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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

CON-ISO-ECC: Muscle Contractions for Weightlifting Variations

GettyImages-1219375851Your return to the gym will likely mean a return to the program that you were originally doing before your extended break. Exercise selection, reps, and rest periods may be altered slightly after time off; however, eventually you will be back to your pre-quarantine strength and power, among other athletic traits. When you think about that program and how it got you to the point you are at or will be in the near future, do you also think about the steps you will take to further advance your abilities? I’m here to break down a few ways specifically within the muscle that may help give you the variety to your program you are looking for.

There are three main types of muscular contractions that can happen, each of which serves a specific purpose for muscular growth, strength, and power. They are

  • Concentric
  • Isometric
  • Eccentric

Concentric

Concentric muscular contractions are generally the most common type that individuals focus on during their training sessions. Concentric contractions involve the shortening of the muscle during an exercise. If you imagine a lift, say the bench press, the act of pushing the weight up from your chest actively shortens the muscle. The pulling of a bent-over row or the ascent of the barbell back squat all utilize this contraction. An uncommon variation would be to slow down the movement, for example slowing the pulling movement of the bar during a Lat Pulldown. If it normally takes you 1–2 seconds to pull down the bar, try a 5-count with the same weight. The intensity will greatly increase.

Isometric

Isometric contractions are an underrated variation that people most often forget about during workout planning. Instead of a shortening movement like the concentric contraction, the isometric contraction actually involves the muscle staying at the same length during the work period. A simple variation of this contraction is a wall sit. The muscle never changes length, but the tension and effort build over time.

But the quality of this contraction is found in much more than just wall sits. Almost any exercise can utilize this method. Here are a few of my favorite variations using isometric contractions. The intensity of the holds in these lifts can be dictated by either the amount of weight or the time you hold it for.

  • Split Squat Holds (hold split squat in down position with knee off the ground)
  • Push-Up Holds (hold push-up in the “down” position; try at different heights!)
  • Pull-Up Holds (either chin over bar or with arms hanging straight)

Eccentric

The last contraction variation in this trio is the eccentric contraction. This is commonly thought of as the lowering or lengthening of the muscle during an exercise. Going back to the bench press example earlier, the bar lowering to the chest would be the eccentric contraction. Where this method is most useful is during time-under-tension exercises where you increase the amount of time that you lengthen the muscle during the lift. These are all about control and can get quite intense.

Similar to the isometric contractions, time is everything. For example, when you do a step-up and are coming down off of the box, try to control for 3–5 seconds before your foot hits the ground instead of coming down right away. Here are a few of my favorite variations on eccentric contraction exercises:

  • Incline Dumbbell Press (lowering the weight slowly and raising it at a normal pace)
  • Slider Leg Curls (pushing feet out in a slow and controlled motion)
  • Glute Ham Raises (slow on the way down)

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The variations are not limited to this list. Feel free to get creative with any of your favorite exercises when trying out the different muscular contractions. Remember, time is your friend with any method you choose and can match any intensity you are trying to achieve.

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

Topics: workouts muscles weight lifting weightlifting exercises power muscle building strength training variety workout programs

Tips for a Healthy Halloween

GettyImages-1267397092Halloween is a day full of fun, costumes, treats, friends, and family! With all the food and candy, is it even possible to be “healthy” and still enjoy the festivities? The answer is YES. Take a look at these SPOOK-tacular tips to keep you and your family in good health.

Find a Balance

Halloween comes around once a year. It’s a time to feed your social and mental health, which may require easing up on the physical health guidelines for a moment. Remember, any decision you make for your physical health that comes at the expense of your social and mental health may not be all that great after all.

Let’s be honest, Halloween is FUN. The candy is FUN. Trick-or-treating is FUN. All this feeds our mental and social health. Plus, think about it: daily nutritional choices consistently over time have the greater impact on your health than nutrition choices on one holiday.

What does this “balance” look like? Keep reading.

Use portion control and omit the “off-limits” mentality.

