Zero Block Running Strong

Hudson Falls strength and conditioning logo with paw and barbell

You’d think the 6:40 a.m. start time would be a heavy lift for most students, but for the 25 HFCSD students who attend the zero block class twice a week, it’s the progress in strength, mobility, and body composition that gets them there each week ready to work.

It’s exactly what District officials hoped would happen when they launched the zero block strength and conditioning PE class for the 2022-23 school year. 

“We’ve seen other schools implement this program and have success with it, and we wanted to build not just a zero block, but a whole strength and conditioning program,” Athletic Director Ryan Carpenter said. “It integrates a number of dimensions into our Physical Education curriculum. We are seeing improvement in our students’ physical and mental well-being. They are developing lifelong knowledge and skills, and recognizing the value it has for not only their athletics, but their overall health.”

PE teacher Chris Doody, who has the national certifications the District was looking for in a teacher for the class, said his goals for strength and conditioning aligned with the district’s mission in providing broad opportunities and high expectations for students to grow, reach their potential, and fulfill their purpose. He was happy to return to his alma mater to kick off the program.

student doing back squats during PE class
Coach Doody

 “This class is for students with an above average interest in fitness,” Doody said.

Regardless of whether they are student-athletes at Hudson Falls HS – or not. For example, junior Ayla Adams is one of the “hardest workers in here,” Doody said.

Ayla does not play on a school sports team. She switched to zero block after the school year was underway after she heard about the class from a friend. She’d done some weightlifting at her mom’s gym and liked it. She now likes having access to the weight room at school, where she recently bench pressed 95 pounds.

Carpenter said there are quite a few students, some who have been reluctant in traditional PE classes, who are seeing success in the fitness room throughout the day. “Students are enjoying the challenge and look forward to going into the weight room. Many strive to have their name put up on the wall when they reach certain milestones.” But signing up for zero block is making an extra commitment. Juniors and seniors are eligible for the class and receive full PE credit for the twice a week class, but have to provide their own transportation and – show up at 6:40 a.m.

Students lifting weights in their zero block PE class

“Chris has done a good job getting kids to buy into his program and philosophy around strength and conditioning,” Carpenter said.

Junior Seneca Williamson runs cross country, plays basketball, and lacrosse and is taking the class to improve her performance on her teams. Since starting in September 2021, she said she’s stronger and more explosive. As for getting up, “sometimes it’s a little hard, but once I’m up it’s OK.”

Senior Chris Simmons wanted to get to the gym more and work out more. This class was the perfect opportunity – even before sunrise.

“It’s worth it. The time is the only downside,” he said, “but you’ve got to have discipline and get to it.” He has lost about 20 pounds since starting the class.

Senior Noah Tyler is qualified for states this spring in golf and also plays basketball. Taking a moment away from his hang cleans, he too said he took the class to improve for his sports, but shared that he was surprised by how much at this point. 

A mix of student-athletes and students not on school-sponsored sports, the class often starts in the gymnasium. “We play games and we all do it together,” Tyler said.

Each class starts with some type of plyometric training or multi-directional speed work, Doody said. “Often, this involves sprint races against their classmates or playing mini tag tag games so it is fun, but there is also an element of competition.

“We start each class with competitive mini games that not only get us warmed up, but also help us become more explosive in our athletic events,” he added.

Lifelong physical activity, mental strength, and the social benefits of strength training are among the reasons Carpenter lists as added value for the program. “It contributes to building and maintaining a positive school culture.” This is a conversation Carpenter has had with the PE teachers and coaches.

And the District is making sure the community has those same opportunities. The fitness center is open to the public Tuesdays and Thursdays as well – 6-7:30 p.m.

Rack of dumbells with Hudson Falls strength and conditioning logo