NIFS Healthy Living Blog

NIFS June Group Fitness Class of the Month: Mat Pilates

mat-pilates-2.jpgWhen it comes to working out, I have always been the “faster, harder, stronger, better” type. If I’m not going to sweat and feel like I’ve accomplished something, what’s the use? As such, I never put much stock in mind/body classes. What could that type of exercise possibly offer that I wasn’t getting through my intense cardio and/or strength training sessions?

Fellow cardio lovers, weightlifters, and HIIT people, does this sound like you? If so, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered Pilates to be one of the most challenging workouts—physically and mentally—that I have ever done. Adding it to my weekly regimen has pushed my limits, helped me break through plateaus, changed my body composition, and ultimately made me “harder, faster, stronger, better.”

How does Pilates do this, you ask? The short answer: by building a strong core, creating overall muscle strength and balance in the torso and limbs, and improving posture. Please allow me to elaborate.

A Little Background

Joseph Pilates, a performer and boxer who, through years of self-study and practice, developed a method of exercise that would not only prove to last, but gain immense popularity, developed Pilates in the 1920s. The original exercises of Pilates in their purest forms were performed slowly in either the seated or lying position. They were carefully designed to train the body to be conscious of movement control, and thus move more efficiently. Joseph’s wife, Clara, learned her husband’s techniques and developed modifications to train those with injuries. Springs and pulleys were incorporated with the exercises to add resistance, and many could even be adapted to benefit bedridden clients.

Mr. Pilates died having never trademarked his method. His pupils went on to train numerous others, maintaining many of the original concepts but adding their own personal styles. Thus, since its creation nearly 100 years ago, many schools of practice have emerged. In 2000, a federal judge declared “Pilates” to be a generic term. As such, it is impossible to know exactly what to expect from a class simply titled “Mat Pilates.”

The Constant: The Core

Despite the plethora of styles, this remains constant: while the core remains at the “core” of the exercise, Pilates evenly conditions the entire body, thereby creating muscle balance and improving posture. No one muscle group is overtrained or undertrained. While the core musculature is the focus, the extremities are utilized to add load to the core, and thus the entire body reaps the benefits.

Take one of the basic exercises, the Plank. Think of all the muscles that must fire to correctly hold, simply hold, a high plank: rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, glutes, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezii, paraspinals, BUT ALSO deltoids, triceps, hip flexors, quadriceps, anterior tibialis, and more. Then add a movement such as a pushup or a leg extension, and engage even more muscles.

The plank is just one example; all of the exercises and progressions performed in a Pilates class work multiple muscle groups in a very controlled manner, so as to promote muscle and movement awareness and fine-tune strength. Pilates is intense, but low-impact. It is challenging, but modifiable. It will push your limits, but it is sustainable. And it is extremely effective. When performed correctly, it will create an evenly conditioned body, improve sports performance (your golf swing will be considerably more impressive when it’s backed by a strong core and balanced muscles), and prevent injuries.

What Can I Expect in a Mat Pilates Class at NIFS?

mat-4.jpgSo the ultimate question is, what specifically can you expect when you walk into the NIFS Group Fitness Studio shortly before 5pm on Wednesdays? You can expect a low-impact entire-body workout that flows nonstop for 50 minutes to upbeat, current, familiar music. You can expect careful instruction on form. You can expect an occasional self-assessment on strength and flexibility. And, even though this is not a cardio class, you can expect to sweat! Mats will always be used, and often you will be instructed to grab a small piece of equipment (small weighted balls, light dumbbells, springloaded rings, small towels, and exercise bands are commonly used). Shoes are optional. Let the instructor know if you have any injuries.

As the music comes on (which, did I mention, is always familiar with a driving beat and all original artists?), realize that the next 50 minutes is all yours. It’s yours to discover how strong you are, and build on that strength. It’s yours to get lost in the flow of the moves, or the flow of the music. It’s yours to take breaks or stretch when you need and to modify the moves as necessary or desired. It’s yours to build joint stability, improve your balance, and become more flexible.

Pilates has something to offer everyone, from the beginner to the elite athlete. So grab a towel and your water, and I’ll see you at 5pm on Wednesdays!

