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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

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

***

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

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

Morning Exercise Benefits: Increased Metabolism and More?

ThinkstockPhotos-78716025.jpgOkay, so maybe you’re not a morning person, and would much rather remain cozy in your queen-sized bed for several hours after waking up before finally finding the energy and motivation to make your way to the gym during the middle of the day. Maybe you’re the type of person who likes to take care of your priorities first during the day, and then only if left with enough time sneak in a late-afternoon or nighttime workout before ending your day.

Don’t get me wrong; if you are either of these individuals, I applaud you in every way for finding some time in your day to work out. However, a number of studies have researched the benefits of working out in the morning compared to working out midday or at night. Below I shine some light on those benefits that might encourage your brain and body to transition into working out at the crack of dawn.

The Question of Increased Metabolism

I’m sure a majority of us have heard at some point in our life that working out in the morning helps to boost our metabolism. Sure we can take a leap of faith and believe this theory to be true based on popular belief, but let’s actually take a look at the physiology side of things and expose whether this is true.

Metabolism is process by which your body converts the food you eat into energy. So in simple terms, the higher your metabolism is, the more calories you burn on a daily basis. Obviously, the more active you are during your workouts, the more calories you are going to burn. It is also important to remember that even if you are working out in the morning, your metabolism will not increase if you do not put forward the proper effort during your workout.

So as you might have just guessed, if you’re not a person who is full of energy and motivation during the morning hours, your workout performance may be hindered by these factors alone, which will limit your morning metabolism increase. Therefore, it is important to experiment with workout timing to see which time of the day will benefit you the most. So does working out in the morning help to increase your metabolism? Well, the answer is, “it depends on the individual.”

On the flip side, if you are a person who doesn’t mind working out in the morning, there are many reasons why this can help spike your metabolism. One of the first biological reasons working out in the morning can be effective is the increased levels of testosterone (especially in males) that happen first thing when you wake up. Overnight our bodies begin to increase their testosterone production. Because of this, our testosterone levels are highest upon awakening. As you may or may not know, testosterone is the hormone that promotes muscle growth. The more testosterone we have in our bodies while working out, the more efficient our bodies will be at muscle production. Taking advantage of this morning boost of testosterone can help build muscle more efficiently.

*Fact of the Day: For every 1 lb. of muscle you gain, your body will burn an extra 6 to 10 calories per day at rest. Gain 10 lbs. of muscle and you could be burning an extra 100 calories while at rest (Source: BuiltLean).

More Reasons to Work Out Early

Here are some additional reasons why you may want to work out in the morning:

  • Easier to follow high-volume training systems: Working out in the morning before gym peak hours makes it easier for you to perform supersets/trisets without having to wait for the next guy to get done with his set on the machine you need.
  • Leaves time for other priorities: Now that your workout is done and over with first thing in the morning, you have the rest of your day to complete other tasks.
  • Increased energy levels during the day: Exercise has been proven to increase energy levels and focus throughout the day. By working out first thing in the morning, you are getting a head start on your day.
  • You’ll be less likely to skip your workout: It can be easy to get distracted at various points of the day that might sabotage your workout (less motivation, fatigue, overdue school work). By working out first thing in the morning, when your mind has very few things to concentrate on just yet, you will be less likely to skip your workout later.

When trying to stick with an exercise routine that will get you great results, it’s not always about working harder. In fact, sometimes it’s more about working efficiently. Finding the optimal time for your workout can sometimes be difficult; however, considering all the benefits, a morning exercise routine might be just what you need!

NIFS fortunately makes it easy for members to participate in morning exercise with early opening hours and morning group fitness classes, so try one today!

Try a group fitness class for free

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

Topics: fitness center motivation muscles metabolism high intensity morning workouts

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

Why Do These Stairs Kick My Butt? The Convenient Cardio Workout

ThinkstockPhotos-477523863This is a pretty common question that comes to mind for me. I work out 6 days a week, but still that mild ascent up four flights of stairs to the copy room seems to get me every time. 

Generally I would put myself into the “decently fit” category, but it seems that after climbing stairs I am quite winded and sometimes my legs are burning. This very thing has inspired me and a coworker to add running some stairs into our weekly workout. 

Here are some reasons why, if you’re looking for something to add into your routine for a good cardio/leg workout, you should add stairs as well!

