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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Rick Huse

Recent Posts by Rick Huse:

Resistance Training for Fat Loss: The Science and a Workout Template

GettyImages-1264433129Science News (August 9, 2021) reported a study released by the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and College of Health Sciences that adds to the growing evidence that resistance training has unique benefits for fat loss. As a longtime fitness trainer, I have known about the effectiveness of resistance training for fat loss and body composition from my experience with clients and my own personal health and fitness journey. However, it is interesting to see science finally start to catch up with the real world and offer up some details of human physiology and systems biology as evidence as to why resistance training is so effective.

The Science

This study showed that in mice and in humans, in response to mechanical loading, muscle cells release particles called extracellular vesicles. These extracellular vesicles instruct fat cells to enter fat-burning mode.

It has been understood for a while that extracellular vesicles played a role in selectively interacting with proteins, lipids, and RNA and more recently had a role in intercellular communications. This study adds to that understanding by showing how skeletal muscle communicates with other tissues.

According to McCarthy, “To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of how weight training initiates metabolic adaptations in fat tissue, which is crucial for determining whole-body metabolic outcomes. The ability of resistance exercise-induced extracellular vesicles to improve fat metabolism has significant clinical implications.”

What It Means for You: Resistance-based Training Is a Fat-loss Tool

Well, that was science-speak, but what does this mean to you? “Significant clinical implications” means that the research provides clinicians with findings that can be used in treating medically needed fat loss with resistance-based training along with diet and other forms of exercise, such as cardiovascular training. 

Fitness in the US Is Declining

Our culture is getting heavier, with a rising percentage of the population crossing over to obesity. Recent studies have shown that 88 percent of the adult American population is metabolically unfit, with expected conditions that include high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. And Covid showed us clearly that metabolic unfitness was associated with bad Covid experiences and poor outcomes, including death. (Oh, and by the way, American life expectancy has been trending down even before Covid.)

Whatever we are doing as a culture is not working for health and longevity. Changing these adverse conditions requires changes at the individual level because large parts of our social fabric (business, media, and special interests) are too wrapped up in greed and maintaining the status quo for their interests and not acting for the greater good. So it’s up to each individual to decide what is best for their own health regarding diet, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction. All four of these factors are all very important, but exercise and diet seem to get the most attention and are the places where most people start their journey of making life-quality changes.

Where Do You Begin Your Fat-loss Journey?

“Experts” are all over the media with supplements, books, and podcasts. The number of theories and opinions is staggering. Most seem reasonable on the surface, which adds to the confusion about what to choose and where to start.

Adding to the complexity, huge international corporations, through massive advertising campaigns, are marketing online workout programming to support a major purchase of their in home exercise equipment. They offer cardio equipment and digital-controlled strength machines—slick and attractive to someone sitting on the couch with pizza and a beer.

And your online fitness searches provide social media marketing the information they need to dump even more choices in your lap based on what you have been viewing online. Hmm…

Confusing? Overwhelming?

Let’s erase the messy whiteboard and create a simpler view of the objective.

Remember, I started this blog with a study that showed how resistance training sets the cells up for burning body fat. The purpose of sharing this study was to support the concept of resistance training as an effective method for fat loss and an approach you should consider seriously.

A Training Template for Fat Loss

The following is a straightforward template to serve as a starting point to begin your resistance training/fat-loss exploration.

The human body has six patterns of functional movement:

  1. The body sits down and stands back up. The knees and hips flex and extend. In the gym, we see this in various forms of squatting, lunging, and step-ups.
  2. The body hinges at the hip joints and bends down to pick up things using the largest and strongest muscle complex of the body, the glutes. In the gym, this could be deadlifting on one end of the spectrum to lying on your back on a mat, knees up and feet on the ground for doing hip thrusts. (Both the squat and deadlift techniques should be taught by a competent coach to speed the acquisition of proper skills and to avoid injuries).
  3. While standing, if you hold your arms out in front of your body, the arms would be horizontal  to the ground. This right angle to the spine position is called the horizontal plane. If you were doing a push-up facing the ground or lying on your back doing a chest press, the arms would still be at a right angle to the spine, thus on the horizontal plane. The arm movement on this plane would either be pushing away from the body (for example, the bench press) or pulling back toward the body (for example, the back row). There are numerous options to choose from for working on this plane.
  4. When the arms move in line with the spine, this is the vertical plane, and once again you are either pushing away (for example, the shoulder press) or pulling toward the body (for example, the lat pulldown or pull-up). The horizontal and vertical push/pulls cover the basic functional movement patterns of the upper body. When done standing, the core ties the lower- and upper-body segments into a functional unit for expressing strength and power.
  5. The core is an important component of the basic workout template. As indicated above, the core ties together the lower- and upper-body segments, but also serves to stabilize and protect the lumbar spine.
  6. A forgotten and often overlooked exercise that is key to a strong-functioning body is the carry. As simple as it sounds, you pick up something and carry it: moving weight for distance and/or time. This exercise brings together strength, balance, muscular endurance, and grip strength.

