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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Plyometric Push-up Variations to Spice Up Your Workout

Hello NIFS Friends! With a show of hands, who loves push-ups? Well if you are one of those people who just isn't into push-ups (or if you are someone who just wants to spice up your workout routine), there is a wide array of push-up variations that can not only make you better at push-ups, but will also keep your workouts fresh and exciting. For these exercises, we are using a plyometric theme throughout.

Plyometrics are generally done with the lower body (think box jumps) to develop power through rapid stretching and contracting of a muscle group. Developing this type of power is great for athletes looking to gain a little quickness for their sport, as well as older athletes looking to maintain strength and muscle functionality. 

Give these exercises a try in your next workout and let us know what you think! Enjoy. 

  • Standard Push-up on boxes
  • Bias Push-up
  • Depth Push-up
  • Incline Push-ups
Plyometric Push-ups

 

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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: Thomas' Corner workouts exercises videos plyometric push-ups

Increasing Grip Strength Can Lead to Big Gains

Have you ever heard the saying, "You are only as strong as your weakest link?" This can apply to many facets of your fitness and wellness, but today we are going to look at Grip Strength as it pertains to overall upper-body strength and beyond.

Is Weak Grip Strength Holding You Back?

Thinking about some of the all-time classic upper-body exercises, such as bench press, pull-ups, and even bicep curls, we do not always associate grip strength as a reason we may have limitations or are unable to see quicker progress. Think about this: If your chest is strong enough to bench press 100lb dumbbells, but your grip strength is only strong enough to hold 50lb dumbbells, you probably are not going to be able to challenge your chest appropriately. You are only as strong as your weakest link.

How can you overcome this deficiency? One way is to start implementing grip strength training into your routine. Whether your goal is to open a jar of pickles or to tear a phonebook in half, improved grip strength has its benefits for nearly everyone.

Grip Strength Series

Grip Strength Exercises

Try these creative exercises to spice up your routine and get the most out of your workout.

Exercise 1: Barbell Open/Close Hand

Holding a barbell (size can vary depending on your experience level), stand with good posture. Slowly open your hand, allowing the bar to roll toward your fingertips. As soon as the bar is at its farthest point, slowly close your hand, returning the bar to the starting position.

Exercise 2: Machine Wrist Rolls

Using a cable machine, first attach a straight bar attachment. Stand with knees bent and body in an athletic position, keeping the back flat. Using lighter weight, allow the attachment to spin in your hands while under control. Make sure you go both directions!

Exercise 3: Towel Kettlebell Farmer’s Carry

Using two Kettlebells (one if you are doing a Suitcase carry) and two towels, begin by wrapping the towel through the handle of the kettlebell, creating a "handle" with the remaining towel. Grip the towel and carry the kettlebell with the towel. Maintain good posture, chest up and eyes straight ahead. Walk forward, turn, and walk back to the starting point.

Exercise 4: Bosu and Bodybar Wrist Roll

Begin by standing on a Bosu ball (or any unstable surface). Hold a bodybar at shoulder height and as far from your body as possible. Turn the bar in your hands; it should spin (not unlike accelerating a motorcycle). Make sure you do both directions.

See a NIFS Fitness Specialist to discuss how to improve your grip strength today! Enjoy.

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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: Thomas' Corner videos grip strength upper body BOSU

Training Movement Pattern Variations: The Push

GettyImages-891407532In my previous blogs I discussed the four movement patterns that all training fits into. I then went on to talk about scheduling a training plan using the four movement patterns. In this post I will discuss one of the more popular patterns: the pushing movement pattern.

What the Pushing Movement Pattern Does

The first thing we must discuss is what muscles the pushing pattern works and why we should incorporate it into your training plan. This movement pattern works the muscles of the chest, shoulders, and triceps. These muscles are all responsible for pushing objects away with your upper body. These muscle groups are the primary movers for activities of daily living: lifting items over your head, holding your kids, or pushing other shoppers out of the way on Black Friday.

Training the pattern instead of individual muscle groups is useful because of time efficiency. For gym-goers who don’t have two hours to spend at the gym seven days per week, it doesn’t make sense to train one muscle group per day. That would not be the best use of your time. Training one to two movement patterns will ensure that you hit multiple muscle groups with fewer exercises. The reason for this is that correctly chosen exercises can work multiple muscle groups at the same time.

Exercises for Pushing Movements

The following exercises, organized by muscle group, help you work the pushing movement pattern.

