NIFS Healthy Living Blog

The First Rule of NIFS Barbell Club: Talk About Barbell Club

Today marks the beginning of our Barbell Club here at NIFS. This is a free Olympic and Powerlifting program for anyone who is looking to:

  • barbell.jpgImprove performance of one or multiple lifts
  • Improve technique
  • Learn the basics about the lifts
  • Do all of the above
You may have years of experience with these different types of lifts, or you may never have attempted or thought about attempting them in your life. Regardless, everyone can benefit from what the program has to offer. As NIFS coaches, we have great experience coaching these movements in safe and effective ways that take you through the progressions. The importance of this is paramount due to the fact that the ballistic nature of many of the movements requires injury prevention. When you think about weightlifting in terms of a food chain, Olympic and Powerlifting are the king of the jungle.

What Movements Will You Learn?

Here are the movements that may be coached during your session:

  • IMG_7315.jpgClean (Hang or Power)
  • Clean and Jerk
  • Snatch
  • Deadlift
  • Squat
  • Bench Press
How Can Barbell Club Help You?

As one of the coaches of the NIFS Barbell Club, my plan is to help out with any individual questions that members may have. If you’ve been around these lifts in the past, you know that there are many details that go into making the movement safe and successful. One of my favorite tools to use is slow-motion video. Many people have done these lifts for years and have never seen themselves do it on video. This can give you an idea of your bar path as well as visual cues with posture (head/foot position, and spine angle).

Another tool that can help you achieve your goals will be advice in programming. You may have been working on a lift for months and have made steady progress but have recently plateaued. Where do you go from there? After ensuring that your technique looks sound, my next goal would be to give you a few ideas on other lifts that you can perform to improve the main lift. For instance, you want to improve your snatch and have failed for the past 2 weeks at 93kg. Instead of continuously failing at 93, how about adding a few sets of “snatch pulls” at that trouble weight or even higher? This will help your body start to adapt to handling that amount of weight.

Can New Powerlifters Join?

But what if you have never attempted to do any Olympic or Powerlifting movement? Are you still allowed to attend? Absolutely! Beginners are my favorite individuals to instruct in these techniques because they have no preconceived notion of what the lift is supposed to be. We will help you learn the basics of the movement and let the session lead to wherever it may. As a beginner, the goal is not to be doing a full snatch or clean and jerk on day 1. More than likely, you will not be able to absorb enough knowledge within that one-hour session to do that. Instead, our goal is to build the foundational movement pattern that will allow you to excel in future training sessions.

No matter your experience level, come give Barbell Club a shot. Did I mention that IT’S FREE? You have nothing to lose and a wealth of knowledge to gain!

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

Topics: NIFS group training NIFS programs injury prevention weightlifting safety personal training powerlifting

Weightlifting Gear: Equipment to Enhance Training—or Ego?

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

Lifting Belts

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

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

Olympic Lifting Shoes

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

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

Mark Bell’s Slingshot

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

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

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

Start with the Basics

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

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

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


Topics: equipment NIFS programs injury prevention weightlifting powerlifting strength training

A Hero’s Workout: Train Like a Firefighter (with Functional Movement)

ThinkstockPhotos-87452256.jpgFor just shy of a year now, NIFS has had the honor and privilege of assisting in the training of the Indianapolis Fire Department’s new Firefighter Recruit Class. We are currently wrapping up the second recruit class (Recruit Class #81, actually) trained here at NIFS.

To have the opportunity to work with such a distinguished organization, rich with history and a tradition in excellence, has been a true career highlight for me. Having two brothers who serve their communities as firefighters, I have been pretty close to this occupation and its phenomenal individuals for some time now. The respect and admiration I have for them, to do what they do and keep us safe, are immeasurable.

These soon-to-be firefighters take part in over 20 weeks of training to ready them to assume the huge responsibility of being a lifesaver and community protector. In essence, it’s “hero training.” Physical Training (PT) is only one aspect of the academy; combined with EMS and Fire School, these recruits battle long days of both physical and mental demands.

