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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Is Your Weight Belt Really Helping You?

GettyImages-993462726If you are like most people who enjoy lifting weights, you probably have worn a weight belt or own a cool one that helped you get that new squat max deadlift PR, But did you really NEED it? Most of the time we follow what we see others do, which is fine, but remember: everyone is different, and you could be slowing down your own progress by cinching that belt on extra tight every time you feel the need to go heavy.

What Exactly Is That Weight Belt for, Anyway?

A weightlifting belt serves to assist in creating more intra-abdominal pressure. The belt provides the lifter reinforcement when they breathe-brace or create pressure in the torso by exhaling and contracting the abdominal wall before externally loading the spine (picking up the weight). However, if the lifter does not breathe-brace, and instead tries to create pressure by tightening the belt too much and or bulges the abdominal wall out to touch the inner ring of the belt to feel secure, the abdominal pressure is significantly less, stability of the truck and spine is decreased, and now that weight belt is more of corset (a fashion statement) than a lifting tool.

Am I Saying You Should Stop Using a Weight Belt?

No. If you do not have trouble bracing and lifting without a belt up to 80 percent of your 1-rep max, you can stop reading. However, try testing your ability to breathe-brace first, before you determine your need for a weight belt. You can even put this breathe-brace activity into your warm-up to make sure everything is good to go.

The Breathe-Brace Test

Supine

  1. Lay flat on your back with legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Place one hand on your belly, and the other on your chest. Take about four deep breaths. The air can be inhaled through the nose and exhaled through the nose, or in through the nose and out the mouth through pursed lips. On each inhale, use your belly to make the hand on it rise as high as you can (hopefully higher than the hand on your chest). When you exhale, blow out as much air as you can while pulling your belly in tight (the belly hand should sink toward the floor).
  2. Once you have done four deep breaths, take one more, and this time when you exhale, as you blow the air out and the belly hand sinks toward the floor, contract your abdominals (you may even notice a tilting of your rib cage down toward your belly button) as you use your belly to push the air out. If you can stiffen your abs without bulging your belly out, you’ve got it!

Prone

  1. Lay flat on your belly with legs straight. You will need something soft to place under your belly (an ABMAT or folded towel) because it will replace your hand in this method.
  2. You can place your hands down at your sides, long above your head, or use them as a rest for your forehead.
  3. Similar to the supine method, take about four deep breaths. While inhaling, push your belly out to feel the mat underneath you. When you exhale, blow as much air out as you can by pulling your belly in tight away from the floor.
  4. Finally, take one more breath in. This time, as you blow out and pull your belly away from the mat, contract your abs. You may again notice your rib cage tilting down slightly toward your belly button.

This breathing method is encouraged by yoga enthusiasts, but is very effective in the weightlifting realm as well.

Once you have mastered the method on the ground, try doing it while standing. Then take it to the lifting platform or rack. You will notice over time you have more stability, and less spinal flexion and extension throughout heavy lifting, and you are now strengthening the muscles you need to brace and stabilize your spine before using a weight belt. Mastering your breathing and core control will make it easier to find the correct tightness on your weight belt when the time comes.

Don’t Use a Belt to Work Around a Problem

Lastly, we all should have the goal to move without assistance from any sort of crutch or brace, and a weight belt should not be used to work around a problem simply to lift heavy. Work on your breathe-brace skill, and you may only need your weight belt for those big-time lifts, and of course to show off occasionally!

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This blog was written by Keith Hopkins, MS, MA, CSCS, USAW. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: equipment weight lifting weightlifting breathing heavy lifting

Stiff Hips? Try Hurdle Stretches

GettyImages-1243955198I wish I had a dollar for every time a coach has said to me, “That athlete has stiff hips,” or “That athlete folds over at the waist,” etc. So how do I help an inefficient athlete with stiff hips? I use simple hurdle stretches that train my athletes to bend.

Many times it’s an athlete with long legs and a short torso. I wish I was more consistent in hurdle stretches with my athletes, but in the perfect coaching world, I would use them at every strength workout and have an extra set of hurdles near the practice fields/courts for use before practices.

Hurdle stretches are great because you can complete four to six stretches in less than five minutes. A hurdle stretch routine is helpful before and after activity. It’s also great for efficiently training a large group of athletes if you have 10–12 hurdles separated into two different lines of 5–6 hurdles.

Set-up some hurdles at NIFS and take yourself through these drills to loosen up those “stiff hips.”

Hurdle Stretches

 

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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: NIFS fitness center strength stretching exercises coaching athletes

Life’s Simple 7 for Heart Health

GettyImages-1280587810Did you know that cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death? According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease. About 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year—that's 1 in every 4 deaths.

It’s because of this fact that the American Heart Association (AHA) has poured millions into heart research and producing guidelines to help people not only manage heart conditions but prevent them, too. One initiative by the AHA that has been around is the Life’s Simple 7 for heart health. Life's Simple 7 is defined by the American Heart Association as the 7 risk factors that people can improve through lifestyle changes to help achieve ideal cardiovascular health. Let’s take a look!

