NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Technical vs. Tactical Fitness Training

ThinkstockPhotos-500518472.jpgIf you have spent time around sports, two terms that I am sure you have heard are technical and tactical. No matter what sport you have been around, at some point your coach planned a technical training session and a tactical training session. And in these sports, the technical sessions focused on the technique needed to be successful, and the tactical sessions focused on the “plans” behind how to make those work. I’d like to take a look at how you can put into place technical vs. tactical training in fitness, and in what ways this can benefit your training potential.

Technical Training in Fitness

The goal of any kind of technical preparation is to take skills specific to the activity and to improve them. In any form of movement or exercise, the body has both locomotive and bio-mechanical rules that it should be following in order to maximize potential. And the first step in technical training is to understand the movements that are supposed to be occurring during the exercise.

So what does all this mean? Let’s put it into laymen’s terms. I like to call it body awareness. You don’t need to memorize every single muscle in the body and know its location, insertion points, etc., but if you have a body awareness of where you should feel something, what it should look like, and the benefits of the movement, your exercise potential will increase!

Let’s take the bent-over row as an example:

  • Works upper and middle back.
  • Beneficial for all sorts of industries (carpenters sawing wood, nurses lifting patient to seated position, stay-at-home parent picking up the laundry basket).
  • Muscles used: lats, biceps, shoulders, deltoids, pecs, and triceps.
  • Where you should feel the exercise: middle and upper back.
  • Proper way to do the exercise: make sure you are bent over (using a bench or flat surface is ideal), be sure the back is flat and not rounded, without rotating your entire body lift the weight from a bent-over hanging-arm position up toward the armpit, feeling the shoulder blade move inward toward the spine.

As you can see, technical training certainly has its place in fitness. It’s important to learn and feel body awareness to begin to grasp what you should be feeling. Take some time to learn and understand the different technical aspects of movements in your workout and maximize your potential. If you need help, our health fitness specialists here at NIFS can assist you with those things!

Tactical Training in Fitness

Tactical training is taking the exercises we know and building specific programs around improving regular-life movements and activities (aka functional training). You make the workout revolve around not only getting fit, but building strength and mobility to assist in your everyday movement patterns.

As fitness always evolves and changes, there has been a shift from “specific training” for folks like policemen, firefighters, and the military to taking some of those workout programs and making them fit the mold for the “general exerciser.” Thus, it makes tactical exercise not focus on the workout itself, but hone in on the actual work being done in the workout. Tactical training is about taking exercise and making movements and programs carry over to functional, daily life movements like carries, running, swimming, etc.

Here are a few examples of tactical exercise (incorporate these into a workout for everyday-life impacts):

  • Kettlebell Suitcase Carry: Carry a kettlebell at your side while maintaining correct posture.
  • Jacob’s Ladder: Good for those who climb ladders in their jobs (firefighters, carpenters, roofers, etc.).
  • Barbell deadlifts: Ensures proper form in order to help lift boxes, laundry baskets, children, etc.

Both technical training and tactical training have their places in the fitness world. If you are currently training technically, look at some tactical training and begin to incorporate it into your workouts. And if you are training tactically, take some time to look at technique and make sure you are doing things correctly in order to avoid injury and aid your progression.

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

Topics: fitness center workouts functional training kettlebell technical training tactical 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

Thomas’s Corner: Functional Training Series (Part 1)

ThinkstockPhotos-523032469-2.jpgWhat Is Functional Training?

The term functional training is a mainstay in the current fitness/wellness vernacular, but what is it? In lay terms, it is training that supports movements that are performed in everyday life outside the gym, or that are naturally occurring movement patterns (whether or not you use them).

Where You See Functional Training

You encounter functional training anytime you are walking, running, pushing, pulling, twisting, or bending (almost every movement!). As Mike Blume, Athletic Performance Trainer at NIFS, puts it, “Functional training improves our activities of daily living (ADLs), which will then help us get through each day easier.” This improved quality of life could affect something as simple as tying your shoes, to playing with your children on the floor, to carrying your groceries to your second-floor apartment.

