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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Resistance Training for Fat Loss: The Science and a Workout Template

GettyImages-1264433129Science News (August 9, 2021) reported a study released by the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and College of Health Sciences that adds to the growing evidence that resistance training has unique benefits for fat loss. As a longtime fitness trainer, I have known about the effectiveness of resistance training for fat loss and body composition from my experience with clients and my own personal health and fitness journey. However, it is interesting to see science finally start to catch up with the real world and offer up some details of human physiology and systems biology as evidence as to why resistance training is so effective.

The Science

This study showed that in mice and in humans, in response to mechanical loading, muscle cells release particles called extracellular vesicles. These extracellular vesicles instruct fat cells to enter fat-burning mode.

It has been understood for a while that extracellular vesicles played a role in selectively interacting with proteins, lipids, and RNA and more recently had a role in intercellular communications. This study adds to that understanding by showing how skeletal muscle communicates with other tissues.

According to McCarthy, “To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of how weight training initiates metabolic adaptations in fat tissue, which is crucial for determining whole-body metabolic outcomes. The ability of resistance exercise-induced extracellular vesicles to improve fat metabolism has significant clinical implications.”

What It Means for You: Resistance-based Training Is a Fat-loss Tool

Well, that was science-speak, but what does this mean to you? “Significant clinical implications” means that the research provides clinicians with findings that can be used in treating medically needed fat loss with resistance-based training along with diet and other forms of exercise, such as cardiovascular training. 

Fitness in the US Is Declining

Our culture is getting heavier, with a rising percentage of the population crossing over to obesity. Recent studies have shown that 88 percent of the adult American population is metabolically unfit, with expected conditions that include high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. And Covid showed us clearly that metabolic unfitness was associated with bad Covid experiences and poor outcomes, including death. (Oh, and by the way, American life expectancy has been trending down even before Covid.)

Whatever we are doing as a culture is not working for health and longevity. Changing these adverse conditions requires changes at the individual level because large parts of our social fabric (business, media, and special interests) are too wrapped up in greed and maintaining the status quo for their interests and not acting for the greater good. So it’s up to each individual to decide what is best for their own health regarding diet, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction. All four of these factors are all very important, but exercise and diet seem to get the most attention and are the places where most people start their journey of making life-quality changes.

Where Do You Begin Your Fat-loss Journey?

“Experts” are all over the media with supplements, books, and podcasts. The number of theories and opinions is staggering. Most seem reasonable on the surface, which adds to the confusion about what to choose and where to start.

Adding to the complexity, huge international corporations, through massive advertising campaigns, are marketing online workout programming to support a major purchase of their in home exercise equipment. They offer cardio equipment and digital-controlled strength machines—slick and attractive to someone sitting on the couch with pizza and a beer.

And your online fitness searches provide social media marketing the information they need to dump even more choices in your lap based on what you have been viewing online. Hmm…

Confusing? Overwhelming?

Let’s erase the messy whiteboard and create a simpler view of the objective.

Remember, I started this blog with a study that showed how resistance training sets the cells up for burning body fat. The purpose of sharing this study was to support the concept of resistance training as an effective method for fat loss and an approach you should consider seriously.

A Training Template for Fat Loss

The following is a straightforward template to serve as a starting point to begin your resistance training/fat-loss exploration.

The human body has six patterns of functional movement:

  1. The body sits down and stands back up. The knees and hips flex and extend. In the gym, we see this in various forms of squatting, lunging, and step-ups.
  2. The body hinges at the hip joints and bends down to pick up things using the largest and strongest muscle complex of the body, the glutes. In the gym, this could be deadlifting on one end of the spectrum to lying on your back on a mat, knees up and feet on the ground for doing hip thrusts. (Both the squat and deadlift techniques should be taught by a competent coach to speed the acquisition of proper skills and to avoid injuries).
  3. While standing, if you hold your arms out in front of your body, the arms would be horizontal  to the ground. This right angle to the spine position is called the horizontal plane. If you were doing a push-up facing the ground or lying on your back doing a chest press, the arms would still be at a right angle to the spine, thus on the horizontal plane. The arm movement on this plane would either be pushing away from the body (for example, the bench press) or pulling back toward the body (for example, the back row). There are numerous options to choose from for working on this plane.
  4. When the arms move in line with the spine, this is the vertical plane, and once again you are either pushing away (for example, the shoulder press) or pulling toward the body (for example, the lat pulldown or pull-up). The horizontal and vertical push/pulls cover the basic functional movement patterns of the upper body. When done standing, the core ties the lower- and upper-body segments into a functional unit for expressing strength and power.
  5. The core is an important component of the basic workout template. As indicated above, the core ties together the lower- and upper-body segments, but also serves to stabilize and protect the lumbar spine.
  6. A forgotten and often overlooked exercise that is key to a strong-functioning body is the carry. As simple as it sounds, you pick up something and carry it: moving weight for distance and/or time. This exercise brings together strength, balance, muscular endurance, and grip strength.

