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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Thomas Livengood

Recent Posts by Thomas Livengood:

Using Battling Ropes for Training

_68R5895When you begin your fitness quest and are getting started on a new program, finding exercises that are appropriate for you is key to your success. Your fitness staff at NIFS has your back! Training methods and training tools developed from years of research and practice have shown that sometimes a simple exercise done well can be quite effective.

In this case, we will be looking at training with battling ropes (also known as battle ropes). I was lucky to have been in attendance at one of the top fitness summits recently and was humbled by the overall amount of work that can be accomplished with the ropes. (Taking some learning cues from renowned fitness professionals has given me the opportunity to deliver some great, purposeful workouts to NIFS members and clients.)

You may have seen the battle ropes in your gym, but did not know exactly what exercises could be done with them. For the most part, the movement patterns are simple, yet effective. Slamming the ropes utilizes multiple muscle groups and also gets your heart rate to rise. Taking the training one step further, your rope slams can be broken down into many movement patterns including small movement patterns, large movement patterns, and several other fun, specialized movement patterns (which we will look at in this blog).

What Are Battle Ropes?

Before we get started on the exercises, it would be helpful to have a better anatomical understanding of these ropes. For starters, ropes come in many lengths and thicknesses. The longer the rope or the thicker the rope, the more challenging the exercises become. Also, using a poly rope with shrinkwrapped endcaps has advantages over the less-expensive manila gym ropes traditionally used for climbing. The poly rope material tends to be softer on the hands and more durable than the manila rope. The manila rope, however, can work fine and be more cost-effective.

Small-Movement Pattern

The first movement pattern we will discuss is called the small-movement pattern. This pattern is the easiest to learn and progress from. Once you have selected your rope and have attached it to its anchor point, simply get your body into an athletic position (not unlike getting ready to hit a volleyball or pick up a groundball in softball). You will slam the rope quickly, yet rhythmically in cadence so that the small slams create a ripple that flows all the way down to the anchor point. This pattern can also have several small variations including single-arm slams. Typically, this exercise can be done for time (i.e., 20 seconds per set) or with your interval training (i.e., :20 on, :20 off for 3 minutes).

Large-Movement Pattern

The second movement pattern is the large-movement pattern. With this movement pattern, the goal is to create big slams with the rope. This movement is similar to the one seen with medicine ball slams, where you take your body from a small movement position to a fully extended position with the ropes overhead and on your toes, and then end by slamming the rope with maximum force into the ground. This movement can be rhythmic, but sometimes seems a little more aggressive in nature than the small-movement pattern. The benefits here, though, are definitely more athletic in nature, as many sports require movement patterning based on this exact exercise. Because this exercise makes it easier to count reps, being able to do sets such as 4 x 10–12 reps, makes sense (but do not limit yourself; intervals here are also appropriate).

Other Ways to Use Rope Training

Outside of these two movements, you can explore rope training in many ways. Thinking back to grade-school times, we used the rope often during physical education class as the true tests of strength with tug-of-war and the rope climb, but we can make ropes fun and challenging when we put them back into our workout plans and add a little competition. With tug-of-war, you need several people to compete, but other exercises can replicate this movement solo. The Marpo Rope Trainer machine can convert to a standing tug-of-war rope pull, just you versus the machine! The rope climb, which is a daunting challenge for most, can be replicated on the rope machine as well. But if you don’t have the rope machine, starting with rope descends is an excellent way to get more comfortable and definitely stronger.

BONUS: Here is a great Friday Finisher series using the Ropes!

 

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These rope challenges are great additions to most workouts because they are simple and they can be done with individual maximum efforts or in groups where a cardiovascular challenge is needed. If you are interested in adding ropes to your workouts and want more information, NIFS staffers are more than happy to help you begin your new rope training workout. As always, muscleheads evolve and rejoice!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS exercise fitness center Thomas' Corner equipment workouts strength sports movement

Ankle Mobility: Lower-Leg Stretches to Improve ROM and Decrease Injury

GettyImages-867056016-1Whether you are a seasoned workout veteran or the new face in the gym, there’s no denying that lower-leg pain can be a huge deterrent for exercise (and day-to-day life, for that matter). Some pains are dictated by the range of motion in the ankle. Due to several factors including previous injuries and wear and tear, physiological problems from the various shoes people wear, and the types of exercises people punish their bodies with, we see individuals every day who have a hard time performing some of the more basic exercises such as squats and deadlifting.