Choosing the Right Functional Training Movements

Not all functional training exercises are created equal. We find that exercises that are more specific or have a greater “transfer effect” can have a greater overall impact on the participant going as far as increased brain/muscle motor control). Exercises that are on the other end of the spectrum have a lower overall impact, however.

Preventing Functional Training Injury

We find the difficulty and complexity of an exercise must be taken into consideration and may be detrimental to a person’s health and wellness if they are not physically capable of performing the movement correctly. We all know that there is nothing functional about injury due to inexperience or physical limitation. See a NIFS fitness instructor or personal trainer to discuss functional training and how it applies to your workout level.

In part 2 of this two-part series, I'll look at lifting techniques for functional training.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood. For more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: Thomas' Corner running walking functional training muscles range of motion flexibility

Are You Glute-n Free? The Importance of Exercises for Glutes

Gluten intolerance and celiac recently has become a very popular nutritional topic. Gluten is a protein found in grains, including wheat and rye. Digestive issues, joint pain, and headaches are a few of the health issues that may occur if you have this intolerance and eat foods that contain gluten. Many individuals adopt a gluten-free lifestyle, which could lead to positive changes when paired with exercise and overall health.

But what if I told you there was a certain lifestyle that would have an opposite effect on your life? This is also characterized as gluten-free, but has nothing to do with food. This “Glute-n Free” lifestyle may be holding you back from achieving many exercise or physical activity goals, or could lead to simple lifestyle issues, such as dealing with nagging lower back pain.

Gluten = Bad, Glutes = Good!ThinkstockPhotos-200069245-001new-1.jpg

This Glute-n free trend I’m referring to is minimal or absence of gluteal exercises during your workout programs. The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body. It is essential in just about every physical activity and is the central core muscle. You could consider this muscle to be the body’s powerhouse. Along with glute max, you have other gluteal muscles with various responsibilities, like hip stability. You will use these muscles in just about every activity that you do. From swinging a golf club to picking up a box off the ground, the glutes are vital.

Glute strength is important no matter what at point you are in your life. You could be an elite athlete looking to improve your broad jump, or a grandparent wanting to be able to pick up your grandchild while playing. Regardless of your goal, the strength of these muscles should be a main focus in your training program. One of the main movement patterns that these muscles help produce is known as the “hip hinge” movement pattern. Some fitness examples of this movement include the kettlebell swing, deadlift, and RDL.

Success in these exercises, or this movement pattern in general, relies heavily on your body’s ability to maintain good form under load, which is much easier when the muscles are up for the task. If muscles do not have the capabilities to withstand these forces, many issues could arise, commonly in the form of lower back pain.

The Functional Importance of the Glutes

This example does not stop in the gym, either. If you are at home and try to pick up a couch while rearranging furniture, the same rules apply. If your body (a big part of which being the glutes) is not strong enough to deadlift the couch, how did you get it up in the air? The simplest answer is that you were able to compensate from some other area (lower back) to hoist the couch up and move it. If strength levels were adequate to lift it, my guess would be you would not be feeling any pain.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you could be a Division I linebacker who is looking to become more powerful while tackling. Tackling requires an enormous amount of power from the hip hinge position that allows one to deliver the biggest strike possible to the ball carrier. If I told you I would make you a stronger tackle with a few modifications to a training program, would you do it? I’d hope so. 

Top 5 Glute ExercisesGlute-n Free

So now that I’ve given my spiel about why training the glutes is important, here are my top 5 glute exercises that will help you develop a backside that Sir Mix-a-Lot would be proud of. These exercises start with the most basic and end with the most advanced.