To access the full group fitness schedule at NIFS, click here. Not a member? No problem! Click here to get a free class pass and try Mat Pilates or any group fitness class on us!

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This blog was written by Rachel Pfeiffer, ACE and AFAA certified Group Fitness Instructor and Board Certified Neurologist. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here. Photos by John Bragg.

Topics: group fitness workouts group training balance core stretching Pila

More Workout in Less Time: Incorporating the Squat and Press

Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 11.26.57 AM.pngBurning more calories, developing more strength, and building the ultimate body in less time is an equation I think we can all get behind. In our world of “on-the-go” fitness—and, well, pretty much everything—finding ways to get more done in less time is a priority in many of our lives. But being effective and getting things done are two different things, in my opinion, and movement does not always result in progress. Being efficient and getting results at the same time in your fitness programming takes planning and choosing the best exercises for your desired outcomes.

Two Steps to More Efficient Workouts

Scheduling your weekly workouts and determining the amount of time you can dedicate to each session is an important first step. Writing those workout sessions in your scheduler, as opposed to simply telling yourself when you will train, will make those sessions a priority and aid in accountability. So write it down!

What you are doing during those sessions to get the most out of the time you’ve allotted to yourself is the next step. If you are just getting started in this new year, I highly suggest you schedule some time with one of our fitness professionals to help you develop that efficient and effective program.

The Squat and Press

One of my favorite Big Bang exercises I highlighted in a previous post is the squat and press. Combining both upper body and lower body, squat and pressing patterns, and loading the anterior core, the squat and press exercise provides a whole lot of BANG! This exercise can develop power and strength in multiple movement patterns such as the front squat, overhead press, and trunk stability. By combining these patterns, the squat and press also has a rather high metabolic cost on the body. In layman’s terms, this exercise will get you breathing hard fast! That equates to multiple fitness aspects being challenged in a single movement. Now that is efficiency!

Variations on the Exercise

Here are a few variations on the squat and press you can implement in your program. Remember, you cannot put on a tie before the shirt, so choose the progression that makes the most sense to you and your fitness level.

SQUAT PRESS TONY

 

BONUS Workout: Metabolic Burn

  • 1A sandbag squat & press (sub any variation) 3 x 10
  • 1B TRX rows 3 x 10
  • 1C mountain climber 3 x 10/leg
  • Rest 3 minutes
  • 2A kettlebell swings 3 x 15
  • 2B pushups 3 x 10–12
  • 2C side plank 3 x :30/side

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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: exercise workouts strength power video lower body scheduling metabolic cost squat and press upper body

Time Under Tension: Slowing Down Movement to Speed Up Fitness Results

ThinkstockPhotos-177455750.jpgOne of the major misconceptions I am happy to battle as a fitness professional is the wildly popular idea that if a little is good, more must be better. One of my favorite quotes from movement guru Grey Cook is, “More is not better; better is better.” It is a motto I strive to live by in my fitness world as well as my personal life.

So if more is not always better, why do so many continue to focus on how many reps, and usually how quickly they can complete them, with the hope of getting stronger and prepping the physique for the upcoming spring break? I guess I can’t blame them; when it comes to getting those physical results, volume does play a role; however, there are more ways to create the volume stimuli than simply 100 reps of everything as fast as you can.

So what are we talking about here, slowing down? Exactly! I know that can be a hard concept to grasp for many, but creating time under tension (TUT) or slowing things down can actually do more than twice the volume in a “reppy” workout. TUT simply refers to the time that a muscle is under load or under strain during a set of a particular exercise. Brad Schoenfeld, PhD, suggests you can achieve this with a heavy load for several seconds or lighter loads for a minute. This is definitely not a new concept, but it seems to have come and gone like a lot of fitness concepts due to something else becoming the next big thing in fitness, like the 6-minute abs. But TUT is worth keeping in the programming conversation because of the multitude of benefits that result from the concept of creating tension to build strength and muscle size.

Four Reasons to Slow It Down

We will discuss some examples of how to get some more TUT into your workout later, but here are four reasons you should keep tension in mind when you train.

