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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

The Benefits of the Hip Press Exercise in Developing Glutes

glutes.jpgThe benefits and importance of developing the glutes in sports performance, fitness, and physique is a popular topic these days and has been for quite some time. In fact, an entire industry is built around shaping the perfect backside for some, and developing the most powerful athlete for others.

“The big house,” a term I have adopted from Mike Boyle, is a part of the body that has so many important duties in human movement (and yes, for filling out a swimsuit as well) that it should be a focus in everybody’s program. Until recently we targeted this area through back squats, lunges, kettlebell swings, clamshells, and the like, which are all very good options. The hip press, also known as the hip thruster, has been found to be possibly the most effective exercise for gluteal engagement, strength, and development. It has definitely become one of my go-to exercises personally and with the individuals I work with.

How to Perform the Exercise

So how effective is the hip press in developing this important area of our body? My buddy Alex Soller did some of the legwork already for me in his post Are You Glute-n Free? The Importance of Exercises for Glutes, where he covers the structural importance of the glutes and some exercises to enhance them. But we will focus on the hip press here and why it has quickly became one of the best ways to get the most out of the big house. In the video below, Kaci demonstrates some of the most popular ways to perform the hip press using our newly acquired hip press bench that will set you up for success when training the hips.

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Programming for Glute Development

In a 2014 post, Eric Cressey and Bret Contreras compared the “glute-building potential” of the back squat and hip press. Their ultimate belief, as well as mine, is that both are important movements for glute development and should be a part of your programming. This is partially due to the differences the two movements have in the activation of the glutes and the tension generated throughout both exercises. What I found significant in their findings is the massive difference in the activation of the glutes during the hip press leading to the burning pump that you will feel performing a challenging set of presses. This is a feeling you will just have to experience for yourself! I also believe that the hip press is a safer and easier option for the average gym-goer whereas the back squat can be a rather technical exercise, especially when dealing with heavier loads. 

The bottom line is (see what I did there?) that the hip press is a relatively easy movement to perform that can result in building that big house you have always wanted for fitness and physique. Need to learn more on how to implement the hip press into your program? Be sure to schedule your Assessment and Personal Program with an instructor today.

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness exercises sports glutes programs

Water Fitness: How to Get Better at Swimming

ThinkstockPhotos-103584574.jpgIn my previous blog on swimming, I talked about the vast benefits that can come from adding lap swimming into your off-season workout regimen. But maybe you are already comfortable in the pool and swim on a regular basis; wouldn’t you like to get better and become more efficient in your stroke? By taking small steps to improve the different components that make up the specific strokes, you can become a better swimmer in a decently short amount of time.

Focus on Form

As other sports, form tends to be one of the key players in overall success. Each stroke has a certain form that will allow the swimmer to be more efficient. Take some time to research the different strokes that you like to do and learn the correct form. Whatever swim stroke you happen to choose, the different pieces will consist of breathing, kicking, arm movement, location of chest and hips in the water, and what you do with your hands, feet, and ankles. I know it seems like a lot to think about, but you may really benefit by simply understanding what the stroke should look like.

Breathe More Efficiently

Breathing tends to be one of the hardest elements of a swimmer’s performance. Getting the breathing technique down right takes time, practice, and patience. Master breathing by using a kickboard or holding onto the side of the pool before combining it with the actual stroke and movement in the water. You also will need to learn your breathing cycle—for example, if I am swimming freestyle, do I need to take a breath every three or four strokes? You may need to learn to breathe on both sides and be able to turn your head to the left and right to get air.

Learn the Body Roll

This movement is used specifically in freestyle. Have you ever seen someone swimming freestyle (on their stomach) and when it’s time to take a breath, they pick their entire head up out of the water? The body roll will allow you to efficiently roll your upper body (and partially through the hips) to get air so that only part of your head is not in the water. This movement can be learned easily using different pool equipment like a pull buoy.

