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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Alex Soller

Recent Posts by Alex Soller:

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)

***

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

The Stay-at-Home Athlete: Build Your Home-Based Athletic Performance Program

GettyImages-868064764nIn a world where situations are ever-changing and a new “normal” is developing, athletes around the world are scrambling to adapt to their new training environments. For most, this new environment is where you are probably reading this now, your home. For the time being and for many people, traditional training methods of using barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc. have morphed into substitutions of paint cans, backpacks, gallon jugs, or just about anything that can act as the “resistance” that your body has become accustomed to using.

Am I Going to Lose Everything I Gained in the Gym?

The first thought you probably had when this situation came about was, “I’m going to lose everything I’ve worked so hard to gain in the gym.” I guess that because it was one of the first things that passed through my mind, and now I believe that a well-equipped gym is one of the most taken-for-granted things I had in my life. It was always there. I could do just about anything I wanted or needed to do there. If the work I needed to do didn’t get done, it wasn’t the gym’s fault; it was my own.

If the work I needed to do didn’t get done, it wasn’t the gym’s fault; it was my own.

So now what? You are at home, you have a minuscule amount of equipment compared to what you had before (here’s another blog with some basics to consider), and your motivation may be low. The easiest thing to do would be the bare minimum and hope for the best when you can get back to the gym. The right thing would be to figure out a way to adapt your program to your environment and change the “maintain” mindset to the “gain” mindset. And I’m here to help you do that. The following are the essentials I believe can help you construct your home-based workout and continue to build on the progress you have made in the gym.

The Four Home-Training Building Blocks

As a coach, there are four main training blocks that can be completed at a very high level from home: mobility, power, strength, and conditioning. Follow along as I break them down!

Mobility

For many athletes (yes, me included), mobility is an area where we can always improve. This part of training is often overlooked or not taken as seriously as it should be. I’m here to tell you, being at home gives you the perfect reason to make this a focal point of your training. I say this because for many mobility exercises (shoulder/t-spine, hip, and ankle exercises), a big array of equipment is not needed. A couch or chair can serve as a perfect platform for you to improve mobility with very little time or effort setting up.

Power

No matter what sport you participate in, power development surely plays an integral part in your performance. In the gym we use medballs, boxes, and barbells to help foster this development. But at home, you can simply use an open space in your home/garage/outside to do this as well. Many “ground-based” plyometrics can be performed with minimal, if any, equipment. You can use vertical and broad jumps (both one- and two-legged) and various plyometric push-up variations, which should provide your body that same “explosive” feeling you have learned to produce. For the jumping exercises, this is a great time to work on the most important part of the movement, the landing.

Strength

This section might pose the biggest challenge to you simply because the heavy weights you are used to using are no longer accessible. I’m here to tell you that with a little creativity, you can still make improvements. One of the easiest ways to make simple bodyweight exercises more challenging is to elevate one of your points of contact, i.e. elevating your feet for push-ups or putting your back leg up on a couch or chair during split squats. Using a backpack full of books can serve as the extra resistance during these exercises, so dust off your old heavy college books and repurpose them.

Remember this as well: it’s not always about using heavy weight with low reps. If you are used to training in this fashion, doing more repetitions will help with your strength-endurance.

Conditioning

I believe that cardiovascular or conditioning work should be the easiest for you to adapt to while at home. With the exception of some of the specialized equipment you use in the gym (sleds, bikes, etc.), a lot of the training you do during this block requires only bodyweight resistance. Circuits (wall sits, mountain climbers, burpees), running (long-slow distance, interval training), and core work (plank and side plank variations, glute bridge variations) can all be performed with minimal equipment.

Take into account your “work-to-rest” ratio, which is how long you work versus how long you rest. Depending on what intensity you are working at, how long you are working for, or what activity you are doing, these numbers can be adjusted to fit your current fitness level. Generally, the longer your rest periods are compared to your work periods, the easier it will be. If you are unsure, start with 1-minute work to 1-minute rest and adjust for each subsequent workout as the days pass.