  • Single-Leg Glute Bridge
  • Lateral Band Walks
  • Cable Pull-Through
  • Barbell Hip Press
  • Deadlift

 

This blog was written by Alex Soller, NIFS Athletic Performance Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

 

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Topics: functional training muscles weightlifting stretching exercises glutes

NIFS Crucial Conversations: I Took My Life Back (Part 2)

What does it take for someone to make the critical changes in their life to regain control and live the life they have always wanted to live? This is one question Katie and I tackle in part 2 of Katie’s journey to health, wellness, and happiness.

Katie_After_3.jpgWhen I last left you in part 1, we learned a great deal about where Katie has been, her struggles, her mindset, and her life just a few short years ago. Katie painted a pretty good picture of what she was dealing with every day. Now let’s see what Katie did about it! Let’s learn about what it takes to take a life back.

Conversation with Katie, Part 2

“Among the hundred small changes you have to make, it adds up to Big Change.”

Tony: When was the moment you knew something was different and there was a transformation happening?

Katie: Probably about six months into working with my GT group was when the change became real to me—the “a-ha” moment. I had quit my job and found one that was a much better fit with my personal and professional goals. Once I had the structure and support of group training, I was making better choices for myself in all aspects of my life—nutrition, habits, activities, exercise. I was getting positive reinforcement weekly from my coach and group. I could see it and feel it. Somewhere in there, among the hundred small changes you have to make, it adds up to Big Change, and I realized that’s where it happens.

Tony: What were some of the things that made the biggest impact in your change process?

Katie: Looking back now, I see several things in the GT program that made a major impact for me:

  • Katie_After_2.jpgThe work we do helped me understand that change is incremental. For me, the biggest change was realizing I had to make changes in my habits, and change is something you have to chip away at every. Single. Day. Knowing that there will be setbacks, and things won’t happen overnight. And that’s why I don’t set New Year’s resolutions. Sure, I set short- and long-term goals with my coach and myself, but I don’t set one giant resolution on January 1. Every day is a resolution.
  • Accountability and support in the group is HUGE for me. HUGE. One of my GT pals calls us her “gym family.” It might sound dorky, but it’s true. We listen. We support. We encourage. We build each other up. We help each other when things are tough. We are there to support each other when we need a hand. We are a team. And while no one in group is food-policing me, I am in-my-head accountable to my team and coach.
  • The overall Group Training program at NIFS and all it offers is unique. I am not aware of any program like this at any other gym. GT provides you with a structure, a framework, ongoing personal attention to structure a program that helps achieve your specific goals, guidance, and a group of like-minded people to support you.
  • Coach Tony gave me the help I needed with behavior change. The GT program allows me the personalized time with Tony to dig into my behaviors, and figure out what I need to do to change to more positive behaviors. I needed to learn how to deal with hard things and be successful at doing that so I could apply those in life. Coach Tony is an expert on movement, but he fundamentally understands the behavior element that is so important for fitness professionals working with clients—this is about not just showing up to work out a few times a week. It’s about, as he always says, “getting right in the head”—healthy body and healthy mind. And he told me this on day one after a depressing BOD POD®—that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Exercise is not a punishment. There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for everyone, and with the personal attention I get from my NIFS coaches, I was able to figure out what I did need. They know to push me when I need it.
  • I needed accountability without being nagged. I’ve always loved being part of a team. So I needed a group of people that I knew could support me when I was having to make tough decisions about letting other things go in my life. I needed people who would cheer for me whether or not I could do something, to rebuild my confidence. I needed a group of people to make working out fun and make me laugh! Who looks forward to going to the gym? I do. Why? My GT friends.
  • This is what I call a “whole-person” approach to fitness. GT does not bring people in and put us through crazy hour-long workouts five days a week. Yes they are hard, but functional movement, foam rolling, and correctives are as important as progressing on a bench press or doing 50 burpees. We have access to the kind of expertise with the NIFS trainers, Functional Movement Screens, and other tools to keep us healthy.

“Every day is a resolution.”

Tony: What are some of your biggest accomplishments since deciding to make a change? Brag for me a little!

