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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Alex Soller

Recent Posts by Alex Soller:

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

The First Rule of NIFS Barbell Club: Talk About Barbell Club

Today marks the beginning of our Barbell Club here at NIFS. This is a free Olympic and Powerlifting program for anyone who is looking to:

  • barbell.jpgImprove performance of one or multiple lifts
  • Improve technique
  • Learn the basics about the lifts
  • Do all of the above
You may have years of experience with these different types of lifts, or you may never have attempted or thought about attempting them in your life. Regardless, everyone can benefit from what the program has to offer. As NIFS coaches, we have great experience coaching these movements in safe and effective ways that take you through the progressions. The importance of this is paramount due to the fact that the ballistic nature of many of the movements requires injury prevention. When you think about weightlifting in terms of a food chain, Olympic and Powerlifting are the king of the jungle.

What Movements Will You Learn?

Here are the movements that may be coached during your session:

  • IMG_7315.jpgClean (Hang or Power)
  • Clean and Jerk
  • Snatch
  • Deadlift
  • Squat
  • Bench Press
How Can Barbell Club Help You?

As one of the coaches of the NIFS Barbell Club, my plan is to help out with any individual questions that members may have. If you’ve been around these lifts in the past, you know that there are many details that go into making the movement safe and successful. One of my favorite tools to use is slow-motion video. Many people have done these lifts for years and have never seen themselves do it on video. This can give you an idea of your bar path as well as visual cues with posture (head/foot position, and spine angle).

Another tool that can help you achieve your goals will be advice in programming. You may have been working on a lift for months and have made steady progress but have recently plateaued. Where do you go from there? After ensuring that your technique looks sound, my next goal would be to give you a few ideas on other lifts that you can perform to improve the main lift. For instance, you want to improve your snatch and have failed for the past 2 weeks at 93kg. Instead of continuously failing at 93, how about adding a few sets of “snatch pulls” at that trouble weight or even higher? This will help your body start to adapt to handling that amount of weight.

Can New Powerlifters Join?

But what if you have never attempted to do any Olympic or Powerlifting movement? Are you still allowed to attend? Absolutely! Beginners are my favorite individuals to instruct in these techniques because they have no preconceived notion of what the lift is supposed to be. We will help you learn the basics of the movement and let the session lead to wherever it may. As a beginner, the goal is not to be doing a full snatch or clean and jerk on day 1. More than likely, you will not be able to absorb enough knowledge within that one-hour session to do that. Instead, our goal is to build the foundational movement pattern that will allow you to excel in future training sessions.

No matter your experience level, come give Barbell Club a shot. Did I mention that IT’S FREE? You have nothing to lose and a wealth of knowledge to gain!

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

Topics: NIFS group training NIFS programs injury prevention weightlifting safety personal training powerlifting

Three Summer Training Lessons for Athletes

ThinkstockPhotos-491816300.jpgSummertime is in full swing, and whether you are a competitive or recreational athlete, changes are definitely happening to your normal schedule. For high school and collegiate athletes, more time is spent at home and for general fitness enthusiasts, more options are available to you to fulfill your exercise quota (in other words, doing more things outside). These are both extremely important changes that can be used to alter a routine that has lasted for the past 8 or 9 months of your life.

Student-athletes have been juggling class, competition, and training. Amateur athletes have been working (real jobs), training, and competing as well. When early spring hits, most individuals are sick of that stagnant routine and are looking to switch it up, which is why summer is welcomed by most with open arms.

Summer can also be a time when many physical aspects (such as power, strength, and speed) can decline if adequate “maintenance” of those aspects is not applied. The increase in other opportunities during summer can sometimes lead to a leniency of training that might do more harm than good.

Here are 3 things that I have learned over recent years as a strength coach, trainer, and collegiate athlete to hopefully help minimize this detraining effect.

1. Don’t focus on too much at one time.

Every summer when I would go home from school, I had a list of 5 or 6 things that I felt like I had to get better at. Each training session, I would have a ton of thoughts about how I could make those things better. Of course, I had a training packet from the football team, but felt like I had to do even more. I had to get faster, more agile, stronger, more flexible, and in better shape. At some point, I was doing more thinking about what I had to do to get better than just working hard with what I had.

