Pull yourself up and learn! – Klimmzugtraining im Klassenzimmerunterricht mit Wolfgang Unsöld

Pull yourself up and learn! – Pull-up training in the classroom with Wolfgang Unsöld

I am looking forward to initiating a new, innovative teaching concept together with Nicolas Wolf, sports advisor to the Stuttgart regional council.

The motto: Pull yourself up and learn!

The pull-up bars were installed at school this week and more than 100 students in grades 9 and 10 of the Eduard-Spranger-Gymnasium in Filterstadt will start the pull-up day and the subsequent pull-up project next Monday. Here is an overview of the project and its implementation and objectives:

Why pull-up training in the classroom?

An innovative teaching concept does not necessarily have to include elements of digital learning. A teaching concept is also innovative if, for example, supposedly rigid teaching structures are broken up and current scientific findings relevant to learning at school are implemented in the classroom in a sustainable manner.

"Pull yourself up and learn!" meets the two criteria mentioned: With Strength Coach Wolfgang Unsöld , founder and director of the Personal Strength Institute "YPSI" in the west of Stuttgart, an internationally very successful and highly sought-after specialist for strength training is involved in the school . One goal of this extraordinary collaboration between school and top trainer is to improve the strength abilities of the students . In this way, the project also contributes to the implementation of the educational plan specifications for the subject of sport, since the content area "developing fitness" plays a decisive role in the development of process-related skills, especially movement skills. However, one of the most important prerequisites for the further development of strength abilities is the training frequency, ie regular strength training. However, this is only possible to a limited extent in the context of physical education classes, since most students at general secondary schools in Baden-Württemberg only have 2 physical education lessons per week (2 x 45 minutes or 1 x 90 minutes). The problem described contributes significantly to the decision to carry out the strength training intervention in the classroom !

Equally decisive for the decision to exercise during classroom lessons are current scientific findings from a still young discipline of brain research, movement neuroscience : According to this, physical activity of a certain type, duration and intensity is of great importance for mental health and cognitive performance ( see overview by Ratey / Hagermann, 2013)! Numerous empirical findings show that the so-called executive functions (EF) in particular can be trained by doing sports. The EF are also referred to as cognitive control functions and thus make a significant contribution to cognitive performance. This results in another goal of the planned teaching project, namely the promotion of executive functions through strength training to improve cognitive performance.

In the following, scientific findings on the topics of "strength training in adolescents" and "promotion of executive functions" are briefly discussed. The explanations are limited to content that is particularly relevant to the project.

state of knowledge

There is a wealth of publications on strength training for young people : from various publications, review articles, meta-analyses, position papers and specialist books (cf. e.g. Faigenbaum et al., 2009, 2015; Fröhlich et al., 2011; Granacher et al., 2011 ) clearly shows that systematic strength training with expert supervision is safe, effective and leads to large growth rates. These rates of increase in strength in adolescent girls are primarily due to an improvement in neuronal mechanisms and intramuscular coordination. In adolescent boys, due to the increase in testosterone, the training-related increase in strength can also be explained by muscle growth (hypertrophy) (cf. Granacher et al., 2009).

Furthermore, after evaluating the specialist literature, at least four important reasons can be identified for the fact that the development of the strength abilities of young people is also highly relevant in school sports (cf. Thienes / Baschta, 2016): A sufficient level of strength is a prerequisite for learning movement skills , such as they occur, for example, in athletics or apparatus gymnastics. There is also plenty of evidence that proves the positive effect of strength training on bone growth, even in young people, so improving strength abilities goes hand in hand with strengthening the passive musculoskeletal system . Also of great importance are the positive effects of strength training on physique, self-efficacy and self-concept . Strength training can significantly reduce the percentage of body fat. The resulting altered body composition, in connection with the improvement in strength abilities, results in a further development of the experience of self-efficacy in relation to the self-concept. With regard to the frequency of injuries and poor posture, various authors point out the possible preventive character of differentiated strength training in adolescents.

General training information on the content, duration and scope of strength training in adolescence can be found, for example, in the position paper of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA): Faigenbaum et al. (2009) recommend starting with relatively light loads and always ensuring that the exercise is technically clean. It is to be trained with 1-3 sets of 6-15 repetitions and a variety of strengthening exercises for the upper and lower body. The training should include specific core strengthening exercises. Furthermore, you should train with 1-3 sets of 3-6 repetitions and a variety of fast-paced exercises for the upper and lower body. Load intensities are progressively increased (5-10%) as the strength level increases. The training should initially be carried out on 2-3 non-consecutive days of the week.