Katie: It’s difficult for me to think about the scared person I was who entered my first GT session nearly three years ago. I was intimidated—but not for long. I only had to spend a few minutes with the trainers and group to feel welcome and know I would be encouraged, even though I couldn’t run a mile then, or hold a plank from my feet. Since starting GT I have:

Katie_After_1.jpgKatie_Before_4.jpg

  • I lost more than 60 pounds (more than 100 since I started my journey)*.
  • Resolved my back-pain issues—where traditional medicine and even PT to a degree failed after my herniated discs, GT did what I needed from a movement, strength, and weight-loss standpoint to really bring this debilitating problem to a resolution*.
  • Climbed a mountain.
  • Continue to make forward progress on my FM screening.
  • Finished two Tough Mudders (both with fellow GTers) and ridden the Hilly Hundred twice.
  • Conquered fears—I had and still have a little bit of a jumping fear, but my vertical and broad jumps continue to get better. There were so many movements I was unable to do three years ago. When I do them now, my GT teammates and Coach Tony recognize this and cheer me on.
  • I’m stronger! I continue to be able to lift heavier weight on bench press and leg press.
  • Conquered my fear of running by doing the NIFS Mini-Marathon Training Program.
  • Built and installed a flagstone patio on my own last summer. I hauled more than 3 tons of rocks. I had some help moving them, but did most of it on my own. It’s not about the patio—it’s about having the confidence and ability to do it! 

Tony: How is your life different now?

Katie: I am 41 but I feel better than I ever have mentally and physically. Physically, I have energy! My metabolic issues are no longer issues. My asthma is better. A recent doctor’s visit revealed excellent blood pressure, my LDL cholesterol is 47 and HDL is 87, and my resting heart rate is around 45 to 48*. I sleep well. I have the energy to live a full life—I’ve always had a full life, but before I was in survival mode. Now I have the energy to live my full life! To not just get through each day, but live each day—and do things I had always wanted to do but lacked the confidence or physical ability to do them. I get up everyday and practice self care, because that makes me a better friend, sister, dog mom, employee, and general citizen of the world. I feel like a fog has lifted and I live every day with intent. I had some significant losses in 2014, including the passing of my mother, and I had the tools and mental toughness to cope with them while maintaining my healthy habits. Finally, I have confidence. I am so grateful for all the support I get from Tony, Mike, and my fellow GTers.

***

I am so very proud of Katie for the success she has worked so hard for, and applaud her willingness to share her story in hopes of creating change in others who may be as lost as she once was. Inspiration is Katie’s middle name, and she takes her role as a “fitness ambassador” very seriously and is a leader of the Small Group Training groups she speaks so highly about. No matter the circumstances, change is possible, and you never have to do it alone.

*Weight loss claims and/or individual results vary and are not guaranteed.

***

GT-logo-revised.jpgInterested in trying Small Group Training? Contact Tony today to attend a free session!

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: goal setting resolutions group training functional training BODPOD obesity

Training the Aging Active Adult (Part 4 of 4)

ThinkstockPhotos-179075741.jpgThis is the final installment in my series on training for people 40 and over. Previously I’ve discussed training needs and health concerns for older adults, the importance of strength training, and the role of the glutes. Now let’s talk about the old-school way to reach your fitness goals while aging gracefully.

Someone on Facebook said she wanted to train her back harder than her grip would allow and asked which would be better, lifting straps or Versa Gripps. The answers bounced back and forth between the two options (usually bodybuilders doing the commenting), but I just had to offer a third option: neither.

“Old school–develop your grip strength so it’s not the weak link.”

Some of the clueless responses from a few bodybuilders about grip work interfering with arm and back day and how you couldn’t develop your back if you had to wait for your grip were sadly amusing.