Slow Down

We all have the tendency, when getting into the pool to do some laps, to go a million miles an hour. Whether or not you mean to do it, you will quickly be made aware that you need to slow down because your breathing will remind you! Take your time, be patient, and learn the proper technique in every stroke by putting your foot on the break. You will be amazed, when you slow down the pace a little bit, at how long you can actually swim!

Develop an Efficient Kick

Another great way to improve your overall swimming skills is to learn the different kicks that go along with the various strokes. Each kick has specifics in how far to pull your heel back, how big of a splash you should be making, how far below the surface you want your hips and legs to be, etc. Utilize a kickboard or the wall, as you do in learning to breathe right, to master the different kicks.

Utilize Equipment

There are so many great tools out there to help you learn to swim better. Utilize things like kickboards to improve your breathing and kicking, pull buoys to work on your stroke, and fins to work through power kicks and master the body roll. At most pools you will usually see hand paddles to work on power in the pulling motion to propel you through the water faster, and maybe even gloves that have webbed fingers. All of these things will allow you to work on certain pieces of form one at a time.

Learn the Turns

When I was younger, I spent hours in the pool trying to learn how to do the flip turn. And while many think it’s simply “cool,” the flip turn happens to make your swim efficiency shoot through the roof. This move will also take some time to learn, but if you are patient and work on the timing of the flip turn, your lap swimming will soon be quicker.

Watch and Evaluate

Do not be afraid to have someone watch you and evaluate the different strokes you are working on. Often someone outside the water can easily tell if you are kicking too hard, slapping the water during your stroke, or not efficiently breathing. Take some time to have someone watch and give you tips to work on.

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While this can seem like an overwhelmingly large list of things to work on, just choose one thing at a time. Each small tweak will make a huge impact on your overall swimming performance.

Remember Natatorium lap swimming is now free with your NIFS Membership! Learn More.

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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 equipment swimming workout sports

The Importance of Post-Season Active Rest

ThinkstockPhotos-78322425.jpgOver the past six to eights weeks, I have been creating summer workout manuals for the teams that I work with during the school year. These manuals are meant to bridge the strength and conditioning gap between the time they leave for summer break and when they return for the fall semester. There is much to be gained, or lost, through a summer of hard work (or lack thereof). Although summer break is a true “break” for most athletes academically, there never really is a true break for training.

Many of the teams I work with are spring sports. Their seasons begin a couple months after the turn of the year and may not finish until after school is out. They go from the playing field, track, course, or court, back home where family, friends, and summer jobs await. Being spring sports, their summer usually begins with a recovery period that occurs when their competitive season comes to a close. The components of this recovery process include mental, emotional, and physical aspects that need to be met in order to fully prepare for the next bout of training and the following season.

For the sports that I work with, the first portion of the training calendar for the post-season is called active rest. Active rest is an approximately two-week period where the athlete performs light physical activity at least two to three days per week. These physical activities should have nothing to do with the sport that they participate in. Think about it: after spending six to seven days per week over the past four months participating or thinking about their specific sport, the last thing many individuals want to do is continue to do just that. Although this is the sport that you may love, getting away from it for a short period of time can do wonders.

Taking a Break from Training

Active rest can mean a lot of things, and the best part is the fact that you basically have free reign over what you choose to do, as long as you are staying active. This gives you the opportunity to choose something totally unrelated to your sport and do it for the next few weeks.

I would recommend that the intensity of the activity you choose not climb above “moderate.” The low to moderate style will allow adequate blood flow to working muscles, which will help promote physical recovery of the muscles that were taxed so much during your competitive season. Another recommendation I would make would be to limit the amount of impact (foot strikes) you have during this period, especially if your sport requires a large amount of impact. This will allow your body to recover from the constant “ground and pound” that you might have during track, tennis, or softball season.

Active rest is also a good time to incorporate corrective exercises from the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) that your coach or trainer gave you. These exercises focus mainly on mobility and require very few pieces of equipment for the most part. Spending two to three weeks working on any muscular imbalances that may have developed during the season will give you a leg up when you begin your intense off-season training program in a month or so.

