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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

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

Summer Sledding: Using Sleds for Fitness

Training with a drive sled, or what we lovingly refer to as the “Prowler,” is probably one of the most popular modes of training with the coolest toy. I can remember my first experience with a sled a long time ago during football practice. There was nothing that made me want to see my last meal more than pushing a heavy sled as fast and hard as I could.

What the Sled Can Do for You

That feeling hasn’t changed much for me after a hard sled session, and I think it remains the draw for many who love the feeling of being “maxed out.” But the sled has so many more uses than “push till you puke,” such as:

  • Power development
  • Upper-body strength development
  • Trunk stability work

Exercises You Can Do with the Sled

Screen Shot 2019-08-27 at 11.31.01 AM

Here are some of my favorite ways to train with the sled that are not just pushing it fast down a straight line. This piece of equipment can challenge the body in so many different and fun ways:

  • Double-arm rows
  • Single-arm rows
  • Rips
  • Press
  • Walking dead
  • Walking AR press
  • Lateral cross-steps
  • Power push
  • OH walk
  • Lunges

The sled is easily one of the most versatile fitness tools out there, and can be such a fun and exciting way to train so many aspects of fitness. This is just a short list of the possible movements you can complete with a sled. Add a few different movements using the sled during your next training session and reap the benefits! Remember to practice proper REST protocols and make it a part of your training schedule.

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness center equipment core exercises power strength training upper body fitness equipment sled

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

Holiday Fitness: Equipment That Fits in Your Suitcase

GettyImages-533342462’Tis the season for holiday traveling, holiday parties, not having as much time to hit the gym, and eating more calories than are in your average diet. Spending time with family and friends is so important over the holiday season, but taking care of your health and fitness is just as important.

The key to this success is making exercise a priority. A few ways to do that are by committing to workout programs, scheduling in your workout times, committing to a fitness goal, and maybe even purchasing a few fitness essentials that fit in your suitcase to use conveniently when you are traveling.

Suitcase Equipment Essentials and Exercise Guide

Resistance Bands (average price $3–$8)

You probably have used a resistance band in your Small Group Training, Barre Fusion, or Circuit Training classes, or seen them being used by others in the gym. Versa Loops are a great tool to take with you during the holidays. These bands are very cost-effective and weigh almost nothing, nor take up much space.

A NIFS Fitness Center staff member can help you create an on-the-go workout plan using the band. Stop by and see an instructor for quick and effective band workouts.

The key to success is taking action. Just because you buy a mini versa band does not mean you will stay in shape like magic if it sits in your suitcase. Take time to schedule 20 to 30 minutes a few times a week to break a sweat and work on stability, mobility, and core strength with this amazing fitness tool.

Jump Rope (average price $10–$12)

Jumping rope is a great addition to a gym workout to get your heart rate up, but is also a great piece of equipment that you can easily add to your suitcase to torch calories anywhere and at any time. You can burn up to 10 calories a minute jumping rope. Pulling this piece of equipment out of your suitcase can definitely balance out the extra calories you consume during the holiday. Do it for 10 to 15 minutes straight for an endurance workout, or combine it with body resistance toning exercises for a great go-to HIIT workout.

TRX (average price $70–$130)

TRX is a great piece of fitness equipment that you can pack up to go anywhere. At moderate intensity, someone might burn up to 250 calories during a one-hour training session. TRX straps are light and easy to take anywhere. When you’re in town, taking classes at NIFS is a great way to learn proper form and new moves, but this equipment can be hung in door frames or places around the house to also get in a great sweat and total-body workout.

Running Shoes (average price $60–$150)

Running is a free, very effective workout that is great for burning calories. If you don’t have a pair of running shoes already, they can come at a price but make a great investment for staying accountable to keeping weight off over the holiday season (if you pack them in your bag and use them). If you are healthy enough for running, grab some shoes and hit the pavement or indoor track here at NIFS.

Some Other Holiday Wellness Tips

In addition to this equipment you can easily use to help stay fit over the holidays, don’t forget about the importance of diet.