There are numerous exercises to choose from to fill in the slots of the template: various reps and sets schemes, frequencies of sessions, recovery days and resistance sources depending on what best meets the needs of the individual, but having a structure to work with is critical for success, especially at the beginning.

You can certainly explore and experiment on your own, but I recommend that you take advantage of the trained professionals here at NIFS. There is a lot of knowledge and experience available to help you on your journey. We are here to assist you—just ask.

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: weight loss workouts resistance functional movement fat loss resistance training

Are Collagen Supplements Effective?

GettyImages-1195245457Collagen is the most plentiful protein in the body and the primary structural component of connective tissues found in your bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and skin, aiding in their elasticity and strength. Our bodies naturally produce collagen; however, its production declines as we age, especially when paired with poor diet, excess alcohol use, lack of exercise, excess sun exposure, or use of tobacco products. The degradation of collagen and collagen production can lead to wrinkles and an aged appearance, both of which are feared in our youthful appearance-obsessed society, leading to an increased consumer interest in collagen and collagen-containing products in recent years.

Collagen Supplements: How to Buy It and What It Might Be Able to Do 

Collagen supplements are available in a variety of forms, including powders, pills, and fortified foods. They are often sold as “hydrolyzed collagen” or “collagen peptides,” both forms of collagen that have already been broken down and are therefore more readily absorbed by the body. There is some evidence to suggest that collagen supplements can improve skin elasticity and hydration, promote wound healing, and improve joint mobility and pain, and are generally deemed safe with no reported adverse health effects. However, the evidence that is available to support these claims is often unclear (for example, the exact dosage to experience benefits) or funded by related industries or authors with ties to those industries who may benefit from positive research outcomes, presenting a potential conflict of interest. Additionally, as with all other dietary supplements, collagen supplements are not assessed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prior to being marketed; therefore, their efficacy and safety is not guaranteed.

Should You Take a Collagen Supplement?

Currently, there is not enough evidence to provide clear recommendations to support or advise against the use of collagen supplements. However, when searching for any supplement, including collagen, look for those with USP or NSF certifications on the label, which indicate that the product has been tested by a third party for purity, potency, and safety. Additionally, you should always consult a health care professional, such as your physician, prior to starting any supplement.

How to Protect Your Natural Collagen

Finally, there are some ways to naturally protect your body’s natural collagen without taking supplements:

  • Wearing sunscreen every day: UV light from the sun breaks down collagen.
  • Eating a healthy diet, with plenty of fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidant Vitamin C, which can help protect collagen from damage and breakdown.
  • Controlling stress: Some studies have shown that chronically high cortisol (stress hormone) levels are associated with decreased collagen production.
  • Quitting smoking and limiting smoke exposure: Smoking may decrease the rate of collagen synthesis in the body.
  • Getting enough sleep: The National Sleep Foundation recommends between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night for most adults.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: joint health supplements joints dietary supplements skin collagen beauty elasticity

Skip the Abdominal Crunch and Try These Core Strength Exercises

Screen Shot 2021-09-07 at 4.16.27 PMWe all know that core stability and strength is an important factor in exercise, athletics, and even daily living. Being able to properly brace and stiffen the core is an important skill in preventing lower-back injuries when attempting certain movement patterns that occur every day. The abdominal crunch, which people often think of as a core exercise, is actually not a movement we see in our day-to-day lives. Try and think of a time you have had to mimic the abdominal crunch under a heavy load: it simply does not occur.