  • Great cardiovascular exercise. Like all cardio exercises, running stairs is good for heart health! Your heart and lungs will be strengthened and can help you get to your goals. Cardio exercise is proven to help reduce high blood pressure and other health-related issues.
  • Strengthens legs and tones butt while engaging other muscle groups. Running stairs helps to strengthen many of the muscle groups, but noticeably the butt and the thighs. While climbing, your glutes, hips, and quads are engaged as well as the small muscles within those areas. Other areas of your body that see benefits are core, upper body, ankle joints, and the muscles surrounding your ankles and shins.
  • Easy to find places to do them. Whether you travel, like to work out outside, come to the gym, or want to work out at home, stairs are usually an option! It’s not hard to find a set of stairs to run, and there are lots of places around that have several sets that would be good to run up. (Here are some exercises you can do when you travel, including stairs.)
  • Helps keep the weight off. Stair running is in the category of moderate to high-intensity cardio exercise. With the amount of intensity that you can give to this, the return can be high caloric burn. As you climb higher and faster, your heart rate will begin to increase, your legs will be working harder, and you will increase your oxygen intake. All of these things aid in boosting your metabolism, and with proper eating habits and hard work you can drop a few pounds.

Here are some ideas for stair workouts for runners. Give it a try for a few weeks and see how you feel. From personal experience, don’t give up…it will be pretty challenging in the beginning, but I encourage you to stick with 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: cardio workouts muscles endurance weight management stairs

Foundations of a Strong, Healthy Body: Strength Building

ThinkstockPhotos-475675484You have finally achieved your goal of adding some lean muscle mass, so what now? Where do you go next? The next step I would take would be to train your body to use those newly developed muscles to their fullest potential. This increase in strength building can come from numerous sources, some of which you may have already experienced.

Strength improvements may be developed from different types of training and at different times in programs. Many of these improvements can be obtained through two modes: neurological adaptations and increases in muscle cross-sectional area (CSA; muscle size). 

Neurological Adaptations

Neurological adaptations can be noticed only days after starting a new training program, depending on your experience with resistance training. If you have no prior experience with it, the stimulus of a few sets of different resistance exercises over one or two days might give your body enough reason to improve its strength levels. But how could the body possibly get stronger in one or two training sessions? Did your muscles get any bigger? No. Your body (the brain, specifically) is becoming more efficient at firing those muscles you have used to meet the demands you have placed on them. 

Quick improvements, like those via neurological adaptations, will not always be achievable. Your brain/body will catch up to what you are doing eventually, which is why other modes of training are important. 

Increases in CSA

Another type of strength development is to increase the muscles’ cross-sectional area, or make the muscle bigger. This can be achieved by following my previous blog, which goes over muscular hypertrophy and different variables you need to control to get it. When a muscle becomes larger, it simply has the ability to create more force than it did when it was smaller. This will definitely lead to increases in your strength levels.

If you plan to follow the structure that I have laid out for you over this series of blogs (Cardio Workouts, Muscular Endurance, and Muscle Building), you are ready for that next step. You may have put on some lean muscle mass (hypertrophy), or you may not have. Regardless, you can still take your strength training to the next level. 

Strength improvement in this sense is almost a combination of the two modes of development I stated earlier, neurological adaptations and increases in muscle CSA. You have new muscle that you have worked hard to build, but now you need to train your body to get that muscle firing at optimal levels. Your new muscle needs that neurological adaptation. 

Recommended Workouts

True strength training is time consuming, so be ready for a lot of downtime between sets. When you start your program, try 2 to 3 sets with repetitions ranging from 1 to 5 (heavy weight!) on your core lifts (bench, squat, and deadlift). Add in a few more strength exercises after the first few weeks. 

Rest periods can vary; however, you want to have at least 2 to 5 minutes between sets. This is CRUCIAL for strength development. You want to make sure you are 100% rested or very close to it. This will allow your body to perform at the highest level during each set. The more you hit this high level, the easier it will become to fire those muscles, which increases strength levels. 

Get after it!

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

 

Topics: workouts muscles strength muscle mass muscle building

Thomas's Corner: Is Spot Reduction a Fitness Myth?