To hopefully achieve a better, safer exercise with less pain, it’s helpful to incorporate ankle mobility warmups into your routine and to be conscious of testing and retesting range of motion to monitor your progress. Here I cover some tests that are useful for checking your ankle mobility and some warmup stretches to get you heading in the right direction.

Testing Ankle Mobility

For testing and retesting your ankle mobility, NIFS uses a test that is included in the Fundamental Capacity Screen simply referred to as the Ankle Clearing Screen. What we want to see is whether your ankle mobility is capable and safe to perform a specific movement pattern. If not, we need to strategize ways to improve ROM and decrease chances for injury.

Dr. John Rusin describes a test you can do at home in which you stand, facing a wall, with your foot four inches away from the edge of the wall. While keeping your heel on the ground, try to touch your knee to the wall. It’s not as easy as it might seem, but being able to touch your knee to the wall is a sign of a healthy, mobile ankle. If you can’t do it and you want to improve, we have some work to do!

Stretches for Ankle Mobility

There are many stretches for ankle mobility that can help boost your ability. Starting with a simple ankle stretch at the wall, begin by pressing against the wall, keeping your heels flat on the floor. The more your body gets used to this movement, the farther you will be able to move your feet back (as long as your feet are flat on the ground). Holding for several seconds on each side, try to do this stretch daily or as often as you like to help get the ball rolling.

A similar way to stretch the ankle would be a self-stretch from a half-kneeling position. This is a simple yet effective movement that improves your flexibility over time. While keeping your foot flat, rock forward until you feel a stretch, then return to the starting position. Move your foot farther away from your body or closer to your body for a couple nice change-ups to the routine.

Lastly, if you were interested only in the exercise aspect and can’t find time to stretch, you can still do a squat pattern. The TRX Deep Squat is a good beginner squat that will help reestablish ankle mobility and train your body to work through the entire squat range of motion. Even sitting in the squat position feels good and helps the body get used to the pattern. Without weight to affect the body positioning, you will find this to be lower impact and a great jump off into doing traditional squats with great form.

Get Help from NIFS

Ankle mobility is where everything in the whole kinetic chain starts. If you have poor ankle mobility, chances are you aren’t going to be able to do the squats or hip hinge patterns effectively, which our bodies need to get stronger. This ripple effect passes all the way to the upper half of the body.

If you want more information or would like help improving your ankle mobility, please reach out to NIFS and one of our Health Fitness Specialists will help guide you in the right direction. Fundamental Capacity Screens are complimentary. Check with a NIFS staff member to see whether this type of testing is right for you.

As always, muscleheads evolve and rejoice!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: Thomas' Corner injury prevention range of motion pain mobility assessments stretches ankle mobility lower leg

Get Moving with Improved Hip-Mobility Warmups

Whether or not you exercise, hip mobility plays a factor in your everyday life. Within the exercise realm, good hip mobility can be the difference between being “in the game” and just watching from the sidelines. In day-to-day life, hip mobility factors into nearly all movements, including climbing stairs, sitting and standing, and walking. If you find yourself wondering whether you could benefit from improved hip mobility, the answer is a resounding “Yes”! While understanding the importance of hip mobility is key, designing a routine that is appropriate for your needs and goals takes precedence.

Benefits of Improved Hip Mobility

If I were to pinpoint a few benefits of improved hip mobility, I would first look at the basic elements and emphasize the benefits of improved balance. Although you do not stand on one foot on a regular basis, you do, however, get in and out of your car, which requires a degree of balance. As hip mobility deteriorates, you may find it harder and harder to get out of your car.

A second area to look at is hip-strength imbalances in the body. This can become a more advanced quickly, so lack of hip mobility can lead to an abnormal strain on other muscle groups. An example of this is that an individual who sits all day may develop weak hip muscles (like the psoas, iliacus, and rectus femoris), which in turn could lead to the hamstring getting overworked.

Lastly better hip mobility can lead to fewer injuries and decreased overall pain due to hip tightness. Those who are running a marathon might discover tightness in their hips that could be remedied through a well-thought-out hip-mobility warmup.