More often than not, we need to be stronger in the core in a more upright or natural standing posture. The abdominal crunch is now being found to stress the low-back area, can cause discomfort by compressing your back joints, and can even lead to injury after a while.

So you are probably wondering, how do I strengthen my core in an upright position? The answer is through anti-movement patterns. These could be anti-rotational, anti-flexion/extension, or anytime you are forcing your body to resist being moved from a normal posture. These patterns can be accomplished in an isometric hold or a dynamic pattern with bands, kettlebells, or weights.

Anti-rotational Exercise: The Paloff Press

An example of an anti-rotational exercise would be the Paloff press, shown here:

The goal is to press the handle from your belly button slowly and in a controlled manner so that the core has to work to not let your body turn.

Anti-Flexion or Extension Exercise: The Plank

An example of an anti-flexion or extension would be a plank, as shown here:

The goal is to keep your hips down and really engage the core area by pulling your belly button in. You can add weights to your back or increase the time you do these to make them more challenging!

Strengthening Exercise: The Kettlebell March

An example of strengthening the core in that normal standing position would be a kettlebell march, where you can either do two kettlebells in the front squat position or one held out in front. Both are shown here:

Marching slowly and controlled is the key for this exercise. While doing this, all the muscles in your core fire to prevent you from falling any direction while you balance on one leg.

Core Blog

See a NIFS Health Fitness Specialist to learn how you can start strengthening your core in a neutral position to assist with your exercises and your day-to-day life. See these links for more information:

ACSM core PowerPoint: http://forms.acsm.org/TPC/PDFs/23%20Best.pdf

PT Dr. Aaron Horschig: “The Big Three”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_e4I-brfqs

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This blog was written by Grant Lamkin, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: injury prevention videos core strength core exercises lower back pain anti-rotational anti-flexion

Flight School: Training to Improve Your Vertical Jump for Sports

GettyImages-1291852744When watching elite athletes during competition, there are many athletic traits and features that we novices or amateurs marvel at. We think to ourselves, “If I did something like that, I wouldn’t walk for a week!” Seeing an NFL running back or wide receiver make a cut at full speed, a baseball player hitting a 400-foot home run, or a powerlifter deadlifting the weight of a Volkswagen Beetle are feats that just leave you in awe.

One of my favorites is to watch the jumping ability that is on display in countless basketball, football, and many other sporting events. Nothing seems to get fans and folks like myself more fired up than to watch an NBA player effortlessly float in the air and dunk on an opponent, or an NFL receiver jump up over two or three defensive players and come down with the football. No doubt, the combination of high-level athletic ability and hard work has paid off for many of these professional athletes with what seems like superhuman abilities. There is a reason that we see these men and women on TV and pay to see them during competition. The capabilities of the human body are crazy!

Improve Your Jump to Improve Your Sport

So, many of you reading this are probably not professional athletes. You might be former high school or college student athletes who have since “retired” from your respective sport. Like many of us, the “athlete” in us never really goes away. We find other sports or competition to feed that drive that we had as we grew up by playing recreational-league sports like basketball, flag football, or soccer, or have picked up new sports such as golf (like this guy) or tennis. And if you’re anything like me, you want to try and continue to improve in your new sport as much as possible.

Regardless of where you are in the timeline of your athletic journey, the vertical jump and vertical power will always play an integral role in your performance. Basketball and volleyball are the most obvious sports that are reliant on these abilities, but golfers, tennis players, and athletes in any other sport that utilizes rotational aspects would benefit highly by increasing their vertical jump. I mean, who wouldn’t want to hit the golf ball farther or add a few more miles per hour on their tennis serve?

When it all comes down to it, the amount of force we can put into the ground will dictate a lot of the athletic actions that happen with our bodies.

Three Jump Training Styles

Below I break down three different types of jump training styles that will put you on your way to soaring above the competition.