Shortcuts Don’t Pay

If she did use the straps or Versa Gripps to allow for heavier loading of the back for the sake of back development (aesthetics), the grip would continue to be weaker than the muscles up the movement chain and would therefore be a rate limiter in the upper body’s functional strength. This imbalance could be a source of future injuries as well. And of course, this begs the question: why is there an imbalance in the first place?

When the focus of fitness is to look better in front of a mirror, concepts like correcting movement deficiencies, addressing strength weaknesses, and the effects of rate limiters on functional strength have as much interest as broccoli does to a 3-year-old.

It’s easy to pick on bodybuilding because to those on the outside, bodybuilding seems to be the extreme example of narcissistic frivolousness. But alas, all exercise and fitness pursuits have a huge egocentric component, whether it’s picking up more weight, running faster/further, or killing Fran or Fight Gone Bad.

Sometimes You Just Have to Eat Your Broccoli

The point is that we are all results-driven regardless of whether our fitness interests are functional training or just looking better. We want improvements to arrive quicker and the process to be easier, even if the shortcuts we take for short-term gains have a high price on the back end. Seemingly innocent lifting straps are at one end of the shortcut continuum, and PEDs at the other; but they all are attempts to circumvent the body’s natural processes. All the things you chose to ignore, neglect, and ill-advised shortcuts will eventually show up during your fitness “come to Jesus meeting” sometime in your 40s and 50s. And just know that the accompanying injuries that come during that meeting are served in a broccoli casserole, heavily seasoned with “I Told You So.”

Take shortcuts and ignore weakness at your own peril. There, I just told you so. Go eat your broccoli!

Learn more about your current fitness status with NIFS’s Functional Movement Screening or Personal Fitness Evaluation.

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, CSCS, WKC Competition Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: functional training injury prevention muscles senior fitness strength goals

Training the Active Aging Adult (Part 2 of 4)

In the last blog, I discussed that the 40-plus age group had different training needs because of the effects of aging: loss of muscle strength fibers (sarcopenia), weakening of connective tissue with the resulting aches and pains and injuries, joint issues (arthritis and loss of range of motion), hormonal changes, weight gain (especially visceral fat), heart disease, and diabetes.

For many in this age group, other medical conditions seem to appear from out of nowhere. Theories for why range from genetics to reduction of stem cells, but the fact remains: unexpected conditions and diseases show up uninvited and certainly unwanted from about 45 and beyond. If you are in this age group and actively training, you need to know a lot more about your body, especially your age-related limitations.

A reminder for those training themselves: the ego is a great motivator for getting your butt off the couch, but it’s an absolutely terrible coach. The ego will beat the crap out of you to feel good about itself without regard for what the body can recover from, short and long term. It actually believes in such silliness as “no pain, no gain” and other macho slogans, and the ego is the reason for most training injuries and setbacks. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in training hard (which is a relative term), but I just don’t believe in training stupid.

“A true professional knows what to do and when to stop doing it.”

The Need for Strength

With that said, let’s discuss the need for strength. Here’s a story.

One of the leaders of the National Strength and Conditioning Association was recorded lecturing his graduating class in exercise science. He asked whether they would teach a 65-year-old woman, who had never weight trained, to do a barbell squat. The question was loaded: female, advanced age, no experience, and an athletic lift. As their professor, he was asking for a yes or no answer. Because they had been in his class all year, they knew if they answered the question incorrectly, he would nail them. So everyone sat in silence.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he said. “Since you’re not going to answer the question, I will do it for you. She has to stand up from a chair. It’s the same movement pattern. We are going to work with her on a life skill and make her stronger in that pattern at the same time.”

Oh, that’s not what they expected. They were thinking leg press, leg extensions, and leg curls would be safer for a female of that age with no weight training experience than doing the squat. But he played the functional strength card and trumped their unstated answer.

But then he added, “I don’t think you really get it, and I want to make sure you do. Imagine its 15 years later and she is now 80 years old in a nursing home and she can’t get up from the toilet without assistance. She has lost her life independence. Did you do her any favor by not teaching her to do the squat?”

