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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

5 Reasons to Add Carries to Your Workouts

IMG_4805.jpegWe have all seen people in the gym just walking around carrying weights such as kettlebells, dumbbells, and maybe even sandbags. It may look easy since they are just walking, but carries are a complex exercise that, when you give it a try, you will realize are actually pretty challenging. Don’t knock them until you’ve tried them!

Ways to Carry Weight

There are several different carries:

  • Farmer’s carry: Two heavy kettlebells or dumbbells, one held in each hand.
  • Suitcase carry: One heavy kettlebell or dumbbell, held just on one side.
  • Racked carry: Two kettlebells or dumbbells, held in the clean position in each hand.
  • Waiter walk: One kettlebell or dumbbell held overhead.
  • Bottoms-up carry: Kettlebell held upside down. The bigger part of the bell is in the air.
  • Rack and suitcase: One kettlebell is held in the racked position while the other is in the suitcase position.
  • Rack and waiter: One kettlebell is in the racked position, while the other is in the waiter position.

Reasons to Add Them to Your Workouts

Carries are total-body exercises that have many benefits. Here are five reasons you should add them to your workout.

  • Work capacity—do total-body work. If you want to work on building overall strength, adding farmer’s carries or any type of carry to your routine will be beneficial. It’s a total-body exercise that should not be left out. They are taxing and will help increase your heart rate.
  • Improve grip strength. Carrying weight is one of the best exercises to improve your grip strength. Farmer’s carry really works in the development of your grip and the strength of your forearm. If you want to step it up and really challenge your grip, try kettlebell bottoms-up carries.
  • Help with your posture. Doing carry exercises forces you stand upright. If you round your shoulders and have a forward head position during the carry, you will not be able to hold the weight. The carry forces you into good posture and helps build posterior strength (for example, the backside).
  • Build a stronger core. No matter which type of carry you choose to do, your core is firing and working. If you choose to do a carry on one side like the suitcase carry or single-arm racked walk, you will really feel your oblique muscles working.
  • Shoulder health: Farmer’s carries help build shoulder stability. Gripping the weight turns on the rotator cuff and shuts off the deltoid, allowing the shoulder to get into the right position.

Carries are one of the most functional and effective exercises. You should add them to your program if you are not already doing them and see the many benefits in a short time!

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This blog was written by Kaci Lierman, Health Fitness Instructor. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: workouts core grip strength posture carries total-body workouts weights

NIFS Group Fitness Class of the Month: Les Mills BODYATTACK

Nov_Bodyattack.jpgThe Group Fitness Class of the Month is BODYATTACK. When reading that name, what first comes to mind? For me, I immediately think, “Okay, slightly intimidating, but I’m intrigued. This better be good.” As a former dancer, avid runner, and group fitness instructor of multiple formats, I’d like to consider myself as having relatively good cardiovascular endurance and overall bodyweight strength. Well, let me tell you, friends, this class is no joke! Hang on now—before any of you new exercisers click away to look for an easier class, let me assure you, you too can participate! I will tell you how, but let me first give you a little background.

What Is BODYATTACK?

BODYATTACK is a pre-choreographed workout program created by New Zealand–based Les Mills. By definition, it is, “…a high-energy fitness class that caters for total beginners or total addicts. We combine athletic movements like running, lunging, and jumping with strength exercises such as pushups and squats.” The format ranges from 50–60 minutes, and can include 9–11 music tracks. The main focus for each track is

  1. Warmup
  2. Mixed Impact
  3. Plyometric
  4. Athletic Strength
  5. Running
  6. Agility
  7. Power
  8. Core
  9. Cooldown

A Challenge in All Movement Patterns

Talk about a heart pumper! All of these components are rolled into this one class, which is one of the reasons why I loved taking it. Think about the last time you had to make a quick balance shift, change direction, or switch your movement to accommodate what’s coming next within a moment’s notice. BODYATTACK takes you through all types of functional movement patterns to get you better in shape and better prepared for the “sport of life,” as Program Director Lisa Osborne states it. We do so much lifting on the gym floor—which, don’t get me wrong, is AWESOME—to be strong and lift heavy; I strive to make time to do programming like that during the week as well. However, I am a firm believer in variety and balance, which is why I got into classes in the first place and eventually teaching group fitness myself. I want to make sure the work I do in the gym translates to what I do in everyday life.