Improving Your Hip-Mobility Warmups

IMG_4979Most workout formulas include a warmup process. If hip mobility is a focus, your workout would benefit from a few additions to the routine. Foam rolling, which has been around for a while, is a great way to get blood circulating to the muscles and decrease soreness (if you worked them out prior). Spending a few minutes to roll out the trigger spots (areas of higher tenderness) will help you feel better, and you will be able to exercise on a more consistent basis.

IMG_4983Second, I would suggest a dynamic movement stretch (rather than traditional static stretching) to help not only stretch the muscle, but also warm up the body for more movement. “The World’s Greatest Stretch” (yes, that’s really its name) takes the exerciser into a lunge position, rotating and opening up the torso to the ceiling. Why is this called the “World’s Greatest Stretch?” For starters, you are able to stretch not only your hip flexors, but also your hamstrings and torso. As you do the stretch, both sides back to back, you notice that the stretch allows you to flow, dynamically, which is a great way to get your body ready for movement.

IMG_4990Finally, another great stretch to do is simply called a Hip Internal Rotation Stretch. While lying on your back, cross one leg over the other, allowing the hips to lean to one side and getting a decent stretch.

 

Address Your Hip Problems Now

Some hip problems are not from a lack of trying. Physiologically, there are many reasons your hips might hurt. If you feel as though you are having excessive pain in your hips, you might need to consult with someone who can help you. Overall balance issues, unnecessary pain, and muscle imbalances can all become bigger, life-altering issues down the road, so take care of them before they become bigger issues.

We want you to feel good! Come see a NIFS staff member at the track desk to schedule a complimentary FMS Screen to determine ways we can best help you with your exercises. Remember to warm up properly and stretch when appropriate, strengthen your weaknesses to see real improvement, and consult a professional to help you develop your plan.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: staying active workouts injury prevention balance pain warmups mobility stretch hips hip mobility

Upper-body Workouts: Try the UBE Equipment in the Fitness Center

IMG_4820Ergometers have been a mainstay in the fitness world for a long time. You might not realize it, but many of the cardio pieces in your fitness center that you use regularly are ergometers. The arm ergometer comes from two Greek words: ergo, which means work, and metro or meter, which means measurement. In essence, any cardio equipment you have been using that has the capability to measure your workload can be considered an ergometer.

Because this is a wide spectrum of possibilities, we will focus on some pieces of equipment that fall into a subcategory, Upper-body Arm Ergometers (or UBE for short). I will give some professional tips and workout ideas to incorporate some great exercise into your program well into the new year.

NIFS has several options for UBE-minded people. For starters, the Marpo Rope Climb Machine, the Concept II SkiErg, and the Schwinn Air Bikes can each provide a nice, challenging upper-body cardio exercise. Because each machine specializes in its own fitness discipline (climbing, skiing, and biking), exercisers have an opportunity to not only do the exercises they love to do, but also try new pieces of equipment.

Rope Climbing Machine

Rope climbing is hard work, but quite beneficial. The main movers here are the Latissimus Dorsi, also known as the Lats; however, you can easily notice other muscles that work to support the movement, such as core and grip strength. Sometimes, though, this exercise is a little aggressive and you might not be ready to attempt a rope ascent. In this case, we can introduce you to the Marpo Rope Climbing Machine. This device can simulate various rope activities ranging from climbing the rope to a tug-of-war. Further, accessibility and versatility are both pluses. I like to use the rope machine for cardio on days that my legs are too sore to go, or if I am recovering from a lower-body injury.

Workout: I would suggest doing an interval of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off for 4 to 5 rounds at the end of your workout. During the “go” time, be ready to work!

Concept II Ski Erg

skiAnother piece of UBE equipment you can find is the Concept II Ski Erg. The machine is designed to replicate cross-country skiing, but can also be used for upper-body only. For years, cross-country skiing has been associated with some of the most beneficial exercises in our industry. When snow is not in the forecast or if we lived far away from winter weather, it might be hard to come by a set of skis. The Ski Erg takes up a relatively small space and still gives a great workout. The Concept II machines are designed to take a lot of intensity while providing a good, safe workout.

Workout: A quick workout could be as easy as measuring your quickest 1,000 meters and then trying to beat that time the next time you are at NIFS.