I didn’t believe it possible, but a client of mine beat the professor’s follow-up when she told me that her mother-in-law died in a nursing home six months prior to our conversation. She had gotten up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. She had hit the assist button but no one saw it. The next morning, they found her dead on the bathroom floor. She had fallen off the toilet during the night and had broken her neck.

No one wants to be that 80-year-old woman. No one wants to spend their remaining years on this planet unable to move as a functioning independent adult, but if no effort is made to maintain strength fibers and joint range of motion, we’ll certainly slide down to the lower levels of movement quality until we’re stuck on the toilet for life.

A More Positive Thought

I don’t like motivating through negative imagery, but sometimes you have to hit people over the head with a chair to get their attention. I’d rather discuss the joy of connecting with your body, finding out what an amazing vessel it is to experience and travel through life, and to feel the power that resides beneath the outer shell.

Our bodies were designed to move and to work, actually to work hard and for long periods of time. If not, we would have been eaten by big cats thousands of years ago. It is just within the last 100 years that we have made life so physically easy that we are now dying from lack of movement, especially from a lack of intense movement that tells our cells that we are important to our family, the tribe, and the village—important enough for the cells to make a concerted effort to keep us around.

Think of exercise like a prescription drug. It is a concentrated dose of intense activity used to communicate the message that we are, in fact, really important for something all the way down to the cellular level.

Contrary to the common belief about the role of cardio, strength is the fitness component that sets the foundation for all of the other forms of senior fitness activities. If your muscles are not strong enough to support basic movement patterns, there is no way you can do cardio exercise for very long before something breaks down, and then you have to stop while joints, connective tissue, and/or muscles have time to heal.

In this article, I wanted to make it clear why you need to incorporate some form of strength training into your fitness program design, and why functional training is an important consideration. In future blogs, I’ll discuss actual strength training strategies and the rationale behind them. Don’t be surprised if kettlebells come up frequently, and I promise to continue my relentless attack on training stupidity.

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, CSCS, WKC Competition Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: functional training senior fitness strength

Five Reasons Weightlifting and Weight Training Are Good for You

At times you may hear somebody at the gym or fitness center saying, “I don’t want to look like a bodybuilder,” or “I don’t want to be a powerlifter.” That’s great! That person knows their goals and also what they want to avoid. However, don’t let your specific goals cause you to have myth-generated fears of certain exercises.

Extreme Lifting Programs

Just take a second to think about what exactly a bodybuilder or a powerlifter has to do in order to earn his or her title. A bodybuilder must train with heavy weights, high intensity, and a whole lot of volume (reps and sets). Not only is the training extremely specific to what they do, but they have to do it for years to even be considered an amateur! I haven’t even mentioned a bodybuilder’s diet. Bodybuilders can consume 8,000 to 9,000 calories per day to gain muscle the way that they do!

A powerlifter’s training is just as specific to their sport. They train with very heavy weights and high intensity, but lower volume. A powerlifter pushes his or her body to an extreme level by slowly loading more and more weight into the program over time. A powerlifter can also consume upwards of 7,000 to 8,000 calories per day in order to fuel his or her body to perform at such a high, strenuous level.

All in all, extreme athletes such as professional bodybuilders and powerlifters follow very intense and specific programs that have gotten them to the level they are at today. What does that mean for the normal gym-goer? It means that there should be no fear of looking like a bodybuilder or a powerlifter unless you are following that specific style of program or eating that amount of food.

The Benefits of Lifting Weights

So far, I have given you reasons why you shouldn’t avoid weightlifting, but now I will give you specific reasons why you should be lifting weights.