The connection between physical exercise and mental agility was already known to Socrates (469-399 BC), from whom comes the saying "Whoever wants to move the world should first move himself" . In the meantime, numerous empirical evidence has been provided that proves that acute and chronic effects of exercising improve cognitive performance (cf. Beck, 2014; Kubesch, 2014). Among other things, the EF and the intelligence quotient (IQ) contribute to cognitive performance. The EFs are of particular importance because they are easier to train than the IQ and play a greater role in predicting school and professional performance, for example.

According to Adele Diamond (in Kubesch, p. 19, 2014), a world-leading scientist in this field

“…[the EF] depend on a neural circuitry in which the prefrontal cortex (PFC) plays an important role…. The three central executive functions on which more complex ones (like reasoning) build are (1) inhibitory control (resisting a strong urge to do something and instead doing something particularly necessary or appropriate...; (2) working memory (information stored in Retaining and working with memory: mentally shifting ideas; ...; and (3) cognitive flexibility (being able to change perspective or shift the focus of attention; stepping out of ingrained ways of thinking to find new ways of solving problems) ....

The performance of our EF is mainly due to the power of the PFC. Since the brain is considered the most adaptable organ in our body , physical activity can influence the structure and function of the brain. This activity-related neuroplasticity manifests itself on a structural level through the formation, growth, maintenance and networking of nerve cells . These adaptations can be caused, among other things, by acute or chronic stress effects and can be attributed to the increase in neurotrophic growth factors (e.g. BDNF) and the increased concentration of neurotransmitters (e.g. dopamine) (cf. Kubesch, 2014). There is now a wealth of empirical evidence that emphasizes the connection between BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor), synaptic plasticity processes and increased learning performance (cf. Beck, 2014).

Acute stress effects on cognitive functions have been demonstrated in young adults, for example, after a 30-minute strength training session (Chang / Etnier, 2009a). In terms of EF, moderate-intensity strength training turned out to be particularly effective.

Church et al. (2016) confirmed chronic stress effects in the form of an increase in BDNF after 7 weeks of resistance training in young adults. High-intensity strength training and high-volume strength training were equally effective.


Can the strength and executive functions of about 100 students in the ninth and tenth grades be improved within a half-year by doing 15-minute pull-up training three times a week in the classroom?

method and procedure

Motor tests are carried out before, during and after the training intervention to check the development of the students' strength abilities . The test selection is made in coordination with Wolfgang Unsöld.

To check the development of the students' executive functions , attention and concentration tests may be carried out before, during and after the training intervention (d2-R).

The tests may also be carried out by a control group . The students in this control group did not take part in the training.

4 learning groups with a total of around 100 pupils (SuS) in the profile subject natural sciences and technology (“NwT”) take part in the “pull yourself up and learn!” teaching project. One learning group consists of pupils from grade 9 , the other three learning groups from pupils from grade 10 . Each learning group carries out two out of three training units within the NwT lessons . The NwT lessons take place twice a week and each last 90 minutes. The third training unit is carried out in a different subject. The articulation of the lesson changes as a result of the training: During a 30-minute lesson phase in which the pupils work independently, half of the pupils carry out a 15-minute pull-up training unit . Three students always train on a pull-up bar . While student 1 trains, student 2 takes on the role of trainer and student 3 takes a break. After each training set, students switch roles. When all students have completed their training session, they continue to study in the classroom and the other half of the study group begins their pull-up training. After about 30 minutes, the entire learning group has completed their training session.

The training is controlled by Wolfgang Unsöld! Wolfgang Unsöld explains the exact procedure during the "pull-up day". This will take place on February 26 from 11:10 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. for the students of the Eduard-Spranger-Gymnasium in Filderstadt.


In addition to the 5 pull-up bars, interval timers are used for training control and clipboards with training plans for training documentation.

idea and schedule

The teaching concept "pull yourself up and learn!" was developed in cooperation with Nicolas Wolf, consultant at the Stuttgart regional council and teacher at the Eduard-Spranger-Gymnasium in Filderstadt and Wolfgang Unsöld, founder and director of the Personal Strength Institute in Stuttgart. The implementation of the teaching project begins with the "pull-up day" on February 26, 2018 and takes place at the Eduard-Spranger-Gymnasium. The duration of the project corresponds to the period of the second half of the school year.


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