BODYATTACK challenged me in all movement patterns which, as fitness professionals, we know are essential to our overall fitness, yet sometimes we tend to neglect them when we plan our own workouts. This class had me move laterally, forward, then immediately backwards, then diagonally. Then we jumped down to the floor to work horizontally focusing on upper body and core. It can be intimidating at first, but I can assure you that if you have a good instructor teaching (which this class did), he or she will always offer plenty of modifications so that any level of fitness can participate. Functionality is key, and if something has a main goal of keeping me agile, able, and mobile, I’m all about it!

Proven Results

Another great factor of this class is the proven results it has the potential to provide. This program was researched and tested among willing participants to make sure the format performs and provides effective results. According to a recent study at Penn State, it was found that there were “…significant increases in leg and back strength as well as positive changes in aerobic fitness, agility, and power over the participants that completed three BODYATTACK classes over the course of six weeks.” Not too shabby for a few times a week!

My Challenge to You

So I challenge you, if you’re still reading this, to step out of your normal routine this month and give it a try once each week, and give your body that extra spike during your workout time. Think about it: that’s only four or five workouts within a whole 30-day period to sprinkle into your month! Who knows, maybe you’ve begun to hit a plateau and this class might be exactly the right amount of high-intensity cardio to shed that extra pound or two that can compliment your weight training on other days.

Try It at NIFS

Never tried BODYATTACK, or even group fitness for that matter, before? No problem! With any class you take here, we encourage the “Smart Start,” which includes staying for the first few tracks/songs of the workout, or simply half of the class. Then, when you feel that you’ve had enough or if that’s all you can do for now, you head out for the day with the motivation to stay for one more track next time you come back, until you find yourself completing the full class.

Check out the times for BODYATTACK on our group fitness schedule and see some of the other classes we offer. If you have never tried a group fitness class at NIFS before, and want to take that first step and check us out, find out how to try a group fitness class for free!

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This blog was written by Rebecca Heck, Group Fitness Coordinator and Health Fitness Instructor. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS cardio challenge Les Mills high intensity music BODYATTACK Group Fitness Class of the Month

Thanksgiving Food and Healthy Eating Myths Busted

We all know that a lot of holidays involve food: cookouts on the 4th of July, cookies for Santa at Christmas, and candy treats for Halloween. But one holiday completely revolves around food—when you think of it, you automatically think about food. Thanksgiving is all about the meal of turkey, sides, and desserts. Several food myths surround this holiday, however, and not all of them are true. Keep reading for myth busters to share at your table.

GettyImages-827599250.jpg

  • Turkey makes you sleepy. Always have a nap after your Thanksgiving meal? Have you been blaming the turkey because you heard it was high in tryptophan, an amino acid that is converted to serotonin and then melatonin and causes you to sleep? The truth is that a lot of other foods on the dinner table have much higher levels of tryptophan, and the real reason for the nap is more likely because of the amount of carbs that you consumed (and possibly the number of glasses of wine you drank!).
  • Sweet potatoes are always better than white potatoes. It’s true that if you look at the nutritional components of a regular sweet potato compared to those of a white potato, hands down it wins for its higher levels of vitamin A and C and fiber. The typical sweet potato dish is loaded with sugar and fat, however, and not nearly as healthy as a plain baked white potato.
  • Dark meat is unhealthy. Yes, it is true that white meat is very lean and an excellent source of protein. Dark meat is not so terrible, though, that you should intentionally avoid putting it on your Thanksgiving plate. A serving of 4 oz of white meat is 158 calories vs. 183 for dark meat, and 0.5 gram of saturated fat vs. 1.6 grams of saturated fat. Dark meat is also higher in zinc and iron.
  • Canned pumpkin isn’t as healthy as fresh. I am sure you have heard multiple times how much healthier fresh fruits and vegetables are versus canned. This is typically due to processing them and then storing them in a high-sodium or high-sugar liquid. However, when it comes to canned pumpkin, that rule doesn’t apply. It’s more concentrated than a fresh pumpkin, which means more vitamin A and fiber. But be careful when grabbing a can of pumpkin and don’t accidentally grab pumpkin pie filling, which is loaded with sugar and salt.
  • Stuffing and dressing are the same thing. They are very similar, but not the same. Stuffing is typically stuffed inside the bird, whereas dressing is prepared in a casserole dish. A note about food safety: Be cautious when eating traditional stuffing that is cooked inside the bird. It adds mass to the turkey, which slows the cooking. This not only dries out the meat, but can create salmonella bacteria. Always be sure your turkey is cooked to 165 degrees.