Even today, I send workout packets home with each of my athletic teams. The goal, obviously, is to continue to improve their physical and mental toughness. But for some, I just want to make sure that they don’t totally fall off of the bus with all of their training. I aim to keep workouts short, sweet, but challenging. They usually focus on sport-specific training aspects for each individual team (for example, single-leg strength for runners, and rotational power for softball players). I want to make sure that the “bread and butter” of the sport remains at the forefront.

2. Get creative.

Being creative in the gym during the summer months may be due to two things:

  1. Your gym doesn’t have the equipment you want (or need) to do specific exercises, or
  2. You are looking for alternatives to exercises you already do.

If your gym doesn’t have specific pieces of equipment for exercises that you are looking to do, think about what that exercise is trying to accomplish. For instance, your workout program might call for a kettlebell swing, but your gym has no kettlebells. Think about what the target muscle is for that exercise and plan an alternative. The main muscles in the KB swing are the glutes, so doing a weighted hip bridge or a Romanian Deadlift might suffice as an alternative. Sure, it’s not a perfect match, but it’s better than not doing it at all!

If you are simply looking to get out of the monotony of your 4-day split routine, you have a ton of options. Say Tuesday is considered your “squat” day, but you want to take a break from the barbell work you have been doing. Good news: You can squat with just about anything in the gym. Kettlebells, sandbags, slosh pipes, medballs, and weighted vests are just a few options that can give you that much-needed break from your regular program. Also, try switching up the reps. If you are used to doing 5 sets of 5 reps, try a workout where you do 5 sets of 20 or 3 sets of 50. It will definitely give a little shock to your system.

3. Don’t forget what summer is for!

Every competitive athlete, young or old, constantly thinks about their sport and how they can improve their performance. For most, there is no such thing as an off season anymore. There is never a chance to truly take their mind off of what they compete in, which can lead to burnout after a couple of seasons. Summer is meant for unwinding from heavy workloads, in class or with jobs. Mental and emotional recovery are just as important as physical recovery. If your mind has not recovered from the past year of training and competing, it will be very hard to devote the same amount of time and effort to the next season.

You still need to train for your sport, but post-training activities are a good way to unwind after a hard workout. Go to the lake, go fishing, go golfing: do something that allows you to enjoy the summer. You will only have a few months of opportunities like this. Work hard, play hard!

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

Topics: summer training strength power speed off-season athletes student athletes

The Importance of Post-Season Active Rest

ThinkstockPhotos-78322425.jpgOver the past six to eights weeks, I have been creating summer workout manuals for the teams that I work with during the school year. These manuals are meant to bridge the strength and conditioning gap between the time they leave for summer break and when they return for the fall semester. There is much to be gained, or lost, through a summer of hard work (or lack thereof). Although summer break is a true “break” for most athletes academically, there never really is a true break for training.

Many of the teams I work with are spring sports. Their seasons begin a couple months after the turn of the year and may not finish until after school is out. They go from the playing field, track, course, or court, back home where family, friends, and summer jobs await. Being spring sports, their summer usually begins with a recovery period that occurs when their competitive season comes to a close. The components of this recovery process include mental, emotional, and physical aspects that need to be met in order to fully prepare for the next bout of training and the following season.

For the sports that I work with, the first portion of the training calendar for the post-season is called active rest. Active rest is an approximately two-week period where the athlete performs light physical activity at least two to three days per week. These physical activities should have nothing to do with the sport that they participate in. Think about it: after spending six to seven days per week over the past four months participating or thinking about their specific sport, the last thing many individuals want to do is continue to do just that. Although this is the sport that you may love, getting away from it for a short period of time can do wonders.

Taking a Break from Training

Active rest can mean a lot of things, and the best part is the fact that you basically have free reign over what you choose to do, as long as you are staying active. This gives you the opportunity to choose something totally unrelated to your sport and do it for the next few weeks.