Active Rest Recommendations

Following are my top 5 recommendations for the rest period of your training:

  • FMS corrective exercises
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Bike/elliptical/arc trainer/rower
  • DO SOMETHING FUN!

Physical recovery is definitely important during this time, but recovery of your mental and emotional well-being may be just as or possibly more important. Let’s face it—any competitive season has a multitude of ups and downs, which creates an emotional rollercoaster that could send anyone through a loop. You have spent 48 out of the past 52 weeks preparing or playing your sport. You owe it to yourself to do something a little different and come back refreshed for the preparation for the next season.

If you have any questions about how to set up active rest for your post-season training, or need help constructing an off-season training program for your sport, contact me at [email protected]. To read more about setting up training programs for athletes, see my blog series that begins here.

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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: training sports recovery functional movement post-season rest student athletes

Thomas's Corner: Off the Beaten Path—Outdoor Fitness Options

Sunny days and warm summer weather are now upon us. It’s hard to complain about a pretty day, except when you are confined to an indoor lifestyle or job. Outdoor fitness is exactly what you need to get rid of the summertime blues, but I’m not talking about running or boot camp. Indianapolis is packed with fitness activities just waiting to be discovered. Parks throughout the city are highlighted by fitness trails, open fields, and accessibility. The opportunities are only increasing as we, hopefully, move toward a more health-conscious society.

In this blog we are going to think outside the box and explore some outdoor fitness options that are not only good exercise, but also fun and stimulating.

ThinkstockPhotos-178092126Paddleboarding

Paddleboarding, a mode of recreational transportation, has been around much longer than you might think. When it was first invented is undetermined, but evidence of its existence dates back to early exploration of the Pacific Ocean in the late 1700s by Captain James Cook. 

Fast-forward a few hundred years and you will see paddleboarding nearly everywhere, including rivers, lakes, and oceans. Because it enables you to take in scenery and nature, paddleboarding can be both calming and serene. On the other hand, in some windy conditions, paddleboarding is completely challenging, giving the rider a great workout. Riding the tide for extended periods of time provides plenty of balance, core stability, and endurance opportunities for the aquatic enthusiast.

For paddleboarding in Indianapolis, visit local shops such as Rusted Moon Outfitters to see demonstrations and buy gear to satisfy your paddleboarding needs. If you are a beginner and would like lessons, another local company, Salty Dog Paddlesports offers not only training sessions, but also more advanced yoga classes on paddleboards!

Geocaching

Geocaching is a relatively new outdoor recreational activity that combines old-school orienteering and treasure hunting with modern GPS technology. The concept of geocaching is not new; following clues and landmarks to find hidden treasure has been around for a long time. 

In this modern-day search for “x” on a treasure map, individuals use clues via internet videos or posts to find hidden packages or containers yielding log books to sign your name, often a small prize, or even another clue to find your way to another hidden site. The treasures aren’t necessarily huge in size; the excitement comes from successfully navigating your way to the treasure. After the site is discovered, it is neatly hidden away so that another geocacher may discover it. 

Because it usually takes place outdoors in rugged terrain and involving hiking and walking, a geocacher’s main needs include comfortable clothes, shoes or boots, and a functioning GPS system. Most cell phones have GPS built in already, so becoming a geocacher is even more convenient than you think. Geocaching is happening in Indiana, and the Indiana Geocaching website is dedicated to it. There is plenty of information regarding upcoming events and links to other national geocaching clubs. Channel your inner Indiana Jones while you are actually in Indiana!

Disc Golf

One of the fastest-growing recreational sports and activities, disc golf is quickly becoming more than just a niche hobby. The concept of disc golf, obviously, is derived from traditional golf, including the terminology. Disc golfers typically throw one of their many discs (each one has specific characteristics, not unlike drivers, irons, and putters) from a tee box toward a basket on a pole. Score is kept with eagles, birdies, par, and bogeys. 