  • Mindful movement: Although we use fitness and exercise for health, wellness, physique, and other reasons, exercise can and should be used for creating a mind at peace. I know that I use exercise to reconnect with both my body and the environment; exercise and movement can be spiritual. But being in the moment, or in this sense, the rep, is important. I think we get too caught up in getting things done so quickly that we miss most of the enjoyment of why we move in the first place. This is also a great time to practice proper breathing techniques throughout your movement and training session. Proper breathing throughout a movement will help in alignment, neuromuscular control, and overall enjoyment of the exercise. Concentrate on what you are doing and be in that moment; you will feel the difference.
  • Motor control/Movement enhancement: Enhancing specific movement patterns should be atop your “to-do” list when you head to the gym. If you don’t know how you are doing with movement patterns, I suggest scheduling a Functional Movement Screen with a NIFS instructor. This will provide you with the necessary information about how you are moving. We use TUT in this sense to aid in developing and maintaining motor control of a particular pattern. Holding a certain position for a period of time, slowly moving through a pattern, and pausing to complete deep breaths are ways your brain can make the connection of what a pattern should feel like. This will also allow you to “press save” on the pattern you are working on. So next time you are doing some goblet squats, pause at the bottom and take a deep breath (5 seconds in through your nose and 8 seconds out through your mouth), and then stand to complete the rep and help upgrade your movement software.
  • Muscle hypertrophy: Muscle tension created through resistance training stimulates the growth of new muscle proteins, making your muscles bigger, a process called hypertrophy. Simply put, lifting weights at a certain rate of time under tension will elicit different rates of hypertrophy. Generally speaking, when you are looking at rep counts per set, 3–6 reps = strength and power, 8–12 reps = hypertrophy, and 15+ reps = endurance. For hypertrophy (and there are different schools of thought on this point), 60–90 seconds a set will provide an optimal stimulus to promote muscle synthesis. What do you need to know? Volume and time under load is what will get those muscles bigger, given that the load you choose allows for greater volume. So if getting bigger muscles is your goal, slow it down and make each rep count.
  • Adding a new challenge: If you have ever tried to either hold a position for a period of time or complete a bodyweight exercise as slowly as you can, you know how much more challenging that exercise becomes. Not only will TUT provide the above benefits, but it will add a huge challenge to the movements and exercises in your training sessions. If you are looking for something new, don’t look too far; just slow down a bench press or a bodyweight squat, or anything you are currently doing. It will change everything, and the challenge will go through the roof. And that soreness that you feel the next day and probably the day after is your body telling you that you created enough stimuli to promote growth! Ultimately, that’s what we want, right?

How to Add TUT into Your Workouts

Here are some movements that will add more time under tension when you exercise.

  • Isometric holds: To increase TUT, add movements that rely on creating more tension. Isometric holds are a great place to start. Examples of these movements are planks, static squats and split squats, and static TRX rows. As I mentioned above, pick a movement and hold the position at the most difficult portion of the movement. These exercises are usually timed and start with a short amount of time and progressively build up.
  • Tempo reps: With this method, you slow down both the eccentric (lengthening) and concentric (shortening) phases of the movement. Typically 3–6 seconds per phase will increase the load on the muscle group being worked. Take the TRX row, for example; here Thomas would lower his body for 3 seconds and pull his body back up for 3 seconds for 8–12 reps, increasing his time under tension. You could go even more slowly for a super-slow set to muscular failure as another option of tempo reps.
  • Hypertrophy sets and reps: As stated above, to promote hypertrophy in a particular muscle group, a solid set and rep range is 3 x 8–10 with a tempo of 3:3 (total rep time of :6) for each movement. This is not fancy, but it will get the job done if you are hoping to increase size. So keep it simple and slow it down a little bit.

No matter whether you are looking to enhance your movement, muscle building to get those biceps ready for the beach, or find more joy and fulfillment in your exercise, slowing down can help get you there. If you need some assistance on how to implement TUT into your workout routine, schedule your free personal training session with a NIFS 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: exercise fitness center workouts muscles muscle building functional movement

Bored of Your Workout Program? Try a “Wild-Card” Week

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 2.12.51 PM.pngWe’ve all done it. New lifters, old lifters—everyone has experienced that week where your normal training program just doesn’t have the same motivation for you that it did in the past. Monday is chest-tri day, Tuesday is squat, Wednesday is back-bi, so on and so forth. No one is immune to this feeling, especially if you are as religious about following your program as many of the NIFS members are.


