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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

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

Game of Inches: 5 Tips to Help You Stay Committed to Your Fitness Goal

Goalnew.jpgSome people in this world are really good at staying committed to something they have started, but there are many others who struggle with meeting a goal or expectation that they have set for themselves, then actually following through with it to completion. It can be a challenge to hit those markers if you cannot seem to stay committed to something, which in turn leads to discouragement, a sense of failure, and feeling defeated.

The 5 Goal-Setting Tips

If you find yourself needing to restart your fitness plan all the time, take a few minutes to read these 5 tips that will help you to achieve what you want.

  • Track your stuff. A handful of things are lumped into this category when I say your “stuff”: food, workouts, weight, body fat, measurements, and the list goes on. Tracking fitness—where you started and what you are doing—will allow you to see progress over time and keep you committed to what you originally started.
  • Write down your goal. After you have your goal(s) written down, post it someplace that you can be reminded of it constantly, such as on the fridge, on the mirror, in the car, or at work. Find a place that it will stare you in the face and not allow you to bury it in the “someday” fitness bucket list file.
  • Establish some accountability. This looks different for each individual. Maybe it’s an actual accountability partner who is invested in your goals, or maybe it’s being accountable to yourself through writing stuff down, keeping a fitness journal, or using a fitness tracker to push yourself. Whatever it is that will keep you accountable in the times that you are struggling to get done what you need to do, be sure to find that and begin implementing it right away to see yourself succeed.
  • Join a fitness challenge. Many gyms or even wearables have fitness challenges throughout the year that you can take part in. Be sure to find one and sign up for it right away. These challenges are typically built to get you into the gym a certain number of times per week or keep you on an exercise schedule. Don’t be afraid to fail; sign up for one and keep yourself going! NIFS is currently getting ready to launch a fitness challenge called the Game of Inches. Whether your goal is putting on mass or weight loss, you can participate in this 10-week program for a chance at some cool prizes! And the best part is, you don’t even have to be a member.
  • Make it a habit. One of the best ways to ensure that you meet your personal fitness goals or expectations is to make them healthy habits. When something is a habit in your life, it’s not forgotten or pushed off to the side. Make exercise a habit in your life so that it won’t be compromised when your schedule gets hectic or your responsibilities increase.

If you have been struggling to meet your fitness goals, following these simple steps will get you back on track, and staying on track, in no time. Find out what works best for you and make it a habit.

Game-of-inches-logo.jpgNIFS’s Game of Inches Helps You Meet Your Fitness Goals

Register for Game of Inches at the NIFS track desk, complete your Fit3D scan between October 15 and 21, complete the 10 weeks of training, and scan out between December 31 and January 6. Non-members are welcome too! For $130, you receive full access to the NIFS facility for the duration of the program. 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-place prizes will be awarded for both the inch loss winner and the inch gain winner.

For questions, contact Tony Maloney: tmaloney@nifs.org.

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

Topics: fitness healthy habits goal setting weight loss accountability NIFS programs challenge tracking fitness Game of Inches

NIFS Powerlifting Competition Prep Lesson #1: The Squat

The 4th Annual Powerlifting Competition is slated for November 11, 2017, and we are pumped (pardon the pun) to host another high-energy and exciting celebration of strength on the floor of the NIFS fitness center. Many will enter with the goal of dominating their weight class as well as grabbing that coveted top male or female trophy and being the 2017 NIFS Champion.

IMG_7071.jpgIf you are one of the athletes who have thrown their hats into the ring, I want to give you three key principles that will help you be the best you can be on event day for each of the three lifts. Those lifts, of course, are the squat, bench, and deadlift. Today we will focus on the squat. We will get to the other two soon, so keep an eye on the NIFS blog. You can improve by using these three key principles, whether you are a competitor or a spectator.

We will look at the same three weightlifting principles for each of the lifts, but each concept will be aimed specifically for each of the three different movement patterns. I learned long ago that principles should guide not only your training, but also your life. And as it relates to movement, variations of movement patterns may change, but the principles to train it will not.

