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Teacher: Tom Winiecki who teaches at Mott Road Elementary School in Fayetteville, NY. Tom Winiecki can be contacted at

Name of Best Practice: Hugging / Handshaking Muscle Stations

Rationale/Purpose of Event: To introduce and reinforce the concept of "muscle overload" in an age appropriate way.

Suggested Grade Level: 3-5

Materials Needed: Anything that you can use to set up stations in your gymnasium that work on the upper body muscles. These are our stations: Climbing ropes, Cargo net, Dyna bands, Scooters, Arm wrestling, Horizontal rope pull, Traversing wall.

Hugging / Handshaking Muscle Stations

We set these stations up for one-two weeks before a holiday vacation where families get together and one example is Thanksgiving.

The entire premise is to get the kids "ready" for their upcoming meeting with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and other relatives. We ask them what is the first thing that grandma wants to do when she sees you? The answer, of course is that she wants to give you a big hug. Also, while grandpa may also want to give you a hug, he may also want to shake your hand. Therefore we are going to work on those hugging and handshaking muscles so we can all give grandma and grandpa the hug, or handshake of their lives! When they get their hug/handshake and ask how you got so strong, you can tell them what you learned in Physical Education class.

We tell our students that the stations are all set up to make your muscles tired. We emphasize that making your muscles tired is a good thing! We continue to say that if we make our muscles tired today they will be stronger tomorrow. If during the course of the class a student tells us that they are tired, our response is "Good, you will be stronger tomorrow!" If on the other hand they are not physically exerting themself we simply tell them that they get to work harder to get tired.

We rotate them through these stations:

Horizontal Rope Pull: We have old climbing ropes that we hook into the wall, so the kids pull themselves along the floor on their backs. If you cannot anchor them to a wall, you could tie them to a door, or to a weighted volleyball standard.

Arm Wrestling: Students arm wrestle each other. They are encouraged to use either hand and wrestle different people at their station.

Scooters: We set up cones that they scoot around. We have them use their arms to propel themselves around.

Climbing Ropes: We tell them to climb as high as they feel safe. I tell them that if they are "scared of heights" like I am, they don't have to go to the top. That takes a lot of pressure off of them. We challenge our yourger students to hang by their hands at the bottom of the rope and count to 10, 20, 30... before they come off.

Cargo Net: We tell them to climb as high as they feel safe. If they get to the top, there are windows at the top of the gym. We ask them to tell us what the weather is outside.

Dyna bands: We give them various upper body exercises each day: arm curls, upright rows...

Traversing Wall: We use this to incorporate math, or spelling concepts by having them find various number/letter hand holds. We have also had them simply climb laterally, allowing only one student per panel.


These stations are not limited to what is described. The emphasis is on "muscle overload" by making their muscles tired today so they can be stronger tomorrow. How the students are performing them (to tire out their muscles)is the focus. Adapt the stations based on your own school equipment.

Teaching Suggestions/Tips:

Constantly reinforce with them that tired muscles will result in stronger muscles. Suggest that some of them may need to go out and get a bigger shirt because their muscles wil be so much stronger. This all puts this concept into a context that this age student can relate to in that they want to be stronger to be able to give a tighter hug/handshake. Now being tired from this activity is a good thing, not something to be avoided!

This knowledge will set the stage for them to learn more specifics about muscle development as they enter middle school and high school.

Adaptations for Students with Disabilities:

All of the stations are designed to allow all students to participate. The cargo net and climbing ropes can still be used by students in wheelchairs or walkers. They will hold onto the rope/net and pull themselves up and off the mat. These students can be assisted on the traversing wall while standing on the floor on their feet. They can support themselves with their hands and move laterally along the holds.

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Posted on PEC: 11/29/2005 and has received 64 votes.

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