Would You Eat the Same Food for Every Meal?

Think about it in terms of food. Do you eat the exact same thing for each meal every day of the week? Some might, but I can guarantee it’s not the most enjoyable thing in the world. However, most people approach planning meals for the week with a slight variation on the meals they prepared the week before: similar main ingredients, but maybe with a different spice or two, which will make a world of a difference. (Mmmmmm, food. I’m getting hungry, so let’s get back to training.)

But what causes this? Why do you all of a sudden just not feel like doing your program for that day or week? The most obvious answer is the fact that you may have been on this program for multiple weeks. Mentally, you are drained from the regimen, and your body is telling you that it might be time to change it up.

I think this is one of the most common training mistakes. Your body is ready for a new challenge or stimulus, but you tell yourself to suck it up and do the same program for another two months. You have seen progress that you’ve made (and recently stalled) with that program and have a hard time thinking you will find anything better. I think many individuals stick to the same program for way too long. This leads to other weeks where you just don’t feel like completing what is assigned for that day.

How to Overcome Workout Boredom

So what do you do, decide to take a week off of training? Not recommended. What I do recommend is to have what I call a wild-card week. In a wild-card week, you choose exercises that work similar movements/muscles to what your normal program targets, but with different (or more fun) exercises.

Here are four typical exercise choices with a “wild” variation to each.


 

 

Remember, your training program should be enjoyable. That is what keeps bringing you back each week. Listen to your body when it is time to switch it up and don’t be afraid to add in a wild-card week to your workouts every once in a while!

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

Topics: NIFS fitness center motivation workouts attitude training focus programs

Step: Welcome to a New LEVEL of Fitness!

Whether you are 18 or 80, man or woman, looking to lose weight or simply maintain, step aerobics just might be the perfect addition to your fitness program! Have you ever considered taking a step class? Perhaps you have found yourself thinking, “I’m not coordinated enough,” or “Step is too intense for me (or not intense enough”). Well, give me two minutes to change your mind.

Step Burns CaloriesStep-web.jpg

The bottom line is, stepping up and down off a raised platform burns calories. In fact, it burns A LOT of calories. According to Self Magazine (July 2012, page 101), stepping up and down off a raised platform burns more calories than doing jumping jacks, split lunges, power squats, or speed skating for the same length of time. Great way to lose weight? YES! Great way to maintain weight? YOU BET!

Anyone Can Do Step

Maybe you are thinking that you lack the coordination required to do step. But the reality of it is, if you can march in place, you can do step. The basic step is just that: basic. Up, up, down, down. Of course that move would get pretty boring pretty quickly, so we add music, rhythm, and variations on that basic move. While it helps to have a little rhythm (can you clap your hands to the beat of a song?), anyone can step. It may take a few classes to really get the hang of it, but it is quite do-able, and FUN! Don’t be intimidated!

There is a first time for everything. At some point, every single person in the class, including the instructor, attended their very first step class. I am not gonna lie, you probably won’t pick up every single thing the first class you take. But let’s face it: What would be the fun of mastering it in the first hour? Half the fun is seeing yourself improve on the step, seeing your cardiovascular fitness level improve, and becoming more efficient overall (doing more work with less effort). Step will get you there!

You Can Adjust the Intensity LevelStepIS

You may be thinking that step would be too hard or too intense for you. While step is designed to be a challenging cardio workout, the intensity level can be adjusted in a number of ways to meet the needs of each participant. The height of the platform is not uniform; with use of individual risers at each end, the platform can be set as low as just a few inches off the floor (or as high as 8 to 12 inches).

Another easy adjustment, which your instructor will show you, is to limit your range of movement with each step. As you become more comfortable with the format, you will be able to add intensity by increasing range of motion with the steps, and by adding arm movements to further increase your heart rate. Because of this, the challenge never ends. There is no plateau.