Show up at the Thanksgiving holiday this year with these healthy eating myth busters to share with your family and friends (and also check out these additional Thanksgiving hacks). Then grab a plate, load it up with lots white and dark meat, and enjoy the once-a-year food fest!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy eating holidays sleep Thanksgiving carbs food safety fruits and vegetables turkey myth busters

Eat Better, Work Better? Three Nutrition Tips for Productivity

GettyImages-171693421.jpgWe’ve all heard the phrase that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but who knew that eating a balanced diet would also make you more productive at work? That’s what was found in a study conducted by Brigham Young University on 19,000 employees from three large companies (published in the Population Health Management journal). It was discovered that employees with unhealthy diets were 66% less productive than those who ate whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

So how can you be a more productive employee? Try these three simple ways to eat more balanced meals and then get ready to impress your boss.

Whole-grain Goodness

Swap out your old rice, pasta, bread, and cereal for grains that are higher in fiber and are less processed. Brown and wild rice are excellent alternatives to white rice. Whole-wheat pasta, couscous, quinoa, millet, and oats are more high-fiber options to incorporate into your diet.

When it comes to breads and cereal, check the label. Choose options that have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Check out the Whole Grains Council website for more information.

Fabulous Fruits

Most people need three pieces of fruit per day to meet their individual requirements. This can easily be done by incorporating a fruit in your morning cereal or oatmeal, grabbing an apple or banana for a quick and portable snack, or having a bowl of sweet berries after dinner for dessert. The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber in fruit are all great reasons to include them in your diet.

Varied Veggies

One of the most challenging food groups to get into your diet, but also one of the best for you, is vegetables. It can be difficult to meet that 4–5 recommended servings per day, so how can you get these in to help balance your diet?

One way is to make sure that you are spreading them out throughout the day by including a vegetable serving at lunch and/or snack time. At lunch, grab portable veggies such as baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, mini bell peppers, and sugar-snap peas to add some variety and crunch along with your typical sandwich. Or nibble on veggies with a hummus dip for an afternoon snack. Make it a goal to try one new/different vegetable each week.

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Now that you know the impact of nutrition on employee health and productivity, you can follow these three tips for healthy meals and snacks.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition snacks lunch employee health productivity fiber vegetables whole grains fruit

Get into the Exercise and Healthy Eating Mindset Before the Holidays

fit-it-in.jpgIt’s coming…the holiday season! Many people tend to give up or have the “I’ll start fresh next year” mindset when it comes to exercise around the holidays. Don’t let that be you this year! Halloween is over and before we know it Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here. Parties will start, normal schedules will be crazy, and more food will be added to your life.

Three Tips for Staying on Track with Workouts and Food

This season, let’s go into the holidays with a different mindset. We know what’s coming—it happens every year! Here are three tips to keep you on track.

