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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

“Alice & Chains” Part 1: What Is Functional Training?

My mission today is to save Alice from the Wonderland of what some refer to as functional training. I will attempt to rescue dear Alice (aka you all) with the use of chains—kinetic chains, that is. First, I would like to define a few buzzwords to clear the fog that settles in this functional wonderland.kinetic chains

Functional What?

I am sure that most of you have heard the term “functional training.” If you have not, you may still have a poster of Lee Haney hanging in your locker and you are counting the seconds until your next “chest day.” I will be the first to admit that I was that guy. At the time, that is what we knew, but we now know a better way of doing things—a safer, more “functional” way.

But we do not want to throw the baby out with the bath water here. We still see a lot of theory and practice from that time in the evolution of fitness. Unfortunately, if you asked five different people (fitness pros and gym goers alike) you would get five different answers of what functional training really is. If we were to dissect the term, and I think we should, the simplest and most accurate definition of functional training is to train or restore function in movement. There are many ways to go about training or restoring function. We are going to
focus on the concept of using kinetic chains to do so.

Kinetic Chains

Kinetic chain is another term that needs defining. Let’s dissect this term, shall we?

(Kinetic = Movement) + (Chain = Linkage) = Linking movements to perform a pattern.

Human movement can be broken down into some basic patterns (a concept that will require a lot of time devoted to in a future piece), and these patterns are linked together in some way. This is a good thing because if you restore function to one pattern, you could be improving an aspect of another pattern.

We look at the body as having two main kinetic chains: anterior (front side of the body) and posterior (back side of the body). These chains will cross, giving birth to another buzz term: the “X Factor.” So when we focus on training these chains of movement, we will arrive at a more functional operating system. Simply put, train the chains and the body moves better and longer.

What Functional Training Is Not

If we keep the main idea of what functional training is at the forefront, to restore function, here are a few things I would not consider to be a part of a functional training program, just to name a few:

  • Single joint, isolated movements such as a bicep curl
  • Targeting a single plane of motion; standing, lying, moving in one direction
  • Focusing on one area of the body a time per training session, as referenced earlier (“Chest Day”)
  • Balancing on three different objects and performing a kettlebell swing
  • Doing barbell squat presses until you hit the ground; some believe this is “functional”

Scratching the Surface

Using the concept of kinetic chains, I have been able to give Alice (you) a sense of direction to navigate through the Functional Wonderland. But I have only scratched the surface. Keep your eyes open for Chapter 2 of our story in a future post, where we will tackle movement patterns and how to train them.

Don’t know how you are moving? Schedule a Functional Movement Screen with us today and start getting the most out of your training.

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


Topics: NIFS fitness center workouts functional training injury prevention muscles

Thomas' Corner: Do Crunches Guarantee “Six-Pack Abs”?

If you could name one body part that you’d like to improve, most people would agree its their abdominals area. 460455295The ideal, desired image of six-pack abs plastered on the cover of every magazine tells us so…right? To get where you want to be, you will have to have a game plan. Ten thousand crunches per day should do the trick, right? Well not necessarily.  

While crunches do strengthen core muscles (including abdominals and hip flexors), they do not give you a 100 percent guarantee of having six-pack abs. You need to treat abdominal muscles like other muscles, they will naturally get stronger (along with the rest of your body).

You may say, “Thomas, I was born without abdominals, HELP!” Rest assured, you have abdominal muscles; they are most likely there or else you would not be able to get out of bed, walk down the hallway, or anything else, for that matter. To get the abs to show, you need to burn more calories than you consume through exercise and nutrition. This can be done in various combinations, but the best results come when you are doing sensible workouts and eating sensible meals day in and day out consistently. In doing this, you will see overall body fat loss, resulting in your muscle definition being more transparent.

Challenge your core in new ways. Increase intensity rather than reps (20 reps per set is normal), and try new exercises and tools to keep your workout fresh. Remember, to see the results you want to see, focus on nutrition every day and have a well-rounded game plan in the gym. Contact a registered dietitian at NIFS to get more information on proper nutrition and a fitness specialist to prescribe new, challenging core exercises.

Need help getting started? Schedule a free fitness assessment today and we'll help get you started on a fitness routine that works for you.