Step Can Be a Challenging Cardio Workout

On the flip side, maybe you are thinking step is not intense enough. Perhaps you are thinking that only girls take step, or that you are too fit to benefit from it. Regardless of your fitness level, step can be a very challenging cardiovascular workout. It is a well-known fact that the U.S. military utilizes step aerobics to improve our troops’ agility, coordination, and endurance. If it’s tough enough for our soldiers, then it’s tough enough for me! In addition to step, I also teach Insanity, total body conditioning, and kickboxing classes. Step meets or exceeds these other formats in intensity level and calories burned per hour.

Step Is Great for Group Fitness

Step is the perfect group fitness exercise because it accommodates all fitness levels. And if you haven’t tried group fitness, well that’s a whole other conversation. But in short, try it! The camaraderie and accountability among the participants, the music, and the FUN factor will have
you hooked!

So, are you ready to take your fitness regimen to the next STEP? Click her for a free class pass to NIFS!

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This blog was written by Rachel Pfeiffer, ACE and AFAA Certified Group Fitness Instructor Insanity Certified Instructor; Proud NIFS Step Instructor since 1999

Topics: NIFS cardio fitness center weight loss group fitness workouts step

Holiday Workouts for Traveling and Getting Ready for New Year's

ThinkstockPhotos-105756015.jpgHolidays are upon us and, for many, traveling is inevitable. For at least a few days you may be on the road, in a hotel, or at a family or friend’s home. What happens to your exercise and nutritional routines that you have built and finely tuned over the past year? Do you take a break from those routines, or do you stick to them?

Keep Your New Year's Goals in Mind

Fast-forward a couple weeks from now. Do you have any fitness or nutrition goals that you have been thinking about for the New Year? If you haven’t thought about them yet, what might they be? For many gym-goers, weight loss is the main goal. Has this been a resolution for past years? One last question: Why would you put yourself “in the hole” when it comes to diet and exercise before the new year even starts? I’ll leave your holiday nutrition information up to our Registered Dietitian Angie Mitchell and focus mainly on a few workouts and exercise habits you can use to put yourself in front of the eight ball rather than, you know…

Take Physical Activity Breaks While You’re On the Road

My first focus will be on something that many people probably don’t think about when traveling, which is the amount of time that you might spend in the car. For some, six- or eight-hour car rides each way await them. If passengers in your car are anything like the ones that are in mine during road trips, bathroom breaks basically come every couple hours. Use this time for, well, obvious reasons, like having a little physical activity break from the car ride. All you need is 3 to 5 minutes to get the blood flowing and burn a few calories after sitting in the car for so long. Bathroom breaks can be done after that.

Below you will find two physical activity breaks that can be done at a gas station or rest stop that will help break up some of those monotonous driving feelings.

Physical Activity Break #1                      Physical Activity Break #2

3 rounds:                                                    3 rounds:
Jumping jacks x30                                     Incline pushups x10
BW squats x15                                          Lateral line hops x20
Skaters x10/side                                        Lunge x10/leg

Two Simple Workout Programs That Don’t Require Equipment

Three years ago my finest reindeer, Tom Livengood, wrote a blog on exercises that you can do with limited or no equipment during holiday travel. I’m going to build off of Tom’s previous work and give you some exercise options to choose from when you are on the road. Here are two simple workout programs that shouldn’t take more than 20 to 30 minutes to complete and will “HIIT” (get it?) all of your major workout components during these hectic months.

Program 1:IMG_7854.jpg

Warmup (3 rounds)

  • Alternating reverse lunge x60s (photo 1)
  • Walking plank x30s
  • Step through w/rotation x60s

Strength/Core (3 sets)

  • Rear foot elevated split squat x15/leg(photo 2)
  • Wall plank x60s(photo 3)IMG_7842.jpg
  • Pushup xMax                                                                                 

HIIT (Every minute on the minute for 10 minutes)

  • Mountain climber x30
  • Squat jump x15
  • 1/2 burpee x5

Program 2:

Warmup (3 rounds)IMG_7859.jpg

  • Single-leg bridge w/ pulse x30s/leg
  • Side plank w/ rotation x30s/side
  • Plank reach x60s(photo 4)

Strength/Core (4 sets)

  • Lateral lunge w/ forward reach x10/side
  • Feet elevated pushups x10-15

HIIT (30s on/15s off: 12 minutes)

  • PushupIMG_7856.jpg
  • Step-up (30s/leg)
  • Cheetah

Elevated split squats and pushups can be performed with a chair, box, dog, child, or whatever…be creative!