Chest

  • Pushups
  • Bench Press
  • Incline Bench Press
  • Decline Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Variation of all the movements
  • Machine Variations of all the movements
  • Pec Fly

Shoulders

  • Barbell, Dumbbell, or Kettlebell Overhead Press
  • Military Press
  • Push Press
  • Olympic Push and Split Jerk
  • Arnolds Press
  • Machine Overhead Press
  • Lateral and Frontal Raises
  • Rear Delt Fly

Triceps

  • Close Grip Bench
  • Skull Crushers
  • Dumbbell Kickbacks
  • Triceps Extension
  • Dips (bench, assisted, and bodyweight)
  • JM Press

Movements That Work More Than One Muscle Group

As I stated before, there is also some overlap in muscle groups with some movements. Unless it is a complete isolation move, there will be some muscle recruitment across the whole upper body. For example, the barbell bench press is primarily a chest movement; however, the lockout of the arms is dominated by the triceps. The role of the chest is to push the bar off the chest, but once it reaches a certain height, the triceps take over. The same can be said for any overhead pressing as well. This is what makes training within muscle groups so time efficient. Isolation movements are best left for the end of the workout.

For more information on how to properly progress and structure a training program, visit us at the track desk to set up a session. We are more than happy to help at any time, and as a part of your membership here at NIFS, you can receive as many free workout programs as you would like. Our health fitness professionals tailor all programs to your fitness goals.

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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: muscles personal training exercises movement patterns push

NIFS Supports Your Physical and Mental Wellness

GettyImages-1216431174The current COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything most have experienced in their lifetimes. The dangers of this virus are still real and need to be taken seriously. Even though it seems monotonous, it is important to recognize the importance of wearing a mask and maintaining physical distancing, because at times it seems the public is becoming numb to these terms.

We know that many people are still working from home as we are at the one-year mark of shutdowns. We all want to reach a sense of normalcy sooner rather than later. But with new stressors of the inability to “unplug” from work, balancing work within family life, and keeping businesses afloat that rely on in-person transactions for revenue, these times are arguably more stressful now than they have ever been.

What Is Wellness and How Can NIFS Help?

Wellness is the act of practicing healthy habits daily to attain better physical and mental health outcomes so that instead of just surviving, you’re thriving.

We want to encourage you to eat, exercise, and sleep like we are not in a pandemic. Plan a routine, eat on a schedule, set aside a time to increase your heart rate, and rest.  

We offer virtual personal and small-group training options as well as nutrition coaching to create your very own personal action plan. Our trainers can work with you at a time that is convenient for you from the comfort of your own home. In addition to tailored workout programming, we also offer a variety of group fitness classes livestreamed on Zoom weekly.

Why Is Prioritizing My Wellness Important?

Numerous areas of your lifestyle tie into your overall wellness. Those areas include social connectedness, exercise, nutrition, sleep, and mindfulness. Every single one of these aspects impacts your physical and mental health. To starts, consciously make one or two simple and healthy choices each day. Go on a walk, try new food, or call a family member or friend. Making small changes daily can lead you to a better-rounded and well-balanced lifestyle during the current pandemic. 

Implementing new habits that you look forward to can make a positive impact on your life. By consciously making the daily choice to be well, your actions will lead you on the path toward reduced stress, positive social interactions, and optimal wellness.

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NIFS wants to help provide you with the tools you need to be well both physically and mentally. Our facility is open with sufficient distancing, mask-wearing policies, and additional cleaning measures in place. However, we understand that in-person is not the best way we can serve everyone at this time. NIFS is meeting you where you are to support your wellness. If you want more information about online classes or online training please contact us today at 317-274-3432 ext 262 or by email.

Let us help you positively impact your well-being.

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

Topics: NIFS fitness center personal training small group training fitness and wellness physical fitness mental health covid-19 pandemic remote fitness virtual training

Push and Pull: The Ideal Workout Program for Restarting Training

GettyImages-1267535453Let’s face it: building your own workouts isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Sure, you probably strike gold a few times a year and the exercises you choose seem to be flawless, from the balance of muscle groups worked to the flow of the routine that you get into. There is nothing better than having that program that just seems to get the job done.


What Workout Program Should You Use When You’ve Taken Time Off from Training?

But let’s say that life happens and you took an extended time off from training due to school, work, or some other important reason (pandemic maybe?). So what now? Where do you go from here? The go-to for many individuals would be to jump right back into the same program they were doing before their long layoff. It worked great for them before their break, so it must be the best way to resume activity, right? More than likely, this might not be the most ideal situation to set yourself up for future success. When your body has become detrained from a long layoff, you run the risk of overtraining—which could possibly lead to those nagging injuries that linger throughout your rebuild process.