  • Strengthening bone: Lifting weights can add bone density, which will really pay off in later years, possibly saving you from injuries and expensive surgeries.
  • Adding stability: When weight training, you are forced to recruit stabilizing muscles. These will become stronger and allow you to perform physical functions more efficiently.
  • Boosting your metabolism: That’s right; lifting weights burns calories! You will be burning calories during a weightlifting session, but also afterwards. Your metabolism can get a positive effect from weight training, causing you to burn more calories throughout your day*.
  • Increasing Fat Free Mass (FFM): Weight training will help to build muscle, which is included in FFM. So, if you do it correctly, you can effectively burn fat and gain muscle through weight training*. Sounds like a win-win to me!
  • Increasing functionality: So when your friend says “Hey, can you help me move into my new house this weekend?” you don’t have to dread saying yes! If you have grown accustomed to lifting weights, you will be well prepared for events like moving furniture, yard work, and rearranging all your stuff in the attic* (just like you’ve been meaning to do for the past five years).

So, if weightlifting isn’t for you, I want to encourage you to go into the gym and try a session of weight training. If you’re brand new to weightlifting and need some help, a Health Fitness Specialist like me is always waiting here at NIFS to help you get started.

*Individual results vary and are not guaranteed.

***

LIFT_logo_white.jpgNIFS introduces a new Lifting program in 2016! LIFT is for all levels wanting to learn proper Powerlifting and Olympic lifting techniques. Our expert trainer will teach fundamentals, evaluate movements and help build a customized training program around your lifting goals. If you would like more information contact Aaron at acombs@nifs.org

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 center functional training weightlifting powerlifting bone density weight training

Defining Fitness Goals Is Like Wrestling with Jell-O (Part 2 of 2)

carrotIn my earlier post, I talked about asking questions to get at true motivations behind wanting to be more fit. 

The answers to those questions will fall into four broad categories: appearance, performance, feel or move better, and major health issues.

Goal: Looking Better

Appearance is the most common and strongest of all of the motivators. One of my Russian coaches thought of it as frivolous. He referred to it as “wanting to look better naked in front of a mirror,” but yet its power can never be underestimated. Bodybuilding strategies are the most common route, but the newer athletic-inspired approaches to training will also produce that desired appearance—with the added benefit of a more functional strength for daily life activities.

Goal: Performance

Performance means strength and conditioning for a purpose. That purpose may be for sports, military, police, fire, etc. However, in the general public, Special Ops–inspired training and functional training have become very popular in the belief that this type of training will help them reach higher levels of both strength and conditioning, and can be found in various programs like Boot Camps, CrossFit, and so on. Sport Performance gyms have also grown exponentially across the country in the last decade as parents invest in whatever it takes to improve their children’s athletic careers.

Goal: Feeling Better

Feeling better becomes the primary goal when the barnacles of aging reach critical mass. The idea of chasing body beautiful and seriously improving athletic performance fade as the need to “just keep moving comfortably in one’s body” dominates awareness. Wear and tear of the joints (arthritis), loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia), and serious body fat increases (caused by the great American diet combined with little activity) lead to a whole host of life-quality issues that exercise and diet can greatly improve.

Goal: Alleviating Major Health Issues

Major health issues require their own individual approaches to strength and conditioning. Experienced and well-educated experts know the correct approaches for their area of expertise, and the uninformed should not guess at them. Heart disease, MS, COPD, cancer, diabetes, stroke, and brain damage, for example, are very serious issues but life quality can be improved with the right guidance and proper effort.

When There Is More Than One Issue

As complex as individuals can be, you may find their situation to be a combination of the above categories, and therefore they must be ranked in order of importance. Training is also a process along a timeline, so there must be flexibility and the willingness to adjust the program as training progresses.

The “how” to train will be born within the answer to “why” someone is seeking fitness. For any real success, the “why” question must be answered honestly. As stated above (and worth repeating), a technically correct workout could be a total waste of time, money, effort, and perhaps could even be dangerous if the training program doesn’t match the individual’s needs and motivation.