Which Will You Choose: Continued Progress or a Downhill Slide?

I leave you with this: the duration of the new normal can go one of two ways, the continuation of progress and improvements of athletic areas you need to work on OR a downhill slide of progress that leaves you fighting to get back to your current athletic state for the following months or years. Which one will you choose? If the work you need to do doesn’t get done, it wasn’t the home gym’s fault.

If the work you need to do doesn’t get done, it wasn’t the home gym’s fault.

This is a new challenge that you should accept and meet head-on with the attitude that nothing can derail your progress and a drive to continue to improve. In a few months, let’s look back on these days with pride knowing that you did everything in your power to get better.

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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: exercise at home equipment endurance strength quarantine

Powerful Student Athlete Summer Strength and Conditioning Alternatives

Student athletes are home for their summer vacations. Some may spend a few weeks there and head right back to campus, while others might not return until the beginning of the school year in August. With them, they bring all of their necessities (furniture, clothes, etc.) from their dorms or apartments back to their homes, with the most important necessity to these athletes being their summer workout manual. This will be their strength training and conditioning guide for potentially the next 3–4 months. Simply put, these documents are critical for preparing their bodies for the upcoming season.

For me, getting the strength and conditioning manual from our coaches for the summer was always pretty exciting. Training was always something that I looked forward to doing (minus the 110-yard sprints for our conditioning test). I knew that as soon as we got back to campus, football season was only a few weeks away, so this was going to be really important.

What Happens if You Don’t Have the Right Equipment Back Home?

The biggest challenge that I faced during the summer months wasn’t necessarily due to the workouts themselves, but finding alternatives to exercises that were in our packets that fit with the type of equipment that I had access to. There were not a ton of training facilities in my hometown, and none of them had areas to do any type of Olympic lifting. They were more of the commercial-style gyms which would have only the basics (dumbbells, fixed bench-press racks, Smith machine, etc.). So training for any type of power or speed-strength with resistance was going to be a challenge. Luckily, I was a young Exercise Science major who saw this as a challenge and a way to learn and adapt to a less-than-ideal training environment.

A similar situation came about a few weeks back when I distributed the summer workout packets to all of my teams. One of my athletes contacted me and explained to me essentially the same situation that I was in from 2007 to 2011. She has access to a gym, but the facility does not have an area to do Olympic lifts, which are a staple in her team’s programming. Luckily, I understand much more now than I did back in my undergraduate years, which makes developing these alternatives easier.

Four Lifts and Their Alternative Exercises

Below you will find four common explosive lifts followed by an alternative weight-lifting exercise and a few tips on how to do them.

Snatch: Single-Arm Dumbbell Snatch

  • Dumbbell starts in front of your body with wrist facing outward.
  • Hinge forward at the hips to lower the dumbbell toward the floor.
  • Drive through the floor with your feet and jump straight up while simultaneously pulling the weight upward with a high elbow then punching it toward the ceiling.
  • Sink underneath the weight and control the catch.
MVI_8960

 

Clean: Dumbbell Clean

    • Start with two dumbbells outside hip-width with wrists facing outward.
    • Hinge forward at the hips to lower the dumbbells toward the floor.
    • Drive through the floor with your feet and jump while pulling the weight upward.
    • Snap the elbows underneath the weight.
    • The dumbbells should rest on your shoulders with elbows high upon completion.
MVI_8964

 

Jerk: Landmine Jerk

    • Start with a bar placed in a landmine attachment or supported by a corner wall with weight plates.
    • Start with feet parallel and bar close to the shoulder that you are pressing with.
    • Dip your hips slightly and jump up.
    • Split your feet so that the front foot is opposite the arm that you are pressing with and punch the weight upward.
    • Stick the landing.
landmine jerk

 

Box Jump: Landmine Squat Jump

  • Start with the bar placed in a landmine attachment or supported by a corner wall with weight plates.
  • Start with feet at hip width with the end of the bar slightly out in front of your body.
  • Squat and drive through the floor.
  • Jump as high as possible.
Landmine Squat Jump

 

These four variations on four common power exercises will give you some flexibility if the space you have to train in is tight or if equipment is limited. They could also serve as an alternative for some of you who are looking to switch up your program for a few weeks without completely straying from these exercises. As with many of the Olympic lifts, repetitions should be kept relatively low so that you can focus on being as explosive as possible. Have fun and get after it!

