NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Fitness Training Types: Find Your Method

bands-1.jpgIf you take a few minutes to google the various types of fitness training out there, you will come up with a list of about 10 different ones, and then 10 more different variations of each of those. And each year more and more “fitness trends” come out, making it quite confusing for the consumer as to what to choose and where to start. It can be confusing and even frustrating choosing what is right for you and your body.

And to take it a step further, maybe the results you want that you aren’t getting are because you need to try something different. Maybe that different thing does not have to be some crazy, drastic change in gyms, your diet, or everything in your life. In fact, maybe it’s just a workout style that suits you better. Each product you see today—like CrossFit, Orangetheory, and Dailey Method to name a few—all follow a specific training method. And what works for one person doesn’t always work for the next.

I have narrowed it down to five categories of training methods, so let’s take a look at what each one is, and I’ll help you narrow down your focus.

Circuit Training

High intensity–style workouts that incorporate both aerobic exercise and strength training. These circuit workouts can be done with or without equipment.

    • Target: Building strength and muscular endurance. These workouts tend to keep you on the higher end of your heart rate zones and are usually designed in stations for time, with little to no rest in-between.
    • Goals: The circuit training method of exercise is good for those people who are looking for weight loss, are in a time crunch, or are looking for overall general fitness, a total-body workout, and toning. Many say this is where you get the most bang for your buck because you can get the results you are looking for in less time.

Aerobic Training

This type of training is generally summarized as meaning “with oxygen” or cardio training.

    • Target: These workouts tend to target the cardiovascular system, mainly the heart and lungs. In most cases it’s associated with running, biking, swimming, jumprope, step class, and other cardio-based exercises. This style of training helps to increase your cardiovascular endurance and open the gap in your heart rate zones.
    • Goals: The aerobic training style is good for those looking to lose weight, for specific training programs like marathons, for athletes looking to increase performance and endurance as well as recover appropriately, and for those trying to reduce the risk of chronic illness like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Heart Rate Training

ThinkstockPhotos-520046406.jpegThis type of training is specific to each individual and their personal zones. You can read more here about HR training, but this training method is focused in on zones like fat burn, cardiovascular endurance, peak performance, and recovery. In many cases, HR training is viewed as the all-around best training method there is.

    • Target: Heart rate training helps to increase endurance and sustainability in workouts by allowing you to peak and recover in a way that is specific to your body. Training zones are identified by doing a VO2 test.
    • Goals: For anyone and everyone! Typically people training for endurance races like Spartans or marathons, or athletes honing in on max results and recovery, for the person who is totally burnt out after each workout, and all the way to people who are on medications that affect their heart rate.

Flexibility Training

Contrary to what I know everyone is thinking, it’s not just yoga! Forget the general stereotype of moms walking into the gym with lattes, flip-flops, and their yoga mat; this training style is probably the most important, yet the most neglected. It incorporates corrective exercises, stretching (both static and dynamic), and movements from head to toe.

    • Target: To improve flexibility, mobility, range of motion, balance, and better posture.
    • Goals: Another method of training that is for everyone! If you are not a yoga person, it’s time to start! Yoga folks, dancers, runners, meatheads: this is for you, too! Flexibility training is for every single person who wants to enhance their training in any way.

Strength Training

deadlift-3.jpgStrength training typically is done with heavy weight but can be done with lighter ones as well. This style of training is directly associated with Newton’s law: mass x acceleration = force.

    • Target: To increase muscle strength.
    • Goals: Perfect for those looking to put on mass; can be good for those who don’t have a bunch of time to train; also good if you desire to move heavy things.

What should you do from here? If you are stuck in a rut or want to find the method that is going to be most effective for you, take some time to define your goals, figure out what is realistic for you, and take into consideration your past exercise experience. All these things play into what will work as well as what you like to do while in the gym.

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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: NIFS fitness yoga circuit workout training flexibility strength core strength goals heart rate strength training methods aerobic

Steps to Create Your 2017 New Year’s Resolution Training Plan

ThinkstockPhotos-523286853.jpgIt seems nearly impossible that the holidays have crept upon us already! And not just that, but those dreaded New Year’s resolutions that loom over our heads are just around the corner. But with the right plan in place, we can look at those resolutions as something exciting: a reset to get focused and to really accomplish something this year.