All foods in moderation can fit into a healthy regimen. Instead of making candy off-limits, work it into your established routine. Still have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Make those meals nutritious, including fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins. At each meal, offer one serving of Halloween candy to everyone. Instead of the full-size pieces, make them like the “fun-size” or “snack-size.” This allows everyone to enjoy a sweet, while filling up on the nutritious foods that are important for physical health.

Make festive, healthy options.

On the day that you all go trick-or-treating, really get into the spirit! Make nutritious meals that are Halloween themed. Some examples include:

  • Green-goop smoothie with Halloween straws: Include low-fat Greek yogurt, spinach, chia seeds, pineapple, and low-fat milk of choice. Try this recipe.
  • Monster teeth: Slice a green apple. Smear peanut butter on one side of a slice (bottom lip of the mouth). Stick yogurt-covered raisins in the peanut butter. Smear a little more peanut butter on another apple slice and place on top of the raisins for the top lip.
  • Boo-nana pops: Cut bananas in half and place a stick in the end as a handle. At the tip of the banana, add two chocolate chips as eyes. Serve frozen, cold, or at room temperature.
  • Devil spiders: Make deviled eggs. On the top, put an olive in the center for the spider’s body. Then put slices of olives around the outer edge of the egg for the legs.
  • Cute pumpkins: Peel Cuties/clementines/mandarins. Slice celery into small sticks. Place a celery stick at the top of each mandarin for the pumpkin stem.
  • Yo-yo graveyard: Scoop nonfat Greek yogurt into cups. Crumble some chocolate cookies on top (just a thin layer to cover the top) for the dirt. Write “Boo” on graham crackers for tombstones. Place one tombstone in each yogurt cup.
  • Spider sandwich: Make a sandwich of choice. Cut the sandwich into a circle. Place chocolate chips as the eyes (use peanut butter to help them stick). Use pretzels as the legs, sticking them into the bread or middle of the sandwich, with the tips sticking out.
  • Ghost cheese sticks: Get individually wrapped mozzarella cheese sticks. Take a sharpie and make black dots for the eyes and a block dot for an open mouth. These make perfect snacks while you are out and about trick-or-treating.

This ensures everyone is filling up on nutritious options high in fiber and protein, which leaves less room for tons of candy. Now, do not mistake this for “NO ROOM” for candy. There is still room, but not as much. You are just making sure everyone is properly nourished and still having fun in the process.

When you get home that night, enjoy a few pieces of candy with the kiddos, then put it in a non-accessible place. You are in control of when and how much the kids get. You are also in control of when and how much you get as well. Refer to what I said about portion control to plan your approach here. Remain consistent so that you and the kids both have a clear understanding of when candy will be served. For example, one individual piece will be served with each meal. It gives both you and the kids something to look forward to and does not make candy off-limits, but instead teaches proper portion control and provides a positive relationship with all foods. In the long run, this reduces binging or obsessing over any one food.

Stay active.

One of the best things you can do is to get everyone moving and active. Be sure to get in a workout on the big day, even if it is a quick 20-minute HIIT session at home, or try this spooky workout. Get the kiddos moving with you! Walk from house to house instead of driving during trick-or-treating. Go on a walk in your costumes if you are not trick-or-treating this year. Or just go on a walk in your regular clothes and enjoy all the house decorations. You can also play games:

  • Monster Tag: The tagger is a monster and anyone they tag becomes the monster.
  • Monster vs. Ghost Freeze Tag: If the monster tags you, you become frozen until one of your ghost teammates unfreezes you. The goal is for the monster to freeze all the ghosts!

ENJOY HALLOWEEN!

Have fun with your family. Soak in the moments. Laugh a lot. Feed your mental and social health, knowing it will benefit your physical health in the long run and that choices you make consistently over time matter the most. Stay safe.

As always, reach out to your NIFS Registered Dietitian if you need some holiday nutrition support.