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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: NIFS fitness center equipment summer weight lifting student athletes strength and conditioning

Golf Warm Up: What You Should Be Doing BeforeTeeing Off

As promised, this video shows some great exercises you can incorporate into your golf warm up. You can do these exercises before hitting the practice range or teeing off. This warm up may help improve your stroke and even increase yardage on your shots, but more importantly, it will help prepare your body for activity and reduce the chance of injury when hitting the range.

Filmed at the world-renowned NIFS National Golf Course located just outside our back patio, I hope these exercises help you have a better round of golf!


Caddy Smack 3

Don't miss the other blogs in this series including:

“Caddy Smack”: Fitness Tips to Improve Your Golf Game

"Caddy Smack Deuce": More Fitness Tips to Improve Your Golf Game

"Caddy Smack 3": Strength and Power Exercises for a Better Golf Swing

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This blog was written by Alex Soller, Health Fitness Instructor and Athletic Performance Coach. Click here for more information about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: exercises golf core strength golf training warmup dynamic stretching

Caddy Smack 3: Strength and Power Exercises for a Better Golf Swing

caddy-smack-3.jpgAbout two years ago, I wrote the first Caddy Smack blog to inform NIFS members of the importance of rotational power as it relates to the golf swing, and exercises that can help improve it. Last year, I wrote Caddy Smack Deuce as the new and improved variation that took a look at different areas (including rotational power) that can help take you take your game to the next level. I also tried to hit a golf ball over the White River Bridge, which was an epic failure (must have been the winter rust on my swing).

Since that first blog was published, I have met probably close to 100 NIFS members, guests, and employees who share a similar interest and passion for a sport that I love. I’ve been out to play with a few members over the last year and try to play with my coworkers as much as possible. When I picked up the game about five years ago after college, I thought it would simply be something that I would do as a hobby to take the place of the hours spent on the football field and in the gym. Little did I know that the “game” would become a moderate obsession and a constant battle with myself to improve on the previous week’s score. And as I meet more and more individuals here at NIFS and at different courses, I realize that the obsession that I have now does not seem like it will be going away anytime soon.

No Two Golfers Are the Same

The most obvious observation that I have made from these years of being a strength and conditioning coach and watching individuals’ golf swing characteristics is this: no one is the same. There may be a few similar swings that you see on the PGA Tour or among groups of golfing friends, but everyone is going to get the club from the ground, to the back swing, to the down swing, to the ball in a slightly different manner. Most of the time, the person has molded their swing to what their body allows them to do.

My second observation is what the third installment of Caddy Smack is going to be based off of. And that is the idea that on any given golf course on any given day, there are no guarantees on what type of players will be present. Golfers can be young or older in age, tall or short, skinny or bigger, mobile or immobile (in the hips, shoulders, etc.)—characteristic combinations are endless!

Critical Strength and Power Areas

My goal for this blog is to bridge off of Caddy Smack Deuce but keep strength and power at the forefront. Below you will find four areas of strength and power that I believe are critical to the golf swing. Each area has three exercises (1 = beginner, 2 = moderate, 3 = advanced) to fit your current golf and/or fitness situation.

Vertical Power

Rotational Power

Hinge Strength

Pulling Strength

If you are not doing any of these movements (or similar ones), incorporate one from each category into one of your workout days during the week. Pick and choose between the degrees of difficulty as you become more familiar with the movements. Of course, all the exercises can be modified in different ways as well, so get creative. Remember that not every golf swing is the same, which applies to the gym as well. Find the right combination for where you are now and build over the next few months as you prepare to have the best golfing season of your life!