The key to not letting those goals slip by you and hit you on the backside is to have a plan in place that sets you up for success and not failure. A good, solid strategy that has been thought through early enough will get you where you want to be.

5 Simple Steps to Your New Training Plan

Here are 5 simple steps to help you set your New Year’s resolution.

  • Figure out your goal. What is it that you really want to accomplish in your health and fitness this year? Take some time to really hash out what you truly want to do. Maybe it’s finally committing to that first half marathon, setting a new PR in your deadlift, or simply being consistent and getting to the gym three times a week. Whatever it is, make sure your goal setting is attainable and realistic.
  • Make a plan. Once you have figured out what is realistic, it’s time to make a plan. Figure out what tools you need in order to be successful and how you are going to do it. For example, do you need new running shoes, a fitness tracker like a Fitbit, or to hire a trainer? Once you have your plan in place, share it with someone. This will help you to stay accountable; whoever you share it with can check in on you to see how your progress is going.
  • Schedule it NOW! Like most things, if we don’t get them on the schedule we might as well just forget about it. Make sure that you set aside time in your weekly schedule so that you are not digging for time each day. If it’s in the schedule you are more apt to do it, so get it in there and don’t make compromises!
  • Get an accountability partner. One of the easiest ways to stay on track is if someone else is checking in on you. Find a person who can be this for you. Maybe it’s your spouse, best friend, or a coworker; or if you are lucky, you can find someone to meet you at the gym each day and don’t let them down! Be sure to fill them in on your goals, your plan, and your schedule.
  • Reward yourself. And I am not talking about with brownies! Once you get into the habit and are staying on track, find something that you reward yourself with. Maybe it’s that Fitbit that you wanted in the beginning but didn’t get, those new running shoes you’ve been wanting, or signing up for a race in another state and making it a mini-vacation. Figure out how to reward yourself for doing what you planned!

Don’t be afraid, and together let’s make 2017’s New Year’s resolutions ones that we will actually achieve!

NIFS Can Help with Marathon Training

If one of those goals that you set is to complete your first 5K or half marathon, we would love for you to come and train with us in our Mini-Marathon and 5K Training Program! Let us be that accountability partner for you.

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FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE PROGRAM AND GET REGISTERED TODAY!

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

Topics: NIFS goal setting resolutions accountability training workout 5k new year's Mini-Marathon Training Program

Three Summer Training Lessons for Athletes

ThinkstockPhotos-491816300.jpgSummertime is in full swing, and whether you are a competitive or recreational athlete, changes are definitely happening to your normal schedule. For high school and collegiate athletes, more time is spent at home and for general fitness enthusiasts, more options are available to you to fulfill your exercise quota (in other words, doing more things outside). These are both extremely important changes that can be used to alter a routine that has lasted for the past 8 or 9 months of your life.

Student-athletes have been juggling class, competition, and training. Amateur athletes have been working (real jobs), training, and competing as well. When early spring hits, most individuals are sick of that stagnant routine and are looking to switch it up, which is why summer is welcomed by most with open arms.

Summer can also be a time when many physical aspects (such as power, strength, and speed) can decline if adequate “maintenance” of those aspects is not applied. The increase in other opportunities during summer can sometimes lead to a leniency of training that might do more harm than good.

Here are 3 things that I have learned over recent years as a strength coach, trainer, and collegiate athlete to hopefully help minimize this detraining effect.

1. Don’t focus on too much at one time.

Every summer when I would go home from school, I had a list of 5 or 6 things that I felt like I had to get better at. Each training session, I would have a ton of thoughts about how I could make those things better. Of course, I had a training packet from the football team, but felt like I had to do even more. I had to get faster, more agile, stronger, more flexible, and in better shape. At some point, I was doing more thinking about what I had to do to get better than just working hard with what I had.

Even today, I send workout packets home with each of my athletic teams. The goal, obviously, is to continue to improve their physical and mental toughness. But for some, I just want to make sure that they don’t totally fall off of the bus with all of their training. I aim to keep workouts short, sweet, but challenging. They usually focus on sport-specific training aspects for each individual team (for example, single-leg strength for runners, and rotational power for softball players). I want to make sure that the “bread and butter” of the sport remains at the forefront.

