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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Darius Felix

Recent Posts by Darius Felix:

Is Metabolism the Reason You’re Having Trouble with Weight Loss?

ThinkstockPhotos-505722820.jpgWe often hear people talk about their slow metabolism being the reason they cannot lose weight. While this may be true for some individuals, it does not apply to the majority of the population. If you have never actually had blood work done saying you have a slow metabolism, this more than likely is not the issue. Instead of blaming the metabolism, you have to look at the basic “recipe” for weight loss.

Two Ways to Lose Weight

As you might know by now, weight loss is caused by putting the body in a caloric deficit. Being in a caloric deficit means that the number of calories burned by the body has surpassed the amount of calories consumed by the body. This simple definition of a caloric deficit helps further explain the two popular methods in which you can obtain caloric deficiency.

  • Option 1: Consume fewer calories than required by the body for optimum energy output.
  • Option 2: Burn off more calories than consumed by the body.

Factors Affecting How Many Calories You Burn

Now let’s take a look at the things that affect your energy expenditure.

The first thing that affects total energy expenditure (TEE) is your resting metabolic rate (RMR). RMR is defined as the energy your body requires for normal daily functioning without movement. This is your body’s set energy output on a daily basis.

TEE also takes into consideration something called the thermic effect of food (TEF). This is described as the energy required to break down the food you consume. Thermic effect of food usually makes up 10–15% of your energy expenditure.

The rest of your TEE is made up of your movement with intentional and non-intentional exercise or non-exercise physical activity (NEPA). NEPA can make up anywhere between 15–50% of your energy expenditure. If you are sedentary for a majority of the day, you may be burning only 15% of your energy expenditure; when you remain active for a majority of the day, you may be burning up to (but not limited to) 50% of your energy expenditure as compared to your RMR.

Looking at BOD POD Results

To put this into perspective, here is my BMR and TEE that I received from doing my NIFS BOD BOD.

TEE = RMR + TEF + exercise
RMR = 1,642 kcals 
TEF = 246 kcals (15%)
Intentional Exercise/ Non-intentional exercise = 246 kcals (15%) (1,642 x .15)
821 kcals (50%) (1,642 x .5)

Using the numbers above, on a sedentary day I would burn around 2,102–2,134 kcals (15%). On an active day, I would burn around 2,709–2,857 kcals (50%). On a very active day I could burn up to 3,415 kcals for the day. Now let’s say I eat around 2,200 kcals on a consistent basis. Eating 2,200 kcals on a sedentary day would put me in a caloric surplus, whereas eating 2,200 kcals on an active day would put me in a caloric deficit.

Sedentary day = 66 kcal surplus
Active day (including intentional exercise and NEPA) = 657 kcal deficit

So just by being more active throughout the day I would be able to take myself from being in a surplus to being in a caloric deficit, which is the basis for weight loss.

ThinkstockPhotos-154306165.jpgDo You Just Need to Move More?

Now ask yourself this: Are you having trouble losing weight because you have a slow metabolism, or are you just not moving and burning calories throughout the day? More than likely your caloric deficit difficulties are because of a lack of calorie burning due to a lack of movement throughout the day.

Being sedentary vs. engaging in intentional exercise and NEPA can make a world of difference as to whether you are achieving a caloric deficit. So if you don’t take anything else from this blog, remember this: weight loss usually requires a LIFESTYLE change instead of just engaging in intentional exercise. You must maximize your energy expenditure throughout the entire day to widen the gap between calorie consumption and total energy expenditure.

Schedule your BOD POD assessment today to find out your true numbers by calling 317-274-3432, ext. 262.

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

Topics: NIFS weight loss calories metabolism BODPOD

The Hidden Wellness and Fitness Benefits of Yoga

Yoga3.jpgMany of us know that yoga serves as a form of physical activity that increases flexibility for participants. Yoga focuses on putting the individuals in body poses that elongate muscles from head to toe. While this is very true, and I encourage anyone looking to improve their flexibility to incorporate yoga into their weekly workout routine, yoga has so much more to offer than just improvements in flexibility. In fact, the original context of yoga had very little to do with improving flexibility at all.

Originally the purpose of yoga was spiritual development practices to improve mind-body awareness. Over the years, however, many have begun to focus more on the physical benefits of yoga than the mental and spiritual benefits, which has led the practice of yoga to take on newly defined purposes. However, it is important to understand the mind-body awareness benefits of yoga, as they can be just as if not more beneficial than the physical attributes. Let’s take a look at what some of those hidden benefits are.