Air Bike

Screen Shot 2019-05-30 at 11.35.49 AMThe final piece of equipment is the air bike. Bikes have been around for quite a while, but not all bikes are created equal. The air bike is fan driven, which means that the intensity you feel is based on your exercise output. Because it uses both your arms and legs, you get a full-body effect from the exercise. When muscles contract, not only are calories being burnt, but blood has to pump out to all those muscles, hence your heart rate increases. Ask anyone who has used the air bike and they will tell you that it could be one of the best challengers in the gym.

Workout: Use the bike as a warmup or a final finisher. I like to use the bike as a cool-down to keep the blood flowing and ease out of a hard workout. Try an 8–10-minute ride at moderate intensity at the end of your session.

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For people who are injured or just want a great workout, the UBE equipment has something for everyone. NIFS provides support and will help you find the equipment and workouts that are appropriate for your goals and level of training. Train hard with equipment designed to push you to the limits.

If you are unsure about the UBE equipment, please stop and see a NIFS staff member to assist you with your needs. As always, keep working hard to achieve your goals, and don’t be afraid to try something a little different at the gym—you might end up loving it!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness center equipment workouts skiing biking upper body climbing ergonomic

Balancing Act: How to Improve Your Balance—and Quality of Life

Screen Shot 2019-04-11 at 12.19.41 PMImagine a tightrope walker, gracefully walking their path across their suspended highwire. An incredible amount of balance is required, along with stability and strength, to ensure that the performer maintains their position on the rope. Now think about balance as it applies to you and your profession or daily life. You might not even think about it, but you use balance every day. Things that you take for granted, such as walking down stairs, putting on a pair of pants, and getting out of your car require some level of balance, or else we would most likely take a tumble. Thankfully, there are exercises and routines designed to improve and train balance that transfer nicely to daily life.

As with any limitation or injuries, be careful and mindful of the doctor’s recommendations. Loss of balance could be a sign that you need to be checked out by your physician. That being said, we know that exercise can be great, but we would regard and yield to the utmost safety when approaching anyone who may be at risk or falling due to balance issues.

If you have come to the conclusion that your balance needs help, there is good news for you! Like most facets of life, balance can be improved. The answer to a question as simple as, “If you want to run a 5K in 20 minutes, what would you do?” is RUN! So, if you want to get better balance, what should you do? Practice balancing. You do not have to walk a tightrope on day one, but there are many exercises and fitness tools designed to help your balance improve.

Balance Exercises

Try the following exercises and activities, and see how you do with balance, then incorporate them into your routine. Assess your balance from time to time to see how you have improved.

  • Stand on an unstable surface. Using an AirEx Pad, time yourself standing on one foot. Other exercises can be done while standing on the pad such as lunges, squats, and dumbbell overhead press, utilizing the unstable surface to challenge your balancing ability. Other unstable surfaces you may use as you advance include the BOSU ball, half foam roller, and sand.
  • Try unilateral exercises. Improving your leg strength through unilateral exercise is another great way to improve your balance. Some examples of these exercises include lunges, split squats, and my personal favorite, the single-leg sit and stand on a box. For this exercise, you will want to find a box that is the appropriate height (around chair height). Start from a seated position, then come to a complete stand using only one leg. Try to sit back down onto the box under complete control. This can be progressed with weights and movement patterns such as the overhead press.
  • Join a group fitness class. Another way to improve balance is through group fitness classes. NIFS offers several classes that emphasize balance, such as BOSU conditioning and some that help you develop balance such as yoga and BODYCOMBAT. As stated above, the more you practice your balance, the better chance you have to improve it. In BOSU conditioning, we can progress and regress any exercise to fit your needs. The exercise doesn’t have to be impossible, but it should be challenging. Check out this NIFS blog by our own Tony Maloney for more about BOSU balance.

Improve Your Quality of Life

With the improvement of balance comes an overall improvement in your quality of life. Being able to trust your steps as you walk is important, as is being able to do things in life you love to do. Getting better is just a process and takes time. You must take that step forward; otherwise, you might be on shaky ground. For tips and exercises to promote balance, contact a Fitness Specialist at NIFS or join one of our many group fitness classes.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: yoga group fitness balance exercises BODYCOMBAT BOSU quality of life ADLs

How to Superset Like a Boss: Speedy Workouts with Big Results

GettyImages-878254216Have you ever tried working out in a time crunch or just wanted to get more exercise in a shorter period of time? Maybe you would like to speed through, but would rather have a plan of action to make your path a little easier. You are in luck because there is a fitness concept that does all of this while making sure you get a great workout. The idea is called supersetting, but it’s not as simple as you might think. To develop a great superset workout, you need to understand how a few concepts really work.