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Evolve and rejoice,

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

Topics: NIFS nutrition fitness center Thomas' Corner core

SLIM IT: Team "Cast-A-Weighs" Utilized Group Fitness Classes

First off I need to say how proud of our team, the “Cast-A-Weighs” I am! They always give 110% no matter what craziness I throw at them. Coming into Slim It I was the new kid, having only started working here a month steve_team_picearlier. When I was asked to take a Slim It team I said “sure, what’s a Slim It team?”

Being the Group Fitness Coordinator you know I would end up throwing some of the classes into the mix of training. In addition to the regular style of small group training we also added in Bodypump™, CX Worx™ and a little Bodycombat™. I wasn’t sure how this would go over, but now feel confident that the Cast-A-weighs will without a doubt continue their workouts utilizing our amazing group fitness schedule and group training options.

At first look all classes and training programs look different and unique, but at the core many hold several things in common. The first is the effectiveness of the workouts. No one wants to come into the gym day after day and not see the results from their hard work. Every program at NIFS is designed to give you the maximum results for the workout time*. Another important aspect of group training is the accountability factor. As Slim It participants have seen, you instantly have a group of people you are accountaible to and everyone is responsible for  Slim-It-logo2motivating one another; even on days you felt like staying in bed. Finally, and most importantly, is the “fun factor”! Let’s face it, exercise is challenging! No matter how great the workout is, if you aren’t having a good time doing it odds are you will stop. Here at the NIFS we are a community of people with common goals and together we can all achieve those goals!

Don't forget the Slim It Finale and spring launch is coming next Monday 4/28. This is going to be an amazing workout and celebration of all your hard work this year in Slim It. Its also a chance to try a variety of workouts, meet new people and plan out your ongoing fitness routine. As for the Cast-A-Weighs, they will not only be participating in the group fitness classes that night, but will be helping all of the Slim It participants in leading by example! The students will become the teachers! I can’t wait!!

*Weight loss claims and/or individual results vary and are not guaranteed.

Regardless of fitness level or goals, almost every member at NIFS could benefit from Group Training or enrolling in a NIFS program. See our Group Fitness Schedule for more information on classes and programming. If you are interested in trying a small group or HIT training session contact Tony Maloney today to get started!

This blog was written by Steve Koebcke, NIFS Group Fitness Coordinator. Learn more about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: exercise weight loss group fitness group training challenge strength

Slim It to Win It: Shelli's Hard Bellies

This is my first year being a Slim-it to Win–It coach and my team, Shelli’s Hard Bellies, and I are having a blast!shelli-team-picture  Over the past several weeks we have had some ups and downs with teammates being sick and/or injured but no one has given up!

During this program I have tried to spice up each workout utilizing the equipment all over the gym. My team hasn’t loved the sleds at times but understands the importance and major benefits of them.

One of my favorite workouts I have done with Shelli’s Hard Bellies is the DOC (Desk of Cards) workout or “The Card Game.” I love this because it is fun to do and can be done with any age and ability level. It is also a great way to mix strength training and cardio into one kick butt workout.

Start with a deck of cards and give each suit an exercise.  Have fun with this, you could choose all body weight exercises, all strength exercises or list two options for each suit. 

Examples are as follow:
Diamonds: Push Ups
Spades: Goblet Squats (Add Jump)
Hearts: TRX or Barbell Row
Clubs: Push Press

When it comes to the face cards, either simply make Jack=11, Queen=12, King=13 & Ace=14 or make it even harder! I usually do the indicated amounts plus extra exercises on top of it all. Face card are worth more so why wouldn’t they be the hardest part of the workout.  Slim-It-logo2

The last time we played I made Ace the exercise listed above PLUS jog 1 lap around the In door track, King, as listed, PLUS 30 seconds of plank, Queen, as listed, PLUS 30 seconds of Mt. Climbers, leaving Jack as listed, PLUS 10 Burpees. I left the jokers in there too and that indicated a small rest period where the team could grab some water.

Needless to say, this was a tough workout but they loved it! I plan to do the DOC workout again before the end of the program but all the exercises will be different so ensure the element of surprise!