The Importance of Functional Movement

We take the training of these individuals very seriously with a main focus of movement first, performance second. We use the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) to guide our programming because the better the mover, the better the firefighter. I recently shared a great research article in which the FMS was used to determine the injury rates of first responders (mainly firefighters), and the findings are very telling. To sum it up, if you score a 14 or lower on the FMS, your injury risk skyrockets. We utilize the screen and corrective exercises associated with basic movement patterns to enhance the recruit’s movement with the hopes of increasing injury prevention, while at the same time improving their performance. Even heroes have some dysfunction.

Firefighters have one of the most physically demanding occupations on the planet. And it doesn’t just revolve around a big strength component; a firefighter’s aerobic capacity must be high as well. A firefighter may go from a position of rest into a full sprint in a moment’s notice and then breathe bottled air while running into burning buildings and homes and dragging victims from wreckage. This demands a high level of aerobic capacity, a level only gained through training. Our job as coaches is to ensure that recruits improve absolute strength, anaerobic and aerobic fitness, while always improving their movement.

A Typical Workout

So what does a typical training session for a firefighter look like? Check out this video to get a little taste of some of the best movements and exercises we use to help prepare these tactical athletes. Feeling confident that you can handle these exercises? Here is your chance to try it for yourself, and experience a workout straight from the programming page! Complete the workout that follows and let us know how it went. Do you have what it takes to battle this firefighting workout inferno?   

You will need a set of heavy kettlebells, a super band attached to a pull-up station for a nifty exercise I learned from Captain Jordan Ponder of Firefighter Performance Training, 1 heavy sandbag and 1 lighter bag, and a sled with a medium to heavy load. Complete the following round of exercises as many times as you can in 20 minutes. Want a little extra work? Wear a weighted vest or simply add more time.

  • Crawling x40 meters
  • Farmer Carry x40 meters
  • Sandbag Firefighter Clean x10
  • Pipe Pull x10 each side
  • Sandbag Stair Climb x5 flights
  • Over-the-shoulder sled drag x40 meters 

 

Firefighter-workout.jpg

The physical and mental demands that are placed on these recruits during their training, and even more so when they are in the field, are mammoth. But with great training from their officers and their NIFS coaching crew, I am pretty confident that they will be ready to tackle anything. I can’t describe the respect I have for those who sign up to be our everyday heroes. I can only work as hard as I can to help prepare these phenomenal individuals for the battles that await them, and provide the city of Indianapolis with their superheroes!

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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 bloggersclick here.

Topics: NIFS fitness center workouts injury prevention strength functional movement

Safe Workouts in the Dog Days of Summer

ThinkstockPhotos-497566061.jpgSo many people have been expectantly waiting for this hot summer weather to be able to get outside for their workouts. And I can tell you that I am also one of those people; but there are some dangers behind the dog days of summer that we all need to be aware of.

Taking your exercise outside is an awesome idea, but I wouldn’t cancel that gym membership so fast. Let’s take a look at both the dangers of the steamy outdoor workouts and ideas on how to stay cool.

Why Outdoor Exercise Can Be Dangerous in Hot Weather

When the temperatures and humidity rise, working out outside can become dangerous, and it can happen very quickly without anyone even realizing it. The hotter and more humid it becomes, the more you sweat, and the sweat cannot evaporate as quickly as it should. Because of this, your internal body temperature rises and can become deadly.

Some warning signs and symptoms of reaching that dangerous and potentially deadly state are weakness, dizziness, muscle cramps, confusion, headache, increased heart rate, and vomiting.

How to Keep Cool for Summer Workouts

But there are some ways that we can help ourselves during the dog days of summer if you do choose to work out outside. Take a close look at this list and consider taking these steps:

  • Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. Drink as much water as possible for proper hydration.
  • Wear sunscreen. Lather up with sunscreen to protect your skin.
  • Wear sunglasses. This important piece of equipment protects your eyes and conserves energy.
  • Get the proper clothing. You want to wear light and loose, moisture-wicking clothing.
  • Consume the proper nutrition. Eat a well-balanced diet, and make sure to eat something small before you head out for a long run or Bootcamp class.
  • Check the air quality. This is important because it affects how you breathe. The higher the level of AQ, the harder it will be to breathe; the lower, the better. According to EPA standards, if the air quality number is over 100, it’s not good. If it’s below 100, it’s considered satisfactory air level.
  • Stay out of the sun. Look for shade to work out in.
  • Monitor your heart rate. If it gets too high, take a break.
  • Listen to your body. If your body is telling you stop or it’s too hot, listen to it!
  • Stay inside if it’s above 90. It’s better to hit the gym than to put yourself in danger.
  • Bring water to your workout. Try to keep hydrating yourself as you work out; don’t wait until you are thirsty.
  • Cool towels help. Take a cool, damp towel and put it over your head or around your neck.
  • Wear a loose-fitting hat. Wearing a tight hat holds the heat to your head, so in order to protect yourself from the sun, wear a loose-fitting hat that allows your head to breathe.

If you do decide to work out outside in the dog days of summer, do the best you can to take the proper precautions and protect yourself from harm. Listen to your body and be sure not to over-do it!

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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 equipment injury prevention summer hydration sunscreen

Bring New Life to Your Deadlift: 3 Must-Know Weightlifting Tips

deadlift-2.jpgThe deadlift is a creature all its own. There is no other exercise like it, and there are so many reasons behind that. It can be one of the most beneficial total-body exercises, yet at the same time, one of the most detrimental if performed incorrectly. Numerous factors go into this very important lift, but there are a few tricks to keep in mind to help you set up and perform well consistently while avoiding injury.

1. A straight line is the fastest path to your destination.

The deadlift starts at the floor and ends at a fully upright stance. There are no two ways about that. Isn’t the quickest way from point A to point B a straight line? Absolutely. This means that the path of the bar during the lift should be as straight as possible. If you’re saying “I have no idea whether my bar path is straight,” take a quick video of your deadlift from the side. A great smartphone app for this is Iron Path. It lets you track your bar path, and it has definitely helped me out.

2. Learn how to breathe and use a belt.

People ask whether they should wear a belt. There is no one-size-fits-all answer here. It completely depends on why you are wearing a belt in the first place. Contrary to popular belief, wearing a lifting belt will not save your back from bad deadlifting. Bad deadlifting (for example, rounding of the back) will place a lot of torque on your entire spine, and this is why most deadlifting injuries occur. A belt is not your safety net. The proper use for a belt is to, along with proper breathing, help create intra-abdominal pressure to brace the midsection for a heavy lift.

First, learn to breathe correctly. If the lift is heavy (80% or greater of your 1-rep max), you will want to take in a big breath before every rep and brace your abdominals and obliques to maintain spinal alignment. Once you can deadlift with proper breathing, a belt becomes helpful during your heavy lifts.

3. Determine your best stance.

I can’t tell you what your best stance is. You will have to find out on your own. The two traditional stances used are conventional and sumo stance. With conventional, your feet will be somewhere around shoulder width apart. With sumo stance, your feet will be much wider (typically 6 to 8 inches outside shoulder width). Certain body types tend to work better for each style. For example, someone who is considered to be tall and lanky might have a good chance of being a better conventional-style deadlifter. Certain limb lengths create different leverages that give advantages and disadvantages with each style of deadlifting. Long story short: try both.

***

Done correctly, the deadlift is one of the best overall exercises out there. It is a closed-chain, multi-joint movement that involves lower- as well as upper-body strength, stability, and mobility. Warning: the deadlift is not easy, and you may have to lighten up the weight to get the correct technique. Give these tips a try and make sure you ask a NIFS Health Fitness Specialist for more help with technique and how to better yourself as an athlete.

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

Topics: NIFS fitness center injury prevention muscles weightlifting deadlift

Four Reasons to Make Time for a Cool-down after a Workout

cool_down-1.jpgWe know it is encouraged by fitness professionals, and included at the end of group exercise classes, but I want to ask you, personally: how many times after a workout do you actually take the time to cool down?

