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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Stiff Hips? Try Hurdle Stretches

GettyImages-1243955198I wish I had a dollar for every time a coach has said to me, “That athlete has stiff hips,” or “That athlete folds over at the waist,” etc. So how do I help an inefficient athlete with stiff hips? I use simple hurdle stretches that train my athletes to bend.

Many times it’s an athlete with long legs and a short torso. I wish I was more consistent in hurdle stretches with my athletes, but in the perfect coaching world, I would use them at every strength workout and have an extra set of hurdles near the practice fields/courts for use before practices.

Hurdle stretches are great because you can complete four to six stretches in less than five minutes. A hurdle stretch routine is helpful before and after activity. It’s also great for efficiently training a large group of athletes if you have 10–12 hurdles separated into two different lines of 5–6 hurdles.

Set-up some hurdles at NIFS and take yourself through these drills to loosen up those “stiff hips.”

Hurdle Stretches

 

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This blog was written by Michael Blume, MS, SCCC; Athletic Performance Coach. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness center strength stretching exercises coaching athletes

“Be My Valentine” HIIT Workout

_68R1966-1Love to workout and need a date idea for Valentine’s Day? We have just the workout for you!

  • AMRAP in 30 seconds followed by a 1-minute rest after each exercise
  • Equipment: 2 “heavy” dumbbells, 2 “light” dumbbells, and a yoga mat
  • Total Time: ~ 20 min

Circuit #1

  • Dumbbell Thruster (squat with an overhead press)
  • Glute Bridge (option for dumbbell on hips)
  • Russian Twist (option to add dumbbell)
  • Alternating Side Lunge with Forward Shoulder Raise

Repeat circuit twice

 Circuit #2

  • Renegade Row (push-up on dumbbells with alternating single-arm row)
  • Dumbbell Floor Press
  • Burpee
  • Forward Lunge (option to add dumbbell)

Repeat circuit twice

Spread the love and share this workout with your Valentine!

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This blog was written by Payton Gross, Group Fitness Coordinator and Barre Above Instructor. Learn more about the NIFS bloggers here.

Topics: workouts holidays circuit workout HIT exercises programs HIIT workout buddy circuit training valentine's day

Optimal Movement Patterns for Building Muscle

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

The Four Movement Patterns

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

Push

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

Pull

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

Squat

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

Hinge

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

Using the Movement Patterns

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

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

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

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

Shiny Penny! How Band Distraction Can Improve Your Mobility

Band StretchWhether you’re a competitive athlete, a weekend warrior, or the casual gym-goer, addressing mobility concerns can go a long way toward performance enhancement and injury prevention. If a joint is unable to move through a complete range of motion unloaded, then it’s going to be “bad news bears” when it comes to putting that same joint under any external load. Eventually, limited mobility could lead to muscular imbalances and compensation patterns, which could ultimately lead to the onset of injury. In other words, you can’t look to build strength on top of dysfunction.

How Band Distraction Works

There are numerous ways to tackle mobility, and it’s a heck of a lot more than just lying on a mat, hitting some static stretches for 10 minutes, and calling it a day. One such technique, band or joint distraction, involves using resistance bands to specifically isolate and improve the way bones glide over each other within a joint. This is accomplished by separating the articulating surfaces to allow for synovial fluid (the body’s homemade version of WD-40) to fill the joint and allow for less friction and (hopefully) increased motion. In other words, it creates “space” inside the joint complex. Band distraction can be used with nearly any joint in the body; however, the usual suspects are typically the ankle, hip, and shoulder.

Examples of Mobility Drills Using Band Distraction

Screen Shot 2021-01-07 at 12.35.58 PMHere are a few specific examples of band-distracted mobility drills:

  1. World’s Greatest Stretch
  2. Pigeon Stretch
  3. Half-Kneeling Ankle
  4. Shoulder Girdle (2 versions)

Important Tips

A few things to keep in mind when utilizing band distraction on a joint:

  • Be sure to anchor the resistance band to an immovable post, squat rack, etc.
  • Position matters! Be sure the band is placed over the correct structures, usually the crux of the joint or as close to it as possible.
  • This is one piece of the mobility puzzle. Pair this technique with soft-tissue work (foam rolling, trigger-point therapy, etc.) as well as a thorough dynamic warmup to encourage adequate blood flow and maximize readiness.
  • You don’t need to stretch each area for an eternity. Try 30 seconds to start on each structure.