The three key principles we will focus on for each of the lifts are

  • Mobility: The full range of motion of a particular joint(s).
  • Stability: Alignment, with integrity, under load. (A great lesson from Gray Cook that I learned in a workshop once.)
  • Tension: For our context in this and the two following posts, we will define tension as the word stiffness and explain phrases like “bending the bar” and “spread the floor.”

All three of these principles will directly impact how well you perform in each of the three lifts in specific ways. Let’s see how these can impact your squat and how to work to make things better.

Mobility

In the squat, and the back squat specifically, we continue to find the lack of ankle mobility to be a huge factor in how deep you can go and how much weight you can throw on your back. In a July article by Gray Cook (if you can’t tell, I learn a lot from him), Gray explains the importance of knowing your ability to flex your ankle and how it can disrupt the chain. Come see us and we can provide that screen for you. Improving your ankle mobility is a sure-fire way to improve your squat. The first step would be to do some soft-tissue work on the calf and surrounding areas using a foam roller, roller stick, or tennis/lacrosse ball. A simple drill that I would recommend is a wall ankle flexion drill, which you will perform in a few different directions.

Place your hands on a wall with one foot approximately 2–3 inches away from the wall and stagger the other foot behind you. While keeping the heel of the front foot “glued” to the ground, attempt to touch the wall with that same-side knee. Hold the position for a 2 count, return to the start position, and repeat for 4–5 more reps. Then aim that same side knee over your big toe and repeat for 5–6 reps, and then again but with your knee aimed out over your pinky toe. Switch legs and repeat the series. If you can touch the wall with your knee and your heel stays on the ground, move back one inch. The goal is to increase the degree of flexion in your ankle. You can measure your progress by how far from the wall your foot is.

Stability

Considering that powerlifters place huge amounts of weight on their shoulders and pretty much sit down and stand up, spinal stability is so important in performing technically sound and safe squats. Of course, planks and carries are great exercises to strengthen your trunk muscles, which will help prepare you for squatting, but what about during an actual mid-weight squat? Increase your intra-abdominal pressure by bracing your abdominal and low-back muscles. A great way to accomplish this is by wearing a belt. Tighten the belt and push your entire midsection against it, then squat. The belt also provides its own stability by reducing spinal flexion, or bending over. Lastly, wearing a belt is a requirement during competition, so if you are not training with one, you’d better get on it.

Tension

Tension, or stiffness in a lifter, is key when loading up the body with a challenging load. Without it, safety is at risk as well as success in completing the lift. “Bending the bar” is a phrase we use where a lifter will attempt to bend the bar on their shoulders by pulling the bar down with their hands. This, as they say, will take tension out of the bar and stiffen the lifter to move as one complete unit. Another major benefit of this cue is engaging the lats of the back by pulling the bar around your shoulders to help engage the glutes, which are key muscles in a strong squat. The lats connect to the glutes, the only muscle that connects the upper and lower body. Simply put, by creating tension in the lats, you increase the effectiveness of your butt.

The other cue that will increase tension in a lifter, specifically in the glutes, will be to “spread the floor” with your feet. Once in position and before you squat, feel as if you are trying to create space between your feet by pushing the floor away. Your position should not change, but your tension surely will. Maintain spreading the floor throughout the squat to reap the full benefits of this strategy.

***

So squat on, athletes, using mobility, stability, and tension to improve your positioning, which will ultimately lead to bigger lifts. Stay tuned as we break down the bench and the deadlift, focusing again on these key aspects.

Come watch our 4th Annual Powerlifting Competition here at NIFS, Saturday, November 11th at 9am.

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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 glutes mobility movement squat stability tension

Fall Fitness in Indiana: The Perfect Weather for Outdoor Exercise

ThinkstockPhotos-514312120.jpgIn Indiana, we experience all four seasons (sometimes all in the same day!). Your outdoor training and exercise regimen can be effected significantly by the season. While summer can be a fun, exciting time, exercising outdoors can be daunting and somewhat risky. While making sure you have plenty of water and sunscreen is important, a workout could just as easily be sabotaged by a trip for ice cream. Conversely, winter has its own set of challenges, including bundling up and having the proper footwear, as well as thinking about running out of daylight.