There are numerous exercises to choose from to fill in the slots of the template: various reps and sets schemes, frequencies of sessions, recovery days and resistance sources depending on what best meets the needs of the individual, but having a structure to work with is critical for success, especially at the beginning.

You can certainly explore and experiment on your own, but I recommend that you take advantage of the trained professionals here at NIFS. There is a lot of knowledge and experience available to help you on your journey. We are here to assist you—just ask.

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: weight loss workouts resistance functional movement fat loss resistance training

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

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

We’re Being Bombarded by Questionable Fitness Products

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

Listen to a Fitness Insider About TV and Internet Claims

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

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

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

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

If It Seems Too Good to Be True…

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

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

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

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

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: weight loss fitness trends fad diets new year new you commercials fitness claims fitness products

Take a Breath: Relaxation Techniques for Troubled Times

GettyImages-1167560354Seriously. Stop and take a breath. Don’t judge your technique, just breathe in and out. Failure to do both in and out will likely result in you fainting, and the ERs and urgent care centers have enough to do without you coming in with a cut forehead requiring stitches.

Take 5: A Relaxation Exercise

Hold your left hand palm facing up with your fingers slightly spread apart. Place the tip of the index finger of your other hand at the base of the left palm in the slot between the fat pads of the thumb and little finger.

To begin this short exercise, exhale; then as you inhale, let your index finger trace the length of your thumb. When you reach the tip of your thumb, retrace the length of your thumb as you exhale until you return to your starting point. Repeat this exercise for each finger.

If you chose to, you can reverse hand positions and repeat the exercise with your left index finger tracing the fingers of your right hand.

This exercise is short but a powerful way to calm down the fight/flight nerves and bring back physical and mental balance.

Breathwork

There hundreds of breathing techniques to explore and thousands of books written on the subject, going into great detail about what happens when you focus on your breath. I believe it is important and should be explored by anyone who wants to improve their health and wellness. That depth is well beyond the intent of this blog. However, here are some breathing patterns to try.

  • Box breathing: Inhale for a 4-count, hold for a 4-count, exhale for a 4-count, hold for a 4-count, repeat. This technique is used by the military to calm soldiers before shooting drills and live action.
  • 4 In, 6 Out: No holds, just simple in/out with a slightly longer exhale.
  • 4 In, 6 Hold, and 7 Exhale: This is the beginning of longer holds and exhales.
  • Focus breathing: Simply watch and follow the breath as it moves in and out. No judgment; just follow. This is the foundation of basic meditation practices.

Finding Balance

These are very stressful times for everyone. It’s like the world is standing thigh-deep in snow in the direct path of a sudden, fast-moving avalanche. With no point of reference, we don’t know if we are at the beginning, middle, or end. Use these techniques to find your own “life jacket,” a complement to the exercise ideas and nutritional information that NIFS provides. I hope it helps you find your breath, tone down the negative energy, broaden your perspective for your own mental and physical health, and perhaps help others as we go through together.

Your inner peace is your personal power. Therefore,

Peace and Power,
Rick

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: relaxation stress relief mental health well-being lifetime wellness breathwork breathing exercises

Work Capacity Training with Kettlebells

GettyImages-1001563404The Russian kettlebell is unique among exercise tools. It is an offset-handle weight that travels easily between the legs in a pendulum movement that can be easily seen in the kettlebell swing (two-hand and one-hand swings). If done correctly, the hips hinge straight backward as if you were trying to push a swinging door open while holding a tray. If you squat, even a little bit, there is little rearward movement and the door doesn’t open. Hip power is lost.