  • Schedule time for your workouts. If you know you have a party or family gathering, plan ahead. Write your exercise time on your calendar each week just like you would anything else. Scheduling time for fitness should be a priority.
  • Something is better than nothing. Gym time cut short? Don’t just blow it off! Just get into the gym and move. Getting 30 minutes of exercise is better than getting 0 minutes. Don’t let your busy holiday gatherings keep you from your exercise routine. Even if you have to do bodyweight exercises at home or portable exercises on the road, don’t just skip your workout.
  • Do a little bit better next time. You overate, you missed your workout, you have another party today. It’s okay; you didn’t lose the battle of fitness. You don’t need to overeat at the next party. Just do a little better than you did at the last. Healthy eating and exercise don’t have to be all or nothing. Just do better every day. Move a little more, and eat one less holiday treat than the day before.

Change Your Mindset—and Ask or Help!

The holidays don’t have to be a time to let it go and start over during the New Year. This year, make it different! These three tips will help you change your mindset as we enter the season of craziness and delicious goodies!

If you need help on a quick workout idea, stop by the track desk and ask a NIFS HFS to help you out!

Remember 30-minute workouts are proven to be just as beneficial as longer workouts. If your short on time or just feel 60-minutes is too long, our Small Group Training Express classes are offered on Tuesday's and Thursday's from noon-12:30p with Kaci! Try your first session free!

Try a 30-min session!

Happy Holidays!

This blog was written by Kaci Lierman, NIFS Personal Trainer. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS exercise healthy eating holidays Thanksgiving bodyweight mindset christmas new year scheduling halloween

Powerlifting Prep Lesson #3: The Deadlift

IMG_4534.jpgIn my previous posts, Powerlifting Prep Lesson #1: The Squat and Powerlifting Prep Lesson #2: The Bench, we took a look at how managing the three key principles of mobility, stability, and tension can have a huge impact on your ability to perform those two lifts at a high level while decreasing the chance of injury. We turn now to the big daddy of them all, the deadlift!

This hinging/pulling lift is easily one of the most popular lifts on the planet, and everybody wants to pull a huge bar from the ground and slam it back down. There really is no feeling like it. And not only does it look pretty cool on Instagram, the deadlift is one of the most functional exercises you can do that transfers very nicely to the outside world. Since the dawn of time we have picked up heavy things and set them back down, essentially doing deadlifts day in and day out. In the powerlifting world, the deadlift is where champions can be forged, or injuries suffered.

So let’s break down this giant lift, focusing on the three key principles introduced earlier:

  • Mobility: The full range of motion of a particular joint(s).
  • Stability: Alignment, with integrity, under load.
  • Tension: Defined with terms such as stiffness and phrases like “bending the bar,” and “spread the floor.”

Mobility

You might think that mobility would not play a big role in this lift, but like most weightlifting movements, it’s imperative. I hope I have done a good job in this series of posts to stress that it all starts with mobility. Strength, power, endurance, and any physical attribute must start at mobility, if you want to be the best that there is. The deadlift is no exception; and if you can’t touch your toes, you probably need to take a few steps back before heavy loading the deadlift.

The deadlift is a hinge pattern, so we will start there by focusing on the active straight-leg raise to monitor and improve the mobility of that pattern. A great place to start is with a leg-lower exercise or a kettlebell butt touch exercise to help improve your mobility for the deadlift.

Stability

For stability, take one more look at the active straight-leg-raise pattern to ensure you capture the mobility you gained through the two movements described above. The lying leg raise with core activation looks a lot like the leg-lowering exercise from above, as it should, but here you are adding stability to the mobility you just gained. Trunk stability is key in the deadlift; without it, spines tend to hyper-flex and lead to injury. Planks and plank variations are always a great place to start, as well as loaded carries and dynamic-stability movements such as a sandbag plank drag to challenge and train the musculature of the trunk so you can pull more weight safely.

Next, and just as with the squat and the bench, intra-abdominal pressure will also be key in pulling the most weight possible. Remember to “fill the can” by inhaling fully and pressing the air against your belt during the set-up and first phase of the deadlift. This again will help fire all of the muscles of the trunk to provide maximum stability during the lift. If you want to learn more about breathing and stability in loaded movements, check out this article from Mike Reinold as he breaks down this concept even more.

Tension

Tension in the deadlift starts with grip! Many studies correlate grip strength to overall strength, so the stronger the grip the bigger the deadlift. Loaded carries and all the variations are my go-to to help train grip strength as well as any pulling motions such as chin-ups and inverted rows.