One last comment regarding this issue. There have been many attempts throughout the years to create a universal definition of fitness, design workout programs to address each fitness component of that definition, and then sell the concept that if one truly wanted to be fit (by their definition), one would have to train according to their program. I am sure these attempts started out to be sincere efforts to make Jell-O solid, but morphed into profit-producing ventures with corresponding business agendas (see this post with more philosophy on separating good fitness and nutrition advice from bad).

Please remember, the Fitness Holy Grail is a myth. There is no one perfect workout and the definition of fitness is relative to who is asking and why. I suppose that in some situations that wrestling in Jell-O could be fun, but wrestling with Jell-O is not. First establish your goals and then clearly understand your motives. The proper training program will evolve as a natural result of that process.

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

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Topics: motivation goal setting functional training personal training fitness trends goals

Defining Fitness Goals Is Like Wrestling with Jell-O (Part 1 of 2)

jelloThe concept of defining fitness seems simple at first glance, but like Jell-O®, the definition of fitness appears solid on the surface until you grab at it and realize that impression was wrong. Both will get messy while they ooze in all directions.

Fitness is truly in the eye of the beholder—or more correctly, in the vision of the motivating ego. Something about one’s current status is unacceptable and the ego wants it changed. This fitness change generally becomes a quest to be bigger, faster, stronger, or prettier. Basic movement problems and health issues are other major driving forces to seek improved fitness.

What Is Your Goal?

Many times, when I ask clients about what they expect to get from their investment of time, money, and sweat in exercise, I usually get, “I want to be more fit, of course,” which to them is the universal hall pass for answering all fitness questions. They’re thinking, “After all, everyone knows what it means to be fit. Don’t they?” Well, they don’t and that’s the problem. Are we talking about serious weight loss, bodybuilding and shaping for esthetics, training for athletic and job performance, correcting serious medical issues or movement deficiencies, etc.?

Strategies for each goal are very different. A “good” technical workout may very well be the “wrong” workout for a particular goal because of individual needs. Therefore, before any program can be developed, everyone must agree on what exactly it means to be more fit and what goals they are try to reach. Without a target, it is easy to wander around aimlessly in the forest of fitness options with a bloody forehead from banging into the many workout trees.

All-You-Can-Eat Fitness Can Lead to Gluttony

A trainer is also responsible for providing a more expansive view of exercise and fitness, which is generally beyond the fitness education and experience of most of their clients. This task is much like a waiter explaining a menu to a new restaurant patron. Although this step is necessary to arrive at the best program design, this additional client education can create another problem called the all-you-can-eat fitness syndrome.

As in the famous scene of the enormous man in the restaurant in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, when presented with the menu, he reads it very carefully, hands it back to the waiter, and says, “Yes.” When people become more aware of what fitness can provide, they want it all. But the body cannot do it all, at least not equally as well and certainly not all at once. If you remember the scene, the patron did eat the entire menu worth of food, but when offered a small after-dinner wafer, he exploded. Fitness gluttony has a price, as well, which usually comes in the form of poor results and, of course, the higher risk of dreaded injuries.

What Do You Really Want?

Whether you are a trainer responsible for the health, fitness, and safety of your client or an individual fitness enthusiast who has taken on the arduous task of training yourself, the meaning of fitness for that individual and for that moment in time must be clearly defined before an appropriate fitness program can be developed. The fastest shortcut to this meaningful foundation is by going directly to what is truly motivating the desire for change, the ego.

It is a rather simple process. Keep asking the following question until you arrive at the real answer: “What do you really want to get out of your investment of time, money, and sweat in exercise?

However, there are two rules: The answer cannot be, “I want to be more fit,” and each answer is followed by the question “why?” until a satisfactory answer is reached. This “why” will reveal what is actually motivating the fitness quest and will also serve as the motor to keep driving the quest when progress slows or when there are setbacks. The combination of “what” and “why” forms a strong foundation for developing an effective exercise program.

In my next post, I'll talk about the categories that the answers fall into, and how to start thinking about the right training program for each goal.

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

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Topics: motivation goal setting functional training personal training fitness trends goals