The Swing

When I teach future kettlebell instructors, I spend 2 and a half hours on teaching the swing. It is that complicated, and as you will see, that important. Hopefully, a future instructor can take that information and skills and teach a client how to do a reasonable swing in 10 to 20 minutes, reasonable enough to get through a workout. Regardless of how long someone has been lifting kettlebells, their swing skills can always be improved.

That hip hinge swing movement is used for kettlebell cleans and for the glamour lift, the kettlebell snatch. Without proper swing skills, it is impossible to progress very far into the art of kettlebell lifting and to truly get the unique rewards of kettlebell lifting.

Weight Exercises

Kettlebells are a weight and can be used for typical weight exercises—sometimes successfully, sometimes passable, and many times just plain head-shaking stupid. What most people miss is what the Russians discovered a long time ago. In one-on-one athletics, the first athlete to fatigue is likely to lose. In military hand-to-hand combat, the first soldier to fatigue is likely to die. The repeatable hip hinge–based movements (swings, cleans, snatches, clean and press, clean and push press, and clean and jerks) are tremendously effective in building strength/endurance, and work capacity. The variables are time of lifting, reps per minute, and of course the amount of weight used.

Tasha Nichols, a group fitness instructor here at NIFS, won her 58Kg weight class in Dublin, Ireland 2015, doing the one-arm snatch for 10:00 (hand switch at the 5:00 mark) with a 16kg KB with a total of 203 repetitions. The time was 10:00, averaging just over 20 reps per minute, and the weight was 16kg (35.3 pounds). That is work capacity!

Work Capacity Kettlebell Workout

Here is a little workout to give you an idea what work capacity training feels like.

Maxwell Circuit

  • Swings: 15 
  • Goblet Squats: 5
  • Push-up: 5
  • One-arm row: 5/5

That is 1 round and the workout is a minimum of 8 rounds and a maximum of 15. Rest long enough to complete the next round but no longer. Swings can be done with a dumbbell if a kettlebell is not available. Be careful when holding a dumbbell by the bell end. It can slip.

Block off the space you’re using to swing anything. Children and pets can walk in when they are least expected

Goblet Squat is done with the weight held at chest level. If this bothers your shoulders, hold the weight at arm’s length between your legs but be sure to actually squat. Do not allow it to become a sloppy deadlift.

Kettlebell Training

Training with kettlebells properly, anyone can seriously improve their strength and endurance. Like most activities, you must put in the time to practice and get better to see real results. Interested in learning more about kettlebell lifting and how you can increase your work capacity? Contact Rick Huse for more information. 

Enjoy the pain!

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, CSCS, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness center workouts nifs staff endurance weightlifting strength kettlebell work capacity

“We’re Not in Kansas Anymore”: Take a Breath to Relieve Stress

GettyImages-544661136In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy woke up after a terrible storm in a world she didn’t recognize. The normal that she had known no longer existed. We are “not in Kansas” (or Indiana, for that matter) anymore after COVID-19 erupted around the world. Normal is gone for the time being. Some people have lost jobs and incomes, or are forced to work from home. Some have had or are fighting the disease, and some unfortunately have lost their lives.

We Are All Experiencing Stress

We have one thing in common. We are all experiencing stress. The level of that stress can vary greatly from one individual to another, but it is chronic “fight or flight” that takes a serious toll on mental and physical health. It distorts your moment-to-moment perceptions and experiences and your relationships, and clouds the bright light of hope. But we have tools to reground ourselves and loosen the constricting pressure of the stress anaconda.

Formal exercise and physical exertion (such as gardening and dog walking) release endorphins, your body’s own pain reliever and mood elevator. With the gym currently closed, we have posted workout ideas (blogs and videos). Knowing that the refrigerator is just too inviting, we have nutritional support as well. But now I want to focus on a different strategy for reducing stress: breathwork.

Breathwork

Your breathing is both automatic and self-regulated. But it is the controlling of your breath that can have an amazing impact on your quality of life. Yes, I know you have been breathing all your life, but that doesn’t mean you have been doing it correctly, especially when we live in a culture that worships flat stomachs and six-pack abs. Most people don’t use the diaphragm properly in breathing, and they don’t get incoming air deep into the largest area of the lungs. Let’s fix that.

The Complete Breath, Part 1

Try this breathing exercise for a few minutes with your focus on two places: the air passing in through the tip of your nose and the upward movement of your abdomen as air fills the lower lungs, slow and gentle as the air moves in and out.