Nervous System and Digestive System

One major focus of yoga is to become more aware of and to control your breathing patterns. By learning to control breathing, you can move from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system almost instantaneously. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the “fight or flight” response, or the part of your nervous system designed to respond to stress. When the sympathetic nervous system is in control, heart rate and blood pressure rise as a response to fight a possible threat. You want to limit the activity of this side of the autonomic nervous system. This is important because when the parasympathetic nervous system (or rest and digest) is in majority of control, your heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels lower while your digestion rate increases. Once your body reaches this relaxed state, anxiety becomes something of the past. A faster digestive system helps your body make the most of nutrients found in the food you consume while regulating regular bodily function.

Focus and Creativity

If you ask an experienced yogi what the hardest part of yoga is, you might be surprised by their answer. Typically, one might assume that holding the different yoga poses would be the most challenging aspect; however, there is an even bigger challenge, which includes focusing—on nothing. Meditation is another crucial component of a successful yoga session. Experienced yogis are able to focus their attention on nothing but their inner self; all outside distractions are eliminated, at least temporarily. This may sound very simple, but if you have ever tried to completely clear your mind of all inner thoughts besides what you are feeling at that exact moment, you may be able to grasp how difficult a task this is to successfully complete.

However, once one is able to control their center of attention, they will find their ability to stay focused on one particular task (especially those that require attention to detail) becomes better and better. In a 2012 study published by the journal Frontiers in Psychology, researchers were able to determine those who practiced meditation for at least 10 minutes a day for up to 16 weeks performed better with divergent-thinking tasks than those who did not participate in meditation at all.

Strength and Muscle Definition

Just in case you are not fascinated by the mind-body awareness benefits of yoga, there is a less discussed muscle defining and strengthening benefit as well, for those who are solemnly interested in the physical benefits. Who knew that yoga is actually great for improving muscle definition, and in rare cases even muscle hypertrophy? Because yoga focuses on moving and upholding your own body weight in various positions, it serves as a great strength workout in addition to flexibility and mind-body training.

Unlike traditional resistance training, which focuses primarily on the concentric contraction (the muscle contracts as it shortens) of a muscle, yoga focuses primarily on the eccentric contraction (the muscle contracts as it stretches) of a muscle. The eccentric contraction component gives muscles a more elongated look, while concentric contractions give muscles a shorter, more bulgy, look. If you have ever seen an experienced yogi’s physique, it may resemble that of a gymnast, basketball player, or even a track athlete versus those who participate in more traditional forms of resistance training, who might resemble a football player or bodybuilder with more muscle hypertrophy.

Yoga tends to train small and large muscles all over the body due to its high demand for muscles to work in conjunction with each other to perform the different body movements in various planes of movement. This is good for the reason that you often tend to work smaller muscle groups that may get little to no attention when practicing machine-oriented resistance training. With a machine that focuses on a one-dimensional plane of movement, it’s often impossible to train multiple muscle groups at the same time. Therefore, yoga tends to be a better option for improving overall body strength along with achieving a more proportional muscular physique.

Other Wellness Benefits

Some additional notable benefits of yoga also include (but are not limited to) immune system boost, pain management, increase in gray brain matter and increase in balance, and function ability. As noted above, the mental and nervous system benefits of yoga must begin to take back priority. Although improving flexibility can be a great thing, many have found that these additional benefits are what separate this form of physical activity from any other form.

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This blog was written by Darius Felix, Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: yoga muscles focus flexibility digestion wellness nervous system mind-body

Weightlifting for Women: Enhance Weight Loss and More

ThinkstockPhotos-512273152.jpgLet’s play out a little scenario. Judy just renewed her gym membership because it’s almost time for her annual summer vacation. She currently weighs 170 pounds but wants to lose around 30 pounds before she goes on vacation. She has taken herself through this transformation once before by running 4 miles on the treadmill every other day until she finally got to her desired weight. She plans to come to the gym this year with the same game plan as last time. Judy does not lift weights because she only wants to lose fat, not gain muscle.

Now here is the question: Should Judy repeat her cardio routine this year, or should she incorporate heavy resistance training?