Luckily, for us Hoosiers, there is a happy medium: fall. Fall in Indiana provides us not only the ideal temperatures for outdoor exercise, but also the right atmosphere to get a jump on the busy holiday seasons. Here we discuss what you can do to make your autumn fitness lifestyle as productive as possible.

Family Exercise

Enjoying time with your dear ones can be challenging in the summer as well as winter. The kids are going to the pool in the summer, and there are so many family get-togethers in the winter, so it’s hard to relax for one weekend. There are many weeks in fall that allow for family time and exercise. Getting out in the cooler weather helps everyone become more comfortable with the environment. In turn, exercise comes more easily.

If you want your family to be more productive, raking leaves and yard work not only helps get your yard looking nice, but also gives you exercise and the self satisfaction of a job well done. Branching out from there, neighborhood cleanups tend to happen this time of year as well. You may reach out to your local neighborhood leaders to see when the next opportunity comes up.

For the Children

During the summer months, children have a lot of time to get outdoors and play. This form of exercise is a great way to develop physically and socially. With fall comes the return of school. Although many schools have recess and physical education classes, there seems to be a lack of lifetime physical fitness activities. There also seems to be an abundance of sitting. To counteract childhood obesity, getting your children the physical fitness they deserve could help keep their bodies strong and reduce the risk of diabetes.

What Can You Do?

Easy enough: GO OUTSIDE! Enjoy the foliage. Fall in Indiana produces postcard-quality beauty and charm. Although the weather isn’t bad, make sure to layer your clothing so that you can be more comfortable.

When it comes to nutrition, make sure to discipline your sweet tooth (for example, against Halloween candy) and tame your urges to try the Pumpkin Spice Everything. Boot camps are also a popular class in this season. Any group activities are a bonus because you will not only get great fitness but also meet new, like-minded individuals who can help you find a support network.

Your Challenge

I encourage you to step out this season. Get some exercise with your family and venture to a part of the state you might have never visited. There are dozens of state parks and recreational areas waiting to be explored. You can get a head start on the holiday season, and hopefully when your New Year’s resolution is on the front burner, you will be ready to go!

For more ideas for training this time of year, see a NIFS Health Fitness Specialist, who can design workout plans and discuss goals so that you are getting the right exercises to reach your personal bests. Let’s go!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness nutrition new year's fall Indiana outdoor exercise

7 Reasons to Track Your Fitness Progress

We are all on a fitness journey in one way or another. With life’s hectic schedule, it’s easy to lose track of where you are and where you want to be regarding your fitness. No matter whether you are trying to lose weight, put on mass, or maintain where you are, tracking fitness progress is an essential piece of your ongoing success.

While some people track every single workout, all gains, and all food consumed in their fitness journal, others just want to get it done and go by how they feel. But with the constant change in technology, specifically in the fitness industry, tracking progress becomes easier and easier; and in fact, it can add some benefits to your training.

ThinkstockPhotos-518956980.jpgThe Benefits of Logging and Tracking

For those who regularly log and track their progress, you may not need to be convinced why you should be tracking it. But keep reading—this is still for you! And for those who don’t normally track progress, take a quick look at why it might be important to start.

  • Makes it more likely to reach and surpass your goal.
  • Allows you to be more efficient in your time and workouts.
  • Lends accountability to yourself and your goals.
  • Allows for easier modifications and shows when and where changes need to be made.
  • It can be motivating and reinforcing to remind you why you are doing what you are.
  • Helps to drive the focus and direction of your programming.
  • Keeps you committed to your plan.

How to Track Your Progress

So how do you track your progress? There are so many different ways these days that you can do this. Apps, old-school fitness journals, online fitness challenges, in-house competitions in a gym, measurements, BOD PODs, photos, assessments, and the list goes on. One of the newest innovative ways to track progress is with a Fit3D scan. This assessment can provide over 200 measurements so that over time you can track your progress, whether you’re working on weight loss or muscle building.