In the other two lifts I referred to “bending the bar” as a cue to create tension in the system (body) during the lift. In the deadlift, I want you to think about taking that tension out of the bar by preloading the system before pulling the bar from the ground. Pull the bar toward your body without it leaving the ground; you should hear the plates make a kind of clicking noise. This will fire the lats and other spinal musculature to brace before accepting the load of the bar. Ideally in doing so, your entire body will move as one system, like a crane lifting a two-ton I-beam. This will make you a stronger unit to pull the bar off the ground and help eliminate hyper-flexing in the spine that can lead to a bad injury.

***

Executed correctly, the deadlift is a super-functional and super strength-building exercise. It is also one of the more exciting lifts in any powerlifting competition, and it’s sure to make some noise once again at the NIFS 4th Annual Powerlifting Competition coming up on November 11. Registration is full, but you should still come out and support all the athletes competing. It is a great show of strength, competition, and sportsmanship and great way to spend a Saturday morning in November!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS weightlifting powerlifting competition mobility deadlift stability tension

Are You Getting Enough Sleep? Simple Solutions for Beating Insomnia

GettyImages-469577750.jpgMatthew Walker, the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, has made it his career goal to reinforce the fact that 20 large-scale epidemiological studies have all reported the same relationship: the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. Today, one in three Americans can be categorized as sleep deprived.


The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

As defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sleep deprivation is a condition that occurs if you don't get enough sleep. Not only does a shortage of sleep affect your productivity, but on less than seven hours of sleep, your body's natural killer cells work less effectively. Walker notes that between 1950 and 2017, the US obesity rate has risen from 13% to the likes of 35%.

“Sleep is the single most effective thing you can do to reset your brain and body.”
—Dr. Matthew Walker, U.C., Berkeley

As obesity in America has steadily risen, the amount of sleep individuals are accumulating per night has decreased—almost two and a half hours, to be exact. Not only is sleep deprivation being glorified as an accomplishment in today’s society, extensive research has concluded that sleep deprivation puts unnecessary stress on the human body, including weight gain. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increase in heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes.

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) outlines that both young adults (ages 18–25) and adults (ages 26–64) should aim for 7–9 hours per night consistently. Sounds easy, right? With the prevalence of social media alongside TV and cell phone usage at night, however, most Americans fall short.

Five Tips for Overcoming Insomnia

Here are some tips from the NSF to help you capture the ZZZs and start sawing logs in no time.

  • Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wakeup time, even on the weekends. This helps regulate your body clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress, or anxiety, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep, or remain asleep.
  • Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
  • Evaluate your room. Your bedroom should be cool—between 60 and 67 degrees. Check your room for noises or other distractions. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, earplugs, “white-noise" machines, humidifiers, fans, and other devices.
  • If you can't sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It is best to take work materials, computers, and televisions out of the sleeping environment. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine.

If you’re still having trouble sleeping after following the above tips, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or to find a sleep professional in your area. Check out the following resources for more information.

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This blog was written by Ellyn Grant, Healthy Lifestyle Coordinator. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: disease prevention sleep productivity heart disease obesity insomnia sleep deprivation

Fabulous Fall Recipes for Delicious Nutrition

ThinkstockPhotos-506243524.jpgThis is definitely my favorite time of year: football, cooler weather, and the return of all things apple and pumpkin. Not only are they chock-full of vitamins and other healthy goodness, but they are also delicious!


Apples: Benefits and a Recipe

The old quote “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” could not be more correct. This fruit is loaded with fiber (a typical tennis ball–sized piece has 4 filling fiber grams), which helps to keep you satisfied. They are also high in immune-boosting Vitamin C. One recent study found that eating apples was directly linked to having a lower incidence of death from coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.

Another surprising benefit of this fruit is that they may boost your endurance during a workout. The antioxidant quercetin makes oxygen more available in the lungs, and one study showed that individuals who had this antioxidant prior to a workout were able to cycle longer.