  • Remember portions. Overeating is very easy to do at holiday functions, so set your mind to eating for results. This means practicing portion control and not overloading your plate or having too much sugar and alcohol. Keep on a balanced diet through your normal lifestyle and allow yourself a little extra only on special occasions.
  • Don’t be afraid to say “no” in the office. Just because a co-worker brings in a treat, does not mean you have to have all the holiday cookies and cupcakes. Maybe commit to having one a week even if someone brings in something new daily.
  • Have an accountability buddy. Find someone you trust and who also wants to stay healthy over the holiday season. Make goals together—like working out 4 to 5 times each week, or eating only one holiday dessert a week—that you commit to and achieve together so you don’t feel like you’re doing it alone!

Holidays are a great time to have fun, so enjoy doing everything you love like spending time with friends and family while also living a healthy lifestyle.

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This blog was written by Brittany Ignas, BS in Kinesiology, 200 Hour Yoga Alliance Certified, Stott Pilates Certified, and NIFS Fitness Program Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: running equipment holidays accountability resistance TRX traveling portion control fitness equipment

What’s In Your Gym Bag? Weight-Lifting Belts

IMG_7197Weight-lifting belts have become a staple in many gym settings for powerlifting, Olympic lifting, bodybuilding, and strongman, and for anyone who wants to lift heavy loads. Whether you use them for training or on the competition platform, you need to know the ins and outs of weight belts so that you can make a smart decision.

How to Use a Belt the Right Way

Using a weightlifting belt is situational. It depends on several different factors, including the experience of the lifter, how heavy the load is in relation to 1RM (One Rep Maximum), as well as the number of repetitions in each set. Put on the belt as tight as possible with no room to slide your hand in, but enough room to allow a big breath and abdominal muscles to brace against it. It should be so tight that it’s uncomfortable if worn for several minutes. Placement of the belt is often by preference, but generally an inch or two above the pelvis.

According to studies from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), a weight belt is used to help generate intra-abdominal pressure. This means tightening your natural stabilizers, such as abdominal muscles and erector spinae muscles in your back in order to brace the spine and stay safe. A belt can also be used as a proprioceptive tool to teach you how to breathe and brace because it allows proper response to occur and gives you something to brace against. This creates a constant feedback loop because now you can actually feel your muscles bracing and pushing up against the tight belt. In turn, this increases stability for the spine and core and adds support. For the record, a weight belt won’t protect against injuries caused by improper bracing and poor lifting technique. Not only is bracing an important skill to learn when lifting heavy loads at the gym; it can also keep you safe from back injuries even when you are just going through your daily life lifting objects here and there (ACSM).

Avoiding Over-reliance

Conversely, over-reliance on belts has been on the rise. It can lead to a weakened core and invoke ridicule if used when not necessary. Further research has shown that weight belts are known to spike blood pressure because of holding your breath, and have been linked to minor injuries such as hernias. Remember, the belt is needed only during the lift and only for exercises that mostly stress the lower back. It is not something to wear around the gym. A general rule of thumb from Barbend is to use the belt only for the lifts that are 85% or more of your 1RM. Lastly, investing in your own core strength by trusting yourself for lighter sets and saving the belt for heavy sets is a good way to improve core strength.

Types of Belts

There are several different types of weightlifting belts out there. Some use a single prong, a double prong, Velcro, or a lever to lock the belt tight throughout the lift. Organizations such as USA Weightlifting (USA-W) and USA Powerlifting (USAPL) have different specifications as to how wide and how thick the weight belt may be on the competition platform, thus creating a level playing field for all athletes.

NIFS provides a few options for weight belts, but don’t be shy about bringing your own if you have one! Before I go, I would like to personally invite you to participate in our Fifth Annual NIFS Powerlifting Competition on November 10. Here you will see nearly every lifter using some type of weight belt, especially during the heaviest lifts. Early Bird Registration opens 9/24!