Thanks, Hard Bellies, for working hard throughout this entire program!
I hope to see you all consistently after Slim-it to Win-it wraps up to ensure continued results.

Training with a group is a proven strategy for sticking with a workout routine and is more economical than one-on-one training. If you are interested in trying a small group or large group training session contact Tony Maloney today to get started!

This blog was written by Shelli Kopetsky, NIFS Heath Fitness Instructor. Learn more about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: exercise weight loss workout personal training team training

NIFS SLIM IT TO WIN IT: Team Tank the Plankers!

Another year of Slim-It to Win It and team “Tank the Plankers” are holding strong! Five of the biggest highlights for the team are the following:steph-team-pic

  • Over half of the team has 100 percent attendance.
  • Everyone can hold a plank for at least 45 seconds.
  • Everyone has completed their food logs and made adjustments according to Angie’s feedback.
  • Everyone has completed their Functional Movement Screen and started completing their correctives.
  • Everyone has a great attitude every day.

Along with all of these great things, the team has completed  a wide variety of workouts successfully. One workout that was recently completed was the Partner 100 workout using the  TRX. The workout runs as follows. One partner completes one lap around the indoor track while  the other counts up to 100 reps of the exercise before proceeding to the next one. The exercises completed are listed here:

  • 100 TRX Chest PressSlim-It-logo2
  • 100 TRX 2-count Mountain Climbers
  • 100 TRX Rows
  • 100 TRX Squats

Although it was a very challenging workout both mentally and physically, everyone conquered it and even had a little energy left at the end to finish up with a sled push relay on the sprint lanes!

I will be sad once the program concludes because I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to work with this fun and hardworking group twice a week, but I also cannot wait to see how much progress they have made with all of their health and fitness goals going into this program.


Training with a group is a proven strategy for sticking with a workout routine and is more economical than one-on-one training. If you are interested in trying a small group or large group training session contact Tony Maloney today to get started!

This blog was written by Stephanie Kaiser, NIFS Heath Fitness Instructor. Learn more about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: nutrition group fitness group training nifs staff functional training NIFS programs Slim It to Win It TRX

NIFS SLIM IT TO WIN IT: Team “No Judgment”

Hey there, Fit Family! This is my second year coaching a team, and I have to say it has been just as exciting as the first. Team “No Judgment” has been working hard since week 1 with excellent attendance, high energy duringSlim it team workouts, and amazing attitudes. These characteristics fit right into the formula for success.

What excites me the most about my team is that they are driven to succeed and see real fat-loss results.

Inspired by Martin Rooney’s Metabolic Training

Martin Rooney said it best: “To be successful in life you must commit. If you freeze, you lose. There should be no halfway in anything you do.” Rooney is a fitness professional whose work focuses mainly on metabolic training, which relates to the idea of improving the work capacity of our cardiovascular system in a way that works more efficiently. I like to train this way because it helps you burn fat, build muscle, and improve stamina all at the same time! My team will tell you, it is challenging and requires a lot of hard work, but it’s also gratifying to complete each and every workout.

Another reason for training the metabolic system is that the majority of the exercises are dynamic and involve movement patterns that are common in our daily routine. An example would be the squat pattern because it mimics standing up from a chair or getting in and out of a car, which we all do on a regular basis.

The Fun Factor

Lastly, training the metabolic system should be hard, but it should also deliver a fun factor as well. You’re more likely to repeat a single workout when you leave the last workout having fun and feeling great about your accomplishments. So don’t forget, metabolic training is efficient and effective, and while it’s not easy, it can be Slim-It-logo2fun!

Lastly, good luck to all other Slim-It to Win It teams as we have one week left. The finish line is near! Try your best to stay committed to your teams, your goals, and most importantly yourself!

Regardless of fitness level or goals, almost every member at NIFS could benefit from Group Training or enrolling in a NIFS program. I highly recommend taking the leap! If you are interested in trying a small group or HIT training session contact Tony Maloney today to get started!