Sprinkled throughout Indianapolis are several disc golf courses that offer a variety of challenges and an opportunity to experience some of the many scenic neighborhood parks that otherwise may go unnoticed. There is even a disc golf organization (Indianapolis Disc Golf Club) that holds several notable tournaments, bringing in top competition in the area and the Midwest. 

Like all skill-based activities, disc golf requires practice time. This is easily countered by disc golf’s relatively easy concept, cost effectiveness (discs are around 10 to 15 dollars, while courses are free), and inviting atmosphere.

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If you are bored with your current situation or just want a fun activity for you and your pals, there are definitely some excellent options to keep you active and your brain stimulated. Whether you want to take on some waves with your paddleboard, track down a series of clues while geocaching, or take a stroll through the park while disc golfing, the landscape for outdoor activity is ever changing. Be adventurous this summer and try a new outdoor sport or activity today!

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: summer balance endurance core outdoors golf sports hiking

Train Like an Athlete: Start Building a Foundation with Resistance Training

Every day during the week, hundreds of sporting events are played across the world. From football to tennis, golf, and soccer, among many others, athletes are competing at every skill level possible. Professional and collegiate sports have rigorous schedules that require their participants to prepare for the upcoming season year round. For many of these athletes, there is no more “off-season.” There is a constant flow of training through different cycles that allows them to hit their peak performance during the right time of the season.

But how do these athletes get to be in the shape they are in for their seasons? Where do they start?

Getting Started

resistance-trainingAn athlete’s training age, or experience they have in the gym, is one factor that is used to determine their initial starting point for their individual program. Someone with a higher training age will be able to perform exercises of more difficulty versus someone who has never stepped foot into a training atmosphere. This is important to consider when starting your program because some individuals may need more instructional time than others.

Resistance training can be a good starting point. It is one major mode of training that can lead to multiple benefits for everyone, not just athletes. Increasing muscle mass, strength and power are three main benefits that can be derived from a well structured resistance training program, but many more can be had. With the athletes that I train, all of them can benefit from an increase in one or more of those variables.

If you are new to resistance training, try coming to the gym two days per week for the first month and establishing your routine. Rest and recovery is very important during this time. Once you have your schedule in place, add a third day. This will allow you to keep improving as your body begins to adapt to your program.

Training Exercises for Beginners

To start, a “full-body” lift should be sufficient if you are beginning a new program. These exercises will focus on all of the major muscle groups of the body, not just a single group. Make sure the movements being performed are perfect. This is not the time to add as much weight to the bar or grab the heaviest dumbbells as possible. It is time to learn the basic movements to build for the future. Trying to break bad habits in weightlifting is one of the most common issues I see. Do your best to learn and perform the movements correctly the first time. The addition of weight will come shortly thereafter.

Start with 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions per set for exercises of each major muscle group (Quads, Glutes, Chest, Back, Shoulders). For starters, one exercise per muscle group will be sufficient. As your body adapts, more exercises can be added.

The basics are going to be what set you up for success in the future. Regardless of your lifting ability, everyone needs time to focus on the fine points of their techniques. Once you have developed a routine for resistance training, other areas can begin to be improved, like speed, agility and explosive power.

If you need assistance in creating your first full-body workout, contact me at [email protected]. For information on what NIFS can do to help you train for a sport, see NIFS Athletic Performance.

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: fitness center muscles resistance training sports

Sports and Character: 5 Life Lessons I’ve Learned Playing Football

152141547The fall season is probably my favorite time of year. The weather is just how I like it, crisp and comfortable during the day and cool at night. The colors that arrive with the turning of the leaves are a demonstration of how creative Mother Nature can be. There is another phenomenon that takes place during this time of year that I anticipate all summer long, and that is FOOTBALL!

This is the time of year that all levels, from peewee to the pros, are padding up and participating in a game that I have loved and played my entire life. I took my first snap when I was 5, and the game has been a part of my life ever since. From the time I was an undersized defensive lineman, a coach, and now as a super fan, football has provided so many fond memories and learning opportunities.