Grab one for a snack or try this delicious dessert.

Baked Cinnamon Apples

Ingredients:

4 large good baking apples, such as Rome Beauty, Golden Delicious, or Jonagold

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup raisins

1 Tbsp butter

3/4 cup boiling water

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Wash apples. Remove cores to a half-inch of the bottom of the apples. Make the holes about 3/4 inch to an inch wide.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, raisins, and pecans.
  3. Place apples in an 8-inch-by-8-inch square baking dish. Stuff each apple with this mixture. Top each with a dot of butter (1/4 Tbsp). Add boiling water to the baking pan.
  4. Bake 30–40 minutes, until tender but not mushy. Remove from the oven and enjoy!
    Serves 4.

Calories: 230; Fat: 8g; Fiber: 6g. Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes.

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

Pumpkins have just as much to brag about as apples do. Pumpkin is loaded with Vitamin A, which is essential for boosting your immune system, vision health, and bone health. You also get a significant amount of potassium from pumpkin. This helps keep your fluid and mineral balance regulated, which helps with heart function.

That bright orange color from pumpkin means it is high in the antioxidant betacarotene. This means it is heart protective and can help lower your risk for heart disease. Finally, just like apples, pumpkin is loaded with fiber. Each cup of pureed pumpkin has 7 grams of fiber. That’s one-third of your daily needs!

I like to use pureed canned pumpkin as a fat replacer in cake mixes, brownies, and muffin mixes. Just substitute the same amount of pumpkin for the oil called for in recipes and enjoy a lower-fat and nutritious treat. Here is a wonderful quick dessert to whip up, too.

Pumpkin Mousse

Ingredients:

3 cups cold fat-free milk

2 pkg. (1.5 oz. each) vanilla flavor fat-free, sugar-free instant pudding

1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin

1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1 cup thawed fat-free whipped topping

Directions:

  1. Beat milk and pudding mix in medium bowl and whisk for 2 minutes.
  2. Blend in pumpkin and spice.
  3. Stir in whipped topping.
  4. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.
  5. Makes 12 half-cup servings.

Calories: 60; Total Protein: 3g; Total Fat: 1g. Recipe adapted from Kraft Recipes.

Enjoy these fabulous fall superfoods while they are plentiful, and give your autumn nutrition a boost!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition recipes disease prevention fiber antioxidants fall apples pumpkin spice

Powerlifting Prep Lesson #2: The Bench Press

attachment.jpgIn my previous post, NIFS Powerlifting Competition Prep Lesson #1: The Squat, I showed you how managing three key principles can have a huge impact on your ability to squat low and heavy as well as minimize the risk for injury. As a reminder, here are those three key principles:

  • Mobility: The full range of motion of a particular joint(s)
  • Stability: Alignment, with integrity, under load.
  • Tension: Defined with terms such as stiffness and phrases like “bending the bar” and “spread the floor.”

Once again I will break down each of these principles and apply them to the next big lift, the bench press. First, be sure to check off your list a few of the basics of the bench press when you are setting up for your next set. As soon as you are up to speed on those weightlifting basics, take a look at how these three principles can impact your bench and how to work to improve your performance.

Mobility

In the bench press, this principle is generally focused around the mobility of the shoulder complex and thoracic spine. I could argue the effects of immobile hips, but we will save that for another time. The ability of the shoulder to pass through the full range of a pressing motion will play one of the biggest roles in determining your success. Just as with the squat, I would strongly recommend starting with soft tissue work of the lats, pecs, and upper back. Utilize different tools like a foam roller, or a tennis or lacrosse ball depending on your level of tightness.

After mashing the tissue surrounding the shoulder complex, the next step is to perform some active stretching of the shoulder area. This can be as simple as basic arm circles and a door stretch or a quadruped t-spine rotation exercise. One of my favorites for shoulder mobility is the hang. Get to a pull-up bar, grasp it with an overhand grip, and hang from it. Take long, controlled breaths while you hang with longer, more forced exhalation. Start with these or any other drills for the shoulder and upper body and you will increase your rate of success in the bench.