2. Get creative.

Being creative in the gym during the summer months may be due to two things:

  1. Your gym doesn’t have the equipment you want (or need) to do specific exercises, or
  2. You are looking for alternatives to exercises you already do.

If your gym doesn’t have specific pieces of equipment for exercises that you are looking to do, think about what that exercise is trying to accomplish. For instance, your workout program might call for a kettlebell swing, but your gym has no kettlebells. Think about what the target muscle is for that exercise and plan an alternative. The main muscles in the KB swing are the glutes, so doing a weighted hip bridge or a Romanian Deadlift might suffice as an alternative. Sure, it’s not a perfect match, but it’s better than not doing it at all!

If you are simply looking to get out of the monotony of your 4-day split routine, you have a ton of options. Say Tuesday is considered your “squat” day, but you want to take a break from the barbell work you have been doing. Good news: You can squat with just about anything in the gym. Kettlebells, sandbags, slosh pipes, medballs, and weighted vests are just a few options that can give you that much-needed break from your regular program. Also, try switching up the reps. If you are used to doing 5 sets of 5 reps, try a workout where you do 5 sets of 20 or 3 sets of 50. It will definitely give a little shock to your system.

3. Don’t forget what summer is for!

Every competitive athlete, young or old, constantly thinks about their sport and how they can improve their performance. For most, there is no such thing as an off season anymore. There is never a chance to truly take their mind off of what they compete in, which can lead to burnout after a couple of seasons. Summer is meant for unwinding from heavy workloads, in class or with jobs. Mental and emotional recovery are just as important as physical recovery. If your mind has not recovered from the past year of training and competing, it will be very hard to devote the same amount of time and effort to the next season.

You still need to train for your sport, but post-training activities are a good way to unwind after a hard workout. Go to the lake, go fishing, go golfing: do something that allows you to enjoy the summer. You will only have a few months of opportunities like this. Work hard, play hard!

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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: summer training strength power speed off-season athletes student athletes

Specificity of Training: Know Your Fitness Goal and Plan Your Workouts

ThinkstockPhotos-500834439.jpgWhat would life be without mistakes? It would be pretty boring, if you ask me. Making mistakes is the best way to learn. One mistake that most people have made is arriving at the gym and thinking, “What am I going to do here today?” I know I have done this plenty of times. When this happens, your motivation for your workout might decrease because you may just end up picking something that doesn’t really light a fire under you.

How Can I Avoid Workout Uncertainty?

When it comes to exercise, there should always be a reason behind what you’re doing. Whatever that reason may be (heart health, losing some body fat to impress a significant other, or just looking good for beach season), you should know the purpose behind your exercise before you begin. (Here ’s how to get started on fitness goal setting.)

Once you have established your goal for exercise, the next step is to find a goal-specific training program to follow. I would highly recommend seeking a professional for assistance. They will assess where you are now, help you establish where you want to be physically, create a program that fits your needs, and help you get to that end goal you’ve been chasing.

What if I Enjoy the Freedom of Creating My Own Workouts?

Great! You are one of the few who stay on top of their own programs, and you like to concoct some fun workouts. However, this can be a bit tedious sometimes. Some days you feel rushed, and while getting to the gym for a workout is feasible, taking the time to plan for your workout may not fit into your schedule.

Also, there’s no shame in admitting that sometimes you just run out of ideas! That’s one of the best parts of the fitness community: sharing ideas. Other people in the fitness world are coming up with tons of different exercises and workouts, and you may not know about them unless you actively seek them out. Keep your eyes and ears open in the gym and you may just stumble upon your new favorite exercise.

The Bottom Line: You Don’t Become a Better Painter by Practicing Basketball

This is the idea of specificity. Practice the craft in which you wish to become better. Pick a goal and stick to it. If you are constantly switching up your goals, you will be trying to get to 100 different destinations all at the same time. Wait until you accomplish the task at hand before thinking, “What’s next?”

If you ever find yourself unsure of your goals, how to decide on a goal, or how to reach your goals, talk to any of the Health Fitness Specialists at NIFS. We can help to get you on a clear path toward a specific goal.