What Is a Superset?

A superset is more than just a two-exercise “mini circuit.” First of all, for these to work the way they are intended, you will have to reconstruct your fitness plan to allow for two exercises, back to back, that complement each other. Basically, the superset exercises need to work different muscle groups all together. For example, I could do a set of pushups (which primarily work the chest and secondarily the shoulders and triceps) and then follow that with a set of pull-ups (which primarily work the Latissimus Dorsi and secondarily the biceps and other back muscles). Another example would be bicep curls and triceps extensions. These are usually a great superset, especially for a time crunch.

Where many people get into a snag is when they try to superset two exercises where both movements incorporate the same muscle and movement pattern. Although it might be a great workout, a traditional superset wouldn’t ask you to do a lat pull-down followed by a pull-up (this would be a basic “burnout” style of exercise that works, but for other reasons).

How to Have a Successful Workout

Now that we have defined the superset, here are a few tips to help make sure your workout is successful.

  • Keep it simple. First, try to keep the movement patterns simple and basic. I wouldn’t superset a complex exercise, such as a clean and jerk or a Turkish get-up. These exercises have many elements, which makes them unique and requires more attention to details.
  • Choose proximal exercises. Second, I suggest picking exercises in your fitness center that are relatively near to each other, so you don’t have to track all over the gym and waste time. This is why a bicep curl and triceps extension work well together. You can use the dumbbell area in your gym and have the weights right there ready to go.
  • Pick exercises that require less recovery time. Finally, bigger lifts usually take longer time periods to recover from. I suggest that if you are taking several minutes to recover from your first superset exercise before you do the next, you might need to consider a different exercise. I suggest that your rest be between 30 seconds to a minute maximum.

Developing workout plans that are appropriate and goal-oriented has always been the hallmark of the NIFS health fitness specialists. Being able to superset properly might not come as easy as you may think, but a staff member can help you make wise choices. You can set up a time to meet and evaluate your goals, do one of our numerous fitness-related tests and screens, or talk about workouts that you are doing. We are more than happy to assist with your programming. Followups are also important, so if you haven’t met with a trainer in a while, please stop by and set up an appointment and keep moving forward.

Until next time, muscleheads evolve and rejoice!

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

This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness center Thomas' Corner workouts speed superset

Tricks of the Trade: Exercise Coaching Cues to Avoid Injury and Pain

IMG_7980Coaching cues can really make a big difference in the outcome of your workouts. Sometimes it means the difference in whether you get injured during an exercise. Or are you even working the muscles you originally intended to use? Without cues, it would be foolish to have a client jeopardize their health because they saw someone else do a movement incorrectly or think they read it in a magazine or online. This is not to say that there are not many ways one can do to their exercises, or modifications to spice up their workout plan, but you need to make sure you aren’t compromising yourself and goals in the process.

I aim to clarify several cues you might have heard a trainer speak to their client, or have read about in a magazine or online. With this knowledge, hopefully you will have an opportunity to make more informed and educated decisions about the exercises you are doing in the fitness center.

Wall Sit Knee Pain

A great exercise to utilize on leg day is the tried-and-true wall sit. Due to the nature of the exercise and positioning of the body, it can cause a real strain on the knees.

Dissecting the exercise shows which muscles are active during a wall sit. This includes the gluteus, hamstrings, quads, and calves. The movement is basically a static squat while pressed against a wall, utilizing the principles of isometrics. Lowering the body to a position in which the knee is bent at 90 degrees and the back and head are flat against the wall is ideal.

Knee pain can be a side effect; if so, using caution is always rule #1. To help alleviate some discomfort, some cues to consider include the following:

  • Make sure your feet are flat on the floor.
  • Move your feet away from the wall.
  • Widen your stance a little.
  • Slightly point your toes outward at an angle.

You will still be using the same muscles, but the emphasis will shift away from the knees and more into your powerful glutei muscles. I also cannot stress it enough: keep your head back against the wall and your cervical spine in a neutral position. For an added challenge, you can try being in a wall-sit position, then add in a bicep curl to accentuate the movement.

