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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Weightlifting Gear: Equipment to Enhance Training—or Ego?

lifting.jpgThere are numerous different products on the market now that are supposed to help improve your strength training. From lifting belts to Mark Bell’s patented Slingshot, there is more gear available now than ever. For a novice lifter, the multitude of available products will probably just leave your head spinning. What is actually helpful and what is just a moneymaker? Here is my take on some of the most popular products out there.

Lifting Belts

There are some products that I will advise most lifters to stay away from, but this is not one of them! A lifting belt is imperative to a good strength training regimen. Any kind of substantial load for a squat or a deadlift is going to put a lot of pressure into your abdominal cavity, as well as onto your spine. A lifting belt acts as a brace when the lifter takes in a large breath and pushes their abdomen out into the belt. This ensures that the spine stays stable in place and has nowhere to go, resulting in a much-reduced risk of injury. This piece of equipment is the first that I would recommend purchasing for any new lifter, especially if you are thinking about competing in powerlifting.

Not sure if you want to compete? Try it out at the annual NIFS Powerlifting Competition! It is a great starter meet to get your feet wet and see what competition is all about.

Olympic Lifting Shoes

You have probably seen or heard of lifting shoes before. They have an elevated heel and make a nice, loud “SMACK” sound on the platforms at NIFS during a properly executed Olympic lift. These shoes can be helpful for more than just Olympic lifting, though. They can be very helpful for front and back squats (depending on your body type). If you have the right body type (usually tall and lanky), these shoes will create better leverage for you to squat more efficiently. The elevated heel actually shifts your center of gravity forward just a slight bit, which allows the squatter to sit backwards and reach “good depth” easier.

These shoes can be somewhat costly for students. Try to find a good deal on a pair of lifters if you are strapped for cash. The more expensive pairs (Nike Romaleos) can run up to $250 or $300, but Adidas makes a similar shoe that you can find for around $75. If you are not an Olympic competitor, there is not much need to spend a couple hundred dollars on these shoes.

Mark Bell’s Slingshot

So, we have looked at an “almost necessary” product and a “nice to have, but don’t totally need” product. Here is an example of a “don’t really need at all” product. Mark Bell’s Slingshot is a highly elastic band with two arm sleeves on the side, which, once you put the Slingshot on, causes the elastic band to stretch across your chest. Basically, this tool allows the lifter to handle heavier loads on the bench press than they normally could. The few advantages to this product are

  • Less shoulder pain for those with very severe shoulder issues
  • Overloading the bench press with above-maximal weight
  • Frankly, loading your ego by seeing how much you can bench when using it

If you’re thinking I am just hating on Mark Bell or his product without just cause, please reconsider. I am a big fan of Mark and his no-nonsense business style. He knows what his product is for and to whom he should market it. I even have a Slingshot of my own! That being said, I think there are too many young lifters who buy his products just because they see him as an idol and they want to be like him in any way possible. The Slingshot is a tool that can be utilized by experienced lifters, and it can be helpful. But, for the beginner lifter, this product will almost certainly do you more harm than good.

Start with the Basics

There is a time and place for most lifting products, but most of them are not needed until you are way down the road to being competitive. Start with the basic products that will benefit you, not confuse you. A lifting belt is a great product to start with, and possibly a pair of lifting shoes. Do your research about all lifting products and try to determine which ones will work the best for you. I urge you to not just buy any of these products on a whim, thinking that they have to help you because somebody famous said so.

For more information on lifting gear, or lifting heavy weights in general, contact Cara Hartman at [email protected]. Cara runs the LIFT program at NIFS and has some great expertise to share with you!

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This blog was written by Aaron Combs, NSCA CSCS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.


Topics: equipment NIFS programs injury prevention weightlifting powerlifting strength training

Thomas’s Corner: Turn Back the Fitness and Nutrition Clock: 2006

ThinkstockPhotos-491229984.jpgGreetings, NIFS friends. We have passed the midway point in the calendar year 2016, and I hope that you have been successful in meeting some of your yearly goals as well as making new ones. During this time of year, we find outdoor and recreational exercise more readily available and appealing, understandably, and because of this, there is time for the occasional spare moment for yours truly to ponder (by ponder, I mean BLOG!).

This series will elicit memories of fitness past, turning back the clocks to years past as fitness was evolving quickly to what it is today. We will look at the sometimes-crazy equipment trends, clothing necessities, what worked, and what did not work. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a stroll down memory lane.