Lifting Heavy Weights Has More Benefits Than Cardio Alone

This may be the approach many females take when trying to lose weight. Doing cardiovascular exercise is much easier and more effective at weight loss than weight training, right? WRONG! In fact, I strongly believe any woman who is looking to lose weight should invest more of her time into weight training. But I don’t recommend just any weight training; it needs to be heavy weight training!

Reasons to Add Weightlifting

It’s easy to understand why many females prefer not to lift heavy weights when in the gym. It often causes a lack of comfort if you are not used to pushing your body to its max strength levels. In addition, the female lifting recommendation for years has been to stick with light to moderate weight with an abundance of sets and reps. While this is not a bad recommendation, lifting heavy can add a great list of benefits that lighter weight (and cardio) just cannot compare to, all while possibly giving you faster, more dramatic results.   

  • Burn more calories. In terms of fat loss, forcing your body to lift heavy weight repeatedly will stimulate muscle growth, which creates a higher metabolism. The more muscle in the body, the more fat-burning potential will be created. When you are done lifting weights, your body continues to burn calories due to its need for muscle recovery. This is called EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. So even when you are no longer in the gym working out, your body is still burning calories for you. EPOC does not happen with non-resistance training.  
  • Get toned, not ripped. Lifting weights brings out a woman’s natural curves and body structure. It’s easy to believe lifting weights will cause bulky muscles to form, just as many guys become bulky when we lift. However, there is one huge difference between males and females and that’s the presence of testosterone. As you may know, one responsibility of testosterone is muscle hypertrophy. Since females have very low amounts of testosterone, becoming bulky is often not a realistic expectation. Instead, when females participate in heavy weight training, their bodies actually become smaller due to more muscle and less fat. Females actually become leaner and curvier, which often leads to an increase in body image and self-confidence. 
  • Gain confidence. I believe a strong reason many females would rather do cardio instead of weightlifting may be due to their lack of confidence. If the treadmill or the elliptical has always been your best friend, you may find it hard to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself with a heavy weight-training program. However, what many females come to find out is once weightlifting barriers have been torn down, confidence levels rise. I have heard many women in the gym say there is nothing more satisfying than when they are finally able to lift a weight that they could not lift previously. It not only reassures you that with some hard work and consistency you can push your body to new levels, but it also confirms that women do, in fact, belong in the weight room lifting heavy weight.

The Question Again: Should You Add Weight Training?

I will raise my question again: should Judy repeat her routine this year, or should she incorporate heavy resistance training into her program for different results? Sure doing 4 miles a day may get Judy to her ultimate weight-loss goal, but how much of her weight loss will be due to actual fat loss instead of muscle loss? Typically when cardio is a large portion of the workout routine, you tend to lose muscle, whereas when resistance training makes up a large portion of the workout routine, you tend to gain muscle. Remember, the more muscle in the body, the higher the metabolism, and the higher the rate of caloric burn—and the more weight you lose.

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This blog was written by Darius Felix, Health Fitness Specialist. For more on the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: cardio weight loss calories weightlifting women toning

Fitness Tips for Introverts: Find a Workout for Your Personality Type

ThinkstockPhotos-128931537.jpgKnowing whether you are an introvert or an extrovert can help determine what type of fitness plan/program will work best for you. Contrary to popular belief, being an introvert doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a shy person. Although introversion does have elements of apprehension, nervousness, and shyness, it essentially means that a person gets their energy from being alone or in a small group. They also tend to have their energy drained by too much external stimulation, such as being around a large group of people for too long. Therefore, if a person is not aware of their personality type, he or she may come to believe something is wrong with them when an exercise program does little to help them accomplish their goals.

The first step to discovering whether you are an introvert is to look at common behavioral habits of introverts all over the world.

You Might Be an Introvert If…

Here are 5 of 23 signs that you may be an introvert via the Huffington Post (click here to see the full list):

  • You find small talk incredibly troublesome. 
  • You often feel alone in a crowd.
  • You’re easily distracted.
  • Downtime doesn’t feel unproductive to you.
  • You shut down after you’ve been active for too long.

Best Workout Tips for People Who Prefer Solitude

If you identify yourself as an introvert, consider a few things before planning a fitness program.