Overhead Shoulder Press Pain

Yet another staple exercise you will see in the gym is the overhead press. There are many variations to consider, some with free weights and some with selectorized machines. Both ways, potentially, will get the job done, if done properly. The shoulder press is performed by pressing one or two dumbbells or a barbell overhead (if using free weights), or with a designated overhead press machine from your favorite selectorized machine line.

A typical issue that arises during a shoulder press is general overall pain in the shoulder itself, and sometimes discomfort in the upper middle back. If there are no underlying issues with the shoulder, this might only be a technique issue that could be resolved with proper cueing. You can discover whether you do have an underlying shoulder problem by completing a Functional Movement Screening (FMS) at NIFS.

Cues to consider here include the following:

  • Never allow the bar to travel behind your head or neck.
  • Try to keep your elbows forward of your shoulders as you press overhead.
  • Lower the weight until your hands are about at eye level, then press.
  • Use dumbbells only when your skill and experience level allows for it.

Lifting really heavy weight, such as during Olympic lifting, can also be hazardous and warrant special consideration. Sometimes an injury occurs during an overhead Olympic movement, but often injuries happen when a weight is being lowered to the starting position, safely to the ground.

Dropping weights from overhead is permissible when the weight being used gets to a range that cannot be safely managed on the descent. At this point, it is advisable to drop the weight, but there is a right and wrong way to drop. Consulting with an Olympic lifting coach or professional along with experience is the best way to learn how to drop the weights in a controlled and safe manner. Ideally, you are going to be safe, and the equipment maintenance guy appreciates your courteous and safe lifting efforts.

Screen Shot 2019-01-29 at 10.30.09 AM

Lat Pulldowns, the Safe Way

Our final cue is for the Lat Pulldown, which is a variation of a pull-up, using a selectorized machine. Although the motion and muscles are the same, the lat pulldown is an easier way to get good repetitions at an otherwise challenging movement. This doesn’t mean you can flub the exercise at the expense of your health.

Ever since the beginning of strength training, an iconic image in the gym is the “behind the neck or head” lat pulldown. A trainer who cares about you will tell you not to do this movement because it’s bad. “But why not?” you may ask. Without a doubt this is a high-risk exercise, but not for the reason you might be thinking. The equipment you are using is checked, double-checked, and deemed safe, but there is always a chance that the cable will give way, causing the bar or handle to come at your noggin at a high rate of speed. We can all agree that a behind the neck lat pull down is not worth a concussion (or worse).

Here are some cues for a safer lat pulldown:

  • Grab the bar or handle with hands evenly spaced,
  • Pull the bar or handle down to around eye level in front of the body and control the motion both on the way up and back down.

Many people may have other perceptions, but safety is the number-one priority when you are a personal trainer.

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Do you have a trainer who has given you cues for exercise? Cues can really make a big difference. If you are interested in safer, more effective exercise, and learning about how your body works in exercise, contact a NIFS personal trainer or health fitness specialist to schedule a meeting to discuss your goals, questions, and next steps to a better workout. Getting the most out of your time at the gym also makes sense. Now get back to work!

Muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: Thomas' Corner injury prevention pain personal training exercises coaching functional movement screen cues

Leg Day Workouts for Non-Squat Enthusiasts

GettyImages-622809280For some people, leg day at the gym is the greatest single day of the week. For others, however, there couldn’t be a more grueling and loathsome experience. We all know that leg workouts are essential to our total-body fitness plans and that there are consequences to not doing leg day, like becoming internet memes.

Reasons People Skip Their Leg Workouts

Some of the reasons people do not do leg day include knee pain, hip pain, after-workout soreness, poor technique, and sometimes mechanical reasons (your body just can’t do squats due to anatomy). Whatever the reason may be, you still need to address your lower body and quit skipping leg day.

I, for one, have been guilty of skipping leg day from time to time, but I know that there are important benefits to doing the workouts. The main reasons I do not like doing the exercises began with just being tired of standing at work all day after a great leg day. It made the rest of my day brutal. You might feel the same way, but it’s just part of the process that your body needs to go through to get stronger and better.

A very plausible reason some people skip leg day could be that they decided to start a workout “split” (each day of the week dedicated to a body part—Monday is chest day, Tuesday is bicep day, etc.). With the split, you would have to spend a lot of time at the gym to ensure each body part is worked each week—a minimum of 5-6 days per week to do the job. If you have a life event come up, such as a work meeting, a kid’s birthday party, or an illness, you will need to skip a day this week to deal with that situation. What happens is that people will skip the day they like the least, leg day. When next week rolls around, it will have been two weeks since your last leg day. That’s not good.