2006: The Rise of Functional Training, Tai Chi, Pilates, and More

Our first stop is 2006, which seems not too long ago, but it has been 10 years already. What we do have is plenty of information on the topic thanks to the evolution of technologies of the times (the World Wide Web, for instance). The year 2006 saw many positives as well as negatives. Functional training as we know it today was still in the early adoption stages for many old-school fitness enthusiasts. But as we saw more and more benefits of this training ethos, many people jumped aboard.

Thankfully, those pioneers were able to show us that no matter how fit we think we are, there is still room for improvement. Along with tai chi, yoga, and Pilates and a byproduct of functional training ideas, BOSU became an instant fitness trend providing a new type of workout that incorporated sound body, mind, and balance. Today, we find BOSUs are still in high rotation at NIFS as well as among some of the top fitness professionals in the world.

Fad Diets of the Recent Past

Although we saw some great fitness-related breakthroughs, there were still some concerns when it came to nutrition and dieting. Fad diets, which had been all over the board for decades, brought us a couple of interesting trends that proved to work but were not without consequence and danger. The “low-carb” diet, which relies heavily on protein consumption with very little carbohydrates, showed promise when people began losing weight, but the cost ran high as individuals began experiencing an increased risk of coronary disease.

Another trend, the “grapefruit diet,” wanted us to eat a somewhat unfortunately sour piece of fruit to see our weight drop. This seemed good in principle, but time has shown that balanced nutrition is still king. Conversely, gyms adopted catchy marketing phrases to promote themselves such as, “diets don’t work.” It’s a misrepresentation of the truth, which is that we are all on diets (some are not as good as others, though).

All in all, there was little to be learned or gained from this time period in nutrition. Many people wanted the quick fix or magic pill to make all the bad stuff go away and accelerate the good stuff beyond what is considered good or normal. This seems to still be the case today, but there are always going to be those people who do not want to work for their fitness gains.

The More Things Change…

As you can see, there are many similarities between today and 2006. There is also an equal amount of topics we would like to move away from, which isn’t all bad considering we learn from our mistakes. The emergence of healthy mind and body really sticks with me as well as a movement toward functional training. Only time will tell how the new fitness trends of today will stack up and be viewed 10 years from now. 

If this blog has been a trip down memory lane for you, please share your yesteryear experience below and request a specific time/year for us to visit in a future blog so that we can continue together on this trip down memory lane. 

As always, muscleheads rejoice and evolve.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Specialist. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition Thomas' Corner yoga functional training Pilates fitness trends diets

Max Results with Minimal Equipment, Part 2: Superbands for Resistance

Screen_Shot_2016-08-23_at_1.59.16_PM.pngNext up on the minimal gear with max results list is truly one of my favorites, the superband. In part 1, we took a look the slider and all its versatility and ability to challenge the body in many different ways. The superband provides even more options with very little gear (mainly because we can perform more pulling movements with the band). So now we add “load” to a movement pattern on top of gravity. The superband is definitely next on the packing list when I travel, and I always have one available at home.

Favorite Portable Exercise Equipment: The Superband

The superband has been gaining in popularity over the last decade or so. With its easy-to-use and on-the-go capability, the superband has become a staple in many programs, from the weekend warrior (guys and gals like you and me) to elite-level athletes. Dave Schmitz, also known as “the Bandman,” has been teaching and promoting the use of superbands (resistance bands) since the mid-1990s. I have learned a great deal from Dave, not only about programming using bands, but also the motivation to reach as many people as I possibly can.

The band can be used anywhere, all by itself or attached to a stationary object or partner. This versatile tool uses tension as its load, and maintains resistance pretty much throughout a range of motion, which skyrockets its potential for strength gain and metabolic cost of the movement. The movement possibilities are endless, which can provide so much variety to your program either at home or away.

Best Superband Exercises and Workouts

Here are some of our favorite superband exercises:

Workouts:

M & M Bands Final

Circuit—:40/:20—3–5 Rounds

  • Front squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Bent-over rows
  • Jump press
Strength
  • A1 Chin-ups      4x5 (add load)
  • A2 Band push-ups      4x max reps
  • B1 2KB front squats      3x8-10
  • B2 Band hip press      3x8-10
  • C1 Band 1/2K lift      3x8
  • C2 Band bent-over rows      3x8
Give a few of these (or all of them) a try in your current program or on your next trip and you will find out what the band can do for you. Take along your sliders and you’ve just doubled the movement capabilities, and yet you are still only at two tools.

