NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Weightlifting for Women: Enhance Weight Loss and More

ThinkstockPhotos-512273152.jpgLet’s play out a little scenario. Judy just renewed her gym membership because it’s almost time for her annual summer vacation. She currently weighs 170 pounds but wants to lose around 30 pounds before she goes on vacation. She has taken herself through this transformation once before by running 4 miles on the treadmill every other day until she finally got to her desired weight. She plans to come to the gym this year with the same game plan as last time. Judy does not lift weights because she only wants to lose fat, not gain muscle.

Now here is the question: Should Judy repeat her cardio routine this year, or should she incorporate heavy resistance training?

Lifting Heavy Weights Has More Benefits Than Cardio Alone

This may be the approach many females take when trying to lose weight. Doing cardiovascular exercise is much easier and more effective at weight loss than weight training, right? WRONG! In fact, I strongly believe any woman who is looking to lose weight should invest more of her time into weight training. But I don’t recommend just any weight training; it needs to be heavy weight training!

Reasons to Add Weightlifting

It’s easy to understand why many females prefer not to lift heavy weights when in the gym. It often causes a lack of comfort if you are not used to pushing your body to its max strength levels. In addition, the female lifting recommendation for years has been to stick with light to moderate weight with an abundance of sets and reps. While this is not a bad recommendation, lifting heavy can add a great list of benefits that lighter weight (and cardio) just cannot compare to, all while possibly giving you faster, more dramatic results.   

  • Burn more calories. In terms of fat loss, forcing your body to lift heavy weight repeatedly will stimulate muscle growth, which creates a higher metabolism. The more muscle in the body, the more fat-burning potential will be created. When you are done lifting weights, your body continues to burn calories due to its need for muscle recovery. This is called EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. So even when you are no longer in the gym working out, your body is still burning calories for you. EPOC does not happen with non-resistance training.  
  • Get toned, not ripped. Lifting weights brings out a woman’s natural curves and body structure. It’s easy to believe lifting weights will cause bulky muscles to form, just as many guys become bulky when we lift. However, there is one huge difference between males and females and that’s the presence of testosterone. As you may know, one responsibility of testosterone is muscle hypertrophy. Since females have very low amounts of testosterone, becoming bulky is often not a realistic expectation. Instead, when females participate in heavy weight training, their bodies actually become smaller due to more muscle and less fat. Females actually become leaner and curvier, which often leads to an increase in body image and self-confidence. 
  • Gain confidence. I believe a strong reason many females would rather do cardio instead of weightlifting may be due to their lack of confidence. If the treadmill or the elliptical has always been your best friend, you may find it hard to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself with a heavy weight-training program. However, what many females come to find out is once weightlifting barriers have been torn down, confidence levels rise. I have heard many women in the gym say there is nothing more satisfying than when they are finally able to lift a weight that they could not lift previously. It not only reassures you that with some hard work and consistency you can push your body to new levels, but it also confirms that women do, in fact, belong in the weight room lifting heavy weight.

The Question Again: Should You Add Weight Training?

I will raise my question again: should Judy repeat her routine this year, or should she incorporate heavy resistance training into her program for different results? Sure doing 4 miles a day may get Judy to her ultimate weight-loss goal, but how much of her weight loss will be due to actual fat loss instead of muscle loss? Typically when cardio is a large portion of the workout routine, you tend to lose muscle, whereas when resistance training makes up a large portion of the workout routine, you tend to gain muscle. Remember, the more muscle in the body, the higher the metabolism, and the higher the rate of caloric burn—and the more weight you lose.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Darius Felix, Health Fitness Specialist. For more on the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: cardio weight loss calories weightlifting women toning

Get a Grip on It: Four Powerlifting Grips

Alex-grip.jpgOne of the most important (and sometimes overlooked) pieces of the resistance training puzzle could be right in the palm of your hands. Have you ever thought about the way you hold onto an Olympic or powerlifting bar? For some, the answer may be no. You may be worried more about other techniques, such as posture or breathing. For others, the answer may be yes. The effort you put into how you grip the bar may be your key to success in lifts such as the snatch, deadlift, and clean, among many other resistance exercises.

But how should you grip the bar? Are you sure that the grip you are currently using is the most ideal for that lift? Maybe a switch of grips is what you’re looking for to break through your current plateau.

Here is a breakdown of four grips and different ways that they can be used in the gym for exercises or other technique purposes.