  • Lie on the floor face up.
  • Bend your knees upward with the soles of your feet flat on the ground.
  • Place your right hand on your lower abdominals about 2 inches below your navel and put your left hand on the center of your chest.
  • Breathe out (don’t strain) and slowly breathe in through your nose.
  • Keep your attention on your hands. Which moved first, the right hand on your lower abdomen or your left hand on your chest? If you’re using your diaphragm correctly, your right hand should have moved first.
  • Key: Slow breaths, this slow movement calms the sympathetic nervous system and allows the parasympathetic nerve system to relax the body and mind. Stress can affect organs and tissue adversely, so calming the mind by slowing and controlling the breath can positively affect your body as well.

The Complete Breath, Part 2

  • Now place your hands on your bottom two ribs at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions and repeat the preceding exercise.
  • Instead of just feeling your abdomen raise straight up, with your hands more toward your sides, you should now feel the abdomen movement moving outward as well.
  • The entire area should be relaxing, and more air should be moving in and out with each inhalation and exhalation.
  • The next step is to gently inhale more to the point where the upper rib cage starts to fill and the ribs start to rise. As you exhale, the upper ribs will sink before the air is released from the lower abdomen.
  • Do not force the volume of the inhalation. This can do more harm than good and introduces stress into the breathing process, which is what you’re trying to release.

Graduate-level Breath

  • Consider the low back/mid-abdomen as a clock face. The navel is 12 o’clock and the lumbar spine is 6 o’clock. Left side is 9 o’clock and the right side is 3 o’clock.
  • The challenge now is to see if you can breathe just into each part of the clock face.
  • Stomach up and down first then hold the stomach flat and breathe by moving the low back up and down.
  • Next hold the stomach and low back in place and breathe by allowing just the sides to move in and out.
  • Now sit up with your back straight and breathe into all sections at the same time.
  • Key: It is not easy, but it is certainly an interesting challenge and you will learn how much of your body can be involved in the act of moving air in and out.

Another Benefit: Stronger Lungs

COVID-19 is the elephant in the room. Whatever you can do to maintain your physical and emotional/mental health will help you get through this. Besides the stress-reduction benefits of breathwork, remember that COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, highjacking cells and through protein synthesis spreading through surrounding tissue. Deep-breathing exercises can wake up lung tissue that has had little use and bring more flexibility into the lungs. Healthier lungs support a healthier you.

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, CSCS, WKC Competition Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: stress relief illness prevention covid-19 coronavirus breathwork breathing exercises

Training the Aging Active Adult (Part 4 of 4)

ThinkstockPhotos-179075741.jpgThis is the final installment in my series on training for people 40 and over. Previously I’ve discussed training needs and health concerns for older adults, the importance of strength training, and the role of the glutes. Now let’s talk about the old-school way to reach your fitness goals while aging gracefully.

Someone on Facebook said she wanted to train her back harder than her grip would allow and asked which would be better, lifting straps or Versa Gripps. The answers bounced back and forth between the two options (usually bodybuilders doing the commenting), but I just had to offer a third option: neither.

“Old school–develop your grip strength so it’s not the weak link.”

Some of the clueless responses from a few bodybuilders about grip work interfering with arm and back day and how you couldn’t develop your back if you had to wait for your grip were sadly amusing.

Shortcuts Don’t Pay

If she did use the straps or Versa Gripps to allow for heavier loading of the back for the sake of back development (aesthetics), the grip would continue to be weaker than the muscles up the movement chain and would therefore be a rate limiter in the upper body’s functional strength. This imbalance could be a source of future injuries as well. And of course, this begs the question: why is there an imbalance in the first place?

When the focus of fitness is to look better in front of a mirror, concepts like correcting movement deficiencies, addressing strength weaknesses, and the effects of rate limiters on functional strength have as much interest as broccoli does to a 3-year-old.

It’s easy to pick on bodybuilding because to those on the outside, bodybuilding seems to be the extreme example of narcissistic frivolousness. But alas, all exercise and fitness pursuits have a huge egocentric component, whether it’s picking up more weight, running faster/further, or killing Fran or Fight Gone Bad.