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This blog was written by Cara Hartman, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: equipment injury prevention weight lifting powerlifting NIFS Powerlifting Competition

Bar Crawl: Specialty Bar Training for Powerlifting at NIFS

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 10.42.59 AMAs a fitness professional I approach training and helping people from the direction that principles guide methods. The reason for this is that methods and fads will always change, but principles never do. It’s beneficial that the methods and variations of movements change from time to time, as long as the decision to change them is based on solid principles and reasoning. Variations are great, such as a change in foot position in a squat, adding load to a plank position, or varying the implement you are using during the exercise. One implement change that can pay heavy dividends (pun very much intended) is using a specialty lifting bar.

Specialty bars are not new by any means, but due to new waves of “strongman” training and the resurgence of powerlifting, the popularity of the specialty bar is constantly growing. Each different bar is designed to elicit a specific stimulus that will result in an increase in strength, stability, or performance. In fact, many bars were originally designed for the specificity of training certain sports. And although most are still widely used specifically for generating a particular training response for sports, the everyday fitness enthusiast can enjoy the benefits without having to be a pro athlete.

Bars with Benefits

Come with me as we journey through NIFS’s Bar Crawl and check out all the specialty bars that are at your disposal and some or our favorite exercises associated with each. Before we do, here’s a reminder that you need to master the basics with basic equipment before moving on to an advanced movement or piece of equipment.

Fat bar: A barbell that is thicker than a general-use bar. The typical bar has a thickness of approximately one inch, whereas a thick bar can be twice that or even more.

Benefits:

  • More muscle activation in the hands, forearms, and upper arms.
  • Harder contraction (experiment: flex your bicep without making a fist, then flex with a fist; notice the difference).
  • Grip training no matter what.
  • Greater focus on the lift/exercise.

 

 

  • Bench Press
  • Overhead Press
  • Deadlift

Safety bar: Also referred to as a “yoke” bar, it looks like what they put on oxen back in the day. There is a three-way pad that rests on your shoulders with handles, with a curved bar shape at both ends.

Benefits:

  • Great for lower-body and low-back strength and transfers nicely to the straight-bar variations.
  • Loads the anterior core.
  • Minimizes stress on the wrists and elbows.
  • Helps in maintaining proper spinal alignment.

 

 

  • Front Squat
  • Back Squat
  • Lunges

Log bar: Straight from the strongmen themselves, this bar simulates using a log for different movements. It looks like a log with bars on the end to add plate weight load.

Benefits:

  • Cumbersome and unusual shape increases the stability need in the trunk and entire body.
  • Neutral grip is safer on the wrists and shoulders and allows for a more natural movement.
  • Abbreviated range of motion due to its size is safer for the joints and allows for greater load.

 

 

  • Clean and Press
  • Overhead Press
  • Bent-over Row

Trap bar: Hexagonal in shape, this is a bar you stand in, and it is used mainly for deadlifts or floor-loaded squat motions. Top coaches like Mike Robertson and Mike Boyle almost exclusively use the trap bar for athletes for these benefits.

Benefits:

  • Combines the benefits of the deadlift and the squat.
  • Loaded closer to your center of gravity, making it great for beginners as well as seasoned athletes.
  • More natural body position for the deadlift.
  • High handles decrease the range of motion, minimizing the chance for lumbar flexion typically seen in the traditional deadlift due to the weight being out in front of the body.

 

  • Deadlift
  • Bent-over Rows
  • Farmer Carry

Swiss bar: A multi-grip bar ranging from neutral to wide-grip and mixed-grip options.

Benefits:

  • Lighter than a typical bar; great for beginners.
  • Easy on the shoulders.
  • Specific training for sports such as football.
  • Range of motion similar to using dumbbells but with more load capabilities.

 

 

  • Bench Press
  • Overhead Press
  • Bicep Curls
  • Makeshift pull-up bar

Get Help from NIFS

Be sure to stop by the track desk and ask one of your highly trained instructors how a specialty bar can be used in your programming. Train smart, and train safe!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS equipment training powerlifting programs

You Got Shoe Game? Choosing the Right Athletic Shoes for Your Workout

GettyImages-905973914Believe it or not, shoes do serve a higher purpose than just to make a fashion statement—especially when you’re choosing shoes to wear to the gym. Now, my first example is rather obvious, but it gets the point across. Would you ever enter the gym for a workout wearing high heels? That’s for you to answer, but there are safety issues that arise from wearing stilettos to the gym. More specifically, footwear is of concern if any of the big lifts such as squatting, running, jumping, and weightlifting are programmed into your workout.