1. Pronated (or Overhand) Gripovergrip.jpg

The pronated grip is generally the most common grip used during resistance training. You place the hand over the bar, dumbbell, or kettlebell with your knuckles up. Your thumb can either be wrapped around the bar (closed grip) or not wrapped around the bar (open or false grip). I would not recommend the open grip because you do not have full control of the bar. The closed grip allows the thumb to prevent the possibility of the bar slipping from the hands, especially during exercises where the weight is held above the body (for example, during pressing movements).

When to use a pronated grip: You can use a closed-pronated grip for pretty much every lift that you perform in the gym. I would recommend this for many of the pressing movements and for stability during the squat.

  • Bench press
  • Shoulder press
  • Barbell squat
  • Basically anything

2. Supinated (or Underhand) Gripunder.jpg

The supinated grip is the exact opposite of the pronated grip. The hands are placed underneath the bar so the knuckles aim backward or toward the floor. I generally only categorize the “closed” variation of the supinated grip versus the open/closed options in grip #1. The thumb being wrapped around the bar allows for maximum grip throughout any lift you are performing. I utilize this grip during many of my pulling movements.

When to use a supinated grip: You can use a closed-supinated grip as a variation for many of the main vertical and horizontal pulling movements.

  • Row
  • Inverted row
  • Chin-ups
  • Bent-over row
  • Lat pulldown

3. Alternated Gripalternate.jpg

The alternated grip is a combination of the preceding two grips. In the alternated grip, one hand is pronated and one hand is supinated. It is common for grip strength to be a limiting factor in your ability to lift heavy weight, especially when performing a pronated grip. The bar tends to roll out of the hands very easily, especially during maximal-effort lifts. The alternated grip places the hands in a more favorable position to prevent the rolling or slipping of the bar from the hands. This is also a useful grip to use when you are spotting someone, especially on the bench press.

When to use an alternated grip: You can use this grip for deadlift variations as well as spotting.

  • Traditional/Sumo Deadlifts
  • Spotting

4. Hook Grip hook.jpg

The hook grip is a nontraditional grip that can sometimes be difficult to master, but could yield great results in terms of the lifts you use it for. It is similar to a pronated grip, but the thumb is placed underneath the middle and index fingers. The benefits of this grip are similar to those of the alternated grip. It prevents the bar from rolling out of the hands because of the placement of the thumb and fingers. This makes it an ideal grip for heavy and explosive movements like the clean and snatch.

I recently finished a new certification course called the CWPC or Certified Weightlifting Performance Coach. This certification is based on two Olympic lifts, the snatch and the clean and jerk. I gained a lot of great information through that course, but one key piece of information that I took away to implement into my own training program was the use of the hook grip. I had previously used a closed-pronated grip for both the clean and snatch, but have switched to the hook grip over the past five weeks. I can definitely see improvement in my ability to grip the bar, but there was definitely a bit of a learning curve.

My main issue was the comfort of the grip itself. It was definitely not pleasant through the first couple of weeks; however, the last couple have been some of the best weeks that I have ever had in Olympic lifting. I feel like I have more control of the bar in my hands, and now I do not have to worry about the bar flying out my hands when the weight becomes challenging. If you can get past the discomfort through your first few training sessions, it will be well worth the switch.

When to use a hook grip: You can use this grip for just about any exercise, similar to the pronated grip.

  • Clean and Jerk
  • Snatch
  • Pullups
  • Deadlift

***

When choosing a grip, go with what makes sense to you. For many exercises, you have a variety to choose from. This just adds more options to your training regimen. By simply switching the grip, you are essentially switching up the exercise as well. Play around with them and see which one feels best!

For more on how to improve your grip strength, see this post.

Source: Baechle, T. R., Earle, R.W. (2008) Essentials of strength training and conditioning (pp. 326-327). Chicago, Illinois. National Strength and Conditioning Association.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Alex Soller, Health Fitness Instructor. Click here for more information about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: NIFS weightlifting powerlifting grip strength grip

Crucial Conversations: PRs Falling in NIFS Powerlifting Competition

PLM_2015.jpgThe NIFS 3rd Annual Powerlifting Competition is less than a month away, and the expectations for this year are high. From its modest beginnings, the powerlifting event at NIFS has doubled in the number of athletes registered, and the audience tripled from the first event to the second event. With big attendance and even bigger lifts, the outlook for this year’s event is very promising.

For me personally, the very cool part of this growth is that although we are currently a non-sanctioned event, the competition rises year after year. It’s about a community coming together to celebrate strength, competition, and sportsmanship. There is no shortage of high-fives and attaboys and attagirls on this fall Saturday morning. It is a great thing to witness previous strangers become warriors fighting the same war together; it’s quite moving, and impossible not to join in and feed off the energy.