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This blog was written by Sabrina Goshen, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: staying active healthy eating holidays kids sugar halloween

A Breath of Fresh Air: The Many Health Benefits of Being Outdoors

GettyImages-1191767354We have all heard the old sayings about fresh air and how it affects your well-being. It usually comes in the form of sage advice and sounds like something you can take with a grain of salt, but is there truth to this advice? There are times in our lives when we might not even see the sun, whether it’s because of our careers, lifestyles, or by choice. Although these reasons may have validity, there is some very good research that supports outdoor activities as a viable way to improve your overall health.

Are You Making the Most of Your Time Outside?

Of course you go outside as part of your daily routine, but are you making the most of your time outside? How can you make that time more productive? The reasons for going outside are numerous, whether it be for work, hobbies, recreation, exercise, or relaxation.

Health Benefits of Being Outside

During the daytime, sunlight can have some positive impacts on your body such as Vitamin D activation (and its wide range of benefits, like helping with everything from osteoporosis to decreasing depression). Researchers at Harvard University have laid out five important health benefits from being outdoors:

  • Vitamin D enhancement: Benefits include disease-fighting properties, weight-management properties, and mental wellness properties.
  • Opportunities to exercise: Being outdoors allows for a higher probability for physical activity and putting your body into movement.
  • Mood enhancement: Light and fresh air have been shown to improve your mood. Smiling more also doesn’t hurt!
  • Concentration and focus: Fresh air has also been shown to help individuals living with ADHD.
  • Healing: Some studies have shown that individuals who had surgery or were experiencing pain had a less stressful experience when exposed to sunlight and fresh air.

How to Get Outside More

There are many opportunities to immerse yourself in outdoor activity. Simply going outdoors for a walk around the block is a great way to get the ball rolling. As you grow your outdoor experiences, you can branch off toward the many facets of wellness and fitness. A bootcamp workout with friends, reading a book by the canal, and walking your dog are just a few of the activities waiting for you outdoors. Don’t limit it to yourself; include others and inspire them to go outdoors with you.

As the summer continues, being outdoors becomes a highlight of the day. At NIFS, going outdoors to exercise could not be simpler, especially with the abundance of space and scenery at your fingertips. Several classes offered at NIFS, including NIFS Bootcamp, take advantage of open space near and around the facility. For more information about NIFS and exercise opportunities, please feel free to reach us at fitness@nifs.org or through our social media.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: summer outdoor vitamin D relaxation outdoor exercise mood health benefits

Finding Community in Group Fitness

Screen Shot 2020-10-20 at 11.38.06 AMDo you want to be part of a community and hold yourself accountable while working out? Group fitness classes just might have what you are looking for!

Group fitness has been around for decades. Many probably remember classes such as Jazzercise and aerobics that were common in the 1970s and ‘80s, followed by Tae Bo and step aerobics in the ‘90s. Not much has changed in the realm of group fitness except the current trending workouts. Today, group fitness participants enjoy Zumba, Barre, CrossFit, as well as Pilates, yoga, and Boot Camp formats. Nevertheless, all group fitness classes have essentially the same benefits.

Benefits of Group Fitness

What are some of the benefits of group fitness? Group fitness…

  • teaches you motivation and to push others to be their best
  • adds variety to your workout
  • supplies you with people to work out with
  • leads to positive competition

As the Group Fitness Coordinator here at NIFS, I have witnessed firsthand throughout my years of experience that group fitness communities are unlike any other. I have developed lifelong friendships with those who have pushed me and held me accountable. As an instructor, there is no better feeling than watching others achieve their fitness goals. I look forward to my "regulars" in my classes, and often over time they feel like family. The community of group fitness is not just people who work out together, but also individuals you enjoy spending time with as a de-stressor from daily life.

Group Fitness Is Where You Need to Be

If you are looking for a group of likeminded individuals who enjoy setting goals, exceeding expectations, and using each other as motivation to complete challenges, group fitness classes are exactly where you need to be. I look forward to seeing you participate in our group fitness offerings here at NIFS! 

Try a Class for Free!

There are lots of options when it comes to group fitness classes. Come try one of our classes for free!