Stay tuned for the next installment, when we take a look at easily one of my favorite pieces, the TRX.

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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 fitness center equipment workouts resistance

Max Results with Minimal Equipment, Part 1: Sliders

Screen_Shot_2016-08-10_at_11.21.07_AM.pngIn my eight years here at NIFS, one major thing I am so lucky to have is a world-class fitness facility right outside my office door. Some of the greatest fitness equipment surrounded by some of the greatest fitness minds are at my fingertips every day. I love to move, and I love to move here, but many times I need to move outside of these walls, and of course I will have to leave the awesome gear where it lies.

But have no fear; there are some options that can maximize results with minimal gear. My first choice is my NIFS’ fitness floor, but in this four-part series, I will highlight my favorite tools to use when you can use only one.

Favorite Portable Exercise Equipment: The Slider

Today we take a look at the innocent-looking but brutal tool the slider, also known as a Valslide. You may have seen them used to move heavy furniture. This simple and versatile tool can challenge most movement patterns as well as create balance and stability needs. With movements ranging from beginner to advanced, there is really something for everybody when using sliders. They can act as a focal point of a metabolically driven circuit, or in a core-targeting segment, as well as super-setting with a heavy strength movement.

And one of the most appealing attributes of the slider is that you can take it anywhere without taking up any space. You will find that the four implements I will be highlighting all have this in common. The other thing these have in common is that they take away your excuses for not training while you are away.

Best Slider Exercises and Workouts

Here are 10 of my favorite slider exercises and some workouts that you can try out.

VIDEO WORKOUTS:

Circuit—:40/:20—3–5 rounds

  • Reverse lunges
  • Burpees
  • Hamstring curls
  • Pushup reaches

Strength

  • A1 barbell deadlift5x2

  •  A2 slider slideouts—3x10

  •  B1 DB flat bench press—3x8-10

  •  B2 slider eccentric hamstring curls —3x8-10

  •  C1 lat pull-downs—3x8

  •  C2 slider lateral lunges—3x8

M & M Sliders Final

There are far more movements and ways to use the versatile slider. For more ideas, flag down a NIFS instructor and they will be happy to help. Until next time when I cover the superband, add a few of these movements into your workout and start reaping the benefits of this simple tool.

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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 fitness center equipment workouts balance core

5 Reasons Being the Worst Improves Motivation and Fitness

ThinkstockPhotos-75547581.jpgOkay, so the title is a bit misleading. You shouldn’t really strive to be the worst at what you do. What I mean by that title is to put yourself in situations where you are consistently surrounded by people who are better than you. If you are too afraid to associate with those who are clearly more skilled, more talented, and harder working than you are, how will you ever figure out why they are better than you in the first place and find motivation and attitude to improve?

1. Others see things in you that you do not.

Often we, as humans, sell ourselves short on our own potential. We are either too afraid to try something new or too convinced that we don’t have the required skill set to do something, and we too often just give up. That’s the magic of an outsider’s perspective. Somebody else can and will see you, your strengths, and your weaknesses in ways that you cannot. And if you surround yourself with the right people, they will push you toward your strengths and encourage you to pursue the things that will be best for you.

2. Monkey see, monkey do.

Humans are creatures of habit. We can begin to create these habits without even realizing we are doing so. So, the more time you spend with people who are successful, the greater the chances are of you picking up on their good habits.

Since I have joined the team here at NIFS, Tony Maloney has been my main mentor. In the past 10 months, I have learned a vast amount of knowledge from Tony. What has been my number-one method of doing so? I follow him around and ask as many questions (stupid or otherwise) as I can. Some people say there are no such things as stupid questions. I disagree, because I have heard a fair amount come from my own mouth. You must not be afraid to ever ask a question. I would much rather sound stupid for a second than miss an opportunity to learn something new.

3. The leaders carry the pack.

If you stay loyal to those who help you and guide you, there will be some sort of payoff in the end. The success of others can often lead to your own success, so always be on the side of those who are going places. If you pick a great mentor, and then they go on to do bigger and better things, you never know what could happen. They could bring you along for the ride, or you could even possibly step into their old role if they see you have put enough time and effort into learning from them.

4. Learning keeps you humble.

If you are constantly learning and seeking out knowledge and experiences, when could you even find time to overindulge in self-praise and pride? A humble person finds his or her presence being desired by many more people than the person who cannot step out of their own spotlight. One of my favorite quotes is from Walter Payton, and it goes like this: “When you’re good at something, you’ll tell everyone. When you’re great at something, they’ll tell you.” So leave all the praising to others and always return the favor.