  • Find smaller groups or solo exercise. The first thing you may want to consider is that introverts typically don’t need to interact as much with other people in order to gain energy. Therefore, things such as group exercise may not be necessary (unless you genuinely enjoy them). Solo or small-group exercise—such as yoga, swimming, and small group training—or working out with a partner are typically the best options for many introverts. Working out alone provides enough energy and focus for the individual to have a successful workout. This does not mean occasional group exercise is a bad idea, however, since introverts alternate between periods of solitude and social interaction.
  • Keep workouts short. You may also want to consider that since introverts become energy deficient when exposed to external stimulation for too long, it’s a good idea to keep your workouts short and effective. This will allow for an efficient use of your energy systems without feeling drained. Exercise methods such as High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) provide extremely effective workouts without you having to spend a lot of time doing them.
  • Use your brain power. Lastly, did you know that an introvert’s brain is wired differently than an extrovert’s? It has been proven that introverts have more gray matter in their prefrontal cortex, which is the area associated with decision-making. This means introverts devote more brain power to analysis, which you can use to your advantage. If you want to get in shape, start by using the power of your brain to do research and analyze the data that you find. Read, write, think, and reflect on topics that pertain to your specific goals. The more you learn and understand exactly what needs to be done, the more likely you are to stick with your program and become successful with it.

One of the most important aspects of an exercise program’s effectiveness tends to be how well it is catered to the individual. There is no one-size-fits-all program. Different people have different requirements when it comes to exercise programming. See a NIFS Health and Fitness Specialist today if you are in need of a program that fits YOU! 

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This blog was written by Darius Felix, Health Fitness Instructor. Click here for more information about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: NIFS exercise group training workout personality type introvert

The Incredible Bulk: What You Need to Know About Building Muscle

IMG_7072new.jpgFor years fitness enthusiasts have used the colder months of the year as an opportunity to put on muscle mass (or muscular hypertrophy) without having to expose the additional fat mass they have added in their attempt to grow bigger muscles. It’s traditional to believe one must participate in a “dirty bulk” followed by a “cutting phase,” which is a method used by many bodybuilders. Many of them will add an excessive amount of fat and muscle size, and then transition to their cutting phase, which consists of a decrease in body fat while attempting to maintain as much muscle as possible.

This method has been shown to be effective at developing “Quick Gaines”; however, the period of carrying excess fat is often not pleasing to the eye of the weightlifter.

Getting rid of the excess fat after you have obtained it may also be more challenging than you expect. If you are a guy or girl interested n muscle building this bulking season but would prefer not to pack on the extra fat mass as well, I’m here to break down how this can be done through various methods.

Two Methods for Building Muscles

There are two different types of muscle hypertrophy: sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar.

  • Method 1: Sarcoplasmic is defined as an increase in muscle cell size due to an increase in the volume of sarcoplasmic fluid within a muscle cell, with little strength increase. This means a person is able to obtain bigger muscles through expanded muscle cell size without necessarily increasing the amount of strength and power the muscle can produce. This type of hypertrophy is often seen in bodybuilders as they are primarily concerned with increasing size for show purposes rather than worried about strength gains.
  • Method 2: Myofibrillar hypertrophy is defined as an increase in muscle size due to an increased number of actin and myosin contractile proteins. This type of hypertrophy does allow for an increase in strength. Myofibrillar training involves heavy weight with low rep ranges (specifically 3–7 reps). Because heavier weight is lifted, muscle size can increase as well as overall strength capabilities of the muscles being utilized. The formula is simple: bigger muscles allow for higher strength thresholds.

To get a better grasp on these two concepts, consider this image. One circle (muscle cell) increases due to increased volume (sarcoplasmic fluid), while the other increases in size due to increased concentration of myofibrils (actin and myosin).

Choosing Your Hypertrophy Method

IMG_7174.jpgSo which type of hypertrophy should you go for? That depends on what your personal goal is. Ask yourself these three quick questions before you approach method 1 or method 2:

  1. Do you wish to gain muscle size only for physique purposes, or do you wish to improve your strength as well? (Physique purposes = Sarcoplasmic; physique and strength purposes = Myofibrillar)
  2. Will I be more consistent/enjoy lifting heavy weight and fewer reps, or moderate to moderately heavy weight with a higher rep scheme? (Being able to remain consistent will play a huge role in the results you see.)
  3. What is the average time I will have to complete my workout? (If you have less than 1 hour you may want to go with higher-volume training. High-volume training calls for shorter rest periods due to faster muscle recovery vs. heavy load training, which requires longer rest periods due to slower muscle recovery. Higher volume/shorter rest period training also adds an element of cardiovascular conditioning as well due to an extended period of elevated heart rate.)