From the beginning, fitness and working out (generally speaking) has been a constant struggle of good versus evil. Of course, good refers to the ideal body type that we strive for and what makes us feel good about ourselves, and bad refers to the undesired body types and feelings that come from being a less-conditioned individual.

Focusing on a Specific Body Part

ThinkstockPhotos-450797505We use fitness for many reasons, sometimes for stress, weight loss, or performance. Relatively speaking, the role of the Fitness Specialist has not been around as long as most professions, but it has had some very drastic and conflicting concepts and theory clashes, contradictions and discrepancies. These concepts and theories are ever changing and evolving to meet the criteria and need of scientific research, human nature and what actually works. Of note, one such theory that needs to be put to bed is the idea that we can “spot reduce” by simply focusing on a specific body part. 

Examples of spot reduction can be seen in many workout programs that we see today, even if we do not realize that’s the case. Doing 300 sit ups to make your stomach go away, doing triceps extensions until your arms fall off to get rid of the behind-the-arm jiggles and doing seated adduction/abduction leg exercises to get track star thighs are all examples of spot-reduction techniques that seem to be good in intention, but miss the mark. 

Busting the Myths

In a previous NIFS blog, Health Fitness Specialist Mistie Hayhow reminded us that there are many fitness myths that get the better of us. Hayhow goes on to state that while exercise builds our muscle, it’s burning the layer of fat off the outside that makes our muscles appear more defined. If we think about how weight loss works, we know that nutrition plays a huge role in what actually works and what does not. 

Also, we must factor in that when we work out, muscles develop. If we have muscle developing under a layer of fat, we are presuming to be reducing size, but the effect is that we will appear to be bigger because we did not address the fat loss first. 

For some athletes, it would make sense that a specific arm/leg dominant event would create enough physical imbalance to amount to visible difference, but a study at the University of California Irvine, in which tennis players were subjected to several years of subcutaneous fat measurements, yielded inconclusive data and put yet another blemish on the concept (Perry, 2011).

The fact is this: Spot reduction is a myth.

Fitness Keeps Evolving

We have plenty of information and examples to back up the claim that spot reduction is a myth, so why are we still doing it? As I mentioned before, fitness is ever changing and evolving, and it’s only getting better. Trust that your Fitness Specialist has your best intentions in mind (as they did 20 years ago when the ideas and concepts were quite diverse), but theories change. To keep up to date, I suggest meeting with an HFS at NIFS to ensure your needs are being met and that your questions are being answered.

Rejoice and Evolve,

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

Topics: Thomas' Corner muscles fitness trends muscle building toning

Foundations of a Strong, Healthy Body: Muscle Building

ThinkstockPhotos-494559503-1Okay, so you’ve been successful in your first two phases of developing your new workout program. You have progressed in your cardiovascular exercises throughout the weeks and your muscles have been feeling more “in shape” from your high repetition, low-weight muscular endurance training. What now?

The next progression I would recommend would be to start training for muscular hypertrophy, or more simply put, muscle building. 

Getting Ripped Versus Getting Toned

Muscle building is a term that seems fantastic to some (guys) and horrific for others (ladies). Guys (depending on your age) have an affinity to building muscle on a higher level because of a little hormone called Testosterone. The higher levels in men will allow for more tissue development, while the lower levels in women will not. Training for hypertrophy in females will yield a more desirable “toned” look versus a large gain in mass.

Changing the Variables to Develop Muscle Mass

When you are training for an increase in lean muscle mass, you will need to tweak the variables that you used for muscular endurance. To recap, those variables included sets, repetitions, and rest periods. 

  • The sets you may perform can also start very low (1-2) if you are new to this type of training. As your experience increases, the amount of sets can double or even triple. 
  • The repetitions that you perform will also adjust. Instead of doing reps in the 15-20 range, they will be more in the 8-12 range. With the decrease in repetitions comes an increase in the resistance (weight) that you are using. You want to make sure that each set is performed with a weight that can be done no more than 12 times. 
  • Rest periods will also remain relatively low. 30 to 60 seconds of rest between sets is recommended. You will definitely “feel the burn” if you do it correctly.

The next blog in this series talks about how to activate your newly developed muscle tissue to increase your overall strength.

Get after it!

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

Topics: cardio muscles resistance endurance weightlifting muscle mass muscle building