Check out my next video blog, which will cover a warmup that you will be able to do at the course right before hitting the practice range or teeing off. I will be filming at the world-renowned NIFS National Golf Course located just outside our back patio!

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This blog was written by Alex Soller, Health Fitness Instructor and Athletic Performance Coach. Click here for more information about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: NIFS strength exercises golf power golf swing

Mini-Marathon Training: 3 BIG Things for Running

mini.jpgNIFS' Mini-Marathon Training Program has started, with most individuals’ goals revolving around one thing: to run a new personal best. Come May, months and months of training will be put to the test against a tough 13.1-mile journey.

What are you doing to get ready? Many veteran runners of this race have programs that they have used year after year with repeated success. Some newcomers (or maybe even veterans) may still be searching for that training program that will allow them to reach their fastest potential. But where do you start? Obviously when preparing for a race (5K, half marathon, marathon, etc.), running will take up the majority of your training time. My only tip for the running aspect of your training is to be sure to utilize a running progression that fits your current training age (or level of fitness/training you are currently at). This will help ease your body’s adjustment into the longer distances as they build up over the next few months.

This blog focuses on the less obvious pieces of your running puzzle. Check out my “3 Big Things” to consider when preparing to race.

1. Have Your Functional Movement Screen (FMS) Done

FMS-5.jpgThis sits at #1 on the list for good reason. The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) can help identify different types of mobility issues and muscular imbalances. In my experience with runners, these issues are prevalent. These are also issues that can lead to a less efficient running stride, or potentially even injuries.

Think about it this way: do you get better, worse, or the same gas mileage when you drive your car with uneven tire air pressure? The answer is worse. Now think about it in terms of your body. If you have an ankle that is immobile, you will be spending your training time and the 13.1-mile race fighting that issue. If you identify that problem and improve its mobility (i.e. airing up the low tire pressure), the workload will be more evenly distributed between both sides of the body. This should allow you to run more efficiently and expend fewer calories per stride.

Did I mention that NIFS members can have this done at our facility, FOR FREE?

Learn More

2. Practice Self-Care/Recovery

It’s not uncommon to see a runner’s performance struggle not for the lack of an adequate training program, but because of what happens after training has concluded. What do you have planned for your off days or light training days? Do you even have off, light training, or recovery days? These are definitely factors that need to be addressed as soon as your training commences. Depending on your training age, these variables may be adjusted.

Training for any type of race is definitely going to be stressful on the body, so finding ways to optimize your recovery throughout your training program is paramount. Three main areas that I recommend that you focus on include the following:

  • Sleep: At least 6–7 hours.
  • Soft-tissue work (for example, foam rolling): Hips, calves, shins.
  • Low-impact/low-intensity movements: Cycling or swimming.

The ultimate goal throughout these areas will be to allow your body to prepare itself for the next intense training bout. Training at 60, 70, or 80% of your absolute best probably won’t yield the greatest return on your training sessions. Being closer to that top level will allow you to push yourself each training session and get the best results.

Did I mention that NIFS members can talk to a trainer about how to optimize your rest and recovery at NIFS’ fitness center, FOR FREE?

3. Do Strength Training

Some of you are probably looking at this with a “yeah, right” thought in your mind. If strength training is not currently in your running preparation program, I challenge you to add it. I’m not saying you have to be lifting weights 6 days a week. I’m not saying that you need to look like Arnold. I’m saying that a couple days a week of resistance training might be the key to take you to the next level. And no, you are not going to get big or bulky. Training frequency and the exercise selection associated with a strength program for runners will not yield those results. Bodybuilders train to get bigger. Athletes (runners included) train to prepare their body for their sport.

After mobility issues are improved from the FMS, I usually focus on a few main areas with runners that I strength train. Those areas include unilateral (single-side) exercises, lateral movements, and core strength.