Body Weight

This is the most common type of jump training that you will see. Utilizing only the weight of your body, you perform these plyometric jump movements with little or no equipment. In the video below, you will see three movements starting from easiest to most advanced. These include the following:

  • Wall Touches
  • Box Jumps
  • Depth Jumps

 

Vertical Jump Training Body Weight

 

Resisted Jumps

Now we get into some of the less common vertical jump training options. Resisted jumps add some type of downward-pulling resistance that will make your jump seem more difficult and hopefully help you generate more effort into the movement. The movements in the video below include the following:

  • Medball Powerball
  • DB Resisted Jumps
  • Band Resisted Jumps

 

Vertical Jump Training Resisted

 

Assisted Jumps

The third variation is assisted jumps. In my opinion, these are the most enjoyable. The goal here is to feel like there is a trampoline-effect going on where you just seem to spring up into the air. Most (if not all) variations will utilize a band. The three movements I have chosen for you are the following:

  • Banded “Belt” Jumps
  • Band Rack Pogos
  • Band Rack Squat Jump

 

Vertical Jump Training Assisted

 

All in all, the vertical jump is a very important skill to improve and master with regard to overall athletic ability. When it all boils down, the amount of effort you put into the training will dictate the results you get. Doing the majority of your jumps at 50 percent effort will yield an improvement in just that: jumping at 50 percent. Try to maximize your effort with each set and repetition where you are working at or above 90 percent effort, whether that be because of doing lower repetition ranges (1–5 reps) and/or making sure that you are fully recovered between sets (about 1–3 minutes’ rest).

Give great effort, get great results!

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

Topics: resistance videos sports body weight athletes athletic performance lifetime sports exercise bands vertical jump vertical power jumping jump training

King of the Gym, Part 3: Bodyweight Squats

Heavy weights can get exhausting, but don’t give up on squats just because of that. Instead, give bodyweight squats a try. In part three of the “King of the Gym” series, I focus on bodyweight-only variations on barbell back squats. Sometimes you need a break from all the heavy barbell training. That’s when bodyweight squats become useful by keeping you strong and well-conditioned.

The Air Squat

To start off, you must master the classic bodyweight squat, also known as the air squat. Keep your feet shoulder width apart, toes pointed forward, and the weight centered over your feet. Go down as deep as possible. At the bottom, push through your heels and the balls of your feet to begin ascent. All the while, keep your chest up and push into the ground until you are back up straight again. One rep completed!

Air Squats

 

Air Squat Variations

All the variations below are for the air squat and can be used for different purposes. Some can be used for mobility, while others used to build strength. Add them to your training program as you see fit.

Bodyweight Squats

 

Pick at least one variation from this list and start practicing it within your fitness routines. Drill down the different techniques of these alternatives to help strengthen areas of weakness within your barbell squats and become more extremely efficient when you do get back to barbell squats again.

Next in the Series

In part 4 of the series, I focus on bodyweight again, but set up some conditioning routines you can do at home, outside in the park, or in a hotel when on the road. As I have reiterated in each of the previous installments of this series, regardless of your fitness goals, some form or fashion of squats can and should be added to your fitness routines.

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This blog was written by Michael Blume, MS, SCCC; Athletic Performance Coach. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercise at home fitness center core strength bodyweight squat

Keeping Your Food Safe This Summer

GettyImages-459911339It is estimated that there are almost 48 million cases of foodborne illness/food poisoning in the United States each year (source: https://www.foodsafety.gov/food-poisoning). Of these cases, around 128,000 individuals are hospitalized and about 3,000 deaths occur. Rates of foodborne illness are higher during the summer months, as they are often warmer and more humid—the ideal environment for bacterial growth. In addition, many people participate in outdoor food-related activities, such as picnics, barbeques, and campsites, where the typical safety controls of a kitchen, such as refrigeration, cooling, and running water, are not always available

Keep reading to learn about the common causes of food poisoning, their symptoms, and steps you can take to protect your food this summer.

Common Food Poisoning Culprits and Their Symptoms

The onset time of the signs and symptoms of food poisoning depend on the type of virus, bacteria, or other pathogen you were exposed to and the symptoms can range from mild to severe. Some of the most common food borne illness causing pathogens and their symptoms include the following.

Salmonella

Symptom onset: 6 hours to 6 days after exposure.

Signs and symptoms: Diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, vomiting.

Food sources: Raw or undercooked poultry and meat; eggs, unpasteurized (raw) milk and juices; raw fruits and vegetables.