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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: fitness goal setting workouts training specificity

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 asoller@nifs.org. 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

How to Build Training Programs for Competitive Athletes (Part 2)

In part 1 of this blog, I explained training periodization, and talked about the first two macrocycles: off-season and pre-season. Now I’ll talk about the remaining macrocycles: in-season and post-season.

In-Season

ThinkstockPhotos-100324402.jpgOnce the competitive season begins, scheduling time to get in to lift is a lot more difficult due to the practices, games, and travel that are happening. To me, in-season lifting is sometimes undervalued in the competitive/athletic world because of the fact that the primary focus is to win games or matches, not lift weights. However, I believe that this is one of the most important (if not the most important) times during the year because of what lifting can do for the athlete throughout the competitive season and into the off-season.

The goal of in-season lifting is simple: maintain what you have built in the off/pre-season and make sure that no muscular imbalances develop. This is not a time to try and increase your squat or bench by 50 pounds. It is a time to make sure that your body stays healthy and you are able to preserve the muscle, strength, and power that you have built throughout your season. Doing this will not only keep you healthier for your sport, but will also set you up for better long-term development during the subsequent off-season. Think about it: If you lose the vast majority of strength, power, and muscle mass you’ve built over the in-season, you are basically starting at square one when the season is over. If you are able to preserve 85% of that strength and power, you are starting further along than you were the year before, which allows you to make bigger gains.

Recommendation:

Training Frequency: 2 days per week
Mode: Medium Sport Specificity
Volume: Low

Post-Season

When your competitive season comes to a close, there should be some time to relax and recover from it. Take time and reflect on how you performed and what you could have done to be better in different aspects of your activity. Start creating a plan on how to improve those things once your training ramps up again.

As for training during this period, it should still happen. Your body is still recovering, but you want to make sure you do not totally fall off the map by not doing any type of exercise or physical activity. This is a perfect time to play or participate in some other sports or change up your weightlifting routine. You basically have free reign on your choices under one circumstance: get away from your actual sport/complete lifting routine.

This macrocycle does not last long, but it is an important one. You have been competing for months and want to avoid being burnt out on the sport you love, so getting away will be good. Do something different; just be active. After 3 to 4 weeks of light activity, you can begin your off-season program and start the quest to better yourself for the next competitive season.

Recommendation:

Training Frequency: 2 to 4 days per week (light activity)
Mode: Low Sport Specificity
Volume: Low-Medium

***

Overall, there is no exact science that is going to work perfectly every time when you are building your own training programs. You will always need to make tweaks, even to the best programs around. This blog provides the framework for developing a solid program, but the devil is in the details. You want to make sure that you have everything planned out as you progress through the competitive season. Some things may not go as planned, but that is okay. The ultimate goal is to make you the best athlete you can be in the sport or activity you are doing!

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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: mini marathon training weightlifting programs athletes

How to Build Training Programs for Competitive Athletes (Part 1)

ThinkstockPhotos-dv484081.jpgWhen putting together a program for anyone, client or athlete, you always want to have an idea when you would like to peak, or be at your best throughout that calendar year. For Mini-Marathon runners, May is the time to be at your best. For football players, you want to be firing on all cylinders when August rolls around. The structure of your training should be based around when your season is going to begin, to make sure your body is prepared to last the duration of the competitive months. Regardless of when you are competing, your training should never remain totally the same throughout the whole year.

This concept of training periodization has been around forever. It was developed by a physiologist named Leo Matveyev around the 1960s. By definition, periodization is a preplanned, systematic variation in training specificity, intensity, and volume organized in periods or cycles within an overall program (see Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning). Periodization can build the general framework of how you might want to structure your workout programs through your training year.

For our sake, I am going to refer to these periods or cycles as macrocycles. Macrocycles are the biggest of the divisions of training timeframes throughout your competitive year. They can be filtered down to smaller variations (mesocycles—smaller, microcycles—smallest), but we will stick to the biggest ones for now. This will allow you to get a general idea about the main goals for each macrocycle.

There are four macrocycles that will be divided up throughout the year. These are the following:

  • Off-Season
  • Pre-Season
  • In-Season
  • Post-Season

In this blog, I talk about the first two macrocycles. In my next blog I will talk about the final two.

