcomes, and lessons written with many teaching hints. Here is the link: https://dynamicpeasap.com. I wish you all the best in your transition and thank you for being a teacher!!

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