Find a Program That Balances Pushing and Pulling

To me, a GREAT training program is a delicate balance of “pushing” and “pulling” exercises. The general consensus of the “push-pull” method is that you alternate (or superset) upper-body push movements (for example, bench press, shoulder press) with upper-body pull movements (for example, bent-over rows, pull-ups). Even the great Arnold Schwarzenegger used this method to pack on loads of muscle when he was at the apex of bodybuilding. Now, are you Arnold? No. Are you trying to look like Arnold? Also no (more than likely). Below you will find another interpretation of the “Push-Pull” method that may better fit those who are restarting their exercise routine, or those who are looking to switch up their programming.

Benefits of Full-Body Workouts

As I mentioned before, the push-pull method often refers to two upper-body exercises from opposite muscle groups (for example, chest and back). The superior version (in my opinion) of this would be to couple either an upper-body push exercise with a lower-body pull exercise, or an upper-body pull exercise with a lower-body push exercise (see table below). This type of full-body workout allows for two main benefits:

  1. Ample rest time is allowed: While the upper body works, the lower body rests (and vice versa).
  2. There is potential for reduced soreness: Instead of hammering one muscle group for a ton of exercises, a more gradual stress is applied to the muscles over multiple workouts. It could also be a great option for returning to exercise or resistance training.

Movement Examples

If you think this type of workout might be what you are looking for, give it a shot. Choose one exercise from column 1 and one exercise from column 2. Alternate those two exercises for the desired number of reps and sets. When finished, either choose one exercise from the same two columns OR switch it up and choose one exercise from column 3 and one exercise from column 4. Remember, the ultimate goal is to match each push movement you perform with an opposite pulling motion.

Column 1 Column 2 Column 3 Column 4

Upper-body Push (chest/
shoulders)

Lower-body Pull (hips/
hamstrings)

Upper-body Pull (back)

Lower-body Push (quads)

Bench Press

Trap Bar Deadlift

Pull-Ups

Front Squat

Strict Shoulder Press

Slider Hamstring Curl

TRX Inverted Row

Step-ups

Half-kneeling Shoulder Press

Single-leg RDL

Band Face Pull

Lunges

Push-up Variations

Lateral Lunge

Seated Row

Split Squat

“Jammer” Press

Reverse Hyper

Dumbbell Reverse Fly

Wall Sit

 

Adjust Your Program Periodically

As with most workout structures, adding wrinkles into the program every so often will allow you to continue the muscular adaptations that are occurring and keep you engaged. That could mean an adjustment to the number of reps, sets, or rest periods you are currently using, or simply choosing different exercises. The ways that you can tweak this kind of program are endless, and I believe that with great effort, you will see positive changes in whatever physical adaptation or change you are after.

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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: injury prevention muscles training lower body upper body workout programs adaptations pandemic full-body pull push restarting workouts

Baby Steps to a Stronger Core

GettyImages-463173555Low-back pain is an issue with so many people who are spending entire days sitting to do work. Stretching and mobility work will help ease the lower-back pain, getting the muscles to relax and loosen. Here are some moves to get loose and then start to strengthen the core to keep the pain away.

Cat-Cow/Child’s Pose Mobility Move

Start on your knees with hands under your shoulders, with your toes curled. Using your breath, inhale; then exhale as you tuck your chin toward your chest; and round your low back toward the ceiling. Think about pushing your belly button to the sky. Inhale back to your start position, then exhale looking up slightly and dropping your belly button toward the floor. You are thinking of tilting your hips downward. Inhale back to your start, but reach your hands in front of you, extending the arms and flattening your feet. On your exhale, drive your hips back and enjoy the nice long stretch from your arms through the low back.

Go slowly with your breath for 4–6 rounds. If one position feels good, stay for a few breaths. You can do this multiple times a day and up to every day.

Bird Dog

Start on your knees with hands under your shoulders, with your toes curled. Extend one arm ahead of you and the opposite leg behind you. Think of someone pulling your arm forward and pulling the heel of the extending leg into the wall behind you. Hold for a 5 count. Do not be surprised if your balance is off. (If it is, it’s easy to fix by closing your eyes). Come back to the start position and switch to the opposite arm/leg combination.

Hold each side for a 5 count, with easy breathing. Do up to 5 per side most days of the week.