Many of us tend to finish a hard workout and walk right to the showers or straight to our cars to hurry and get home to the next item on our to-do list. Some of us may not notice much of a difference whether or not we incorporate a cool-down, such as athletes or active adults. However, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, “for the general population, many apparently healthy adults may have heart disease or other diagnosed conditions,” making a cool-down a game-changer for not only everyday movement abilities, but safety.

Here are just a few reasons why you shouldn’t skip out on a few minutes of recovery.

1. Prevent Dizziness

If you have ever felt lightheaded immediately after a hard workout, it could very well be caused from blood pooling. Strenuous exercise causes the blood vessels in your legs to expand, bringing more blood into the legs and feet. After physical activity, your heart is beating faster than normal, and your core body temperature is higher. When you abruptly stop exercising without taking time to cool down, your heart rate slows immediately, which can cause blood to pool into the lower body, causing blood to return at a slower rate to your heart, and your brain. This in turn can cause you to experience dizziness or fainting.

Many accidents in fitness centers actually tend to occur in the locker room from members making a beeline straight to the locker room, steam room, or sauna after a tough workout, without taking adequate time for their body to calm down.

2. Flexibility Is at Its Best

When you finish a tough workout, as stated before, your core body temperature is higher. This means that your muscles are warm and ready for more static stretching. Dynamic stretching is recommended at the beginning of a workout, so static stretching (in other words, taking a deep breath and holding a stretch in a particular position for 15 to 30 seconds at a time) is the next step you can take in maintaining and increasing elasticity in the muscles. This lengthening of the muscles leads to better range of motion and, in turn, improved quality of life for daily activities.

3. Injury Prevention

Tagging onto flexibility, you can prevent yourself from acquiring common injuries with some of this mobility work. One of the most common injuries is in the lower back, which can sometimes be triggered by tight hip flexors and hamstrings. By simply adding some mobility work after you finish, you can not only increase your range of motion, but also increase your ability to catch yourself when you fall or have to react quickly to an unstable surface.

4. Restoration for Your Body

Whether it be simply slowing down to a light jog or walk after some light sprints, or by moving into a savasana pose at the end of a yoga class, a cool-down can have physiological benefits on the body in terms of finality. When we slow down, we feel a “sense of normality” come back into our extremities, and the body begins to restore itself back to a steady state. In other words, it just feels nice!

So whatever you decide to do at the end of your workout, I encourage you to take a moment to think twice for next time. Whether it be adding five minutes of walking to bring the heart rate down, or an extra five minutes to stretch while your muscles are warm, it’s important to note that there are no negative effects to the process. It can only help you in the long run!

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This blog was written by Rebecca Newbrough, Lifestyle Program Coordinator and Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: yoga injury prevention flexibility stretching workout recovery heart rate cool-down

Warming Up Before Your Workout

ThinkstockPhotos-498944002.jpgHave you ever gone into the gym and jumped right into your workout, only to notice that it took a good 20 minutes to get into it? Or how about heading out for a run without any form of warming up, and you really don’t start to feel into your rhythm until halfway through?

I know that I have experienced both of these things, and I also know the value of warming up before you begin a workout! Warming up before you start has several benefits that I will talk about, as well as giving you a few good exercises to get yourself moving.

Why Warmups Are Important

Some key benefits to getting in a warmup before you begin to lift or do cardio exercise is that it is one of the most efficient ways to avoid an injury. You want to be sure to get all parts of the body moving to keep yourself from getting hurt. Also, warming up is important if you want to be sure to get the most out of your workout by moving efficiently and reaching your peak performance.

How to Warm Up

The warmup is the prep phase of your workout. This needs to include static and dynamic movements to get the body going. You also want to be sure to incorporate some corrective exercises and foam rolling to get the blood pumping, stretch the muscles out, and make your joints more limber. Getting blood moving through the body and to the muscles will help to increase your body temperature in preparation for movement. Stretching helps to also warm up the muscles and help with making your body more stable, mobile, and flexible. And you want to be more limber so that you are more mobile when beginning exercises and explosive movements.