  • Unilateral exercises allow the strength training to mimic stressors that are similar to running, which is also essentially a unilateral movement.
  • Variations of lateral exercises allow a runner (who normally only goes in a straight line) to develop strength in different planes of movement. This can be good for running efficiency as well as potentially reducing the risk for injury.
  • Lastly, and certainly not least, is core strength. Strength of the hips and abdominal area is key to maintaining your form throughout a race as well as reducing impact on the joints. Form and posture are vital to your performance while running, which will be enhanced by training these muscles.

Also, did I mention that members can have a strength-training program set up for you by a NIFS Health Fitness Specialist for free...

Free Fitness Assessment

Conclusion

There are a lot of ways to approach how you train and a lot of ways that can make you successful when competing for your running goals. Make small changes with your current program to start, and slowly add in more as you see yourself improve!

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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: NIFS running core strength recovery strength training functional movement Mini-Marathon Training Program foam rolling

Music as Motivation: Give Your Workout a “Tune-up”

ThinkstockPhotos-499628790-1.jpgIn a world where trying to gain a competitive edge is at an all-time high, everybody is searching for the next big thing to help bring their workouts to the next level. Many individuals end up using some type of ergogenic aid. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, an ergogenic aid is any substance, mechanical aid, or training method that improves sport performance. Dietary supplements and special equipment are two common avenues that athletes use (sometimes legally and, unfortunately, sometimes illegally).

Consider Music as a Motivational Aid

Do you use any ergogenic aids? You may think that you do not, but chances are you probably do. One of the most popular ergogenics that gym-goers currently utilize is music. “Music?”, you’re probably asking yourself. Yes. I know it does not really fall into the category of substances, mechanical aids, or training methods, but the music can have very similar performance-enhancing effects.

Do you listen to music while you work out? If so, what kind of music do you listen to? For me personally, music allows for a sense of focus to happen. I pick my favorite workout song (Guns N’ Roses: “Welcome to the Jungle”) and I find every bit of energy I have to push through a personal record attempt or final set of a hard training session. That is what training is all about.

In many cases, regardless of the type of exercise you perform, you must break the barrier that stands between you and that next step. Music also allows for a positivity to flow throughout your workout. It makes everything more enjoyable! Let’s face it: if every training session were boring and stagnant, how long would you continue on that program? My guess would be not too long. You have to enjoy yourself to some extent while you are busting your backside, and music might be a way to do that.

My Workout Music Preferences Survey

As I was contemplating music and this blog, I thought to myself, “Alex, does everyone listen to music when they work out? What kind of music do they listen to?” I decided to create a little survey that I sent out to the employees of NIFS to get the cold, hard facts about music. In total, 36 NIFS employees completed the survey. Check out the results below!

What best characterizes the type of exercise you perform most often?

  • Cardiovascular (i.e., running, biking, etc.): 16/36, 44.44%
  • Resistance training: 12/36, 33.33%
  • Cross-training: 4/36, 11.11%
  • Other (please specify): 4/36, 11.11%

Answers included: “Real work—kettlebells” (I wonder who that was), mental exercises, and combinations of resistance and cardiovascular training.

 What type of music do you generally listen to on a day-to-day basis? (not when working out)?

  • Alternative: 3/36, 8.33%
  • Blues: 0/36, 0%
  • Classical: 2/36, 5.56%
  • Country: 4/36, 11.11%
  • Jazz: 0/36, 0%
  • Metal: 1/36, 2.78%
  • Rap: 2/36, 5.56%
  • Pop: 11/36, 30.56%
  • Rock: 1/36, 2.78%
  • Classic rock: 2/36, 5.56%
  • Techno: 1/36, 2.78%
  • I do not listen to music: 0/36, 0%
  • Other (please specify): 9/36, 25%

Answers included: Folk, Christian, Dance/New Age, and combinations of the above genres.

 Do you listen to music while you work out?

  • Yes: 27/36, 75%
  • No: 9/36, 25%

 What genre of music do you listen to while you work out?