GF_E-news Header 1This blog was written by Payton Gross, NIFS Group Fitness Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: stress group fitness accountability competition fitness community group fitness culture friendship

Make Training Less Complex with More Complexes

Screen Shot 2020-10-13 at 12.56.26 PMAs 2020 rolls on, a good majority of us are back to work and back inside the gym. If you are like me, with a busy, on-the-go lifestyle, you probably don't have more than an hour to get inside the gym and train. Lucky for you, that’s okay!

By training with a full-body routine utilizing complexes, you can spend less time in the gym and still see the results. This not only saves you time in the gym, but it also allows for more time with family and friends, all while seeing the results you want. One way to accomplish this is through a barbell or kettlebell complex.

What Is a Complex?

A complex is a series of movements that are performed back to back in which the set number of reps is done for a movement before moving to the next. A complex can be performed with a barbell or one or two kettlebells/dumbbells. Each movement within the complex should flow into the next one. A good way to achieve this is to start from the ground and work your way up.

How to Build a Complex

Any number of reps can be done for each movement. The more movements within the complex, the fewer reps you will want to complete for each one. A complex consisting of four to six movements should be kept at one to five reps per movement. If your complex is only two to three movements, you can use higher reps. Some examples of complexes include the following:

Barbell 1

  • Row x 1–5 reps
  • Deadlift x 1–5 reps
  • Hang Power Clean x 1–5 reps
  • Front Squat x 1–5 reps
  • Push Press 1–5 reps

Barbell 2

  • Deadlift x 3–6 reps
  • Clean x 3–6 reps
  • Press x 3–6 reps

Kettlebell or Dumbbell 1

  • Pushup x 1–5 reps
  • Row x 1–5 reps
  • DL x 1–5 reps
  • Clean or Snatch x 1–5 reps
  • Squat x 1–5 reps
  • Press x 1–5 reps

Kettlebell or Dumbbell 2

  • Pushup x 3–10 reps
  • Row x 3–10 reps
  • Swing x 3–10 reps
  • Squat x 3–10 reps

I recommend completing two to three rounds, but you can also work up to as many rounds as possible with good technique. Within each complex there will be a movement that limits the weight for the entire complex, and it is better to start the first round with a weight you think will be too light.

For example, the movement that will decide your weight in Barbell 1 above is the push press. The deadlift might feel easy, but that is okay. By the end of the complex you will be happy you did not go as heavy as possible. Try to do the entire complex without setting down the weight to rest, and remember to complete all of the reps for one movement before moving on to the next movement.

 

Why Should I Implement Complexes?

These complexes are an amazing full-body tool that you can use if you are running low on time for your session, or if you have limited days per week you can come in and train. They are also a great way to add additional volume to your workouts, or can even be used as a finisher at the end to build resilience and touch up your conditioning. If your goal is to be better conditioned, adding a sprint or jog component at the end using pieces such as the echo bike, rower, ski-erg, or SPARC trainer can provide a nice cherry on top of an already stellar total-body workout.

Give these complexes a try to get your blood pumping, and let us know how they go! If you need any technique tips or complete workout programs, come visit us at the track desk for more information on what we offer and how to get that set up!

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This blog was written by Evan James, NIFS Exercise Physiologist EP-C, Health Fitness Instructor, and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: workouts weight lifting weightlifting kettlebell weights strength and conditioning workout programs full-body complexes efficiency

Fitness Professionals Aren’t Perfect, Either!

GettyImages-685849082nThere’s always an assumption that fitness professionals work out 2 hours a day, 7 days a week. They eat healthy all day long and never have any junk food. Basically people think that we are perfect and never make mistakes. I have been in the health and fitness industry for more than 10 years now and I can honestly say that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Now, before anyone thinks I’m ratting out other trainers or telling you all we don’t practice what we preach, let me explain.

We Are Actually Humans, Too!

I know it’s hard to believe, but we are human; we make mistakes, we have cheat days, we indulge a little, and we even skip workouts from time to time.