Plank

Start on your elbows and knees, with the body forming a nice line from your ears to your knees. Think of keeping your glutes tight, and bracing your abs. Build your hold up to 1 minute. If that is too easy, extend your legs and form a line from your ears to your ankles. Think of the same holds, breathing easily. Work up to 1 minute. Then add sets.

NOTE: many people with weak cores will feel some low-back soreness. If this occurs, do a body check: are you in a good line? If so, stay in the plank only until you feel discomfort. Try the other exercises listed and build up your core strength, slowly.

You can do this most days of the week but remember that all muscles need rest and recovery to get stronger.

Heel Touch

Lying on your back, bring your feet up with your knees at 90 degrees. Flatten the low back and keep it flat. Exhale and lower one leg until the heel touches the floor, raise back to start, and repeat on the other side. You may be surprised that it’s easier to keep flat on one leg. Keep working to get the sides even. Do 6–10 on each side. You can do this most days of the week, but remember that all muscles need rest and recovery to get stronger.

Lower back with Kris

There you go! Start (re)building your core with these moves. Stay in a pain-free range and use the exercises that you can do first, and then build to the more challenging ones later.

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Join Kris for her Core and More Fitness Master Class on Wednesdays at 11:15-11:45. Free to NIFS members, this class focuses on core and functional movement exercises with a fast finisher in a compact 30-min workout.

FMC_Kris_1080x1920

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This blog was written by Kris Simpson BS, ACSM-PT, HFS, personal trainer at NIFS. To read more about Kris and the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: yoga stretching core strength mobility core exercises core stability lower back pain low back pain

5 Places to Start Your Health Journey

GettyImages-522203403Let’s be real: a health journey is not always linear and not always easy. Sometimes it can be overwhelming and mucky. What do you do? Where do you start? What if you backslid and need to get back on track? There is so much to health, right? If you try to fix it all at once, you might become overwhelmed and at a greater risk of failure.

Small Actions That Will Have a Big Impact on Your Health

Start with the things that seem small but make the most impact on your health.In this blog I identify five areas that will give you the biggest results for your efforts. Spoiler alert: none require silly supplements, tummy wraps, or popular diets such as Keto or Paleo.

Get 7–8 hours of sleep each night.

Sleep is our body's cheat code for restoration, rebuilding, and recovery from all of the sources of stress. You can eat all the nutritious foods in the world and exercise for hours, but if you are not sleeping, hormone imbalance starts working against you and halts your physical goals.

Fun Fact: A study at UC San Francisco found that those who sleep less than 5 hours are 4.5 times more likely to develop the common cold compared to those who sleep 7 hours. So hit the hay and keep infection at bay! Your body will thank you later.

Manage stress and mental health.

We all have stress. It’s important to manage the stress instead of using negative coping mechanisms, such as overeating, sleeping all day, isolating ourselves, and falling into the “I can’t change this” trap.

YOU CAN CHANGE THIS. You can get through this, and you can manage the stress in your life. Coping has its place in the health cycle, but ultimately, we want to shift into the “stress management” part of the cycle sooner rather than later. Coping is when we put up with the stress, live with it, and accept that it’s just the way it is (nothing can “lessen” the stress). Managing stress is when we try to lessen the stress by adjusting our thoughts and actions; we find a way to make it better. Examples include music, therapy, exercise, time management, making lists, saying “no,” nature, yoga, meditation, stepping away from toxic relationships, and doing a hobby.

Start dialing in on your nutrition.

What we eat fuels our physical, mental, emotional, and social health. Because of this, nutrition can get a bit complicated sometimes. So, start with small but significant changes and build from there. My suggestion is to start by practicing the 80/20 rule and having a consistent meal pattern.

So what does 80/20 mean? We all know it’s important to eat nutritious, whole foods. But what about those foods we love that aren't necessarily the best for our physical health but are good for our mental and social health (such as sweets, chips, pizza, eating out with friends, holiday food, etc.)? It’s unrealistic to cut these foods and events out of our lives—let’s be real, we have all tried this and failed. It's time to find a balance, one that will still keep you on track for hitting your health and fitness goals.

Here are the #dEATS: 80% of your food intake should be from nutritious, whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, legumes, whole grains, and high-quality dairy (if you’re not lactose intolerant). The other 20% of intake (calorie intake) should be from the foods you love and can't live without, but maybe aren't the greatest for your physical health. Use this 20% when going out with friends once a week, enjoying a sweet treat every other day, or grabbing a small bag of chips to compliment your chicken sandwich.