With football in full swing, I find myself thinking of the times I spent in two-a-day practices, Friday night games, and early Saturday film sessions. Flash forward to my time as a coach of some very talented young men as they got started on their football journey as I did so long ago. Through all of these experiences and all of these years being around the game of football, I have learned so much about so many aspects of life that I have carried with me, and which has had tremendous impact on my life. Lessons of character, hard work, and being part of something bigger than yourself are ones that I would have never learned in a classroom. I would like to share with you the top 5 lessons I have learned from being around this great sport of football.

Setting Goals

Preseason was a time to set goals for what we wanted to accomplish as a team for that season. We would usually post these in some fashion that acted as reminder of what we were working so hard for. This was a very important step toward our success and I was lucky enough to have coaches who held the standard of knowing what you want to accomplish, writing it down, and keeping it visible. Of course my goals are much different these days, but the process is still the same. Write down your goals and make them visible as a daily reminder of where you want to go.

Be On Time

This should go without saying: punctuality says a great deal about you as an individual. A huge lesson I learned is that you don’t let coach beat you to the practice field. You were to be strapped up and ready to go at the start of practice, or you were given a choice of “up/downs” (you know these as burpees) or “gassers.” Either one was not very fun in full gear. To this day, I get pretty anxious if I feel I may be late for whatever it may be. I learned long ago that it is always better to be waiting on whoever I am meeting with—not the other way around. Burpees still are not very fun!

The Bigger the Dream, the Better the Team

During my last season as player, our team was nicknamed “The Dirty 30,” and it was a name we embraced fully. This name had nothing to do with us playing “dirty”; it illustrated our small team of 30 varsity players doing what it took as a team to reach our pinnacle. We all played a role in any successes—or failures, for that matter. We embraced that responsibility as a team, and we worked together to make us better. What I learned then is something that is apparent to me every day: you can’t do it alone. I talk a great deal about forming your “Power Circle” and using those like-minded individuals to help you succeed in life in any capacity. Making the others around you better and being more excited about their successes than your own will always pay huge dividends.

Don’t Be Afraid to Make a Mistake

“Fly around and don’t be afraid to make a mistake” was a phrase I heard a lot during my days as a player. Being in your head too much and holding back for fear of missing an assignment or failing usually led to missing that assignment and failing. More importantly, it would rob you of the opportunity to learn. I learned a huge lesson in those days, that success is a result of failing. In his book Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn, John Maxwell defines adversity as the catalyst of learning, and problems are opportunities of learning. If you blow an assignment on one play, in a matter of seconds you get the opportunity to learn from that mistake and not commit it again on the next play. That’s learning, and it’s that learning that leads to success. Mistakes are inevitable in life, but growth is optional. Don’t shy away from risk; embrace it.

Being Yelled at Is a Good Thing

One of the biggest lessons I learned playing the sport I love so much is that when coach is yelling at you, it’s a good thing. I remember being told a few times that when coach stops yelling at you, that’s when you should be worried. At the time, I thought my coach was crazy for saying that, because it was never fun when coach got inside your facemask and ripped your head off.

But soon after leaving the game and moving on with my life, I realized what my coaches meant. They believed that I was better than I was performing at that particular moment, and they were not going to let me quit or be satisfied with mediocrity. So when coaches would stop yelling at you, it meant that you might have peaked and their help would more than likely not make you better. I know it may sound weird, but I think it’s okay to be told “you suck” (not actually, of course) from time to time. It gives you a little knot in your stomach, and it’s that knot that makes you want to be better. I think it’s when we lose that knot in our stomachs that we have, at some level, given up. If you have lost that knot in your stomach, reevaluate some things and find a coach to call you out now and again.

There are countless other lessons I gained from playing the great game of football. These are the top five that, without learning them, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what I have thus far. Nor would I understand that learning and growing are no way near over. I hope you were able to gather some takeaways from the lessons I have described. If nothing else, please leave with this: Never Be Satisfied!

To see how NIFS can help you train for any competitive sport, click here to learn more.

This blog was written by Tony Maloney, Health Fitness Specialist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

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Topics: motivation goal setting attitude mental team training sports