In my opinion, a strategic combination of both methods would be ideal for maximum functional hypertrophy. The Sarcoplasmic method ensures you are not just gaining muscle size, but also increasing cardiovascular conditioning. The myofibrillar method also allows for increased muscle size; however, your overall strength capacity will improve as well. Combining both methods together in a comprehensive exercise program will allow all aspects of muscle hypertrophy, strength, and cardiovascular conditioning to prevail.

Make an appointment today with a NIFS Health Fitness Specialist to figure out how to attack this bulking season!

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

Topics: winter muscle building hypertrophy building muscle bulking

Posture and Fitness (Part 2): Anterior Pelvic Tilt

ThinkstockPhotos-611184084.jpgIn part 1 of this series covered kyphosis (rounded shoulders). Now we move on to another posture issue, anterior pelvic tilt.

What Is It?

Anterior pelvic tilt (APT) is a postural deficiency that results in an excessive forward tilt of the pelvic region. Essentially, it protrudes the abdominal region while creating an excessive lower-back curvature. This postural deficiency can cause one to have lower back pain, more abnormal movement mechanics, and muscle accommodation throughout the body, which we refer to as reciprocal inhibition.

What Causes It?

APT is commonly caused by excessive sitting. While in the seated position, your hip flexor muscles become very tight from being in their shortened position. When the hip flexors become tight, they pull down on the pelvis, which causes a forward tilt. Tight hip flexors also keep the gluteus muscles from firing efficiently, which causes the hamstrings to compensate for the lack of use, which in return causes them to become overworked. (The root cause for tight hamstrings may be anterior pelvic tilt.) APT is also a cause of weak abdominal muscles. The abs become loose and overstretched, which allows the pelvis to tilt forward even more. This may lead to a false conclusion of having too much fat around the abdominal region because your belly tends to stick out farther than what is natural.

Why Is It Bad for Fitness?

APT causes an overextension of the lumbar spine, lack of glute activation, and quad dominance, which leads to compensation patterns and poor exercise technique.

How to Fix It

There is a solution! In order to fix this problem, you must attack the root cause. Most commonly you will need to improve your hip flexibility, which can be done with a variety of hip stretches and proper warmup and movement patterns that I will list below. Once the hips have regained flexibility through stretching, the gluteus and hamstring muscles should be allowed to fire more efficiently. This will allow the pelvic region to rotate back into proper alignment, which will make movement patterns such as the squat and deadlift more comfortable, especially for the lower back. It is also a good idea to strengthen up the abdominal region as this will pull up on the quadriceps muscles, also allowing the pelvis to be pulled back into place.

Muscles to Stretch

  • PSOAS
    Hip stretches: Butterfly stretch, pigeon pose, kneeling hip flexor stretch, etc.
  • Quads
    Quad stretches: Standing quad stretch, kneeling quad stretch, etc.

Muscles to Strengthen

  • Glutes (Gluteus Maximus and Minimus)
    Glute exercises: Hip thrust, squats, etc.
  • Hamstrings
    Hamstring exercises: Straight-leg deadlifts, Swiss ball leg curls, lying hamstring curls
    Anti-extension abdominal: Planks, hallow holds, hanging leg raises, reverse crunches, lying pelvic tilt 

See a NIFS Health Fitness Specialist today if you believe APT may be keeping you from proper exercise mechanics.

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This blog was written by Darius Felix, Health Fitness Instructor. Click here for more information about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: NIFS fitness muscles stretching strength training glutes functional movement assessments posture glute abs hamstring APT anterior pelvic tilt

High Intensity Training (HIT): No Pain, No Gain

HIT-6.jpgIf you have ever participated in High Intensity Training (HIT), you will quickly discover what separates this style of workout from other popular styles you may know, like super sets or pyramid training. The main intention behind high intensity training workouts is that the workout will challenge your body to such a level of discomfort that its threshold or maximum capacity has no choice but to rise. Now don’t let the word “such a level of discomfort” scare you away; it’s the discomfort level that we all feel during exercise at some point, and of course you can push past it.