Off-Season

The off-season is always one of the best times of the year to train. This is a time when you can focus on building strength but also implement some training modes that you might not use during the other phases of development (for example, flipping tires, boxing, swimming, and so on). I also like to use this time to assess the success of the programs I have used over the past year to see what helped improve aspects of my teams and what did not (FMS testing, strength/power testing, energy system testing).

A lot of teams and individuals spend a fair amount of time in this macrocycle (12-16 weeks). Although your competitive season is a long time away, slacking during this phase could set you behind in the goals you want to achieve. Practices are usually very short or nonexistent, which leaves plenty of time for you to hit the weights to get your body ready.

Recommendation:

Training Frequency: 4 to 6 days per week
Mode: Moderate Sport Specificity
Volume: High

Pre-Season

The pre-season begins what is considered crunch time when it comes to preparedness in the weight room and on the playing field. The season is right around the corner, and the next 8 to 12 weeks will fly by. You will be competing before you know it.

During this macrocycle, training becomes a lot more sport specific than in the preceding cycle. The goal is to get the body ready for the exact situations and stressors that you will encounter during competition. As a strength and conditioning coach, I want to prepare the athletes’ bodies with exercises that will mimic and enhance their actions on the field. Examples include working on lower-body power with football players, increasing aerobic endurance with soccer athletes, or enhancing rotational power with golfers.

All in all, you just need to be on the field or court playing in order to get ready for the season. However, the smaller the learning curve the athlete has from off-season to pre-season conditioning, the better. Too much stress too soon (as for athletes who do no training over summer break) can lead to overuse injuries from ramping up the activity levels too fast. Remember to take into account the fact that you are training more for your sport at this time, so do not overdo it in the weight room. Make sure you have adequate recovery time in order to get the most out of your previous months of training.

Recommendation:

Training Frequency: 3 to 5 days per week (depending on practice time/schedule)
Mode: High Sport Specificity
Volume: Medium-High

In part 2 of this blog, I’ll go through the other two macrocycles: in-season and post-season.

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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: mini marathon training weightlifting programs athletes

The Importance of a Maintenance Phase for Athlete Training

The NFL season is only three weeks old and injuries are running rampant through the league. Week after week, a star player is lost for multiple weeks, months, or possibly the whole season because of injuries that usually are the result of bad luck or possibly not being as physically prepared as they could have been. Hopefully your team, **knock on wood**, does not or will not have to deal with this at any point during their season. My team, my beloved Detroit Lions, look like a dumpster fire for reasons other than injuries.

The physicality of football increases every year. The players are getting bigger, faster, and stronger in training facilities across the country getting ready for that next season. Guys are always looking to take that next step during the offseason to ensure that they are a better player than they were the preceding year. Countless hours are spent in the gym and on the field trying to achieve this goal. Some training programs start the day after a season is over, whether it be after week 17 in the regular season or if your team wins the Super Bowl. It’s no secret that being a professional or collegiate athlete is a year-round commitment. 

Changing Training After the Season Begins

But what kind of training do players do after their season begins? Do they continue to train five or six days a week like they did in the offseason? Of course not. With large time commitments for practice, watching film, and simply resting, an athlete must shift their focus to making sure all of that hard work is not wasted over the course of the season. The most effective way to salvage the progress that you have made over the past five or six months is to enter a maintenance phase.

A maintenance phase is one phase or “macrocycle” (a large portion of a training year) that you should use during the start and duration of each athletic or competitive season. As mentioned before, this phase is used to preserve the strength, power, and muscle mass that was built in the many months prior to the season. 

What Does a Maintenance Phase Look Like?