Sometimes You Just Have to Eat Your Broccoli

The point is that we are all results-driven regardless of whether our fitness interests are functional training or just looking better. We want improvements to arrive quicker and the process to be easier, even if the shortcuts we take for short-term gains have a high price on the back end. Seemingly innocent lifting straps are at one end of the shortcut continuum, and PEDs at the other; but they all are attempts to circumvent the body’s natural processes. All the things you chose to ignore, neglect, and ill-advised shortcuts will eventually show up during your fitness “come to Jesus meeting” sometime in your 40s and 50s. And just know that the accompanying injuries that come during that meeting are served in a broccoli casserole, heavily seasoned with “I Told You So.”

Take shortcuts and ignore weakness at your own peril. There, I just told you so. Go eat your broccoli!

Learn more about your current fitness status with NIFS’s Functional Movement Screening or Personal Fitness Evaluation.

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, CSCS, WKC Competition Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: functional training injury prevention muscles senior fitness strength goals

Training the Active Aging Adult (Part 3 of 4)

ThinkstockPhotos-523032469-1In earlier installments, I’ve talked about health concerns for active people over 40, as well as the importance of strength and functional training for people in this age group. As promised, I will now focus in on strength training, and we’ll start with your butt.

The glute complex (your hips) has the greatest potential for strength and power in the human body, and is the foundation for all ground-based movement. If used properly, it lifts things up (like the grandkids) and spares the low back. Let’s call this the “lifting things up” or the dead-lift pattern.

The Lost Glutes

Because of the enormous amount of sitting done in our modern lifestyle, many adults can’t find their glutes (through muscle activation) with a map, hand mirror, and a flashlight. When you place people on their backs on the floor with their knees up and feet planted on the ground, then have them try to raise their hips off the floor by contracting just their glutes, many will fire their hamstrings while their glutes remain totally quiet. This situation has been referred to as glute amnesia; more accurate would be to say it’s a disconnect between brain and muscle. The body will find a way to accomplish the desired task by resorting to Plan B (in this case, the hamstrings) if the primary movers, the glutes, are offline. The hips will move off the ground but at a cost: inefficient movement, lower performance potential, and higher risk of injury to the Plan B muscles—and also to surrounding tissue and joints.

Foundational Movement: The Hip Hinge

Learning to properly hinge the hips and to activate the glutes is critical for skilled and graceful movement and injury prevention as you age. This is life quality for now and into your future. So let’s try the foundational movement, the hip hinge:

  1. Stand with your feet about hip width apart and hands resting on the front of your thighs. You can also hold a light barbell or a pair of light dumbbells to provide a little resistance.
  2. With your lower legs perpendicular to the ground, push your hips backward while bending forward at the hips. Your upper body will fold over with your back in a straight line from the tailbone to the back of your head.
  3. Do not squat and do not bend forward at the waist (lumbar spine).
  4. Once your hands reach your knees, pause, focus on your glutes, and tighten them as you try to push the ground away with your feet. Return to standing with a straight line from the heels to the back of your head.
  5. Rinse and repeat until the movement feels natural.
  6. If in doubt, keep your hips higher while you bend forward and sense your upper body closing the distance with the ground.
  7. If you have health issues, balance problems, or serious muscle weakness, seek proper medical assistance. Watch this video as a guide.

Your body is programmed to avoid falling on your face by trying to stay more upright and bending your knees more into a squat pattern if it doesn’t sense proper muscle activation. If you learn to position your skeleton into the correct architecture for the movement you are attempting and recruit the target muscles for that movement (in this case, the glutes and core), you will not face-dive. If you do splat, see #6 above (and please post the video on YouTube).

Every day, at some point, you will need to bend over (hinge) and pick something up. Conventional wisdom dictates that we lift with our legs from a squat position, but our greatest power for this movement comes from the hinge pattern and the glutes. That’s why we call it the Big House. Heed the immortal words from Sir Mix-A-Lot: “You can do side bends or sit-ups, but please don’t lose that butt.”

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, CSCS, WKC Competition Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: staying active injury prevention muscles senior fitness strength exercises

Training the Active Aging Adult (Part 2 of 4)

In the last blog, I discussed that the 40-plus age group had different training needs because of the effects of aging: loss of muscle strength fibers (sarcopenia), weakening of connective tissue with the resulting aches and pains and injuries, joint issues (arthritis and loss of range of motion), hormonal changes, weight gain (especially visceral fat), heart disease, and diabetes.