The Importance of Pushing Past the Pain

During resistance training, you will at some point begin to experience a level of discomfort. This happens because lactic acid begins to be produced by muscles during intense exercise bouts, which causes muscle fatigue. Although lactic acid may slow down muscle productivity and intensity, it does not mean you have reached muscle failure and are unable to continue. Quite honestly, this means your set is just now starting (if you want to bring down barriers and advance to the next level). Most individuals get to this point of discomfort and stop their set. However, if you stop here, you are more than likely not pushing your body past its threshold point, which is important in order to increase muscle strength, endurance, and even hypertrophy (muscle building).

Specifically, in high intensity style training, most often you will reach that lactate threshold and then be pushed beyond that. Just when you think that your body can go on no longer, you dig deep within yourself and the encouragement of your teammates and find that new level. And this is why we see so many success stories in people who attend HIT workouts. They push beyond what their bodies thought they could do, past the threshold, resulting in an increase in muscle strength and endurance.

hit-high-res-logo-web-new.jpgHow NIFS Can Help

If you need help discovering what those new levels are, and some accountability to keep pushing, then I invite you to try NIFS’s High Intensity Training. Our classes are designed to motivate you to push past the limits you think are there by utilizing short bouts of high intensity work, which will increase your body’s thresholds, causing an increase of metabolism. We use our training expertise to provide the necessary motivation to close the gap between you and your body’s threshold. Once you reach this threshold, we will teach you how to tap into that next level to take your workouts to the next step on the ladder of success!

We invite you to come experience a good workout, a good team feeling, and a good environment where each participant has the same goal: to get better! Get your first session for FREE by contacting Amanda Bireline at abireline@nifs.org.

Yes! I want to try a HIT class!

This blog was written by Darius Felix, Health Fitness Instructor. Click here for more information about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: NIFS group training accountability muscles resistance strength HIT pain high intensity muscle building

Posture and Fitness: Kyphosis (Rounded Shoulders)

One thing I have really begun to pay special attention to within my exercise program lately is correcting my postural deficiencies. About a month ago as I was staring in the mirror (in awe of my handsome looks) waiting to begin my next set of shoulder presses, I noticed that both of my shoulders were comfortably rounded forward as I stood straight up. I made a conscious effort to pull them back in line with my ear, knee, and ankle (correct posture); however, this was very uncomfortable for me to maintain for a short period of time.

ThinkstockPhotos-148154696.jpgIt then dawned on me that if it was uncomfortable for me to maintain good posture for a few seconds, imagine the effect these deficiencies will eventually have on my muscularity, the efficiency of my resistance training in regard to compensation for the targeted muscles, as well as the greater postural deficiencies that naturally occur as we get into our later years. So for the next couple of months I will be doing a series of blogs on the most common posture problems and what causes them, as well as how to improve them before they get too far out of hand.

Many people find themselves hunched over a keyboard or office desk for many hours throughout the day. This can have a huge effect on your posture over time. Hunchback, or rounded shoulders, occurs because we often do not have the muscular endurance in our upper back and shoulder muscles to resist and fight against gravity. When we allow our shoulders to round forward (known as kyphosis), our anterior muscles (pectoralis major and minor) become tight due to always being in a shortened state while our posterior shoulder muscles (trapezius, rhomboids, and rotator cuff muscles) become lengthened and weak.

The best way to find out if you might have this problem is to have someone take a photo of you from the side in your natural, relaxed, standing position. If your ears, shoulder, knees, and ankles are not aligned with each other, you could have a moderate to severe case of kyphosis. No worries, however, as this is very common now, especially with the prevalent use of computers in the workplace and at home. Here are some quick solutions you can implement into your warmup to help your alignment.

Solution One: Maintain Correct Positioning When Sitting at the Computer

Maintain correct positioning (shoulder blades back, chest open wide) when sitting at a computer desk. This may seem obvious, but if it was as obvious as it seems, we wouldn’t be having this conversation in the first place. The more time you spend in this position, the quicker your body will adapt to being in proper alignment.

Also try to avoid excessive use of laptops. Laptops naturally put your body in a rounded-shoulder positioning because of how low the computer screen is when placed in the lap. Instead, try stacking the laptop on top of a box or a stack of books so that the upper edge of the monitor is just below eye level. This will help you maintain a natural, “unrounded,” or upright shoulder position because you no longer have to be hunched over looking down at the computer monitor.

Solution Two: Foam Rolling

Foam roll the thoracic spine to improve thoracic extension range of motion. Myofascial release (foam rolling) will help you regain full extension in your thoracic spine that might have been lost due to weak upper-back muscles and constant downward pull on the anterior pectoral and shoulder muscles.