If you have additional time, try your best to find a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, foam roller, can of cranberries, frozen water bottle, or SOMETHING to use for some soft-tissue work. I hear foam rolling while drinking eggnog is the newest fitness trend (kidding!). No matter what you choose to do, the number-one goal is to stay moving. Don’t let your active lifestyle take a “HIIT” (okay, I’m done) over these next few weeks.

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

Topics: workouts holidays strength core traveling new year's HIIT

NIFS December Group Fitness Class of the Month: PiYo

Piyo2.jpgContinuing with the Group Fitness Class of the Month series, December is upon us and we are highlighting a new class. Hopefully you had the opportunity in November to do a BODYATTACK class. This month we take a closer look at another group fitness class: PiYo. This Beachbody class has been on the schedule for a good chunk of time now, but in case you don’t know what it is or haven’t taken the opportunity to try it, let’s pick it apart a little bit.

A Low-Impact, Fat-Burning Fitness Class

Now, stepping into an even smaller group fitness studio can also be very intimidating, I know, but the faster-paced movements and music in PiYo will hopefully diminish some of those feelings. And for those of you (this was me at one point as well) who feel this is just another stretching class…think again! PiYo takes the muscle-sculpting, core-tightening movements from Pilates and the strength and flexibility benefits of yoga and ties them into one class. Talk about a great combination! And with the ramped-up speed of the different movements, this class includes fat-burning, low-impact movements to help you see results.

My Experience with This Workout

I personally have done a PiYo class to see what it was all about, and allow me to share my experience. I started out with the mindset of this is “just another stretching class,” like I talked about above. Within just a few minutes, I quickly learned I was mistaken. The class moved much faster than I had anticipated, and the movements were quite challenging. I would consider myself to be an active, decently fit individual, with a good amount of flexibility and strength. But some of the moves in PiYo really challenged the flexibility and mobility of my body. And I could see how over time, taking this class would allow a person to actually see measurable results in those two areas.

PiYo_LOGO_Gray_M.jpgPiYo at NIFS

NIFS offers two different kinds of PiYo on our group fitness schedule. PiYo Strength focuses on agility, dance conditioning, athletic training, core conditioning, balance, flexibility, and so much more. Many athletes benefit from this format because of its flexibility, and using the body as full-body resistance. This is a fusion format that moves quickly and powerfully, and creates strength from the transverse abs out. We also offer Pilates/Yoga Fusion, which is a unique class designed to build strength, balance, agility, and flexibility. The moves fit perfectly together to form a class filled with intense choreography that's fun and challenging and will make you sweat. It is a perfect blend of Pilates, yoga, sports stretch, dance stretch, athletics, and more. Don't worry, no previous experience is necessary!

Watch PIYO workout Video

This blog shows what another NIFS Health Fitness Specialist has to say about PiYo. Take some time to try a PiYo class and see what you think!

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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 exercise fitness center yoga group fitness workouts balance strength Pilates core strength Group Fitness Class of the Month PiYo

Periodization of Your Workouts for Maximal Strength Gains

deadlift-3.jpgPeriodization is a fancy word for timing out your strength training to avoid mishaps such as overtraining, undertraining, or psychological “burnout.” A correctly periodized training program allows for maximal strength gains within the time frame of the program.

There are several different subcategories within the realm of periodization. The two most popular forms are linear and undulating periodization, and they can be similar in effect, yet they are quite different in execution.

Linear Periodization

This is a great example of the KISS (Keep It Super Simple) method. This type of programming calls for simply adding weight to your lifts, week after week, and trying your very hardest to outwork your previous workout. This tried-and-true method has shown results in all levels of lifters and athletes, from novice to advanced competitors.

“Linear” refers to the line of progression when you look at the weights used from each workout to the next. This line will slowly and steadily increase until the end of your program, when it is time to show off how strong you have gotten. A typical linear periodization program will last anywhere from 8 to 16 weeks.