Leg Workout Ideas

Here are some ideas for leg workouts that are set up for beginners and people who are not fans of squats. You will see a lot of familiar exercises that will give you benefits. Hopefully, with the right motivation, you will become better at leg day.

  1. Deadlift: This can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, or even kettlebells. This link shows a variation of a deadlift called a trap bar deadlift. As you can see, the legs are definitely getting a lot of attention, while good form can be easily distinguished.
  2. Lunge: Although this exercise is about as popular as squats, the benefits are equally impressive. Not all lunges are the same. Check out this example of a lunge variation that you can easily add to your workout.
  3. Hip press machine: We don’t always want to use machines, but in this case, the hip press machine is a great way to get your legs and hips stronger and more ready for squats. Check out this video that highlights a hip press machine.

Leg day doesn’t have to be the most dreaded day of the week. You do not have to hide from your leg workouts any longer. Start off small and smart. Talk to a Health Fitness Specialist at NIFS. They will not only help you set up a workout tailored to your needs, but also monitor your progress through benchmarks you can set at your free strategy session. Words of wisdom: Do not become an internet meme because you skipped leg day!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: Thomas' Corner workouts videos squat leg day

Foam Rolling: The Next Big Thing in Pain Relief and Injury Prevention

GettyImages-686409390For the majority of my athletic and fitness career, getting sore from activities, workouts, practices, or games has not only been a sign that work has been done, but also a rite of passage. The saying, “no pain, no gain” came about as a result, and the world would judge successful workouts on soreness.

Those days have come and gone, and fitness professionals have come to the understanding that the old saying definitely needs updating. While getting a great workout and being sore is fine, being able to prevent injury, decrease soreness, improve mobility, and increase blood circulation are things we would like to incorporate into our wellness on a daily basis. One thing that I have found in my fitness journey is that you can get a great workout today, and with proper foam rolling (also known as self-myofascial release), you can get back after it tomorrow.

A Brief History of Foam Rolling

Foam rolling might seem like it’s a fairly new concept, but the idea has been around quite a while within manual physical therapy circles and with nontraditional medicine practitioners. In the late 19th century, physicians were using manual therapy to improve blood circulation and lymph flow. Although there are almost no studies that show that foam rolling had any benefits, the people that these techniques were being implemented on seemed to see the benefit.

Fast-forwarding to modern times, we have seen a boom in various industries associated with massage and related therapies. Individuals are seeing great results from meeting with these professionals and become interested not only in the tools they are using, but also in figuring out ways to implement similar techniques and experiences as a way to a quick-fix home remedy. Thus was born the foam roller, which now comes in many sizes, lengths, and shapes, and can be supplemented with everything from heat and ice to vibration discs.

How to Start Foam Rolling

Here are some quick tips and ideas to get you on your way.

  • Choosing a density: Pick a foam roller density that matches your comfort level. The softer foam rollers are geared more for beginners who might be sensitive and unable to cope with the discomfort a denser foam roller brings. As you become more accustomed to foam rolling, you may increase the foam roller density to your desired comfort level. As with getting a deep-tissue massage, it might feel uncomfortable at the time, but you may feel great right away, and tomorrow you will feel like a million dollars!
  • Rolling before and after bed: NIFS Personal Trainer Kris Simpson, a huge proponent and practitioner of foam rolling, says, “Foam rolling before bed is a great way to relieve muscle tension and stress from a long day. You will sleep better while being better rested, in turn giving you a head start on the following day. Again foam rolling in the morning would help get the blood flowing after a long, unrestful sleep.”
  • Finding a pattern: Another NIFS Trainer, Cara Hartman, uses foam rollers with her athletes. She has all of her clients and athletes follow a pattern that makes sense. “We like to start lower posterior (calves) and work our way up (hamstrings, glutes, back, etc). Smaller muscles can be rolled with a little creativity. If you find yourself unable to perform a movement, try putting the foam roller against the wall and rolling vertically as opposed to horizontally.”
  • Watch our video on how to properly foam roll.