Let’s start by laying the ground rules. Given that your footwear is the avenue by which you gain momentum necessary for movement, it is extremely important to be conscious of your goals, your workout, and your footwear. After all, the only object in contact with the floor is your shoes! A wide variety of shoes are made for different surfaces and sports; however, they fall into three basic categories: performance footwear, running footwear, and cross-training footwear. Let’s take a deeper look at each specific type of athletic shoes.

Performance Footwear

First, the broadest category of shoes is performance footwear. This includes shoes engineered for nearly every specific sport, indoors or outdoors. Each shoe is carefully designed for specificity of sport as well as durability of surface, especially at the elite and professional level. A good example is basketball shoes, which are usually high-tops to help prevent ankle sprains. Soccer cleats, track spikes, football and softball cleats, and others all have spikes that can dig into the playing surface to make cuts sharper and aid in injury prevention.

Other specific shoes occasionally seen in a gym setting are powerlifting shoes and Olympic lifting shoes. Powerlifting shoes are low and flat, with a solid sole that is good for deadlifts because it puts you closer to the floor. It also allows you to push through the whole foot throughout the entire lift. Conversely, Olympic lifting shoes are made with a slight heel to allow athletes better mobility during lifts such as a squat and snatch, where lack of mobility would decrease performance drastically. They are also designed with a solid surface for the sole, tailored to the demands of the sport.

Running Footwear

The next type is the running shoe. Keep in mind that not one foot is the same size or shape, perhaps not even your other foot. Therefore, sizing can be difficult.

A standard running shoe tends to be manufactured with more cushion than other shoes, which in turn allows for less force on the hip and knee joints when running. The shoe design should offer sufficient traction needed to grip the surface and optimum weight distribution in order to ensure safety. They are ergonomically designed to absorb the ground-force reaction when the mid-foot strikes the ground, instead of sending the shockwave up the shin to the leg, commonly known to cause shinsplints.

Cross-training Footwear

Last is the training shoe, also known as the cross-trainer. This shoe is the most versatile of the three and can be used for small amounts of running, jumping, and lifting, but is mainly used to do lateral movement as well as plyometric workouts. Because the shoe is primarily a lower shoe with good support, it is made so you cannot easily roll your ankle or twist your knee when planting your foot into the ground to change direction as quickly as possible.

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Choosing the right equipment for your workout is very important, so know the different types of shoes and choose the ones that are best for the activity that you will be doing.

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This blog was written by Cara Hartman, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: running equipment workout sports powerlifting shoes cross-training footwear

I Don’t Always Use a Machine: The Athletic Training Platform (ATP)

In the great pursuit to build a strong body, push through preconceived physical boundaries, and feel great, we are in a time when the training options are close to limitless and at our fingertips. The world of strength and conditioning is full of pros who develop new ways everyday to challenge the human body and create systems and tools designed to push athletes and fitness enthusiasts to new heights. Many of these tools and training systems should stay in those late-night infomercials, but every now and again someone gets it right.

Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell (WSB) nailed it with the development of the Athletic Training Platform (ATP). Premiering about a year ago, the ATP was designed as a universal training machine suited for all fitness levels and many applications for anyone working to get fit, build strength, lose weight, and build a powerful body. We here at NIFS were fortunate enough to acquire one of these great machines recently, and we feel it definitely lives up to the hype.

Setting Up the ATP

So how do you get started using this piece, you ask? Here is a quick tutorial on proper setup of the ATP.

 

 

When working with folks, it’s my belief that first you need to master your body with body-weight movements and functional movement patterns; move on to loading those patterns with dynamic equipment such as kettlebells and sandbags; and finally progress to more advanced and multi-joint movements. I typically do not use many machines in my personal or professional training other than a cable system. The ATP is a machine I can get behind and use frequently. The ATP is used for so much more than just belt-squats; it can challenge anyone in any plane of motion. It can also help with lower-back ailments due to its “traction” effect with the load coming from below.