5. A single moment can change your life.

Does this sound like just a cliché to you? Well, drop that notion right now because this statement is true, and it can impact you if you allow it the opportunity. If you took this moment right now to commit to complimenting at least 10 people today, do you think that could change anything major in your life? If you don’t, please give this a try and see what happens. I know you will be surprised at the outcome. Never underestimate the power of a thought or a moment.

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This blog was written by Aaron Combs, NSCA CSCS and Health/Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness motivation attitude

Back-to-School Nutrition with Lunch Makeovers

ThinkstockPhotos-528974268.jpgIt’s that time of year again…back to school! This means busy evenings or early mornings getting lunches packed for the kids. What’s in a child’s lunch is important because it’s in childhood that eating habits are formed—and heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis, and other diseases begin to develop. Fatty buildups, the beginnings of clogged arteries, are seen in the arteries of children as young as 10 years old.

So even though that prepackaged meal is the quickest and easiest thing to throw in a lunchbox, consider these 10 ways to help your child eat a more balanced lunch.

  1. Encourage your child to choose 1% or fat-free milk. Milk is the biggest source of saturated fat in children’s diets. Choosing 1% or fat-free milk instead of whole or 2% is an important strategy for keeping children’s hearts healthy and arteries clear.
  2. Switch from bologna, salami, pastrami or corned beef, and other fatty luncheon meats to low-fat alternatives. Supermarkets sell many good-tasting, low-fat or fat-free brands of turkey breast, chicken breast, ham, bologna, and roast beef.
  3. Include at least one serving of fruit in every lunch. Try buying a few new types of fruit each week to let your child discover new favorites and to give him or her more healthy eating choices. In addition to apples, oranges, or bananas, try pears, sliced melon, cups of applesauce, grapes, or pineapple (fresh or canned in its own juice). Try serving fruit in different ways: whole, cut into slices, cubed, or with a yogurt dipping sauce.
  4. Sneak vegetables onto sandwiches. Try lettuce, slices of cucumber, tomato, green pepper, roasted peppers, zucchini, or sugar-snap peas. Eating fruits and vegetables reduces your child’s chances of heart disease, cancer, blindness, and stroke later in life. Putting veggies on a sandwich is one way to get more into your child’s diet.
  5. Use whole-wheat bread instead of white bread for sandwiches. Choose breads that list “whole wheat” as the first ingredient. If the main flour listed on the label is “wheat” or “unbleached wheat flour,” the product is not whole grain. Most multi-grain, rye, oatmeal, and pumpernickel breads in the U.S. are not whole grain.
  6. Limit cookies, snack cakes, doughnuts, brownies, and other sweet baked goods. Sweet baked goods are the second leading source of sugar and the fourth leading source of saturated fat in Americans’ diets. Low-fat baked goods can help cut heart-damaging saturated fat from your child’s diet, but even fat-free sweets can crowd out healthier foods like fruit. This nutrition rule does say LIMIT and not eliminate. The key is moderation when it comes to sweets!
  7. Pack baked chips, pretzels, Cheerios, breadsticks, or low-fat crackers instead of potato, corn, tortilla, or other chips made with oil. Avoid empty calories from artery clogging fried chips. Also, beware of Bugles, which are fried in heavily saturated coconut oil. One ounce has as much artery-clogging fat as a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder.
  8. If you pack juice, make sure it’s 100% juice. All fruit drinks are required to list the “% juice” on the label. Watch out for juice drinks like Sunny Delight, Hi-C, Hawaiian Punch, and Capri Sun. With no more than 10% juice, they are just as sugary as soft drinks.
  9. Don’t send prepackaged lunch trays. Oscar Mayer’s Lunchables that come with a treat and a drink get two-thirds of their calories from fat and sugar. They also contain over 1000mg of sodium, which is half the recommendation for the whole day. Making your own healthy alternative is as easy as packing low-fat crackers, low-fat lunchmeat, a piece of fruit, and a box of 100% juice in your child’s lunchbox.
  10. Let your child help pack their lunch. If your child is excited about the foods they are eating, they will be more likely to finish their energy-packed lunch. Allow them to help pick and choose items to put in their lunchbox each night or morning, teaching them the importance of meal planning and responsibility.

Find out more about nutritional coaching

This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here. (And to see what she brings for her lunch, click here!)

Topics: nutrition healthy eating calories lunch kids sodium