You might be thinking, “Okay, so what does a good dynamic, all-around warmup look like?” Here are some things that you can include into your warmup (and which take maybe just 10 minutes):

  • Toe-Touch Squats
  • Glute Bridges
  • Bird Dogs
  • Inch Worms
  • Pushups
  • Planks (Side Planks)
  • Lunge Reaches
  • RDLs
  • High Knees
  • Butt Kicks
  • Lateral Lunges
  • Side Shuffles
  • Frankensteins
  • Knee Hugs
  • Line Jumps
  • Reverse Lunges
  • Body-Weight Squats
  • Mini Band Steps

Maybe it’s a time thing, or maybe you just don’t like to warm up, but I want to encourage you to get yourself moving in preparation for working out and see what a difference it makes. Ask one of our Health Fitness Instructors at NIFS to show you some good exercises and come in for a free fitness assessment to get started the right way!

Free Fitness Assessment

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

Topics: fitness center workouts injury prevention stretching warmups

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 3 of 4)

ThinkstockPhotos-523032469-1In earlier installments, I’ve talked about health concerns for active people over 40, as well as the importance of strength and functional training for people in this age group. As promised, I will now focus in on strength training, and we’ll start with your butt.

The glute complex (your hips) has the greatest potential for strength and power in the human body, and is the foundation for all ground-based movement. If used properly, it lifts things up (like the grandkids) and spares the low back. Let’s call this the “lifting things up” or the dead-lift pattern.

The Lost Glutes

Because of the enormous amount of sitting done in our modern lifestyle, many adults can’t find their glutes (through muscle activation) with a map, hand mirror, and a flashlight. When you place people on their backs on the floor with their knees up and feet planted on the ground, then have them try to raise their hips off the floor by contracting just their glutes, many will fire their hamstrings while their glutes remain totally quiet. This situation has been referred to as glute amnesia; more accurate would be to say it’s a disconnect between brain and muscle. The body will find a way to accomplish the desired task by resorting to Plan B (in this case, the hamstrings) if the primary movers, the glutes, are offline. The hips will move off the ground but at a cost: inefficient movement, lower performance potential, and higher risk of injury to the Plan B muscles—and also to surrounding tissue and joints.

Foundational Movement: The Hip Hinge

Learning to properly hinge the hips and to activate the glutes is critical for skilled and graceful movement and injury prevention as you age. This is life quality for now and into your future. So let’s try the foundational movement, the hip hinge:

  1. Stand with your feet about hip width apart and hands resting on the front of your thighs. You can also hold a light barbell or a pair of light dumbbells to provide a little resistance.
  2. With your lower legs perpendicular to the ground, push your hips backward while bending forward at the hips. Your upper body will fold over with your back in a straight line from the tailbone to the back of your head.
  3. Do not squat and do not bend forward at the waist (lumbar spine).
  4. Once your hands reach your knees, pause, focus on your glutes, and tighten them as you try to push the ground away with your feet. Return to standing with a straight line from the heels to the back of your head.
  5. Rinse and repeat until the movement feels natural.
  6. If in doubt, keep your hips higher while you bend forward and sense your upper body closing the distance with the ground.
  7. If you have health issues, balance problems, or serious muscle weakness, seek proper medical assistance. Watch this video as a guide.

Your body is programmed to avoid falling on your face by trying to stay more upright and bending your knees more into a squat pattern if it doesn’t sense proper muscle activation. If you learn to position your skeleton into the correct architecture for the movement you are attempting and recruit the target muscles for that movement (in this case, the glutes and core), you will not face-dive. If you do splat, see #6 above (and please post the video on YouTube).

Every day, at some point, you will need to bend over (hinge) and pick something up. Conventional wisdom dictates that we lift with our legs from a squat position, but our greatest power for this movement comes from the hinge pattern and the glutes. That’s why we call it the Big House. Heed the immortal words from Sir Mix-A-Lot: “You can do side bends or sit-ups, but please don’t lose that butt.”