A Conversation with Lifter Aaron Sparks

I had the opportunity to speak with a two-time (soon to be three-time) participant in this great event about what it takes to compete and what struggles he had to overcome to be at his best on event day. Aaron Sparks is a longtime lifter and athlete, and also works for us here at NIFS, so he is constantly around the barbell and plates. Aaron was gracious enough to take time out of his schedule to answer some questions and to share his experiences with you. Join me as we learn what it takes to take down personal records and compete at this level.

Tony: Tell the readers a little about yourself.

Aaron: My name is Aaron Sparks. I am 25 years old and currently a student in the DPT program at Indiana University. I love fitness and everything involved with it, including bodybuilding, nutrition, and powerlifting.

Tony: How long have you been lifting for strength and big numbers?

Aaron: I started lifting recreationally about 10 years ago while playing high school football, but I didn’t start taking it seriously until about 4 years ago when I started actually watching what I eat. I have been powerlifting and really trying to get stronger for the last 3 years.

Tony: Have you competed in any other fitness competitions?

Aaron: The only other fitness competitions I have been in are the two previous NIFS powerlifting competitions.

Tony: What made you take the risk and compete in the NIFS Powerlifting Competition?

Aaron: I have always loved competition and really miss it since my high school football days are over. This was an opportunity for me to show off how hard I have been working in the weight room. For the most part, not many people see all the hours you put in, so it is nice to have the chance to show people how much it has paid off.

Tony: What did it mean to you to compete in the first two NIFS Powerlifting Competitions?

Aaron: Competing was an overall great experience and the atmosphere was amazing. Everyone was there rooting for the person next to them to hit a PR, but at the same time, everyone wanted to lift more than the next guy or gal. It is always great to get a group of people together a common goal and see what they are made of. It gives everyone an opportunity to show off what they have been working for.

Tony: What struggles have you endured to lift and train the way you do?

Aaron: I’ll admit the hardest part for me with working out has always been the nutrition aspect. I love food and pig out every chance I get. On a more powerlifting related note, the hardest part is approaching each week to beat the numbers you hit the week before. Sometimes you have good days, sometimes you have bad days, but you never want to regress from the week before. It’s mentally exhausting to have to push yourself over and over again on such heavy reps so that you can continue making progress toward your goal.

“It is always great to get a group of people together with a common goal and see what they are made of.”

Tony: As a three-time competitor in this event, what brings you back year after year?

Aaron: For me, the main motivation is trying to beat my numbers from the year before, but I also absolutely love the atmosphere of the competition. Everyone is rooting for each other, but at the same time they are trying to beat the person next to them. It’s great seeing people new to the sport make progress and hit PRs. It is also a low-stress competition since it isn’t sanctioned, but it also gives people the opportunity to get exposed to the sport.

How Far Can You Go?

Aaron has placed in the top 2 of his weight class each year he has competed in this event. I know what he is after this year: VICTORY. And with his dedication to improvement, through countless workouts and nagging injuries, he is determined to be better. Aaron took a risk a few years ago in signing up to represent himself among a strong group of competitors and has reaped the rewards. T.S. Elliot once said, "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." Are you ready to see how far you can go?

There are a few spots remaining, so don’t wait to get registered for the NIFS 3rd Annual Powerliting Competition. Sign up today to be a part of a very special event hosted only once a year!

get registered for Powerlifting

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: NIFS weightlifting powerlifting competition Crucial Conversations

5 Reasons to Compete in the NIFS 3rd Annual Powerlifting Competition

risk.jpgFor all you Rocky fans out there (and I am assuming that is all of you), the name Frankie Fear should instantly take you to Rocky’s basement in the fifth installment of the series, where the Italian Stallion is introducing Frankie to Tommy Gun. Frankie Fear is regarded as your best friend, because he keeps you sharp, hungry, and focused on survival and victory. Rocky goes on to explain that fear is like a fire deep inside, and if you learn to control it, it can make you “hot,” but if you don’t, it can “burn you up.”

Now I am not doing this powerful scene much justice, but the meaning of it has stuck with me for a very long time. Fear can be paralyzing, and can keep you from taking a risk that could change your whole life. Or, fear can push you further than you have ever gone before. So is Frankie your bestie? Do you control the “fire,” or does it control you?