I would recommend that the intensity of the activity you choose not climb above “moderate.” The low to moderate style will allow adequate blood flow to working muscles, which will help promote physical recovery of the muscles that were taxed so much during your competitive season. Another recommendation I would make would be to limit the amount of impact (foot strikes) you have during this period, especially if your sport requires a large amount of impact. This will allow your body to recover from the constant “ground and pound” that you might have during track, tennis, or softball season.

Active rest is also a good time to incorporate corrective exercises from the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) that your coach or trainer gave you. These exercises focus mainly on mobility and require very few pieces of equipment for the most part. Spending two to three weeks working on any muscular imbalances that may have developed during the season will give you a leg up when you begin your intense off-season training program in a month or so.

Active Rest Recommendations

Following are my top 5 recommendations for the rest period of your training:

  • FMS corrective exercises
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Bike/elliptical/arc trainer/rower
  • DO SOMETHING FUN!

Physical recovery is definitely important during this time, but recovery of your mental and emotional well-being may be just as or possibly more important. Let’s face it—any competitive season has a multitude of ups and downs, which creates an emotional rollercoaster that could send anyone through a loop. You have spent 48 out of the past 52 weeks preparing or playing your sport. You owe it to yourself to do something a little different and come back refreshed for the preparation for the next season.

If you have any questions about how to set up active rest for your post-season training, or need help constructing an off-season training program for your sport, contact me at asoller@nifs.org. To read more about setting up training programs for athletes, see my blog series that begins here.

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

Topics: training sports recovery functional movement post-season rest student athletes

How to Build Training Programs for Competitive Athletes (Part 2)

In part 1 of this blog, I explained training periodization, and talked about the first two macrocycles: off-season and pre-season. Now I’ll talk about the remaining macrocycles: in-season and post-season.

In-Season

ThinkstockPhotos-100324402.jpgOnce the competitive season begins, scheduling time to get in to lift is a lot more difficult due to the practices, games, and travel that are happening. To me, in-season lifting is sometimes undervalued in the competitive/athletic world because of the fact that the primary focus is to win games or matches, not lift weights. However, I believe that this is one of the most important (if not the most important) times during the year because of what lifting can do for the athlete throughout the competitive season and into the off-season.

The goal of in-season lifting is simple: maintain what you have built in the off/pre-season and make sure that no muscular imbalances develop. This is not a time to try and increase your squat or bench by 50 pounds. It is a time to make sure that your body stays healthy and you are able to preserve the muscle, strength, and power that you have built throughout your season. Doing this will not only keep you healthier for your sport, but will also set you up for better long-term development during the subsequent off-season. Think about it: If you lose the vast majority of strength, power, and muscle mass you’ve built over the in-season, you are basically starting at square one when the season is over. If you are able to preserve 85% of that strength and power, you are starting further along than you were the year before, which allows you to make bigger gains.

Recommendation:

Training Frequency: 2 days per week
Mode: Medium Sport Specificity
Volume: Low

Post-Season

When your competitive season comes to a close, there should be some time to relax and recover from it. Take time and reflect on how you performed and what you could have done to be better in different aspects of your activity. Start creating a plan on how to improve those things once your training ramps up again.

As for training during this period, it should still happen. Your body is still recovering, but you want to make sure you do not totally fall off the map by not doing any type of exercise or physical activity. This is a perfect time to play or participate in some other sports or change up your weightlifting routine. You basically have free reign on your choices under one circumstance: get away from your actual sport/complete lifting routine.

This macrocycle does not last long, but it is an important one. You have been competing for months and want to avoid being burnt out on the sport you love, so getting away will be good. Do something different; just be active. After 3 to 4 weeks of light activity, you can begin your off-season program and start the quest to better yourself for the next competitive season.

Recommendation:

Training Frequency: 2 to 4 days per week (light activity)
Mode: Low Sport Specificity
Volume: Low-Medium

***

Overall, there is no exact science that is going to work perfectly every time when you are building your own training programs. You will always need to make tweaks, even to the best programs around. This blog provides the framework for developing a solid program, but the devil is in the details. You want to make sure that you have everything planned out as you progress through the competitive season. Some things may not go as planned, but that is okay. The ultimate goal is to make you the best athlete you can be in the sport or activity you are doing!