Undulating Periodization

Now that you are familiar with linear periodization, take that nice straight line and make it a chaotic zig-zag from the first week of the program to the last, and now you have undulating periodization. Basically, instead of increasing weight or reps linearly throughout your program, you will consistently be adding or dropping weight and/or reps from each workout to the next.

The idea behind undulating periodization is to allow optimal recovery time between ultra-intense workouts, eliminating physical or mental overtraining. This is a method often used by more advanced lifters and athletes because of the commonly intense nature of the training sessions. For example, if a competitive powerlifter trained three days a week, a sample week of their program might look something like this (percentages shown are those of the respective one-rep max for each individual lift):

  • Day 1: Squat—80% 5 sets/3 reps
  • Day 2: Bench Press—70% 6 sets/3 reps
  • Day 3: Deadlift—75% 3 sets/8 reps
Which Method Should You Choose?

Neither of these methods has been proven to be better than the other. Each person will have their own opinions on which is better and why. I would suggest starting with linear periodization for two reasons:

  1. It is a very easy method to follow. There is no reason why anybody should start a linear program and not be able to finish it.
  2. It is a very accommodating method for beginner lifters. It is effort based, and what you give is what you get.

Like I said previously, these methods might not be ideal for everyone. They are great templates for individuals who want to get stronger, but they must be tailored to best fit you and your goals. For more information regarding training programs, ask of the NIFS Health Fitness Specialists to create one for you. If this methodology intrigues you and you would like to try it out, specifically mention this blog and they will create a program based on one of these training strategies.

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 Aaron Combs, NSCA CSCS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS workouts strength programs periodization

Technical vs. Tactical Fitness Training

ThinkstockPhotos-500518472.jpgIf you have spent time around sports, two terms that I am sure you have heard are technical and tactical. No matter what sport you have been around, at some point your coach planned a technical training session and a tactical training session. And in these sports, the technical sessions focused on the technique needed to be successful, and the tactical sessions focused on the “plans” behind how to make those work. I’d like to take a look at how you can put into place technical vs. tactical training in fitness, and in what ways this can benefit your training potential.

Technical Training in Fitness

The goal of any kind of technical preparation is to take skills specific to the activity and to improve them. In any form of movement or exercise, the body has both locomotive and bio-mechanical rules that it should be following in order to maximize potential. And the first step in technical training is to understand the movements that are supposed to be occurring during the exercise.

So what does all this mean? Let’s put it into laymen’s terms. I like to call it body awareness. You don’t need to memorize every single muscle in the body and know its location, insertion points, etc., but if you have a body awareness of where you should feel something, what it should look like, and the benefits of the movement, your exercise potential will increase!

Let’s take the bent-over row as an example:

  • Works upper and middle back.
  • Beneficial for all sorts of industries (carpenters sawing wood, nurses lifting patient to seated position, stay-at-home parent picking up the laundry basket).
  • Muscles used: lats, biceps, shoulders, deltoids, pecs, and triceps.
  • Where you should feel the exercise: middle and upper back.
  • Proper way to do the exercise: make sure you are bent over (using a bench or flat surface is ideal), be sure the back is flat and not rounded, without rotating your entire body lift the weight from a bent-over hanging-arm position up toward the armpit, feeling the shoulder blade move inward toward the spine.

As you can see, technical training certainly has its place in fitness. It’s important to learn and feel body awareness to begin to grasp what you should be feeling. Take some time to learn and understand the different technical aspects of movements in your workout and maximize your potential. If you need help, our health fitness specialists here at NIFS can assist you with those things!

Tactical Training in Fitness

Tactical training is taking the exercises we know and building specific programs around improving regular-life movements and activities (aka functional training). You make the workout revolve around not only getting fit, but building strength and mobility to assist in your everyday movement patterns.

As fitness always evolves and changes, there has been a shift from “specific training” for folks like policemen, firefighters, and the military to taking some of those workout programs and making them fit the mold for the “general exerciser.” Thus, it makes tactical exercise not focus on the workout itself, but hone in on the actual work being done in the workout. Tactical training is about taking exercise and making movements and programs carry over to functional, daily life movements like carries, running, swimming, etc.