  • Alternative: 1/36, 2.78%
  • Blues: 0/36, 0%
  • Classical: 1/36, 2.78%
  • Country: 1/36, 2.78%
  • Jazz: 0/36, 0%
  • Metal: 1/36, 2.78%
  • Rap: 5/36, 13.89%
  • Pop: 11/36, 30.56%
  • Rock: 3/36, 8.33%
  • Classic rock: 1/36, 2.78%
  • Techno: 2/36, 5.56%
  • I do not listen to music: 7/36, 19.44%
  • Other (please specify): 3/36, 8.33%

Answers included: Skrillex, Dance, or “music in my soul OR Jerry’s loud music.”

 If you had to choose only one song to get ready for an intense training session, what would it be? (artist and song name)

Regardless of what type of music you listen to, try to make it part of your exercise routine. If you already do, keep at it. I think it will make your workouts more focused and potentially more fun. As the legend Lil’ John said, “Turn Down for What?” So turn up the volume and rock out with your weights out!

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 Note all songs are trademarks This blog was written by Alex Soller. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: NIFS motivation nifs staff workout music

Bored of Your Workout Program? Try a “Wild-Card” Week

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 2.12.51 PM.pngWe’ve all done it. New lifters, old lifters—everyone has experienced that week where your normal training program just doesn’t have the same motivation for you that it did in the past. Monday is chest-tri day, Tuesday is squat, Wednesday is back-bi, so on and so forth. No one is immune to this feeling, especially if you are as religious about following your program as many of the NIFS members are.


Would You Eat the Same Food for Every Meal?

Think about it in terms of food. Do you eat the exact same thing for each meal every day of the week? Some might, but I can guarantee it’s not the most enjoyable thing in the world. However, most people approach planning meals for the week with a slight variation on the meals they prepared the week before: similar main ingredients, but maybe with a different spice or two, which will make a world of a difference. (Mmmmmm, food. I’m getting hungry, so let’s get back to training.)

But what causes this? Why do you all of a sudden just not feel like doing your program for that day or week? The most obvious answer is the fact that you may have been on this program for multiple weeks. Mentally, you are drained from the regimen, and your body is telling you that it might be time to change it up.

I think this is one of the most common training mistakes. Your body is ready for a new challenge or stimulus, but you tell yourself to suck it up and do the same program for another two months. You have seen progress that you’ve made (and recently stalled) with that program and have a hard time thinking you will find anything better. I think many individuals stick to the same program for way too long. This leads to other weeks where you just don’t feel like completing what is assigned for that day.

How to Overcome Workout Boredom

So what do you do, decide to take a week off of training? Not recommended. What I do recommend is to have what I call a wild-card week. In a wild-card week, you choose exercises that work similar movements/muscles to what your normal program targets, but with different (or more fun) exercises.

Here are four typical exercise choices with a “wild” variation to each.


 

 

Remember, your training program should be enjoyable. That is what keeps bringing you back each week. Listen to your body when it is time to switch it up and don’t be afraid to add in a wild-card week to your workouts every once in a while!

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This blog was written by Alex Soller, Health Fitness Instructor and Athletic Performance Coach. Click here for more information about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: NIFS fitness center motivation workouts attitude training focus programs

Holiday Workouts for Traveling and Getting Ready for New Year's

ThinkstockPhotos-105756015.jpgHolidays are upon us and, for many, traveling is inevitable. For at least a few days you may be on the road, in a hotel, or at a family or friend’s home. What happens to your exercise and nutritional routines that you have built and finely tuned over the past year? Do you take a break from those routines, or do you stick to them?