Take a look at a conversation I had with one of our trainers at NIFS:

Ashley: How often do you work out?
Lauren: About 5 days a week.
Ashley: How long do you work out for?
Lauren: Anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes. If it’s conditioning, it’s much less.
Ashley: Do you have cheat days? Exercise or nutrition?
Lauren: I try to have cheat meals or situations. I try not to have it be the whole day. In the past, I would have cheat days, but they would turn into a stream of days. So I basically try to allow myself to have something sweet occasionally, so that I don’t fall way off the rail. And there are days where I fail at that, but that’s the goal.

We Aren’t Perfect in the Kitchen

I know this might come as a shock to some of you, but the truth of the matter is, we aren’t perfect when we eat, either. As if the world and our lives aren’t filled with striving for perfection as it is, why would we want to make the kitchen another stressful place?

I say all that to tell you this: it’s okay if you have a little extra of something one day. It’s okay if you have that piece of cake when you are celebrating yourself or someone special. It’s okay to have a “cheat meal.” It’s okay to NOT BE PERFECT.

If it happens, don’t beat yourself up about it. Be aware of it; Learn from it; and move on! The next snack, meal, and day will be better because you came out of the previous situation aware and stronger.

Tips for Staying on Track

Consider the following tips to help you take it easy on yourself, but also keep yourself motivated to stay on track.

Use a Planner

If you are someone who needs to stick to a schedule, plan it out. Write down your meals for the week, plan your schedule around when you can work out, and write down the day and time you will be able to work out. Keep on a schedule!

Provide Rationale

Understanding your “WHY” should be your biggest motivator. I encourage you to write down your reasons why you want to eat healthy and exercise, and keep it someplace where you will see it and can refer back to it for a motivational reboot.

Build Accountability

There is strength in numbers! Try creating more accountability. Tell family, friends, or coworkers about your goals. If you’re out to lunch with them, they can help remind you of what your goals are. They may even join in with you, and you will have created a community that’s trying to become healthier!

***

We would absolutely love to see you at our fitness center and set up an appointment with you. There are so many tools to assist in your training, nutrition, weight loss, and strength training goals! We aren’t perfect people, but we do have the tools for greatness and want to share them with you.

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, NIFS Program and Weight Loss Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercise nutrition motivation weight loss accountability NIFS programs

Sports and Games: Socially Distancing and Still Having Fun

GettyImages-1193671199During this 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic, have you found yourself looking out your window and wishing that you could be enjoying sports, recreational activities, and exercising? In the not-so-distant past, we could spend seemingly unlimited time playing pick-up games of basketball with our best buds or head down to the gym and join our favorite yoga class, packed with like-minded individuals. Unfortunately, with social distancing being more and more prevalent in society, we have to not only limit contact sports, but also allow enough space so that others can safely participate in the activity, leaving classes no choice but to limit size or cancel altogether.

If you are one of these individuals that need sports and exercise in your life, there is good news! There are many activities you can participate in without putting yourself in harm’s way or interfering with someone else’s space. Here are several options that could help you become more active and socially distance at the same time.

Tennis

Although tennis is a two- to four-person game, the court is large enough to share and still be sufficiently socially distanced. Tennis is a great game to improve total overall body health from cardiovascular capacities to strength development to motor skills.

Pro Tip: Avoid the end-game “high-five” and instead try one of these creative new celebrations (such as these replacements suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Disc Golf

Disc golf, a game played with a Frisbee-like disc, is quite popular because it can be played in wide-open outdoor areas, which allows for social distancing while still being able to have a friendly competition with your pals. Although disc golf may not be as physically active as tennis, you can benefit from other elements such as hand-eye coordination and positive stress relief. Check out the Professional Disc Golf Association website for information ranging from disc golf courses near you to pro tips to get the most out of your experience.

Kayaking

For those who enjoy the water, kayaking can provide numerous health benefits, most notably cardiovascular health. Like traditional cardio, you will most likely receive more benefits with increased efforts. You can expect to get a healthy dose of upper-body strengthening as kayaking uses the back, arms, shoulders, and chest. Possibly the best part of kayaking: when you are finally finished and are ready to cool down, you can take a quick dip in the water! You do not have to own a kayak; there are many outfitters in central Indiana that can provide kayaks, safety gear, and paddles for your excursion. Check out KayakingNear.me for exact details.