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

Topics: weight loss NIFS programs muscle building apps assessments tracking fitness progress

STRENGTH: 6 Expert Weightlifting Tips to Be Stronger Than Ever

power.jpgStrength. We all want it, and many of us will go to great lengths to obtain it. Strength and the ability to be strong will find its way into all of our lives, from weightlifting in the gym to all the activities of daily living (ADLs). It was once explained to me that you should picture your absolute strength as a bucket; the bigger the bucket (the stronger you are), the more things you can put into the bucket. Aspects of health and fitness such as mobility, endurance, agility, and power can all be better developed and improved with the presence of strength. To put it simply: be strong—be better.

Of course you can google “how to get strong,” and you will find no shortage of philosophies and program theories to wade through to answer that question. Some may actually be safe and useful, but who can you trust these days? I tend to learn from those who have “been there and done that” and continue to do it because of a high success rate of most-wanted outcomes.

Get Strong Tips from Dan John

Dan John is one of the top fitness coaches, and I never miss a chance to hear him speak or read his weekly newsletters. I have learned so much from reading his materials and implementing his principles into my training and the training of others. Dan will be the first to tell you that he continues to learn from people like Pavel Tsatsouline and many others. Dan believes his tips are an “easy” way to get strong.

Following are six of his expert tips that I have integrated into my training (and the training of those I work with).

  • Lift heavy. This seems obvious, but it really is where it all begins. If you lift heavy weights to get strong, you have to challenge the system and force it to adapt. Without adaption, there will be no gain.
  • Perform the fundamental human movements. There are some variances in what is believed to be fundamental, depending on who you talk to. But I believe those movements are Squat, Hinge, Push, Pull, and Carry.
  • Keep sets and reps low. I love Dan’s “Power of 10” rule: never go over 10 total reps for any exercise. For example, 2x5, 5x2, 3x3, 6 singles, 5, 3 and 2.
  • Stop your set and workout before fatigue. Stay fresh and leave some energy for the next training session.
  • Don’t even struggle. Choose the proper load so that you can finish each rep with integrity, not sideways and crooked.
  • Never miss a rep. Choosing a load that you are 100% confident you can make can be hard for some. Most of us want to challenge the limits with every rep and set. Refrain from that for true gains.

A Challenge to Prepare for the Upcoming Powerlifting Competition

Following these tips, from time to time I will cycle in my training what Dan refers to as the 40-Workout Strength Challenge. With the NIFS 4th Annual Powerlifting Competition coming up on November 11, I wanted to share a program that I learned from Dan that added 10 pounds to my bench, 30 pounds to my squat, and 50 to my deadlift. Dan also has seen a few PRs fall in both throwing and weightlifting competitions. I am a big believer in the program’s concepts and simplicity. We are very good at overcomplicating things when it is not necessary. Here you work on fundamental movements all the time, and you make sure you hit every rep. This could be a great challenge for you leading into the competition; however, just like anything else, it might not work for everyone. Here’s the setup:

  1. Pick one exercise from the fundamental human movements described above. If competing in November is your goal, I would suggest a back squat, bench press, and deadlift. Add in a chinup and a farmer’s carry and you are good to go.
  2. Perform these exercises for the first 10 workouts every training session with varying sets and reps.
  3. Never miss a rep, and if the weight feels light, add more weight.
  4. After the first 10 workouts you can repeat them 3 additional times or make small changes to the movements every two weeks (for example, change to an incline bench, front squat, rack pulls, barbell bent-over rows, and racked carry). There are far too many examples of exercises and combinations to list here; I would suggest scheduling a personal program session with a NIFS instructor to help you out.

Here is how I set up my challenge that may help you develop yours. I can’t stress enough that this is what worked for me. It may not work for you, but it could be well worth the try.
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I found that after completing this 40-workout challenge, not only did I add pounds to my big lifts, but many of the other tasks in my life became easier. The other aspect of this challenge I really, really liked was that due to its simplicity, I can turn my brain down a bit and just lift. It provided that escape from our day-to-day tasks that I think we all need from time to time.

Sign Up for the Powerlifting Competition

The NIFS 4th Annual Powerlifting Competition is coming up on November 11, with early-bird registration starting on September 25. Be a part of this exciting celebration designed for all experience and fitness levels. You won’t regret it!

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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 strength powerlifting