For many in this age group, other medical conditions seem to appear from out of nowhere. Theories for why range from genetics to reduction of stem cells, but the fact remains: unexpected conditions and diseases show up uninvited and certainly unwanted from about 45 and beyond. If you are in this age group and actively training, you need to know a lot more about your body, especially your age-related limitations.

A reminder for those training themselves: the ego is a great motivator for getting your butt off the couch, but it’s an absolutely terrible coach. The ego will beat the crap out of you to feel good about itself without regard for what the body can recover from, short and long term. It actually believes in such silliness as “no pain, no gain” and other macho slogans, and the ego is the reason for most training injuries and setbacks. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in training hard (which is a relative term), but I just don’t believe in training stupid.

“A true professional knows what to do and when to stop doing it.”

The Need for Strength

With that said, let’s discuss the need for strength. Here’s a story.

One of the leaders of the National Strength and Conditioning Association was recorded lecturing his graduating class in exercise science. He asked whether they would teach a 65-year-old woman, who had never weight trained, to do a barbell squat. The question was loaded: female, advanced age, no experience, and an athletic lift. As their professor, he was asking for a yes or no answer. Because they had been in his class all year, they knew if they answered the question incorrectly, he would nail them. So everyone sat in silence.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he said. “Since you’re not going to answer the question, I will do it for you. She has to stand up from a chair. It’s the same movement pattern. We are going to work with her on a life skill and make her stronger in that pattern at the same time.”

Oh, that’s not what they expected. They were thinking leg press, leg extensions, and leg curls would be safer for a female of that age with no weight training experience than doing the squat. But he played the functional strength card and trumped their unstated answer.

But then he added, “I don’t think you really get it, and I want to make sure you do. Imagine its 15 years later and she is now 80 years old in a nursing home and she can’t get up from the toilet without assistance. She has lost her life independence. Did you do her any favor by not teaching her to do the squat?”

I didn’t believe it possible, but a client of mine beat the professor’s follow-up when she told me that her mother-in-law died in a nursing home six months prior to our conversation. She had gotten up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. She had hit the assist button but no one saw it. The next morning, they found her dead on the bathroom floor. She had fallen off the toilet during the night and had broken her neck.

No one wants to be that 80-year-old woman. No one wants to spend their remaining years on this planet unable to move as a functioning independent adult, but if no effort is made to maintain strength fibers and joint range of motion, we’ll certainly slide down to the lower levels of movement quality until we’re stuck on the toilet for life.

A More Positive Thought

I don’t like motivating through negative imagery, but sometimes you have to hit people over the head with a chair to get their attention. I’d rather discuss the joy of connecting with your body, finding out what an amazing vessel it is to experience and travel through life, and to feel the power that resides beneath the outer shell.

Our bodies were designed to move and to work, actually to work hard and for long periods of time. If not, we would have been eaten by big cats thousands of years ago. It is just within the last 100 years that we have made life so physically easy that we are now dying from lack of movement, especially from a lack of intense movement that tells our cells that we are important to our family, the tribe, and the village—important enough for the cells to make a concerted effort to keep us around.

Think of exercise like a prescription drug. It is a concentrated dose of intense activity used to communicate the message that we are, in fact, really important for something all the way down to the cellular level.

Contrary to the common belief about the role of cardio, strength is the fitness component that sets the foundation for all of the other forms of senior fitness activities. If your muscles are not strong enough to support basic movement patterns, there is no way you can do cardio exercise for very long before something breaks down, and then you have to stop while joints, connective tissue, and/or muscles have time to heal.

In this article, I wanted to make it clear why you need to incorporate some form of strength training into your fitness program design, and why functional training is an important consideration. In future blogs, I’ll discuss actual strength training strategies and the rationale behind them. Don’t be surprised if kettlebells come up frequently, and I promise to continue my relentless attack on training stupidity.

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, CSCS, WKC Competition Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: functional training senior fitness strength

Training the Active Aging Adult (Part 1 of 4)

There comes a day when you wake up one morning and realize you’re not 25 any longer. Usually, this happens when you’re 50—or in other words, after 25 years of denial and of being totally oblivious to nature’s less-than-subtle warnings: hair loss and color change, skin texture and wrinkles, where did that body fat come from, when did that thing (?) become so heavy to lift, and those stairs weren’t that high last year. The mind feels young but the body fades in and out of pretend youth. The body is also willing until it gets tired or pain rises above the level of annoyance.