While limiting our workouts seems unavoidable, always remember that there are many activities available to keep your interest and your fitness at peak level. Keeping you moving and exercising, all while being as safe as possible, is one of our top goals. NIFS is committed to fitness and safety alike. Feel free to stop by and see a staff member at the NIFS track desk to schedule an appointment for a fitness evaluation, a workout program, or just to discuss your favorite socially distanced activities and sports!

As always, muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: Thomas' Corner sports watersport pandemic tennis kayaking disk golf social distancing socially distant

Shouldering the Load: Safe Alternatives to the Overhead Press Pattern

_68R6419In my experience over the years working with folks from all walks of life to help improve their strength, mobility, performance, and overall fitness I have found that so many suffer from immobility in two major joints: the ankle and the shoulder, which is the focus of this piece. Lifestyle, occupation, inactivity, and overtraining are all culprits robbing so many of healthy range of motion in the shoulder and shoulder girdle.

Throughout the history of fitness and muscle, one of the sexiest exercises is the overhead press (OHP). The overhead press is used as an assessment of one’s strength, it’s involved in the popular Olympic lifts and many activities of daily living, and it feels pretty darn good to lift something heavy up over your head. With so many variations that can develop strength and stability in the upper body, the overhead press can be a phenomenal tool in a training toolbox.

Questions to Ask Yourself

There are many benefits to the overhead press exercise, but what if you suffer from immobility in the shoulder or have suffered an injury that has made the vertical press pattern difficult or painful? There are some options for you that can keep you safe while reaping the many benefits of the vertical press movement pattern. Before we get to those, however, I’ll ask a couple of questions.

What are your desired fitness outcomes and goals?

“If you think it, INK IT!” is a practice I learned long ago from a great coach, and for years I have been insisting clients write down what they hope to accomplish along their fitness journey. If you don’t know where you want to go, it will be difficult to formulate the map to get you there. Take the time to reflect, develop, and write your fitness goals before starting any fitness program.

How will the overhead press exercise help you get there?

Pretty straightforward question: how will the overhead press exercise help get you to where you want to go? Depending on your goals, the OHP may play a major role, or it might play a minor role in your success.

How do you know whether you should be including the overhead press in your training?

Once you have established your fitness outcomes and how the overhead press can assist in obtaining those outcomes, it is important to determine whether the overhead press is a safe exercise to include in your training. Your best first step is to complete a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) that will provide some crucial information to your fitness programming. First and foremost, the FMS, specifically the Shoulder Mobility Screen, will determine whether there is pain involved with the overhead position. If there is pain, you will need to see a medical professional to tackle that before anything else should happen.

A score of 1 on the Shoulder Mobility Screen signifies that, among other things, you should exclude overhead pressing from your training until the pattern is cleaned up and you are no longer scoring a 1 on the screen. A score of 2 or 3 means the vertical pressing motion can be included in your training safely. Schedule your FMS with one of NIFS instructors today to ensure you are able and safe to include the overhead press exercise in your programming.

Overhead/Vertical Press Options

Once you have your screen from your NIFS certified pro, you now know where you stand to shoulder the load. If you are cleared to press overhead, I say have at it and press on! But if you are directed to stay away from strict overhead pressing, here are a few options that can provide many of the same benefits from the overhead press while working in a safer shoulder space.

  • Landmine Press: 1/2K and Standing
  • Landmine Arc press: 1/2K and standing
  • Incline DB press: SA and double arm
  • Jammer Press

Screen Shot 2020-10-01 at 11.52.08 AM

Shoulder health, strength, and stability are so important in training and, more importantly, everyday living. The vertical press options here are great ways to continue to bulletproof your shoulders, and the best first step is to get screened and take care of your shoulders prior to heavy loading. One simple and highly effective way to tackle shoulder health is to add the “dead hang” into your training program. Learn more in Lauren’s recent post covering this effective drill. Stay shoulder safe!

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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: shoulders injury prevention muscles weight lifting strength exercises videos mobility upper body stability overhead press shoulder mobility