Here are a few examples of tactical exercise (incorporate these into a workout for everyday-life impacts):

  • Kettlebell Suitcase Carry: Carry a kettlebell at your side while maintaining correct posture.
  • Jacob’s Ladder: Good for those who climb ladders in their jobs (firefighters, carpenters, roofers, etc.).
  • Barbell deadlifts: Ensures proper form in order to help lift boxes, laundry baskets, children, etc.

Both technical training and tactical training have their places in the fitness world. If you are currently training technically, look at some tactical training and begin to incorporate it into your workouts. And if you are training tactically, take some time to look at technique and make sure you are doing things correctly in order to avoid injury and aid your progression.

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

Topics: fitness center workouts functional training kettlebell technical training tactical training

5 Ways to Keep Up with Workouts When College Stress Hits

ThinkstockPhotos-135551982.jpgWhen it comes to settling back into school, adjusting to the crazy schedule can become one of the biggest tasks. From classes each day, to group project meetings, to homework due dates and the dreaded semester exams, how are we supposed to find the time to keep ourselves healthy and fit?

In the summer you may have had no classes or potentially just one, leaving you with a hefty amount of extra free time to spend how you like. Getting back into those fitness goals that you wanted to accomplish wasn’t such a hard task. However, when school stress sets in, students find that that time gets cut short and they tend to give up on focusing on their own health.

Tips for Fitness in College

Here are a few tips to help you stay focused and driven to keep exercise in your daily schedule, without falling off the wagon, all while being successful in school:

Drink water throughout the day. We all know about the strategically placed dorm and community food/drink venues that are available at our fingertips when we are moving from class to class on campus. However, a lot of them tend to be full of extra sugar and unnatural ingredients. Simply remember to pack a bottle of water. There are many places across campus to refill it, and I would even challenge you to see how many times you can do that in one day! Drinking enough water will keep you hydrated and healthier. It will also assist in brain function to keep you focused during those long lectures and tedious late-night homework assignments you need to finish.

Keep a daily agenda. Whether it be just a few reminders on your phone or a hand-held planner, having something that tells you what you are doing throughout the day can only help keep you more organized. It can also help to keep you more accountable. If you have your workout scheduled and written down as a reminder, you are more prone to complete it. Find what works for you: a set time each day like after your last class, meeting a friend at the gym to work out together, or an alarm on your phone can be the secret to success.

Plan out your workouts. Knowing what you are going to be doing for your workouts is essential when it comes to saving time and being efficient in the gym. Take some time at the end of the week to plan out what you will be doing for the week to come. This not only saves you from walking around the gym wondering which exercise to do next, but it keeps you on task with something that you can build from and see more results. If you need help planning your workouts or some extra guidance, NIFS has qualified trainers who can sit down with you and help you plan out specific goals and personal training. They can also assess your movement through personal fitness testing and a functional movement screen, and then create a personal workout program that works for you. Click here to learn more about setting up your free fitness sessions with a NIFS trainer!

Incorporate HIIT into your busy days. High-Intensity Training (HIT) is a GREAT tool to use for those jam-packed school days where you don’t have much time. Days like that can elevate your stress level, which can have an effect on your blood pressure and fat retention. Workouts in the form of HIT training are shorter, with bouts of high heart rate and little rest in-between. They get the job done in less time, and are a great pick-me-up to burn calories and relieve some stress during your busy day. Click here to check out our HIT schedule and to try a class for free!

Find an accountability partner. If you feel like you are one who tends to start on something and not always complete it, an accountability partner is an awesome thing to have to keep you on track. An accountability partner can be anyone in your life who can commit to help keep you responsible for staying on track with your goals. For example, your best friend, roommate, classmate, family member, and even a coworker are all great options! This needs to be a person you converse with or see on a regular basis, so they can make sure to ask you regularly whether you trained that day or stayed on whatever new eating plan you may have started. This person can even have similar goals as you and work out with you, so you both can cheer each other on. This strategy will help increase adherence and get you closer to success with your goals.

Stay Focused on Fitness

So, while there are plenty of things that can distract you from staying on track, you can use these simple tips to keep focused! If you simply adopt a few new habits like the ones above, you will be more likely to keep on top of your fitness goals.

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

Topics: fitness stress workouts accountability HIT personal training college high intensity functional movement school