Solution Three: Static Stretching

Statically stretch the pectoralis major and minor muscles to free up any tightness in the chest. Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat two to three times before your resistance or cardio training workout. This will help eliminate some pulling of the anterior shoulder muscles, which will make it easier for you to maintain proper postural alignment. Here’s a video of some static chest stretches you can try.

Solution Four: Upper Posterior Chain Muscle Exercises

Increase muscular strength and endurance of the posterior shoulder muscles by performing various upper posterior chain muscle exercises. By strengthening these muscles, maintaining proper alignment of the shoulders will become much more natural and manageable for an individual over long periods of time. When our posterior shoulder muscles lack strength, they have little chance of winning the fight against gravity when hunched over a computer keyboard.

One example of an exercise you can implement is the floor cobra. This will help with thoracic extension (as stated above) as well as retraction of the shoulder blades and opening of the chest muscles.

***

Remember, it took a great deal of time for your body to eventually adapt to the poor postural alignment, so you can expect the same with the correction process. Even though these tips will help you regain postural alignment, you cannot expect to see a great deal of change overnight. These tips have to be implemented into your daily life in order to see long-term changes.

Stay tuned for my next blog, where I will be covering another common postural problem: Anterior pelvic tilt.

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This blog was written by Darius Felix, Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here. 

Topics: fitness muscles exercises workplace wellness posture

Five Resistance-Training Mistakes that Slow Muscle-Building

ThinkstockPhotos-517048740.jpgBuilding muscle is perhaps the most common goal (second to fat loss) of an exercise program. Many people eventually hit a plateau with exercise routines and muscle-gaining processes and find it increasingly difficult to continue putting on new muscle. Once the body becomes too familiar with certain exercises or a certain style of training, your results will be hindered.

However, you might in fact need to take a closer look at your training habits before you jump to the conclusion that you have hit a plateau. Take a look at my top 5 muscle-building mistakes, and how to power through the plateau and continue making gains.

1. Overtraining

Overtraining is a very real trap to which many people trying to gain muscle fall victim. In our society we often think that when trying to gain muscle, “more is better.” However, when it comes to training, more is often not better. Only the right amount of the right type of training will be beneficial to increasing muscle in the body.

The easiest way to explain this concept is to first point out that in order for muscles to grow in size (hypertrophy), they must be allowed to fully recover from micro tears experienced during an intense resistance-training workout. If we fall into the trap of thinking more is better, we often find ourselves either doing an absurd amount of sets and reps for each muscle group, or training the same muscle group multiple times a week, and not allowing proper recovery time. While I do applaud the effort in this technique, I have learned from personal experience that sometimes instead of training harder, we must train smarter.

2. Under-training

As opposed to mistake number 1, numerous people also often under-train when working out. Under-training happens when you walk into the gym and head over to the leg extension machine, perform a set of 12 reps at low-moderate intensity, and play with your phone for 2 or 3 minutes while resting, waiting on your next set. When trying to build muscle, the number of reps you complete does not mean anything if you are not bringing the correct intensity to those numbers. If you are on rep 12 and it feels like you are trying to lift a car, you are at the correct intensity for that exercise. If you get to rep 12 and you are already looking forward to your next set because you felt as though 12 reps was not enough, you might not be training with the proper intensity to build muscle. A good workout should come with challenges; therefore, you should almost be reaching failure on each set you do. If a person does not push themselves close to their limits, gaining new muscle and improving lifts will be rather difficult.

3. Avoiding the Hard Exercises

Most of us are guilty of this (including myself). We tend to avoid the hard exercises because they challenge our comfort level in the gym. However, since a majority of the “hard exercises” we tend to avoid happen to be compound exercises, we are actually doing ourselves a huge disservice. Compound exercises are extremely beneficial when trying to build muscle. They tend to use multiple muscle groups at the same time (even the ones we are not accustomed to working out individually). Therefore, compound exercises are great not only for working the major muscle groups in the body, but are also great for working the smaller muscle groups, which will result in improved strength levels overall that should transfer over to other lifts.

4. Failure to Build a Foundation

Before you can move to the “hard” or compound exercises, you must first build a solid foundation through muscular strength, muscular endurance, and proper movement patterns. These three components tie into one another very closely. If a person does not have a solid foundation with correct movement patterns, he or she will be performing compound exercises with improper lifting techniques, causing untargeted muscle groups to compensate. If the targeted muscle is not firing as effectively as it should be within the compound exercise, how can you expect a great deal of muscle growth?