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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: staying active injury prevention muscles senior fitness strength exercises

Training the Active Aging Adult (Part 1 of 4)

There comes a day when you wake up one morning and realize you’re not 25 any longer. Usually, this happens when you’re 50—or in other words, after 25 years of denial and of being totally oblivious to nature’s less-than-subtle warnings: hair loss and color change, skin texture and wrinkles, where did that body fat come from, when did that thing (?) become so heavy to lift, and those stairs weren’t that high last year. The mind feels young but the body fades in and out of pretend youth. The body is also willing until it gets tired or pain rises above the level of annoyance.

But there is hope: you can be cool without being young, but cool doesn’t make you stronger, quicker, more flexible, thinner, and the owner of painless joints.

What Motivates Senior Fitness?

When you were younger, the goal of exercise was to look better naked. It seems reasonable, because younger people look better naked than old farts. Besides, older people have more pressing issues like serious joint pain, heart disease, diabetes, age-related weight gain, hormonal changes, and perhaps even the chilling shadow of cancer has visited them. No doubt that looking better and feeling better about yourself is really an important motivator to exercise, but they pale in comparison to these life-altering issues. Therefore, the motives for training of an aging active adult are more complex than a 25-year-old and must be recognized and honored when designing training programs.

Specific Health Concerns for Active Seniors

If you happen to be a fitness enthusiast over 50, these are things you need to be aware of.

  • Sarcopenia: An interesting word to say, but not so good to have, because it means a loss of muscle mass. Heavy-chain muscle fibers start dying out around age 30. Most professional athletes retire in their 30s because they have lost a step (in power and strength) and can no longer compete with younger athletes. Since most adults do not push their athletic genetic limits, they become aware of this loss of step in their 40s, or certainly by their 50s. This fiber loss is called sarcopenia. Unless there is some attempt to retain strength through formal strength training, this strength loss will continue at a ever-increasing and very noticeable rate. Common movement patterns—sit to stand, picking things up, pushing away and pulling back, pushing up and pulling down—will become increasingly more difficult as life quality decreases. Many people just give in to the process and call it “getting older.” It doesn’t have to be that way. Strength training can certainly slow it down.
  • Joint issues: Connective tissue seems to injure more easily and take longer to heal. Tendonitis becomes an all-too-common answer to the question, “How are you feeling?” Dynamic joint mobility training helps regain joint range of motion and lubricate joint surfaces with synovial fluid for cartilage health. Older athletes have to allow time in the program design for something the young take for granted.
  • Slow recovery: It takes longer for the body to repair and to make new tissue. This seems to be related to changes at the DNA and RNA levels as we age; and of course, changes in hormonal levels further compound the problem. Knowing this, nutrition and rest are key for proper recovery. The aging active adult has very little margin for error. Without proper nutrition and rest, progress will stall and the likelihood for injury will increase.
  • Balanced training: Cardio exercise is still important for overall health, but must be managed in such a way as to not interfere with the recovery for strength training, and not to add to the training volume to the point of over-training and adversely effecting the immune system. The body also does not respond well to being forced to adapt to opposing stimulus (cardio vs. strength). It gets confused as to what exactly it is being asked to do. How much cardio is very individual, but it is easy to err on the side of too much. Interval training may be an answer to those concerns by reducing the training time factor while still challenging the alactate, anaerobic, and aerobic substrates for improved conditioning.
  • Shared epiphany: There is a common experience at this age that there is a price to be paid for all of the fitness and health-related issues you chose to ignore when you were younger. Pain, discomfort, illness, and excess body fat are the reasons for your body’s “come to Jesus” meeting. Your body demands corrections, and your currency for payment is time and effort spent bringing the body back into balance. The aging active adult has been humbled enough by aging to be open to addressing these issues if the guidance they receive makes sense.

With the number of active aging adults increasing, both trainers and the older clients should understand the training needs and limitations of this age group in order to develop the best program designs that will effectively produce results and at the same time do no harm. So far, the fitness industry and fitness media have chosen to ignore the 800-pound gorilla by focusing on the 25- to 40-year-olds; but it is the aging active adults who have the greater need. They understand that the youth genie is not going back in the bottle, but that their life quality can be a whole lot better through proper training and nutrition.

In part 2 of this series, I talk more about the need for strength training at this age.

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

Topics: cardio injury prevention muscles joint health senior fitness endurance strength pain