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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Evan James

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Build a Workout Program with Full-Body Training Splits

Screen Shot 2021-06-01 at 2.24.57 PMAs a young trainer, I struggled to find my training style. I spent the first few months trying to make my clients happy, trying to make every session as hard as I could with no real connection between workouts. Our training had no direction; they were individual workouts according to what my clients wanted to work on that day. More times than not, this turned into working out one muscle group for the entire 30 minutes. I did a good job at working one muscle group, but that did not benefit them in the long term. As I grew in my education and as a trainer, I learned that there was a better approach to training: the full-body training split

The Full-Body Split

The full-body training schedule reduces the amount of time you need to spend inside the gym while still working the different muscle groups more than once per week. A typical bro split is push, pull, leg. On that schedule, if you miss one day, you more than likely will not train that muscle group for another week. Now you have gone at least 14 days without training a specific muscle group. By training full-body in each training session, you will never miss hitting your lower or upper body within a week.

Putting It All Together

Using the movement patterns discussed in my previous blog, along with your weekly schedule, you can put together your weekly training schedule. There are a few different ways to schedule your week to make the full-body routine.

Three Days per Week

On a three-day-per-week schedule, your training days should be at least 48 hours apart. An example of an ideal schedule would be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. With this schedule you will hit each movement pattern with at least one exercise per category. There is room, depending on how much time you have, to add more isolation movements at the end. A very basic week would look like this:

Day 1–3: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

  • Bench press
  • Pull-up
  • Back squat
  • Kettlebell deadlift

Four Days per Week

For the four-day-per-week program, you will do a full-body push day and a full-body pull day. The full-body push day will consist of an upper-body press and a lower-body squat pattern. The full-body pull day will consist of an upper-body pull and a lower-body hinge pattern. The workouts can be done back to back at least 24 hours apart. An example of an ideal schedule would be Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. A basic four-day-per-week schedule would look like this:

Days 1 and 3: Monday and Thursday

Days 2 and 4: Tuesday and Friday

  • Deadlift
  • Pull-up
  • RDL
  • Rows

Five and Six Days per Week

This is a more advanced version of the four-day-per-week schedule. You use the same full-body push/ pull split, but with not as many rest days. A five-day-per-week schedule cycles through each week, alternating between push and pull days. Week 1 has three push days and two pull days. Week 2 then starts with a pull day, giving you three pull days and two push days. After a four-week cycle, you will come out with the same amount of push and pull days. A six-day-per-week cycle is much easier to make, with alternating three push days and three pull days. A basic five- or six-day-per-week schedule looks like this:

Days 1, 3, and 5: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

Days 2, 4, and optional 6: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday

Get Help Structuring Your Program at NIFS

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. All programs are tailored to your fitness goals by our health fitness professionals.

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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: muscle building leg day workout programs full-body programming pull push arms training schedule

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.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

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

Get the Perfect Deadlift Setup Every Time

GettyImages-579405946With the sport of powerlifting taking off in the last couple of years, more and more people are taking up the sport as a hobby and to improve their overall fitness levels. Training to improve strength in the squat, bench, and deadlift is a great way to improve total body strength and improve body composition.

Some may argue that lifting heavy is unsafe and should be saved for the athletes. The common myth is that lifting heavy may lead to injuries. The movement most argued against is the deadlift. When performed too heavy with poor form, this may be true. However, when performed with the proper progressions, and the proper technique, the deadlift is the best total-body movement to improve strength, power, and body composition.

Why the Deadlift?

There are three main benefits to performing the barbell deadlift:

  • First off, it is a whole-body movement. The deadlift works multiple muscle groups at the same time, offering more bang for your buck compared to isolation exercises.
  • Secondly, the deadlift improves strength and stability. Because it is a compound exercise, working more than one joint, this lift can be performed with heavier loads, leading to greater increases in strength.
  • Lastly, deadlifts can help improve posture. The muscles used while maintaining a flat back in the deadlift are the same muscles that help with sitting and standing up straight. The deadlift strengthens these muscles, leading to improved posture over time.

Now that we have gone over the benefits, let’s talk technique.