Staphylococcous aureus (Staph)

Symptom onset: 30 minutes to 8 hours after exposure.

Signs and symptoms: nausea, vomiting, stomach cramping.

Food sources: Foods that are not cooked after handling (sliced meats, pudding, sandwiches, etc.).

Clostridium Perfringens

Symptom onset: 6 to 24 hours after exposure.

Signs and symptoms: Diarrhea and stomach cramps (vomiting and fever are uncommon).

Food sources: Beef, poultry, gravies, dried and/or precooked foods.

Norovirus

Symptom onset: 12 to 48 hours after exposure.

Signs and symptoms: Diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting.

Food sources: Leafy greens, fresh fruit, shellfish, unsafe water.

Clostridium Botulism

Symptom onset: 18 to 36 hours after exposure.

Signs and symptoms: Double/blurry vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, muscle weakness.

Food sources: improperly canned or fermented foods.

Escherichia Coli (E Coli)

Symptom onset: 3 to 4 days after exposure.

Signs and symptoms: Severe stomach cramping, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes bloody).

Food sources: Raw or undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized (raw) milk and juices, raw vegetables (sprouts, lettuce), unsafe water.

Listeria

Symptom onset: 1 to 4 weeks after exposure.

Signs and symptoms: headache, stiff neck, fever, muscle aches.

Food sources: Soft cheeses, raw sprouts, fresh melon, hot dogs, and other deli meats.


Individuals at Increased Risk for Foodborne Illness

People who are most at risk include the following:

  • Pregnant women and infants.
  • Children younger than 5 years old.
  • Elderly (> 65 years of age).
  • Immunocompromised (cancer, HIV/AIDS, autoimmune diseases, etc.)


6 Steps for Practicing Food Safety This Summer

Follow these tips to avoid food poisoning at your summer gatherings.

Wash Your Hands

Always wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before, during, and after food preparation and handling. Be sure to dry your hands completely after washing using a clean towel. If you don’t have running water or access to safe water, be sure to bring wet disposable wipes, paper towels, and surface disinfectant for cleaning hands, cooking surfaces, and utensils.

Keep Cutting Boards and Utensils Clean

Use separate cutting boards, serving dishes and other utensils (tongs, spatulas, etc) for cooked and raw foods. Be sure to thoroughly wash all items that come into contact with raw food with warm soapy water prior to reuse.

Get a New Plate After Handling Raw Meats

Never serve cooked foods on the same plate or platter that once held raw meat, poultry, or fish to avoid cross-contamination.

Thaw in the Refrigerator

Thaw food in the refrigerator rather than at room temperature or on the counter.

Cook to Safe Internal Temperatures

Use a food thermometer to ensure the food reaches safe internal temperatures:

  • Beef, pork, lamb, veal (steaks, roasts, chops, etc.): 145F
  • Ground meats (hamburgers, etc.): 160F
  • Whole and ground poultry (chicken, turkey): 165F

Don't Leave Food Out

Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours after cooking. If outdoor temperatures exceed 90F, refrigerate perishable foods within 1 hour. Keep your refrigerator below 40F.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: summer picnics food safety illness prevention viruses bacteria food poisoning

Have You Gained Weight Since the Start of the COVID-19 Pandemic?

GettyImages-1286893989According to the American Psychological Association’s latest Stress in America™ survey conducted in late February 2021, 42% of adults reported undesirable weight gain since the beginning of the pandemic, with an average weight gain of 29 pounds. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to many, since almost everyone was stuck at home, the gyms were closed, and people turned to food for comfort.

Six Tips for Losing Pandemic Weight

If you’re struggling to manage your weight following the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown, and restrictions, try some of the following suggestions for getting back on track.

1. Establish a healthy eating routine.

Aim to eat three well-rounded meals each day. Meals don’t have to be complicated: the easier and quicker, the better. Try pairing a protein source (such as chicken, salmon, or ground turkey or lean beef) with various grilled, roasted, or steamed vegetables and seasonings and sauces of your choice for a quick, inexpensive, and easy meal.