But there is hope: you can be cool without being young, but cool doesn’t make you stronger, quicker, more flexible, thinner, and the owner of painless joints.

What Motivates Senior Fitness?

GettyImages-178872337_webWhen you were younger, the goal of exercise was to look better naked. It seems reasonable, because younger people look better naked than old farts. Besides, older people have more pressing issues like serious joint pain, heart disease, diabetes, age-related weight gain, hormonal changes, and perhaps even the chilling shadow of cancer has visited them. No doubt that looking better and feeling better about yourself is really an important motivator to exercise, but they pale in comparison to these life-altering issues. Therefore, the motives for training of an aging active adult are more complex than a 25-year-old and must be recognized and honored when designing training programs.

Specific Health Concerns for Active Seniors

If you happen to be a fitness enthusiast over 50, these are things you need to be aware of.

  • Sarcopenia: An interesting word to say, but not so good to have, because it means a loss of muscle mass. Heavy-chain muscle fibers start dying out around age 30. Most professional athletes retire in their 30s because they have lost a step (in power and strength) and can no longer compete with younger athletes. Since most adults do not push their athletic genetic limits, they become aware of this loss of step in their 40s, or certainly by their 50s. This fiber loss is called sarcopenia. Unless there is some attempt to retain strength through formal strength training, this strength loss will continue at a ever-increasing and very noticeable rate. Common movement patterns—sit to stand, picking things up, pushing away and pulling back, pushing up and pulling down—will become increasingly more difficult as life quality decreases. Many people just give in to the process and call it “getting older.” It doesn’t have to be that way. Strength training can certainly slow it down.
  • Joint issues: Connective tissue seems to injure more easily and take longer to heal. Tendonitis becomes an all-too-common answer to the question, “How are you feeling?” Dynamic joint mobility training helps regain joint range of motion and lubricate joint surfaces with synovial fluid for cartilage health. Older athletes have to allow time in the program design for something the young take for granted.
  • Slow recovery: It takes longer for the body to repair and to make new tissue. This seems to be related to changes at the DNA and RNA levels as we age; and of course, changes in hormonal levels further compound the problem. Knowing this, nutrition and rest are key for proper recovery. The aging active adult has very little margin for error. Without proper nutrition and rest, progress will stall and the likelihood for injury will increase.
  • Balanced training: Cardio exercise is still important for overall health, but must be managed in such a way as to not interfere with the recovery for strength training, and not to add to the training volume to the point of over-training and adversely effecting the immune system. The body also does not respond well to being forced to adapt to opposing stimulus (cardio vs. strength). It gets confused as to what exactly it is being asked to do. How much cardio is very individual, but it is easy to err on the side of too much. Interval training may be an answer to those concerns by reducing the training time factor while still challenging the alactate, anaerobic, and aerobic substrates for improved conditioning.
  • Shared epiphany: There is a common experience at this age that there is a price to be paid for all of the fitness and health-related issues you chose to ignore when you were younger. Pain, discomfort, illness, and excess body fat are the reasons for your body’s “come to Jesus” meeting. Your body demands corrections, and your currency for payment is time and effort spent bringing the body back into balance. The aging active adult has been humbled enough by aging to be open to addressing these issues if the guidance they receive makes sense.

With the number of active aging adults increasing, both trainers and the older clients should understand the training needs and limitations of this age group in order to develop the best program designs that will effectively produce results and at the same time do no harm. So far, the fitness industry and fitness media have chosen to ignore the 800-pound gorilla by focusing on the 25- to 40-year-olds; but it is the aging active adults who have the greater need. They understand that the youth genie is not going back in the bottle, but that their life quality can be a whole lot better through proper training and nutrition.

In part 2 of this series, I talk more about the need for strength training at this age.

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, CSCS, WKC Competition Coach, and originally appeared on his blog. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: cardio injury prevention muscles joint health senior fitness endurance strength pain

Tasha: Kettlebell Novice to Champion in Less Than a Year

I first met Tasha three years ago when I started working at NIFS. At that time, she was working full time and was in charge of group fitness. Besides the administrative duties of scheduling classes and riding herd over all of the independent instructors, which included getting them paid, she also taught several classes throughout the week. She was in early and always seemed busy.