As you work to get better at foam rolling, understand that it is very similar to everything you do in life. It will be most difficult the very first time you do it, but it will get a little easier each time you try it. I have a personal philosophy regarding foam rolling:

“If you want to maintain current mobility and flexibility, foam roll one time per day. If you want to increase mobility and flexibility, foam roll more than one time per day (the only limit is how much time you have to devote to your wellness). And if you want to get worse, do nothing!”

Foam Rolling at NIFS

NIFS has multiple foam-rolling stations designated to give you as many opportunities to roll as you need. There are multiple lengths and densities as well as a specialty roller made by Rollga. If you would like a quick tutorial and to talk about foam rolling with staff, please stop by the track desk and see one of the Health Fitness Specialists on staff. Get on a roller today, feel great tomorrow!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness center Thomas' Corner injury prevention pain mobility foam rolling circulation

Get a Handle on Fitness with TRX at NIFS

GettyImages-501890636Have you tried TRX class at NIFS? For starters, you may be asking yourself, “What is a trx?” TRX is a body-weight suspension training system designed to give you a total-body workout, while playing to your skill set and allowing for nearly limitless body-weight–oriented exercise. TRX can provide a fitness beginner with an opportunity to learn movement patterns properly as well as challenge the most seasoned veterans in the gym with more advanced progressions.

The TRX concept is fairly simple: it’s basically two handles and straps that attach at an anchor point. Some exercises require various strap heights, but really, you can do most basic movement patterns (squat, row, and press) with one of three lengths. Intensity of exercise is determined by angles of your body as opposed to the anchor point, stability and balances, and progressions. The TRX was designed in the mid ’90s by Randy Hetrick, a former Navy Seal, as a way to develop total-body strength through body-weight–resisted exercise.

Getting Started

The first thing you notice when you see a TRX on the fitness center floor is that there are not many instructions on how to use it, although there are actually quite a few. A great way to become acclimated to some of the exercises is to take a TRX class, which is complimentary with your membership. A typical class consists of a warm-up or acclimation to TRX. We spend time every session practicing strap adjustment and proper form. Then we get down to business. Every exercise has a progression and a regression to ensure you are getting a workout appropriate to your abilities.

It is not uncommon to see a college student working out side-by-side with a grandmother. Although the variation changes slightly, the overall goal is to work to get better each and every time we train. At the end of each session there is time to stretch. Stretches are many people’s favorite, not only because you know you are finished, but also because it really feels good and works.

Exercises You Can Do on Your Own

TRX-3As you await your next TRX class opportunity, here are some exercises that you can add to your own workout in the meantime.

  1. TRX Row: With two handles set to the short length (one tick mark), start with arms long and body in a plank position, being mindful that you do not let your hips sag. While under control, pull yourself up to your hands. Lower back down under control. PRO TIP: You can pull with your hands parallel to the floor to engage the lats more, whereas pulling with your hands horizontal to the floor works the rear deltoids and trapezius. (See video here.)
  2. TRX Superman: With two handles set to the longest length, start facing away from the TRX. Your arms will start out by being fully straightened. By simply leaning forward and moving your hands toward the ceiling, the core control will be emphasized. PRO TIP: Being under control is always key, but you also what to start from a position in which the exercise is doable. Try moving your feet farther away from the TRX to make this exercise harder, or closer to the anchor point to decrease the difficulty. (See video here.)
  3. TRX Assisted Pull-ups: Start with two handles set to the shortest position (if you need assistance with adjustments, please see staff at the track desk) and body positioned directly below the anchor point and sitting in a cross-legged position. Use the TRX handles to slowly pull your body upward, not unlike a real pull-up motion. The assistance comes from the lower body and the resistance and difficulty can be determined by tempo and number of repetitions. (See video here.)

Try This Workout

5 Minutes AMRAP (as many reps as possible)

  • 12 TRX Rows
  • 12 TRX Superman Extensions
  • 6 TRX Assisted Pull-ups
  • Repeat

TRX at NIFS

Although class space is limited to eight individuals, there are no sign-ups. Just show up and enjoy a great, challenging workout. If you are having reservations about joining the class, but still want to try TRX, one of our certified fitness professionals can prescribe exercises. Classes meet Monday at 6am, Thursday at 5:30pm, and Friday at 6 and 11am. Check out the NIFS Group Fitness page to see up-to-date times and days for your favorite classes. Get a handle on fitness with TRX today!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness center Thomas' Corner group fitness TRX body weight total-body workouts