Stability

Trunk stability and core strength play a major role in this lift. To help strengthen the muscles of the trunk, I like to keep things simple by performing planks and plank progressions like the RKC plank. Secondly, and just as with the squat, intra-abdominal pressure is also key in the bench press. “Filling the can” with air is the best way to set this principle in motion. Before lowering the bar to the chest, inhale fully, attempting to fill your entire trunk with air (wearing a belt here helps). Hold that breath and lower the bar with the “can full” and explode from the chest.

Placing your feet flat on the ground will also add stability to the system. Even if you need to have some risers like me, get your feet flat on the ground. This helps with keeping your back flat on the bench, allowing you to utilize the trunk to do its job: to stabilize you.

One more thing: stabilize the shoulders with external rotating of the shoulder by “dialing” your hands outwardly like you were turning two large radio knobs (those still exist, right?). Stabilize the mobility you gained from the previous drills and really pack a punch in your bench press.

Tension

“Bending the bar” is a phrase introduced in the preceding post about the squat, and it holds just as much weight in the bench as well. During your setup, you want to act as if you are actively bending the bar before lowering it to your chest. This will create tension in the lats, shoulder complex, and upper back. This tension, as you will see more with the deadlift in the next post, allows the body to move as a “stiff” unit, expressing the greatest amount of strength during this phase. You can also increase tension by pushing your heels through the ground, another reason to have your feet flat on the ground during the pressing motion. Creating tension from the onset of the lift is what will separate a good lift from a failed lift.

***

The only secrets to a bigger bench are the principles I have listed above. These are standards to performing at a higher level and will allow your body to respond to heavier and heavier weights. Implement even a few of the suggestions from above and feel the difference.

The NIFS 4th Annual Powerlifting Competition is coming up on November 11. Don’t miss out on this exciting celebration of strength designed for all experience and fitness levels.

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS weightlifting powerlifting competition mobility stability tension bench press

NIFS October Group Fitness Class of the Month: BodyJam

October_bodyjam2.jpgWho doesn’t like to get their groove on when the hottest new song comes on? I would not put myself into the category of a “big dancer,” or in fact a dancer at all, but from time to time when a good jam comes on the radio, I am guilty of pulling out my car dance moves.

Now what if I told you that you could work out by dancing? For some, this sounds much more appealing than hitting the machines or lifting heavy things. Dancing has more benefits than just completely embarrassing yourself and being totally okay with it! And Les Mills’ BodyJam class has come up with the perfect combination of good modern music, dance moves, and a workout all rolled into one class. And it's our group fitness class of the month.

Let’s take a look at the benefits of dancing, what BodyJam is really composed of, and why it can benefit you.

The Fitness Benefits of Dancing

Dancing is a great workout because it…

  • Is a good way to stay fit for people of all ages, shapes, and sizes.
  • Helps you tone, strengthen, and build greater endurance for your muscles.
  • Has cardiovascular benefits.
  • Has a very high enjoyment factor.
  • Assists in weight management.
  • Increases bone density due to weight-bearing exercise.
  • Increases coordination and flexibility.
  • Improves balance.
  • Is a great way to meet other friends at the gym.

And finally:

Working Out While Dancing

BodyJam is a dance-inspired cardio workout. This 60-minute class will get your heart rate going and elicit a pretty solid calorie burn. Not to mention that the music is constantly changing and being updated with the “what’s most hot” list. Sounds like the full package deal to me: you get to hear the latest songs, dance away, and get a cardiovascular workout all at the same time!

But for all of you out there like me with two left feet, fear not: this class is still for you! With an instructor leading the class and showing you the moves, you are sure not to get left behind.

Give It a Try at NIFS!

With the vast benefits of dancing, and the format of a Les Mills BodyJam class, I would say it’s worth a try! Check out the NIFS group fitness schedule for BodyJam class times. Classes are free to members. If you are not a member of NIFS currently, you can purchase a class pass at the NIFS service desk.

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This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Fitness Center Manager. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS Les Mills music Group Fitness Class of the Month dancing BodyJam