Favorite Exercises

There are too many exercises to list in one post, so here are a few of our favorites:

 

 

You intrigued? You should be! The ATP is a versatile and effective piece that can help you achieve the fitness goals you have set for yourself. If you are interested in adding the ATP to your exercise program, I highly recommend that you see one of your highly trained and motivated instructors here at NIFS to show you more about the ATP. Stay tuned for more ATP exercises coming soon in future posts!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness center equipment videos Athletic Training Platform

Culture Club: How to Be a Strong Member of a Fitness Community

IMG_8261-1.jpgI have been in a gym environment of some kind for the majority of my life, first as a student athlete through adulthood and now as my profession. There really hasn’t been a time in my life when I haven’t been a part of the gym culture. There is a reason for that: I LOVE IT! I love to move, push myself beyond perceived limits, see successes, be around likeminded people, and witness amazing transformations and feats of strength. There is nothing like it, and I have done a great deal of growing up in a gym, and now it is my livelihood, literally.

In my opinion, a solid and enjoyable fitness community can rival any support environment out there. Fitness can bring people together and give feelings of belonging, help each other through life struggles, and provide smiles on days when smiles are hard to come by.

Ten Ways to Be a Great Gym Member

So how do we, as individuals, be strong members of a fitness community that allows for acceptance, belonging, safety, and fun? Like most places you visit, there are customs and rules of etiquette that help provide the culture that brought you there in the first place. Whether you are a lifelong gym-goer like me, or are just joining a facility for the first time to tackle your new year’s resolutions, follow these customs to be a strong member of your fitness community and provide an example for others to follow.

  • Lower the noise. I’m referring to the grunts and heavy breathing. Now, I am not advocating lowering the effort level of whatever it is you may be doing, but lowering how loudly you express your effort level. Your headphone noise can also be a negative distraction, especially if you enjoy songs with more colorful language.
  • Detach the phone from your hand. Okay, so I know that we are pretty dependent on technology these days, for good reason. And I am not here to argue the pros and cons of the mobile phone in society. But I would offer that real-life connection is far better than the virtual kind. With that said, put the phone away and connect with the people who are there for the same reason you are, to get better. Warning: Mobile Phone Head and Neck Pain Syndrome is a thing! Put the phone down and look up.
  • Put your stuff away. If you respect your fitness community, you should respect the idea that others would like to use the equipment as well and should be able access it from where it belongs. Help your gym brothers and sisters by putting your equipment back where it came from so someone else can use it, while at the same time keeping your community safe by removing trip hazards.
  • Wipe down your stuff after use. Another way to keep your community safe is to wipe down your equipment with the disinfectant and towel provided to you. It really only takes a second, and then be sure to show consideration and put the towel in the dirty towel bin.
  • Share your stuff. When you have completed a set, it’s just good manners to allow someone to work in on the same piece if they are waiting to use it. Sitting and looking at your phone (see #2) during your rest period while occupying the equipment just isn’t cool. Hop up and let someone in; you never know, you could meet a best friend!
  • Cover your stuff. Have you ever heard the phrase “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” (I’m going to go ahead and include pants here as well)? This goes doubly in your fitness community. More exposed skin equals more bio-fluids finding their way onto surfaces of equipment, mats, and floors. This can cause the spread of an array of communicable diseases. Also, in a fitness community, strong members appreciate modesty and acceptance of all body types. It is fantastic that you love the way you look; now wear your workout gear proudly and respectfully.
  • Mind the time. Be mindful and respectful of the hours of operation for your fitness community and plan your workout accordingly to stay within its working framework. Show up to group fitness classes on time, and if you are more than 10 to 15 minutes late, hit another class or ask for some help from an instructor on some exercise options.
  • Mind the advice. Be certain that someone new to the fitness community is looking for exercise advice from you. It’s great that you have a great deal of experience or read the latest article on BodyBuilding.com, but unsolicited advice can be annoying to some and can hurt the positive experience they are there to have. Trust me, in my experience, most people will ask if they are looking for advice.
  • Use the resources. Instructors and trainers are there for a reason: to help you and provide a great experience for the members of the fitness community. If you have questions regarding the equipment or exercises, don’t be afraid to ask. At NIFS, our instructors are here solely to help you and be the best part of your day. Let them help guide you in all aspects of the gym environment. You’ll learn a bunch of new stuff while you are at it.
  • Be friendly and considerate. A gym should be fun and a happy place to go to! That is guaranteed when people are being friendly and considerate of the needs of the entire environment and not just their landscape. Simple things like sharing your equipment, opening the door, and saying hi all add a positive vibe to the environment.