2. Count calories.

The only tried-and-true method for losing weight is to eat fewer calories than you expend each day. Often when people eat healthy but don’t count calories, they tend to overestimate the number of calories they expend and underestimate the number of calories they eat, leading to weight gain/maintenance and frustration. To determine your individualized caloric needs, speak with a registered dietitian or get an estimate from the USDA’S DRI Calculator for Healthcare Professionals.

3. Stay active.

Fifty-three percent of adults reported that they have been less physically active than they would prefer since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Stress in America™ survey. Physical activity is a great method for managing weight and stress, and has even been shown to improve sleep. If you don’t feel comfortable going to the gym, take a walk outside. If you’re not able to safely walk outside, create your own walking route inside your home or apartment and take several brief walks throughout the day to keep moving. Try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of physical activity into your routine every day.

4. Limit alcohol consumption.

According to the Stress in America™ survey, 23 percent of adults reported drinking more alcohol during the pandemic as a coping mechanism for stress. The calories in alcohol tend to add up quickly, and too much alcohol can lead to unhealthy habits like overeating. To prevent alcohol-associated weight gain, be sure to drink in moderation, which is defined as no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

5. Manage stress.

There is evidence to suggest that increased cortisol, the hormone released during stress, may result in an increased appetite, leading to overeating and potential weight gain. Instead of turning to food for comfort, be sure to control stress through mindfulness and meditation, exercise, and social support.

6. Get enough sleep.

The Stress in America™ poll also found that 35 percent of adults noted getting less sleep since the start of the pandemic. Sleep plays an important role in losing weight, as inadequate or poor-quality sleep can affect the hormones that control hunger and satiety, may result in less energy for exercise, and could make you more susceptible to making poor food choices. The National Sleep Foundation recommends between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night for most adults.

Weight-loss Help from NIFS

NIFS can guide you in your weight-loss journey. Our popular Ramp Up to Weight Loss program has been adapted so that you can participate virtually from home  or at NIFS.

Find out more about Ramp Up to Weight Loss. Contact us today!

This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: stress weight loss calories alcohol covid-19 lockdown pandemic

King of the Gym, Part 2: Lower-Body Training with Simple Equipment

If we have learned anything this past year in quarantine, we’ve found creative ways we can train to get fit and stay strong in our living rooms, garages, basements, and backyards with our favorite squat racks. In part 2 of my blog series, you’ll learn how to use something simple like a dumbbell, kettlebell, med-ball, or light equipment like resistance bands to functionally train your lower body in place of the “king of the gym” back squats. 

Barbell Back Squat

Videos: No-barbell Exercises

If you don’t have a squat rack and barbell at the ready, there are a variety of different worthy alternatives to back squats—with no barbell required. Here are seven “king of the gym” alternatives that can use a kettlebell, dumbbell, med-ball, or bands.

Lower Body Training

The exercises in the preceding videos are great alternatives for anyone, especially if you can’t make it into the gym but you do have some light equipment at your disposal.

Functional Training for the Lower Body

Even if you are in the gym, but you don’t quite like the idea of doing a heavy-loaded barbell lift, you can still create resistance for your lower body. Resistance doesn’t mean loaded barbells; instead, these alternative exercises are loaded differently to functionally train the lower body. 

In part 3 of the series, I focus on body weight only, and in part 4 I set up some different routines you can do in a hotel when you’re on the road. Regardless of your fitness goals, you can and should add some form or fashion of squats to your fitness routines. 

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This blog was written by Michael Blume, MS, SCCC; Athletic Performance Coach. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercise at home equipment videos lower body squat pandemic

King of the Gym, Part 1: Squat Alternatives

I enjoy all forms of exercise, but like many, I want the most bang for my buck when I’m exercising. Sure, I am always on the lookout for the new and best exercises that would not only kick my behind, but also have benefits all around. However, I always trend back to the “king of the gym”: an exercise that I do without fail—SQUAT

The Squat Reigns Supreme

Squats are often referred to as the “king of the gym” exercise, and for a good reason. When done correctly, squats utilize essentially every muscle in the body. If you want to get stronger, get bigger, or lose weight, squats will help. Although they aren’t a must in order to build your lower body, they are probably the most efficient exercise. Whether it’s building a stronger core, back, and legs; increasing bone density; or burning fat, squats are the best bang for your buck due to the engagement of many muscle groups activated at once.