Life’s Simple 7

  1. Manage blood pressure. High blood pressure can put strain on your heart, arteries, and kidneys, leading to heart disease and stroke. Both exercise and nutrition can help here. Nutritionally speaking, be sure to watch your sodium (salt) intake, keeping your intake at 1,500–2,300mg per day. Also, eat plenty of fruits and veggies to get fiber!
  2. Control cholesterol. When cholesterol levels are high, plaque buildup causes clogged arteries. This also leads to stroke and heart disease. For healthy cholesterol levels, it is important to manage total fat intake and eat a balanced diet. Fat intake should make up about 20–35% of total calories. Of those fats, be sure that the bulk come from unsaturated sources, such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds. 
  3. Reduce blood sugar. Everything we eat turns into sugar (aka glucose), but glucose is most readily available in the carbohydrates we eat. Our bodies use this glucose for energy. Now, carbohydrates and glucose are important! However, just like everything else, we want to find a balance. Chronically high levels of blood glucose can be damaging to the heart, eyes, nerves, and kidneys. If you struggle with high blood sugar, be sure to consult your Registered Dietitian, Primary Care Provider, and Endocrinologist. The team can come up with a care plan to manage your blood sugar.
  4. Get active. Living an active life comes with far more benefits than just heart health! But for heart health, it is recommended to exercise 150–300 minutes per week at a moderate intensity level. Outside of that time, be sure to stay active by going on walks, doing yard work, taking “standing breaks” from sitting down, and stretching.
  5. Eat better. A balanced and nutritious diet is always a game changer. The things we put into our bodies matter. When you eat a nutritious diet, you are giving your body one of the best weapons to combat cardiovascular disease. This goes both ways, though; when we eat junk a majority of the time, we are opening the gates to a plethora of chronic diseases.
  6. Maintain a healthy weight. To be honest, I wish this said “maintain a healthy body composition.” Current research shows that body composition (fat mass and lean body mass) is far more indicative of risk for chronic disease than total body weight. Maintaining healthy body fat levels and adequate lean muscle mass reduces the burden on your heart, lungs, blood vessels, and skeleton.
  7. Stop smoking. Cigarette smoking is one of the leading risk factors for cardiovascular disease. If you do smoke, consider sitting down with your healthcare team and coming up with a plan to quit. Like everything, this is absolutely your choice, but do be aware that smoking drastically increases your chances of heart disease.

Take It One Step at a Time

Now, if you are anything like me, you may be thinking “that is not ‘simple.’” Trust me, I agree. That is my only critique of these guidelines. It is not that simple. These things take work and time; I do not want to downplay that. My suggestion is to pick one at a time and work on it. Then, once you have that down, move on to another. Keep repeating this until you feel like all your bases are covered and heart-healthy lifestyle habits are in place.

NIFS Can Help

As always, NIFS professionals are here to help! We have certified personal trainers to assist in getting active (step 4); a Clinical Registered Dietitian who can assist with eating better (step 5) and blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol control (steps 1–3); a weight-loss program for step 6; and health coaches to help with navigating lifestyle steps to stop smoking. All of these can, in turn, lead to healthier cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels (steps 1–3). Please reach out if you need anything! We are here to help keep you and your heart healthy. 

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

Topics: exercise weight loss healthy eating personal training heart disease hypertension heart health blood sugar smoking cessation quitting smoking

“Be My Valentine” HIIT Workout

_68R1966-1Love to workout and need a date idea for Valentine’s Day? We have just the workout for you!

  • AMRAP in 30 seconds followed by a 1-minute rest after each exercise
  • Equipment: 2 “heavy” dumbbells, 2 “light” dumbbells, and a yoga mat
  • Total Time: ~ 20 min

Circuit #1

  • Dumbbell Thruster (squat with an overhead press)
  • Glute Bridge (option for dumbbell on hips)
  • Russian Twist (option to add dumbbell)
  • Alternating Side Lunge with Forward Shoulder Raise

Repeat circuit twice

 Circuit #2

  • Renegade Row (push-up on dumbbells with alternating single-arm row)
  • Dumbbell Floor Press
  • Burpee
  • Forward Lunge (option to add dumbbell)

Repeat circuit twice

Spread the love and share this workout with your Valentine!

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This blog was written by Payton Gross, Group Fitness Coordinator and Barre Above Instructor. Learn more about the NIFS bloggers here.

Topics: workouts holidays circuit workout HIT exercises programs HIIT workout buddy circuit training valentine's day

It’s the Season of Fitness, “They” Say! Be a Smart Fitness Consumer

GettyImages-stk327021rknI am amazed at how many times I have heard and continue to hear people try to make a point by saying “they say,” as if just making that statement somehow makes whatever follows true. It would seem, based on how frequently people claim “they” say something, many of the advancements of human civilization somehow can be traced to the research done at the University of They. However, searching through PubMed and other science journals, I have never found a listing for the University of They. Hmm!