When I started the Kettlebell Classes Monday to Wednesday at noon, several of our trainers and staff would drop by and take a group training class whenever their schedules would allow. As time went by, Tasha was one who showed up more often. She seemed to really like the Kettlebell and the demanding workouts. 

Getting Competitive

About a year ago, the subject of competing with Kettlebells came up after a class, and I suggested that Tasha go to the Ice Chamber Kettlebell Girls website and check out the videos of the girls lifting and read about their journey into Kettlebell Competition.

I studied for several years with 10-time Kettlebell World Champion and Honored Master of Sport Valery Fedorenko. I was certified by Valery as a Kettlebell Competition Coach and was also named Master Trainer in 2012. The Ice Chamber Girls also studied under Valery, so I knew their technical skills were solid and would be a great example for Tasha to watch. 

A few days later, Tasha came up to me and said, “I want to do that!”

Tasha’s Rapid Rise

Her journey into serious Kettlebell Competition Lifting began at that moment, and neither one of us knew how it was going to unfold, but here is what we know thus far.

Tasha began training for Kettlebell Competition less than a year ago along with Catherine Kostyn (a longtime NIFS member) and a gentleman by the name of Neal Baker (who would be shocked that I placed “gentleman” and his name in the same sentence). Tasha’s progress was amazing. She was truly a natural for the sport, but how far and how fast she would go was yet to be revealed.

All three competed in their first competition in Louisville at a club that my longtime friend Dave Randolph owned. He and I were among the first Kettlebell instructors in the country. We were in the same RKC class in 2002, so we go a long way back. We put together this meet for some of his members and my three athletes so they could get some experience on the Kettlebell lifting platform. Tasha won her class and was the most outstanding lifter in the meet. There were no awards, just a community of Kettlebell enthusiasts getting together and having a good time.

Tasha competed several weeks after that in a IKFF Midwest Regional meet. Once again, she won her weight class, and I consider her performance to be the most outstanding of the competition.

The AKA National Championships took place in early August outside Chicago. Tasha won her bodyweight class (58Kg) competing with a 16Kg Kettlebell in the Biathlon (1 arm Clean & Jerk - 10:00 / 5:00 per arm and 1 arm Snatch - 10:00 / 5:00 per arm). Tasha did 175 Jerks and 167 Snatches. That performance set a new AKA National record for her bodyweight and 16Kg Kettlebell. A week after that meet, Tasha was invited to represent the U.S. on the AKA World Kettlebell Championship Team to compete early November in Dublin, Ireland, in the 16Kg One Arm Snatch event. Of course she accepted that invitation!

Allow me to summarize: In less than a year of serious training, Tasha has won three competitions, including the National Championships. She set a National Record and has been invited to compete for the USA at the Worlds in November. By any standards, it’s been a pretty good year. But it is not over. 

I told Tasha, if she gets invited to the Worlds, we’re training to win, not to just be happy to be there. The training program has started and there is less than 10 weeks to go. I have no doubt that Tasha is capable of winning a World Championship. She has the natural talent, the ability to work hard, is extremely coachable and has the deep desire to win. A coach can’t ask for anything more, and the United States could not ask for a better representative.

A Growing Sport

Now that I have had your attention this far, let’s get down to business. Kettlebell Competition Lifting is a small but fast-growing sport. The AKA lacks the resources to send its athletes to the World Championships. The athletes must find their own way there and cover their own expenses. Tasha is no exception. Most of the AKA team members have set up their own GoFundMe accounts, and here is Tasha’s link: GO TASHA

Both Tasha and I are on Facebook, and you can follow her video blogs about her training there.

Also, Tasha and I will be conducting a Kettlebell Clinic on Saturday October 10th at 10am. We will demonstrate proper Kettlebell techniques and celebrate Tasha’s accomplishments at the same time!  You will learn: the swing, clean, rack position, press, push press, goblet squat, and the beginning steps of the Get-Up. You will also experience a version of the Coyote workout to get an understanding of "work capacity" training.

This is a really great story with more news to come, and you have an opportunity to help someone reach for their dreams. We are grateful for the support and your energy and good wishes for Tasha’s success, and for your interest in a little-known but rapidly growing intense sport, and if you are motivated to contribute financially, every little bit helps. 

Peace and Power in Your Life!
Thank you!
Rick

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, CSCS, WKC Competition Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: NIFS group training nifs staff NIFS programs Les Mills kettlebell