Conversely, if a person has not improved their muscular endurance before attempting to improve their muscular strength, he or she might only be able to lift a certain amount of weight for only a short time (due to lack of muscular endurance), even if the person has learned proper movement technique. Lastly, if a person has not improved their muscular strength, it will be very difficult to continuously improve the weight needed to lift in order to create muscle hypertrophy (or size). So as you can see, building those three foundations first plays a huge role in long-term increase of muscle.

5. Nutrition

The last and arguably most common mistake seen when trying to build muscle is actually undernourishing the muscles themselves. Can you really expect your muscles to be able to grow when you are not giving them the proper amount of nutrients? That’s like expecting your car to survive a family road trip from Indiana to California without putting gas in it first. It simply won’t happen.

The mistake we usually make is thinking that as long as we are allowing our bodies to be in a “caloric surplus,” we will grow new muscle as long as we participate in a consistent resistance-training program. Unfortunately, not all foods are created with equal nutritional value, meaning there are foods we consume on a daily basis that are not giving us the proper amount of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats our muscles need in order to grow. Instead they fill us up with “empty calories” (no nutritional value) that include calories from sugar and saturated fat that provide little to no health benefits.

To make matters even worse, you actually intake more calories per gram when you consume fats compared to carbohydrates and proteins.

Nutrient Calories per Gram Calories in 50 grams
Carbohydrates 4 200
Proteins 4 200
Fats 9 450

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Many times people overlook these mistakes when trying to build muscle. However, if you begin to understand that all of these factors play a huge role in the efficiency of the muscle-building process, you will finally be able to get past the physical barriers you have unintentionally created for yourself.

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

Topics: nutrition muscles resistance overtraining recovery muscle building

NIFS Fitness Assessments: FIT3D

NIFS’ fitness assessments are a great way to track all aspects of the effectiveness your exercise program brings. They are also great for adding internal and external motivation that will keep you striving for the results you desire! Many of us lose motivation and the will power to continue with our exercise program once we do not see improvements with the naked eye. Just because results might not be obvious to the naked eye, doesn’t mean they have not taken place.

Fit3D ProScanner and Web Platform (Short)In order to view results through a perspective other than decrease in body fat percentages, we have added in another element to our initial fitness assessments at NIFS. We will now be offering body circumference testing via FIT3D technology! This new system will make it much easier and more personal to gain accurate and important measurements for tracking progress.

What the FIT3D Proscanner Tell You

NIFS is now offering body circumference testing via the FIT3D technology. This new system will make it much easier to get more personal and accurate measurements that are important for tracking progress throughout an exercise program.

What: Fit3D is a relatively new technology that scans a 360-degree image of the most commonly tracked body circumferences, such as waist, hip, thigh, arm and biceps, and chest.

How: To get started, you will first create an account using the email address you would like your results to be sent to. Once your account is created, you will then step on the Fit3D platform, which takes a body-image scan. Immediately after the scan, a confidential email of the circumference results will be sent for you and only you to assess. If you would like further analysis of your results, you can then invite a NIFS Health and Fitness Specialist to view your results via the website. 

Why: This information can be useful because it allows you to assess the effectiveness of your exercise programs by comparing body circumference over an extended period of time, while also driving motivation to continue on the path of improvement. With these scan results, you will be able to assess where you are more likely to store fat throughout the body, as well as track where you are adding the most muscle and losing the most body fat with your exercise program. Fit3D also places the measurement results in one of three wellness zone categories (Healthy, Needs Improvement, and Health Risk) in order to assess your risk of developing health problems.

Sometimes progress is not always visible to the naked eye or displayed on a weight scale, which is where Fit 3D is very useful because you can visually see changes in your body in a picture and not just numbers. Because this technology has an error rate of less than a half-inch, you will be able to receive an extremely in-depth and accurate report of where your greatest improvements have been over time.

It is important to note that an individual cannot spot-reduce a specific area of the body where they would like to lose weight first, therefore it becomes that much more important to utilize this body circumference technology to help understand where you are making the greatest improvements initially, which will add motivation to continue with the program in order to reach your desired physique. 

Schedule your Fit3D

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

Topics: fitness motivation BODPOD technology assessments