Bigger Faster Stronger program is yielding results in first year

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Lakota Morrissey spots for Riley Moreland during a Bigger Faster Stronger session at the middle school. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Created by Dr. Greg Shepard several decades ago, Bigger Faster Stronger (BFS) has become one of the most widely followed strength and conditioning programs in the country. Staff at MFL MarMac came across it last year, as they researched potential program offerings to help make students healthier while also better utilizing the district’s weightlifting facilities.

“We knew it was an area that needed to be strengthened,” said middle school teacher and coach Brent Pape, who is one of seven school staff members who has since been trained in BFS. “We wanted to change the culture of the kids going into the weight room and going into sports.”

“We at MFL MarMac are blessed to have an amazing weightlifting facility. The space is nice and the equipment is great. I have been told it is nicer than a lot of large schools’ facilities,” said high school physical education teacher and coach Becky Holt. “I believe the administration, coaches and community members wanted to find a way to utilize this facility better. The PE department researched BFS and thought this was a good fit for us.” 

The BFS program was offered at MFL MarMac for the first time this year, with middle and high school students jumping at the chance to participate.

Pape, who teaches the program at the middle school, estimated nearly 80 percent of the seventh and eighth graders signed up. It’s not offered as a class, but as an alternative to study hall every few days.

At the high school, though, students are able to take BFS as a class, for credit. Holt said she currently teaches two sections of the class, with 15 students in each. Two more sections are planned next semester.

Students are already seeing results.

“The idea behind BFS is to practice correct form and to break records,” Holt explained. “We are not trying to see who the strongest student in our school is. We are trying to make every student in BFS stronger and faster. If they get bigger, that’s fine.”

BFS classes begin with a warm-up forum called dot drills, said Pape. The dots are spaced on the floor similar to the five side of a die. Hopping from dot to dot, students complete five different progressions five times.

“This builds balance, core strength and speed,” he said.

Afterward, students go through the BFS system of stretches. Then, they move on to the program’s core lifts, followed by auxiliary lifts, which change.

Holt said the BFS classes focus on six core lifts: parallel squat, box squat, bench press, towel bench press, hex bar deadlift and power cleans. 

In addition, high school students do lunges with weights and straight leg deadlifts.

“These activities help with strength and flexibility,” she said.

Aside from the dot drills, plyo box circuits and agility ladder routines aid participants in their foot speed and explosiveness.

“We routinely measure their vertical jump,” Holt noted.

At the middle school, Pape said students must learn the proper technique first. They start by lifting a PVC pipe, then have to test out on the bar before they can add weight.

“We also train on good spotting and coaching,” he added. “We want to build a culture around being good teammates and coaches.”

Students even practice vulnerability, he said.

“This is preparing you for sports. You get a lot of stretching and you get stronger,” remarked middle school participant Kayleen Fels, “but it also pushes you to do something you didn’t think you could do.”

“It boosts your confidence,” added Riley Moreland.

Hopefully, said Pape, participants will continue to practice what they learn through BFS.

“It’s not just for sports,” he commented. “They’re learning something they can do after school is over.”

Holt agreed: “We liked it because everyone can be successful. Athletes and non-athletes alike can be successful. I have already had lots of students say they feel stronger.” 

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