Risk = Reward

A few years back, before my first 12-mile Tough Mudder, fear was definitely a fire lit up inside me for a month leading up to the event. I’ve been a competitor my entire life, so I have experienced the fear of competition many times and could easily control it. The fear that was overwhelming was the fear of taking a risk at a brand-new obstacle—12 miles of obstacles, to be exact. I saw some of the YouTube videos of this event: mud, tall obstacles, high falls, electricity! That fire was being stoked, and I was beginning to question the risk-reward relationship of this event. But with the help of a true friend, training, and controlling that fire, I completed the 12-mile crazy track.

The risk, of course, was both physical harm and mental defeat. But the reward was redefining who I was and what I was capable of. You find out a great deal about yourself during intense challenges, and what I learned that day has carried me through so many more challenges and battles. Not only during the event, but in the training leading up to it, I defined some new physical heights and a motto that nothing is impossible.

Top 5 Reasons to Compete

So why would you risk competing in this year’s Powerlifting Competition? There are plenty of reasons why, and you should have a few reasons of your own. But here are my top 5 risk = reward reasons to compete in the NIFS 3rd Annual Powerlifting Competition:

  1. Learn to control Fear. This will serve you well not only in this competition, but in life.
  2. Visit 3 bars (squat, bench, deadlift) for one low cover charge. Unlike the other bars, you will gain perspective and a medal!
  3. Dare to be GREAT. It’s been written that the “enemy of great is often the good.” Don’t settle for “okay,” or “good enough”; dare to be better than that.
  4. Surround yourself with like-minded people. The competition will be filled with others who have taken the risk to compete; share the experience and the gains
  5. Find out what you are truly capable of. Gain the mindset that nothing is impossible, and bring out that inner Warrior that will carry you through so many challenges in your life.

A Testimonial from a First-Time Lifter

Still not convinced you should compete? Here is what a first-time lifter at our first meet had to say:

"This was my first powerlifting meet, and I was a little nervous coming in not really knowing what to expect. However, EVERYONE was very nice including the staff running the event and the competitors. After doing several powerlifting meets after this one, this one ran the smoothest and fastest by far. It was an amazing atmosphere with lots of spectators and everyone cheering you on every single lift." —Bailey Schober

Don’t let fear burn up your opportunity to be great and to find out what you are ultimately capable of! The risk that you will take will be worth the reward.

get registered for Powerlifting

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: NIFS challenge weightlifting powerlifting competition risk fear

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

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

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

What Movements Will You Learn?

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

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

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

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

Can New Powerlifters Join?

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

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

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

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

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

Weightlifting Gear: Equipment to Enhance Training—or Ego?

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

Lifting Belts

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

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

Olympic Lifting Shoes

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

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

Mark Bell’s Slingshot

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

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

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

Start with the Basics

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

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

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

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


Topics: equipment NIFS programs injury prevention weightlifting powerlifting strength training

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

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

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

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

2. Learn how to breathe and use a belt.

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

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

3. Determine your best stance.

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

***

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

 Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

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

Topics: NIFS fitness center injury prevention muscles weightlifting deadlift

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!

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

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.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

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

Proud Chest: Hacking the Squat Pattern for Weightlifting

squat-patternnew.jpgSquats, really any variation, are easily one of the most popular exercises out there today. The squat pattern is a fundamental and big-bang movement when done correctly. But before you throw a bunch of weight on a bar and step underneath it, it’s important to focus on some details to help minimize some minimums that will ultimately lead to a cleaner and safer squat.

Getting the Foundation Right

I love the phrase from Gray Cook that goes, “More is not better; better is better,” when it comes to progressing a particular movement. As a society and fitness community we are eager to jump waist-deep into something without considering the notion that you can drown in only 2 inches of water. It is so important that you mind a solid performance pyramid where movement is the foundation before jumping right to performance or skill. Doing so will ensure proper patterning, leading to even bigger lifts (if that’s your thing) and, more importantly, keeping you safe.

Assessing Your Squat Pattern

So how do you know whether your squat pattern is at an optimal level? Get assessed! If you are not assessing, you are guessing (I can’t remember who I stole that from), so know your minimums before jumping into some maximums. The upper-body/chest area falling forward while squatting is a common issue we see on the fitness center floor. Maintaining a “proud chest” (I adopted that phrase from Gym Jones), or keeping the chest up, is a key squat pattern component.

Two Ways to Maintain a Proud Chest

Here are two simple and effective ways to develop and maintain a proud chest in your weightlifting squat pattern:

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

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 center weightlifting squat pattern