This blog was written by Cara Hartman, NIFS Heath Fitness Instructor. Learn more about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: NIFS fitness weight loss workouts NIFS programs metabolism Slim It to Win It


My Slim It team 2014 is called ‘The Blasters’ because we are blasting away the fat! So far my team has an average weight loss of 4 pounds per person and we still have some time left to blast some more. I’m very proud of my team for their hard work and attendance.claudia-team-pic

Throughout the program my team has learned one of my favorite exercises: the “pushup.”. It is a calisthenics exercise that can be performed anywhere and without any extra equipment needed.

Pushup exercises your whole upper body, including major muscles of the chest, arms, shoulders and your midsection as a whole. It’s a great way to increase your upper body strength and tightening your arms and waist.
For best results make sure to tightening your midsection to create a straight line from your head over your shoulder to your knees (or for advanced ones to the toes). Your whole body is lowered as one unit and also pushed back up as one.

The other thing I like about pushups is the big variety of this exercise. Here are just a few to name some:

In the beginning of Slim It, most of my participants performed their pushups with a shorter leverage by performing the exercise on their knees. Now most of them can do this exercise in a plank position. Great progression!

Now drop it and give me 20! 


Regardless of fitness level or goals, almost every member at NIFS could benefit from Group Training or enrolling in a NIFS program. I highly recommend taking the leap! If you are interested in trying a small group or HIT training session contact Tony Maloney today to get started!

This blog was written by Claudia VanArsdall, NIFS Heath Fitness Instructor. Learn more about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: NIFS cardio workouts NIFS programs core Slim It to Win It

The Injury Hurdle: Progressing Through Injuries

If you are a physically active individual, and I hope you are, at some point you will probably have to deal with an injury. Sprains, strains, pulls and “itis” of any kind at some point is a cost of doing business in fitness and performance. But does it mean that you have to put all progress on hold during the healing process? I believe that injury is not synonymous with inability. Let me explain.

Consult a Doctor for Exercise Injuries with Painexercise injury

First and foremost, I am not advocating disregarding any recommendations from your physician. If you feel pain in any movement, which can be discovered in a quick and easy Functional Movement Screen; or maybe you have suffered some kind of acute trauma; you should absolutely consult a doctor about that pain and follow the directions of that health professional. After you have taken those important steps, it’s time to evaluate what you are still capable of performing and put a plan in action that can keep you on track to health and physical fitness. In my personal experience and working with individuals for over a decade, there are ways to continue to progress while you are injured.

Depending on the type of injury (the body part, classification, and severity), you can focus on other aspects of your fitness that will not affect the rehabilitation of the injury.

Injury Scenarios and How to Keep Working Out

Here is a list of common injury scenarios and some tips to continue to get work done. Again, these are all dependent on the type and severity of the injury, and physician recommendations should be followed at all times.

 Type/Body Part

 Alternative Focus

 Exercise Examples

 Upper body (arms, shoulders, 

 Lower body, core stability and 
 strength, asymmetrical work,

 Body weight squat variations, 
 active leg raises, cycling

 Lower body (legs, hips, ankles)

 Upper body, core stability and
 strength, asymmetrical work,
 low-impact cardio

 Seated/lying dumbbell pressing
 or pulling exercises, arm cycle
 ergometer, rope machine, lying
 core activation

 Back (lumbar, T-spine,

 Hip mobility, shoulder mobility,
 core stability

 Foam rolling, hip stretches,
 planks, loaded carries

 Skeletal (bones)

 Low-impact movements,
 mobility and stability work

 Cycling, rope machine, cycle
 ergometer, Lying core stability

 Soft tissue (muscle, fascia,
 ligaments, tendons)

 Mobility and stability work

 Foam rolling, lacrosse ball
 T-spine mobility, band 
 hamstring stretch

The bottom line is simply that progress does not need to stop due to an injury and that you can focus your attention on parts of the body that are not affected by the injury. Keep it simple: if your arm is injured, focus on the lower body, and perform mainly primal exercises such as squats, lunges, and hinges. I remind you to follow the recommendations of your physician, and at the same time, seek out the advice of your fitness professional here at NIFS to help guide you through an injury.

Tony Maloney is the Fitness Center Manager and leads Group Training Sunday through Thursday. Follow Tony on Facebook. Learn more about the NIFS bloggers.


Topics: fitness center workouts functional training injuries pain