We’re Being Bombarded by Questionable Fitness Products

As we are bombarded by the seasonal fitness, diet, and wellness commercials on TV shows, I marvel at the the sheer worthlessness of the products, diets, and books they promote with a straight face. They ignore the realities of physiology, systems biology, and biomechanics in their quest to separate you from your money. Timing is critical for their quest. The post-holiday period, when people feel bad about the weight they have put on, is the time to strike. Also limited daylight, cold weather, and people being housebound give their commercials even more impact. They know spring is coming and customer motivation will melt with increasing temperatures and longer daylight hours. The commercials and online promotions become a blizzard of ego-seeking missiles.

Listen to a Fitness Insider About TV and Internet Claims

To help you stay objective and perhaps save some money and time, I offer the following account from someone on the inside of the fitness industry:

Jose Antonio, PhD, is a noted nutrition researcher and commentator whose work often appears in bodybuilding publications. Because of this connection, more “serious” researchers frown on his work and are not shy about criticizing him. At a National Strength & Conditioning Association conference several years ago Jose Antonio was a featured speaker, and the audience filled a large room with a lot of other PhDs ready to attack him. They considered him a white-coat sellout for an industry of questionable ethics and therefore guilty by association. I made a point of attending this reenactment of the gunfight at the OK Corral, just for the fireworks.

Dr. Antonio was ready and disarmed the would-be attackers by simply stating that he was a responsible scientist doing the best he could to keep the industry from crashing the guardrails of reason whenever he could. But what he said next has stayed with me for all these years and has had a tremendous impact on how I view the fitness industry. Antonio stated that the fitness industry is a lot smarter than we are about how to separate us from our money. They know that the motives for fitness, weight loss, and wellness are linked to the ego, and that rational decision-making can be turned off like a light switch if the right “hot button” can be pushed. They focus on claiming that whatever they are selling will make you bigger, faster, stronger, thinner, or prettier—quicker. He said if they get your attention with one button, your resistance is weakened and you will start to reach for your charge card. If they get two hot buttons, its a done deal.

TV and online promotions have a set pattern. They use the pattern because it works. It begins with an attention-grabbing headline/claim that seems too good to be true. That is followed by a “story” that you can identify with and a statement of validity usually connected with science or medicine. Testimonials from people just like you quickly follow. Depending on the media, TV ads will “call for action” very quickly. Online promotions take more time and sell at a slower pace. Both forms rely on “limited-time” discounts and add-ons to push the viewer to a quicker purchase commitment.

If It Seems Too Good to Be True…

Now, you are armed and ready to resist. Just remember: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you feel drawn to a headline or claim, ask yourself why. What hot button did they find? What outcome do you desire?

Question whatever science is offered, and the credentials of their “white-coat” spokesman. Pause long enough to research the concept. You will be better informed to make a decision, and your ego-driven emotions will have an opportunity to cool down.

If you’re still interested after a break, go back and look at it again, only this time from a calmer and more centered place. At least now, the ad that created urgency will not have the same emotional grip making your fingers clutch your charge card. The buying decision will come from a calmer place.

And finally, when you hear... “And they say...”, ask who “they” are!

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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 fitness trends fad diets new year new you commercials fitness claims fitness products

The Culture of Group Fitness

Screen Shot 2021-02-02 at 11.47.30 AMGroup fitness is so much more than doing the same workout as everyone in a group of others. Research on people who participate in group fitness classes has shown that participants work harder in a group setting than they do in solo workouts because of their subconscious thoughts.

Find Motivation and Accountability

There is a driving force within group fitness that makes you think that if the person next to you can push through something such as the challenging 45-second plank, you can too. Group fitness classes are a safe space where participants can push themselves to complete a workout alongside others who are right there with them. When a participant completes the challenging metcon of the workout alongside others, they inevitably feel a sense of community or connectedness because they did that together.

If I were to describe the type of culture present within group fitness, I would say group fitness classes are comprised of motivated individuals who use positive social stimulation to make their workouts better.

Meet Likeminded People and Work Together

Group fitness for many is a crucial aspect of their daily socialization. Friendships made in the gym are strong because of the shared fitness. Sharing a hobby with someone can be the foundation of a great friendship outside of the group fitness atmosphere. Friendships within the world of group fitness can be a healthy motivator to work harder in every workout. No matter your strength or fitness, there is a place for your within group fitness. Everyone there has the same goal as you: to complete the workout and have a good time doing it. Don’t be afraid to share your goals with the group because, in the end, you'll have more friendships and workout buddies to conquer challenges with.

Your Workouts Are Already Planned for You

Another pro of attending group fitness classes is that you do not have to think or plan your workout. Just show up and allow our certified instructors to lead you through a structured warm-up, killer workout, and dynamic cool-down. In addition to a planned workout, the instructors are also there to cue you into the correct form to prevent injuries and push you to get the most from your workout. What more could you ask for? You get a free workout plan, motivation, and a group of like-minded individuals to do it with you!

Check out our monthly group fitness schedule and try a new class today either online or at NIFS!

Group Fitness Schedule

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

Topics: motivation group fitness workouts group training accountability group fitness culture social aspects