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

Topics: NIFS mini marathon training weightlifting competition post-season programs off-season athletes athletic performance

How to Build Training Programs for Competitive Athletes (Part 1)

ThinkstockPhotos-dv484081.jpgWhen putting together a program for anyone, client or athlete, you always want to have an idea when you would like to peak, or be at your best throughout that calendar year. For Mini-Marathon runners, May is the time to be at your best. For football players, you want to be firing on all cylinders when August rolls around. The structure of your training should be based around when your season is going to begin, to make sure your body is prepared to last the duration of the competitive months. Regardless of when you are competing, your training should never remain totally the same throughout the whole year.

This concept of training periodization has been around forever. It was developed by a physiologist named Leo Matveyev around the 1960s. By definition, periodization is a preplanned, systematic variation in training specificity, intensity, and volume organized in periods or cycles within an overall program (see Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning). Periodization can build the general framework of how you might want to structure your workout programs through your training year.

For our sake, I am going to refer to these periods or cycles as macrocycles. Macrocycles are the biggest of the divisions of training timeframes throughout your competitive year. They can be filtered down to smaller variations (mesocycles—smaller, microcycles—smallest), but we will stick to the biggest ones for now. This will allow you to get a general idea about the main goals for each macrocycle.

There are four macrocycles that will be divided up throughout the year. These are the following:

  • Off-Season
  • Pre-Season
  • In-Season
  • Post-Season

In this blog, I talk about the first two macrocycles. In my next blog I will talk about the final two.

Off-Season

The off-season is always one of the best times of the year to train. This is a time when you can focus on building strength but also implement some training modes that you might not use during the other phases of development (for example, flipping tires, boxing, swimming, and so on). I also like to use this time to assess the success of the programs I have used over the past year to see what helped improve aspects of my teams and what did not (FMS testing, strength/power testing, energy system testing).

A lot of teams and individuals spend a fair amount of time in this macrocycle (12-16 weeks). Although your competitive season is a long time away, slacking during this phase could set you behind in the goals you want to achieve. Practices are usually very short or nonexistent, which leaves plenty of time for you to hit the weights to get your body ready.

Recommendation:

Training Frequency: 4 to 6 days per week
Mode: Moderate Sport Specificity
Volume: High

Pre-Season

The pre-season begins what is considered crunch time when it comes to preparedness in the weight room and on the playing field. The season is right around the corner, and the next 8 to 12 weeks will fly by. You will be competing before you know it.

During this macrocycle, training becomes a lot more sport specific than in the preceding cycle. The goal is to get the body ready for the exact situations and stressors that you will encounter during competition. As a strength and conditioning coach, I want to prepare the athletes’ bodies with exercises that will mimic and enhance their actions on the field. Examples include working on lower-body power with football players, increasing aerobic endurance with soccer athletes, or enhancing rotational power with golfers.

All in all, you just need to be on the field or court playing in order to get ready for the season. However, the smaller the learning curve the athlete has from off-season to pre-season conditioning, the better. Too much stress too soon (as for athletes who do no training over summer break) can lead to overuse injuries from ramping up the activity levels too fast. Remember to take into account the fact that you are training more for your sport at this time, so do not overdo it in the weight room. Make sure you have adequate recovery time in order to get the most out of your previous months of training.

Recommendation:

Training Frequency: 3 to 5 days per week (depending on practice time/schedule)
Mode: High Sport Specificity
Volume: Medium-High

In part 2 of this blog, I’ll go through the other two macrocycles: in-season and post-season.

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

 

Topics: mini marathon training weightlifting programs athletes

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

It is finally time! If you are like me, that “itch” to get back out onto the golf course may be starting to emerge. You check your weather app at least four or five times a day to see if the conditions for the upcoming weekend are going to be suitable playing (no wind/rain = good for me).

