Jessica Savage


Savage gets creative with her strength development class

LEWISTON, Idaho – Interesting times can lead to interesting ideas. Just ask Lewis-Clark State College Movement and Sports Sciences Division instructor Jessica Savage.

Savage has taught a variety of kinesiology classes since joining the LC State faculty in the fall of 2013, including biomechanics, fitness and wellness, and stress management, using some of the latest technologies and lab equipment.

However, this fall for her Skills/Analysis: Strength Development class, Savage had to get creative with different technology and equipment, which included polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe and sand.

Yes, PVC pipe, the same that is used in construction, house siding, blood bags, wire and cable insulation, and windshield system components. In this case, Savage used the pipe to make portable weight bars.

Savage’s one-credit class, which met the first eight weeks of the fall semester on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons for 75 minutes, focused on students learning and displaying proper weight lifting mechanics and techniques. The class prepares students to work with a variety of clients in developing muscle endurance and strength for enhanced health and performance.

However, before the semester began, Savage realized the traditional way of teaching the class would not work. Because of the college’s COVID-19 protocols regarding social distancing and the cleaning of equipment, Savage knew she couldn’t hold the class indoors or use the regular Olympic bar weightlifting equipment at the college.

“There is a lot of physical activity in the class and it would be very uncomfortable to wear a mask inside while doing these activities, so we moved the class outside,” Savage said.

The class was held on the college’s grass lot on Sixth Street across from Harris Field so the students could spread out and follow social distancing guidelines without a mask. This solved one issue.

Another issue took a bit more creativity. Because the college’s Olympic bars are kept in a storage closet in Activity Center West and would have to be moved to and from the closet roughly two blocks to the grass lot for each class, and then thoroughly wiped down after each use, Savage created her own weight bars. She bought 10-foot PVC pipes and with the help of LC State physical plant workers, cut the pipes in half, filled them with sand and capped the ends to make the weight bars.

Savage said she wanted the students to have their own bars, but when she looked at purchasing body bar equipment, they were close to $60 apiece, which made it too expensive. That’s when she came up with the PVC pipe and sand idea, which cost her approximately $100 for all supplies.

“They look the same because they have a very particular length,” Savage said. “I gave one to each student and they were responsible for bringing it to class and then taking it home. They took great care of them and we didn’t lose one. They took ownership of the bars.”

Savage said by having their own bar, the students could attend the class virtually when needed and do the workouts and assignments online and through Zoom. She said two students did take the class remotely who live near Parma and Wilder, both about 260 miles south of Lewiston, near Boise.

“She turned a really untenable situation into a great success,” Movement & Sport Sciences Division chair Susan Steele said.

Savage said the students used the bar to learn and demonstrate 10-12 weightlifting skills, including power clean, front and back squats, power snatch, and jerk. The students must be able to demonstrate the proper techniques themselves and teach, analyze, and critique other lifters.

“A lot of our students are planning to become coaches or fitness trainers, so they need to be able to not only break down the skill and analyze it while they teach it, but also be able to demonstrate it,” Savage said. “We also have a lot of athletes who wonder why certain parts of their bodies break down more. It’s a lot more complex, but the class highlights various lifts that they may not be doing that will help them.”

With her creativity, Savage created a class that can be held in person or virtually. She said students can still work together online and submit PowerPoint presentations and assignments from home as well as show what they have learned through videos or Zoom.

“Things are changing so you have to figure out the best means and methods,” Savage said. “Things are not going to be perfect, but if you show the students that you are working hard and trying to do the best job you can do to help them, they appreciate it.”

As well as teaching at LC State, Savage is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She is a 2009 graduate of the college and later earned her master’s degree in Exercise Science from Eastern Washington and a Ph.D. in Biomechanics at the University of Idaho. Her primary area of research is focused on neuromuscular deficits and ACL injury risks in females.

For more information on the Movement & Sport Sciences Division and its degree offerings, visit