Keep Your New Year's Goals in Mind

Fast-forward a couple weeks from now. Do you have any fitness or nutrition goals that you have been thinking about for the New Year? If you haven’t thought about them yet, what might they be? For many gym-goers, weight loss is the main goal. Has this been a resolution for past years? One last question: Why would you put yourself “in the hole” when it comes to diet and exercise before the new year even starts? I’ll leave your holiday nutrition information up to our Registered Dietitian Angie Mitchell and focus mainly on a few workouts and exercise habits you can use to put yourself in front of the eight ball rather than, you know…

Take Physical Activity Breaks While You’re On the Road

My first focus will be on something that many people probably don’t think about when traveling, which is the amount of time that you might spend in the car. For some, six- or eight-hour car rides each way await them. If passengers in your car are anything like the ones that are in mine during road trips, bathroom breaks basically come every couple hours. Use this time for, well, obvious reasons, like having a little physical activity break from the car ride. All you need is 3 to 5 minutes to get the blood flowing and burn a few calories after sitting in the car for so long. Bathroom breaks can be done after that.

Below you will find two physical activity breaks that can be done at a gas station or rest stop that will help break up some of those monotonous driving feelings.

Physical Activity Break #1                      Physical Activity Break #2

3 rounds:                                                    3 rounds:
Jumping jacks x30                                     Incline pushups x10
BW squats x15                                          Lateral line hops x20
Skaters x10/side                                        Lunge x10/leg

Two Simple Workout Programs That Don’t Require Equipment

Three years ago my finest reindeer, Tom Livengood, wrote a blog on exercises that you can do with limited or no equipment during holiday travel. I’m going to build off of Tom’s previous work and give you some exercise options to choose from when you are on the road. Here are two simple workout programs that shouldn’t take more than 20 to 30 minutes to complete and will “HIIT” (get it?) all of your major workout components during these hectic months.

Program 1:IMG_7854.jpg

Warmup (3 rounds)

  • Alternating reverse lunge x60s (photo 1)
  • Walking plank x30s
  • Step through w/rotation x60s

Strength/Core (3 sets)

  • Rear foot elevated split squat x15/leg(photo 2)
  • Wall plank x60s(photo 3)IMG_7842.jpg
  • Pushup xMax                                                                                 

HIIT (Every minute on the minute for 10 minutes)

  • Mountain climber x30
  • Squat jump x15
  • 1/2 burpee x5

Program 2:

Warmup (3 rounds)IMG_7859.jpg

  • Single-leg bridge w/ pulse x30s/leg
  • Side plank w/ rotation x30s/side
  • Plank reach x60s(photo 4)

Strength/Core (4 sets)

  • Lateral lunge w/ forward reach x10/side
  • Feet elevated pushups x10-15

HIIT (30s on/15s off: 12 minutes)

  • PushupIMG_7856.jpg
  • Step-up (30s/leg)
  • Cheetah

Elevated split squats and pushups can be performed with a chair, box, dog, child, or whatever…be creative!

If you have additional time, try your best to find a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, foam roller, can of cranberries, frozen water bottle, or SOMETHING to use for some soft-tissue work. I hear foam rolling while drinking eggnog is the newest fitness trend (kidding!). No matter what you choose to do, the number-one goal is to stay moving. Don’t let your active lifestyle take a “HIIT” (okay, I’m done) over these next few weeks.

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This blog was written by Alex Soller, Health Fitness Instructor, Athletic Performance Coach. Click here for more information about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: workouts holidays strength core traveling new year's HIIT

Get a Grip on It: Four Powerlifting Grips

Alex-grip.jpgOne of the most important (and sometimes overlooked) pieces of the resistance training puzzle could be right in the palm of your hands. Have you ever thought about the way you hold onto an Olympic or powerlifting bar? For some, the answer may be no. You may be worried more about other techniques, such as posture or breathing. For others, the answer may be yes. The effort you put into how you grip the bar may be your key to success in lifts such as the snatch, deadlift, and clean, among many other resistance exercises.

But how should you grip the bar? Are you sure that the grip you are currently using is the most ideal for that lift? Maybe a switch of grips is what you’re looking for to break through your current plateau.

Here is a breakdown of four grips and different ways that they can be used in the gym for exercises or other technique purposes.