The Gym Is Like a Lot of Other Great Communities

If you notice, most of the actions on this list are the customs you will find pretty much anywhere you consider a great community such as neighborhoods, churches, restaurants, and fun gathering places. The gym shares so many similarities to those pillars of our lives, and it should be treated with as much respect and effort to keep it a place people want to belong to and visit daily. A gym can be a special place, where goals are sought after and obtained and friendships spawned and nourished; a place where everybody knows your name (cue the song).

So follow these customs to be a fitness community leader and work together to make your gym special!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: equipment safety technology gym fitness community consideration etiquette

How Does TRX Help Your Workout? Try It at NIFS!

TRX-3.jpgStarting from the ground up might sound like a daunting task, but with TRX it is possible. The TRX, which can be done as a group or individual, allows its user to perform various movement patterns with varying degrees of difficulty, all while using only body weight as resistance and a routine of exercises assigned to help you reach your goals.

The Equipment

The setup, designed by former US Navy Seal Randy Hetrick in 1995, is comprised of two straps, two handles, two cam buckles for adjustments, and a locking loop for safety. The equipment can be set up nearly anywhere, including but not limited to a TRX frame, a tree branch, or a sturdy piece of furniture. The unit is rather transportable and easy to set up. With that being said, it would seem to be the most ideal piece of equipment for home exercise and gym use. Although this is true, there still is a small learning curve, which you can easily overcome with some practice.

Adjusting Intensity and Difficulty Level

When you examine the exercises, you discover that the majority of them utilize angles to both increase and decrease intensity and level of difficulty. Furthermore, relying on the handles more and more can make things much easier. When it’s time to up the workload, you can grip the handles less (which requires you to utilize more body strength to get through the exercise).

When we program a TRX exercise into your routine or in a class, we would expect that at any time someone might need a regression or a progression, so there isn’t really a reason to stop or quit—just readjustments to help you keep moving!

How to Get the Most from this Equipment

Like all equipment, there are ways to best utilize this tool to get the most out of your time. When you understand that the difficulty level is determined by balance, stability, and angles, making just a few adjustments can really help you get a better workout.

Here are some tips that may also enhance your workout.

  • Do not allow any slack in the straps. The constant tension will force you to be in control while working through your movements.
  • Practice good form by having the straps as an aid. If you are having trouble with proper form at the bottom end of your squats due to ankle mobility or posterior chain flexibility, use it to help you move into and out of precarious instances where typically you would be uncomfortable. Once you are able to do the movements proficiently, try them again without the TRX and then eventually with a weight load.
  • Add an exercise to a workout circuit. To mix it up and give you a great workout, the versatility and multitude of exercises allows you to change exercises, sets, reps, and intensity at a moment’s notice.

Most floor exercises with a TRX are more challenging due to the idea that you are using more energy to keep good form (including core muscles).

Try It in Group Fitness Classes at NIFS

What exercises have you tried? The group fitness classes offered at NIFS are for everybody. Your Fitness Specialist can modify an exercise if you aren’t ready for it or if you need a little more of a challenge. The classes also offer variety to help enhance your own “exercise library,” which will ultimately lead to more confidence. Remember that your exercises can vary from person to person, but as long as you can continue to challenge yourself, your body will continue to develop and become stronger.

Whether you are trying to improve form or get a total-body, no-nonsense workout, the TRX is an adaptable and highly useful tool you can use along the way. NIFS offers free classes weekly to help guide your workouts. If you still aren’t convinced, contact a NIFS Fitness Specialist to discuss ways we can help you reach your goals.

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

Topics: NIFS Thomas' Corner equipment group fitness resistance workout TRX body weight