Barbell Back Squat-1

 

But this post isn’t about just about squatting. In fact, in this four-part series, I want to show you that there are plenty of different alternatives to the “king of the gym.” We don’t always have the luxury of a barbell and rack or endless equipment resources from the gym. Perhaps you train from home or are on the road at a hotel. Either way, No worries!

Squat Alternatives Using Other Gym Equipment

First up are five effective squat alternatives you can do with access to gym equipment other than the traditional barbell back squat. Are there more than five? Yes, but these are my favorites. When I have an injury, or I’m bored, or all the racks in the gym are being used, I like to substitute these five exercises in place of squats. These five moves show alternatives to squatting that you can do efficiently in the gym when a barbell and rack aren’t available and still achieve similar or better gains.

Squat Alternatives

As you can see, an effective squatting workout doesn’t have to be limited to the “king of the gym.” If you don’t have a squat rack available, there are a variety of different squatting alternatives you can use instead.

More in the Series

In part 2 of this series, learn how to use bodyweight and light equipment like resistance bands to functionally train your lower body. In part 3 of the series, I focus on body weight only, and in part 4 I set up some different routines you can do in a hotel when you’re on the road. Regardless of your fitness goals, some form or fashion of squats can and should be added to your fitness routines.

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This blog was written by Michael Blume, MS, SCCC; Athletic Performance Coach. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness center equipment weight loss strength core videos squat

Tips for Healthy Eating at Summer Barbecues

Summer is perfect for being active outdoors and grilling some healthy items for cookouts. Getting together with family and friends is a wonderful way to spend a weekend afternoon and evening. Unfortunately, some barbecues can turn into really unhealthy meals quickly. Here are some simple tips to ensure you keep up healthy eating while enjoying a cookout. Healthy Eating at BBQ

  • Better your burger. Consider topping your burger with fresh and flavorful veggies such as onions and tomatoes versus higher-fat options like mayonnaise and cheese. Also, grab a whole-wheat bun to increase the fiber, or a sandwich thin to keep calories lower. Seek out lower-fat ground beef to make your burgers, such as Laura’s Lean Beef, or grab a turkey burger or a plant-based burger to grill. 
  • Select sides wisely. Coleslaw, potato salad, and macaroni salad are typical staples of most cookouts. However, these mayonnaise-based options are loaded with fat and calories that aren’t necessarily the best for a balanced plate. Choose a serving the size of a tennis ball to keep portions in check, or choose oil-and-vinegar or yogurt-based dishes if available. 
  • Fill up on fruit. This time of year is full of almost every fruit in its peak season. Load up on filling berries, cherries, and melons. Make a giant fruit salad or kabobs, or toss some peaches or pineapple on the grill and top with nonfat vanilla yogurt. If fruit pies are on the menu for dessert, choose the option with a bottom crust only and stick to one slice!
  • Don’t forget the veggies. A lot of times veggies are completely forgotten at a barbecue, but these can be super tasty and easy to fix when done on the grill. Zucchini, squash, eggplant, mushrooms, and peppers are great on the grill and can easily be made into fun kabobs. Corn on the cob is technically a starchy vegetable, but it’s still a vegetable! Just be cautious with the amount of butter and salt that you load on top of it. Instead, try grilling it in foil with a touch of olive oil and squeeze a lime on it before eating. You won’t even miss the butter and salt!
  • Be careful not to burn your meat. Two compounds found in charred and overcooked meats are known carcinogens. Always make sure to clean your grill to get rid of preexisting charred food bits before you start grilling, or grill on top of foil or a grill mat. Another great idea is to marinate your meats before throwing them on the grill. Not only will it increase the flavor, but it can reduce the presence of the carcinogens. Grab a meat thermometer and make sure beef, pork, fish, veal, and lamb reach 145 degrees and poultry reaches 165 degrees.
  • When you are finished, go play. Challenge the kids to a game of cornhole or horseshoes. Start tossing the ball around or choose another outdoor game. The point is to not just to jump around and “burn off” dinner, but to get up and moving and away from the tempting chips and other snacks!

This blog was written by Angie Scheetz, RD. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating calories summer disease prevention paleo