GettyImages-497545811_webMost of us might have been lucky to get out and play a handful of times over the winter, but some might be picking up a club for the first time in almost five months or more when that first tee time rolls around. Regardless of how many times you have played in recent months, everyone can benefit from improving golf-specific fitness areas before the full-fledged season begins.

About a year or so ago, I wrote a blog called “Caddy Smack” (hence “Caddy Smack Deuce”). Caddy Smack was designed to give you a few starting points on how you can increase one very important aspect of the golf swing, rotational power. Rotational power is a very important force-generating factor and may help you gain a few extra yards off of the tee. But as most of you probably know, there is MUCH more to the golf swing than just power. Follow along as I go over five of the most important fitness areas to improve that can have a direct impact on your swing.

Ankle Mobility

All great golf swings start from the ground up. How the feet are positioned and the movement (or lack thereof) can change a smooth swing into one that looks like a rusted teeter-totter. Lack of mobility throughout the ankles can constrict your range of motion and can also prevent you from using the ground as a force-generating tool.

What can you do to improve it? Do Wall Ankle Mobility Drills: 2 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions per leg

Hip Mobility

As Chubbs from the movie Happy Gilmore once said, “It’s all in the hips.” Well, I’m here to tell you that Chubbs wasn’t lying. A solid portion of the movement that occurs in the swing can be attributed to your ability to achieve a full range of motion within your hips. If you have been around the game long enough, you know the term “hip turn.” This does not happen with poor mobility.

What can you do to improve it? Do Supine Bridge Leg Circles: 2 sets of 5 reps (clockwise and counterclockwise) per leg

Rotational Power

If you have read this blog’s big brother, you know that rotational power plays an important role in your swing. My belief is that if you become more powerful, you will not have to swing as hard in order for the ball to fly the same distance, thus minimizing mis-hits due to being out of control. Essentially, you are generating the same amount of force (or possibly greater) without feeling like you are doing anything different. Seems like a win-win to me.

What (else) can you do to improve it? Perform Standing Rotational Shot Put: 2 to 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps per side

Shoulder Mobility

I know you have done it, watching the slow-mo of one of the tour players’ swings, being enamored by their ability to draw the club back so far (Phil Mickelson goes way past parallel to the shoulders). The next time you hit the driving range, you try to mimic that exact takeaway and the shot is a proverbial dumpster fire. I’ve done it too. You wonder to yourself, “How do they do that”?

Well, for most of them, their swings have been forged since they exited the womb. That feeling is natural to them. But one factor in which they may have a slight advantage over you may be shoulder mobility, or the ability for the shoulder to move freely and under control throughout the range of motion without the sense of constriction. There is no way that you will be able to recreate a backswing of such length if you cannot perform similar tasks without the golf club in your hands.

What can you do to improve it? Standing (or seated) Wall Slides: 2 sets of 10 reps

Single-Leg Stability

My final important aspect to aim to improve for your golf swing is single-leg (SL) stability. SL stability combines other factors that I mentioned previously (such as ankle/hip mobility), but for some individuals, it’s just something that needs to be practiced. After you make contact with the ball in your swing, there is a transfer of weight to your lead foot, which causes that hip turn and allows you to hold the finish pose. Although both feet are still in contact with the ground, the lead leg is providing the majority of the support.

When is the last time you balanced on one leg for 30 seconds? What about balancing for 30 seconds with your eyes closed? What about balancing with your eyes closed, juggling flaming bowling pins, while eating sushi (okay, maybe I’m kidding). That is a good place to start. Feel what it is like to stand without using anything but that plant foot. Do it on both sides. After you have mastered the balance, you can add more elements.

What can you do to improve it? Do Single Leg Balance with Tennis Ball Bounce (against wall): 3 sets of 20 per leg

The golf swing is as unique and complex as any movement that I have ever analyzed. There are so many factors that could make or break your success; however, many of those factors are modifiable. I hope that this spring, summer, and fall golfing seasons are the best you’ve ever had!

Now, watch me hit a ball over the White River bridge!

Golf blog 2

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

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Topics: fitness nifs staff balance flexibility exercises golf golf swing mobility functional movement