The Deadlift Setup

Follow these steps:

  1. Foot position: With your feet hip-width apart, the barbell should be placed over the center of your foot. An easy way to get the best foot placement is to look down, and move forward and backward until your shoelaces are directly under the bar.
  2. Grip: Without bending your knees or moving the barbell, bend over and grip the bar right outside of your legs. It is important that you do not move the barbell.
  3. Shins to the bar: Once you have your grip established, bend your knees and bring your shins to the bar. Do not over-bend them and push the bar away from you.
  4. Chest up and back flat: Without dropping your hips any further, puff up your chest and squeeze your shoulder blades together. By doing this, you will naturally flatten out your back.
  5. Drag: Take a big belly breath, hold it, and drag the bar up your shins. Keep your back muscles engaged and keep the bar close to your body the entire movement. When you let the bar get away from you, you have to compensate with your lower back, and this can lead to injury.

Keys to Success

Now that you have a safe setup, here are a couple of things to think about while performing the movement.

  1. On the last step of your setup, look out ahead of you. You do not want to overextend your neck, and you also do not want to be staring at the ground the entire time. Keeping your head in line with your spine will allow you to keep a neutral spine throughout the whole movement.
  2. When standing up with the barbell, your hips and shoulders should rise at the same time. If you allow your hips to come up first, the bar will get out in front of you, and like I mentioned earlier, you will have to compensate by pulling with your low back.
  3. Lastly, take a deep belly breath. A belly breath does not mean air all the way in your stomach, but what it does mean is filling your lungs all the way to the bottom to pressurize your core. A pressurized core equals engaged abdominals. When performing any lift, you want to create a solid core to help stay upright.
Watch the video below for the proper deadlift technique in action.

Screen Shot 2021-01-19 at 11.23.53 AMIf you are new to lifting and don’t know where to get started, come visit us at the Track Desk in the Fitness Center.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

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: NIFS injury prevention weight lifting strength powerlifting deadlift total-body workouts heavy lifting

Optimal Movement Patterns for Building Muscle

Screen Shot 2021-01-14 at 1.10.19 PMThe traditional bodybuilding split of working one muscle group per day might work for the dedicated, high-level competitive bodybuilder who makes their living in the gym. But for the general population only looking to shed some unwanted pounds and improve their overall health, the traditional bodybuilding split is not ideal. Working multiple muscle groups in the same session is much more ideal because it ramps up the body’s metabolism more than working a single muscle group each day. To achieve this, we train the movement, not the muscles.

The Four Movement Patterns

There are four main categories in which we categorize the movement patterns: push, pull, squat, and hinge. Each category works a movement while working multiple muscle groups.

Push

This upper-body movement pattern uses all of your “pushing” muscles. The pushing muscles of the upper body include the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Common movements within this category include the following:

Pull

This upper-body movement pattern uses the “pulling” muscles. The pulling muscles of the upper body include the lats and the biceps. There are two different pulling variations, the horizontal pull and the vertical pull. The horizontal pull targets the lower lats and the vertical pull targets the upper portion of the lats. It is important to include both variations in your program. Common movements within this category include the following:

Squat

The squat movement pattern is the pushing movements pattern for the lower body. The squat pattern mainly works the quadriceps and the glutes. This category also includes all single-leg movements. The squat pattern is a large compound movement that should be progressed properly. Common movements in this category include the following:

Hinge

The hinge movement pattern is the pulling movement pattern for the lower body. The hinge pattern is better known as the deadlift. The primary muscles worked during the hinge movement are the hips, hamstrings, and lower back. The deadlift is another exercise that should be progressed properly for safe lifting. On days that you work the hinge pattern, you should do some additional hamstring isolation movements. Common movements for the hinge pattern include the following:

Using the Movement Patterns

Knowing that there are four movement patterns, and which movement pattern works which muscle group, you can build your exercise routines. In a future blog, I will discuss why the full-body program is superior, and how to schedule your week using the movement patterns. In short, you can build your exercise routine by putting together two or more of the movement patterns in one day. After working a muscle group, you don’t want to work that same muscle group for at least 48 hours.

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If you need any help building an exercise program, or want a health professional or personal trainer to put one together for you, come visit us at the Track Desk at any time.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

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: weight loss muscles weight lifting weightlifting exercises building muscle movement squat leg day movement patterns pull hinge push

Make Training Less Complex with More Complexes

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

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

What Is a Complex?

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

How to Build a Complex

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

Barbell 1

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

Barbell 2

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

Kettlebell or Dumbbell 1

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

Kettlebell or Dumbbell 2

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

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

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

 

Why Should I Implement Complexes?

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

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

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

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

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