1. Pronated (or Overhand) Gripovergrip.jpg

The pronated grip is generally the most common grip used during resistance training. You place the hand over the bar, dumbbell, or kettlebell with your knuckles up. Your thumb can either be wrapped around the bar (closed grip) or not wrapped around the bar (open or false grip). I would not recommend the open grip because you do not have full control of the bar. The closed grip allows the thumb to prevent the possibility of the bar slipping from the hands, especially during exercises where the weight is held above the body (for example, during pressing movements).

When to use a pronated grip: You can use a closed-pronated grip for pretty much every lift that you perform in the gym. I would recommend this for many of the pressing movements and for stability during the squat.

  • Bench press
  • Shoulder press
  • Barbell squat
  • Basically anything

2. Supinated (or Underhand) Gripunder.jpg

The supinated grip is the exact opposite of the pronated grip. The hands are placed underneath the bar so the knuckles aim backward or toward the floor. I generally only categorize the “closed” variation of the supinated grip versus the open/closed options in grip #1. The thumb being wrapped around the bar allows for maximum grip throughout any lift you are performing. I utilize this grip during many of my pulling movements.

When to use a supinated grip: You can use a closed-supinated grip as a variation for many of the main vertical and horizontal pulling movements.

  • Row
  • Inverted row
  • Chin-ups
  • Bent-over row
  • Lat pulldown

3. Alternated Gripalternate.jpg

The alternated grip is a combination of the preceding two grips. In the alternated grip, one hand is pronated and one hand is supinated. It is common for grip strength to be a limiting factor in your ability to lift heavy weight, especially when performing a pronated grip. The bar tends to roll out of the hands very easily, especially during maximal-effort lifts. The alternated grip places the hands in a more favorable position to prevent the rolling or slipping of the bar from the hands. This is also a useful grip to use when you are spotting someone, especially on the bench press.

When to use an alternated grip: You can use this grip for deadlift variations as well as spotting.

  • Traditional/Sumo Deadlifts
  • Spotting

4. Hook Grip hook.jpg

The hook grip is a nontraditional grip that can sometimes be difficult to master, but could yield great results in terms of the lifts you use it for. It is similar to a pronated grip, but the thumb is placed underneath the middle and index fingers. The benefits of this grip are similar to those of the alternated grip. It prevents the bar from rolling out of the hands because of the placement of the thumb and fingers. This makes it an ideal grip for heavy and explosive movements like the clean and snatch.

I recently finished a new certification course called the CWPC or Certified Weightlifting Performance Coach. This certification is based on two Olympic lifts, the snatch and the clean and jerk. I gained a lot of great information through that course, but one key piece of information that I took away to implement into my own training program was the use of the hook grip. I had previously used a closed-pronated grip for both the clean and snatch, but have switched to the hook grip over the past five weeks. I can definitely see improvement in my ability to grip the bar, but there was definitely a bit of a learning curve.

My main issue was the comfort of the grip itself. It was definitely not pleasant through the first couple of weeks; however, the last couple have been some of the best weeks that I have ever had in Olympic lifting. I feel like I have more control of the bar in my hands, and now I do not have to worry about the bar flying out my hands when the weight becomes challenging. If you can get past the discomfort through your first few training sessions, it will be well worth the switch.

When to use a hook grip: You can use this grip for just about any exercise, similar to the pronated grip.

  • Clean and Jerk
  • Snatch
  • Pullups
  • Deadlift

***

When choosing a grip, go with what makes sense to you. For many exercises, you have a variety to choose from. This just adds more options to your training regimen. By simply switching the grip, you are essentially switching up the exercise as well. Play around with them and see which one feels best!

For more on how to improve your grip strength, see this post.

Source: Baechle, T. R., Earle, R.W. (2008) Essentials of strength training and conditioning (pp. 326-327). Chicago, Illinois. National Strength and Conditioning Association.

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This blog was written by Alex Soller, Health Fitness Instructor. Click here for more information about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: NIFS weightlifting powerlifting grip strength grip