Some characteristics of a maintenance phase include the following:

  • 2 (±1) workouts per week
  • 45 to 60-minute sessions
  • 2 (±1) sets per exercise. Main exercises should focus on strength, power (plyometrics, Olympic lifting, core lifts [bench, squat, deadlift]), and functional mobility.
  • Promoting overall health
As you can see, these phases don’t take much time, but could pay huge dividends throughout your season. The ultimate goal for many (if not all) sports, like the NFL, is to make the post-season. The teams that always seem to perform the best in those scenarios are the ones that are the healthiest or freshest. Continuing to lift throughout your competitive season will help you maintain the overall function of your body instead of gradually losing it throughout the season. As a wise man (Dr. Alan Mikesky) once said, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

Impact on Future Seasons

Don’t underestimate the importance of a maintenance phase, due to the implications that it could have on subsequent seasons. Think about this scenario:

Imagine you start training for your freshman year of college football squatting a maximum (1RM) of 315 pounds. After 4 months of preseason training, your 1RM has gone up to 365 pounds. Once the season starts, you stop lifting weights and focus on football. Three months later when the season is finished, you hit the weight room for the first time. Your 1RM squat is back to 315 pounds. Your body had no reason to keep the neural drive of the muscles because you no longer required it to. You start your offseason conditioning program and increase your squat back up to 365 pounds and exceed those numbers by squatting 380. Once your sophomore season starts, you stop lifting weights once again. At the end of the season, your 1RM squat is back to 315. 

This is a vicious cycle that never allows for any solid progression. You start from square-one every year. Now think about the same scenario with a few changes:

Imagine you start training for your freshman year of college football squatting a maximum (1RM) of 315 pounds. After 4 months of preseason training, your 1RM goes up to 365 pounds. Once the season starts, you begin an in-season maintenance phase. You lift two days per week, making sure your squat loads are significant enough to maintain your 1RM (80-95%). Three months later when the season is finished, you hit the weight room for the beginning of your offseason training program. Your 1RM squat is 355. Although you dropped 10 pounds, it is not as significant as the 50-pound loss from the previous scenario. From your offseason program, your 1RM increases from 355 to 410. Once your sophomore season starts, you begin another in-season maintenance phase. At the end of the season, your 1RM has only dropped to 405. 

***

As you can see, progression of strength (and power with other lifts) has to be maintained year round. This goes for all athletes throughout their seasons. If they want to continue to improve, they must prevent the loss. It is as important of a cycle of training as any. Without a properly structured in-season maintenance phase, you will be starting from the same place every time you start a new offseason training program.

 

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: training weightlifting strength power professional athlete muscle mass

Summertime Sizzle: Adding a Fitness Challenge

Summer_Showdown_sun2-1Cue DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince because it is summer time—FINALLY! This is the time of year when we get to enjoy more sun and more fun, and smiles and laughter are abundant.

With the energy level rising as the temperature rises, we tend to look for new and fun ways to challenge ourselves somehow in our lives: decluttering the house (a must, by the way), updating the landscape, spending more time with the kids, or taking on some kind of physical challenge to help keep you moving forward. 

Tons of events are popping up all around with the arrival of the nice weather, designed to challenge any and all fitness levels. Finding the physical challenge that is right for you is a fantastic way to spice up your current fitness routine and challenge your limits, perceived or actual. 

Besides some of the obvious physical benefits from creating and completing a fitness challenge, such as improved body composition and an increase in strength and endurance, accepting a fitness challenge can provide so much more. Here are just a few.

Inspires You to Return to Your Drive Toward Excellence

It can be easy to lose some fire over the course of a long year. Even the most committed fitness enthusiast (yours truly included) can be unable to find the drive sometimes to stay vigilant in striving to improve. Taking on a new challenge can provide the spark that will reenergize your commitment to excellence.

Establishes a Timeline

One important characteristic of a well-stated goal is to have an established timeline to reach it. Without a specific date for completion, it is not a goal; it is a dream. If the challenge is on a certain date, and you have 6 weeks to train for it, you have yourself a well-defined timeline. This will not only allow you to complete your current challenge, but also hammers home this important concept of a timeline for future goals.

Incorporates New Movements and Modes of Training

If you are planning on taking on a challenge that you have never done before, there’s a very good possibility that you will have to perform brand new movements and adopt a new training idea. This could be just what your body and mind need to push your limits to create new ones.

Creates Powerful Personal Bonds with Fellow Athletes

The power of working with a group of likeminded individuals is colossal and life changing. When you take on a challenge together, the relationship that will be formed is long lasting and built on mutual respect. I have seen countless strangers join together to complete an event or training program, only to become the best of friends and continue to work toward improvement.