If you have a calorie goal, track these calories and make them part of your regimen to meet your daily caloric goal. If you do not have a calorie goal, practice portion control. Regardless, be sure to have a consistent meal pattern (3 meals and 2 snacks daily). Remember, there is more to health than just our physical bodies. The two other realms of health are mental and social. Food plays a big role in all three realms that make up health. Therefore, you must have a food plan that meets the needs of all three.

Increase your daily steps or non-exercise activity.

Get up and moving. I know it’s hard to do this, especially for those with desk jobs. But take a 10–15-minute break to walk in place, stretch, and do some deskercise. If you can get out and take a walk with some coworkers during the day or your family at night, do that! This gets your body moving and your metabolism going. You may be surprised at what some extra movement does for your mental and physical health.

Exercise 150–300 minutes per week.

Aside from trying to move throughout your day, plan to exercise 150–300 minutes each week. This exercise should be moderate to high-intensity. Be sure to consult a personal trainer if you are unsure what is best for you. Find something you enjoy and start there.

Incorporate Changes to Your Routine and Then Build on It

These are some starting points. Pick a few and get started. Do not overcomplicate this. No, you do not need a fad diet. No, you do not need a ton of supplements. No, you do not need to overcomplicate the timing of meals or workouts. These BIG FIVE are some of the most important things you can do to improve your health. What you need is to find a routine with all five of these points and build consistency over time. Once these become a part of your everyday life, you can dig deeper into other things, such as supplements, meal timing, and specific exercise movements.

As always, NIFS professionals are here to help! Reach out if you need help implementing any of these big 5 health improvements.

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

Topics: nutrition healthy habits walking sleep fad diets healthy living steps health journey

Is Tempo Training Better for Overcoming Strength Training Plateaus?

GettyImages-rbhf_46Let me ask you a question. Have you ever hit a plateau in the weight room when it comes to increasing strength? What about when it comes to increasing power output (vertical jump, short distance sprint)? Well if you have, you are not alone. I know I have hit plateaus in the past and it can definitely be frustrating when you are not able to get past it.

The question I always asked myself was, “What am I doing wrong now?” Well it wasn’t necessarily that I was doing anything wrong. I followed the basic recommendations for strength gain (that being 2–6 sets of 2–6 repetitions). I used to follow those parameters religiously because that’s what I had learned early in my undergrad classes. What I didn’t know is that there are virtually endless ways to get past that plateau. I share my favorite here.

Traditional Strength Training

Let me first describe what strength really means. Strength is essentially how much force a person can exert—or to simplify that, how much weight a person can lift. Traditional strength training is lifting a certain amount of weight, typically about 80–95% of your 1-rep max by 2–6 sets of 2–6 repetitions (NSCA, 2016).

Tempo Training

Tempo training is essentially lifting a certain amount of weight for a certain amount of time. What I mean by this is that I can manipulate the amount of tension I want during each rep by how long I have my athletes either lower the weight or bring the weight back up. This type of training has been found to elicit more strength and power output gains than traditional strength training (Dolezal, 2016).

I can have my athletes train at two different types of tempos that will essentially give me the outcome that I desire, whether that be more strength gains or more power gains. The first tempo would be more eccentric based (lowering the bar during a squat, lowering the bar during a bench press, etc.). I typically have my athletes lower the bar for about 3–5 seconds and then explode up. The parameters I use, and that have been found to have the best results, are about 65–85% of their 1-rep max for about 3–4 sets of 3–6 reps (Dolezal, 2016).

The second method of tempo training I use is velocity-based training. This essentially means I have my athletes perform a certain amount of reps as fast as possible. This type of training has been proven to increase both strength and power output in both athletes and the general population (Banyard, 2019). Performing 3–5 sets of 3–5 repetitions at about 50–70% is enough to elicit these changes.

The Verdict: Which Strength Training Method Is More Effective?

In my opinion, tempo training is a much better tool to use versus traditional strength training. The reasons are that with traditional strength training, you really have to make certain you stay within the parameters. With tempo training, there is more freedom in how you train, as well as the additional benefit of improving power output and strength, whereas traditional training does not really increase power output (Banyard, 2019). If you’d like a more technical explanation of why tempo training is better, let’s meet up at NIFS!

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This blog was written by Pedro Mendez, CSCS, FMS, Health Fitness Instructor and Strength Coach at NIFS. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: nifs staff strength training strength and conditioning plateaus tempo training