A Challenge for You: NIFS Summer Showdown

Now that you’ve learned some benefits of establishing and completing a fitness challenge, let’s define one, shall we? Starting on June 22 here at NIFS, the Summer Showdown challenge returns. New and improved, this program nails all of the benefits discussed above. Not only do you get to choose your team, you get to choose the level of the challenge you wish to complete. 

The NIFS team has designed a whopper of a challenge for you this year. New to the Summer Showdown will be mass test-in and test-out events where all participants will complete the challenge together at the beginning and end of the program. At the test-in event, all teams will be given specific wristbands to wear throughout the showdown. After you get tested in, you will spend 6 hyped weeks training to improve your test-in time. You will be meeting with your team twice a week to work on all of the aspects of the challenge so that you can crush your previous score and improve your fitness. 

All of your hard work will lead up to the finale, where you will once again complete the challenge with all of the participants of this year’s Summer Showdown. Learn more about the Summer Showdown challenge here.

I took on the Level 3 challenge last week and finished in 25:40. It was a blast, and super challenging, just the way I like it!

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

Topics: goal setting group fitness workouts accountability NIFS programs challenge summer training

Big Bang Theory: Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Training?

GT-newWhen you think of the term “economy,” what is the first thing that comes to mind? Money would probably be number one, and maybe government and the idea of debt would more than likely come to mind next. There is another economy that should be as well known, and that is your training economy. Simply put, your training economy is the rate of return that you get from the methods and practices of your current training program.

How much time do you spend in the gym or working out? Are you getting the results you set out to achieve? Are you getting the best ROI (return on investment, as they say in business)? Time is one of our most valued commodities, and how you spend your time working toward your health and fitness can determine whether you are on your way to bankruptcy (injury, lack of results, etc.) or getting the most out of your biggest investment.

First and foremost, in my opinion, if you are spending more than two hours in the gym, you are making friends, not gains. If that is your thing, that’s great, but you can never say “I don’t have the time to get the results I want.” Save the Instagram photos and tweets for vacation, and WORK when you are in the gym. Most importantly, you will want to get the most out of the time (there’s that word again) you have committed to training and being the best you that you can be. There are two surefire ways to get the biggest return on your investment while in the gym: 

1. Have a plan of attack.

Needless to say, the plan (or program) is a very important step in ensuring that the time you are working toward the goals you defined is purposeful and bringing you closer and closer to that outcome. This plan should be specific to the goal you are striving to achieve, and should adhere to sound principles. This plan should be progressive. A great coach told me once that you can’t put your tie on before your shirt. Master the basics before moving on to more advanced movements. Read more about this investment step in my previous posts, Do You Even Lift Bro? Weightlifting for Beginners and Alice and Chains.

2. Emphasize “big bang” movements in your program.

Performing what are widely known as “big bang” movements is the second way to get the biggest return on your investment of time. Big bang movements are categorized by including multiple joints, including multiple planes of motion, and incorporating variable loads during the movement. Here are five of my favorite biggest “bang for your buck” movements.

  • Squat and press: Combining both upper and lower body, squat and pressing patterns, and loading the anterior core; the Squat and Press exercise provides a whole lot of BANG! 
  • Ultimate Sandbag Rotational Lunge: As your body moves in one plane of motion, the load of the sandbag will be moving in another. This awesome big bang movement will not only challenge your stability, but it also hits both the lunge and hinge patterns at one time. What a bargain! 
  • Turkish Get-ups: One of the most all-encompassing movements on the planet. The Get-up combines mobility, stability, and strength all in one package. This movement takes some practice before loading it, so take the time to master it to get the most out of it.
  • Crawling patterns: You have to crawl before you can run, right? Crawling patterns are a great way to target the entire system while performing something that is innate to us humans. Try out different variations to continue to stress the body in different ways.
  • Dead lift: Considered by some to be the “beast” of all movements, the dead lift is a huge, multi-joint-pulling motion of awesomeness. We all at one time in our day must bend over to pick something up. The dead lift prepares us for that. 

Getting the most out of your most precious gift, TIME, should be a priority in your fitness programming. Utilizing big bang movements can help you get the results you are looking for without burning the clock.

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

 

Topics: fitness center training weightlifting strength exercises