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Internship Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: shoulders injury prevention resistance exercises mobility joints hip mobility ankle mobility exercise bands band distraction

CON-ISO-ECC: Muscle Contractions for Weightlifting Variations

GettyImages-1219375851Your return to the gym will likely mean a return to the program that you were originally doing before your extended break. Exercise selection, reps, and rest periods may be altered slightly after time off; however, eventually you will be back to your pre-quarantine strength and power, among other athletic traits. When you think about that program and how it got you to the point you are at or will be in the near future, do you also think about the steps you will take to further advance your abilities? I’m here to break down a few ways specifically within the muscle that may help give you the variety to your program you are looking for.

There are three main types of muscular contractions that can happen, each of which serves a specific purpose for muscular growth, strength, and power. They are

  • Concentric
  • Isometric
  • Eccentric

Concentric

Concentric muscular contractions are generally the most common type that individuals focus on during their training sessions. Concentric contractions involve the shortening of the muscle during an exercise. If you imagine a lift, say the bench press, the act of pushing the weight up from your chest actively shortens the muscle. The pulling of a bent-over row or the ascent of the barbell back squat all utilize this contraction. An uncommon variation would be to slow down the movement, for example slowing the pulling movement of the bar during a Lat Pulldown. If it normally takes you 1–2 seconds to pull down the bar, try a 5-count with the same weight. The intensity will greatly increase.

Isometric

Isometric contractions are an underrated variation that people most often forget about during workout planning. Instead of a shortening movement like the concentric contraction, the isometric contraction actually involves the muscle staying at the same length during the work period. A simple variation of this contraction is a wall sit. The muscle never changes length, but the tension and effort build over time.

But the quality of this contraction is found in much more than just wall sits. Almost any exercise can utilize this method. Here are a few of my favorite variations using isometric contractions. The intensity of the holds in these lifts can be dictated by either the amount of weight or the time you hold it for.

  • Split Squat Holds (hold split squat in down position with knee off the ground)
  • Push-Up Holds (hold push-up in the “down” position; try at different heights!)
  • Pull-Up Holds (either chin over bar or with arms hanging straight)

Eccentric

The last contraction variation in this trio is the eccentric contraction. This is commonly thought of as the lowering or lengthening of the muscle during an exercise. Going back to the bench press example earlier, the bar lowering to the chest would be the eccentric contraction. Where this method is most useful is during time-under-tension exercises where you increase the amount of time that you lengthen the muscle during the lift. These are all about control and can get quite intense.

Similar to the isometric contractions, time is everything. For example, when you do a step-up and are coming down off of the box, try to control for 3–5 seconds before your foot hits the ground instead of coming down right away. Here are a few of my favorite variations on eccentric contraction exercises:

  • Incline Dumbbell Press (lowering the weight slowly and raising it at a normal pace)
  • Slider Leg Curls (pushing feet out in a slow and controlled motion)
  • Glute Ham Raises (slow on the way down)

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The variations are not limited to this list. Feel free to get creative with any of your favorite exercises when trying out the different muscular contractions. Remember, time is your friend with any method you choose and can match any intensity you are trying to achieve.

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

Topics: workouts muscles weight lifting weightlifting exercises power muscle building strength training variety workout programs

Shouldering the Load: Safe Alternatives to the Overhead Press Pattern

_68R6419In my experience over the years working with folks from all walks of life to help improve their strength, mobility, performance, and overall fitness I have found that so many suffer from immobility in two major joints: the ankle and the shoulder, which is the focus of this piece. Lifestyle, occupation, inactivity, and overtraining are all culprits robbing so many of healthy range of motion in the shoulder and shoulder girdle.

Throughout the history of fitness and muscle, one of the sexiest exercises is the overhead press (OHP). The overhead press is used as an assessment of one’s strength, it’s involved in the popular Olympic lifts and many activities of daily living, and it feels pretty darn good to lift something heavy up over your head. With so many variations that can develop strength and stability in the upper body, the overhead press can be a phenomenal tool in a training toolbox.

Questions to Ask Yourself

There are many benefits to the overhead press exercise, but what if you suffer from immobility in the shoulder or have suffered an injury that has made the vertical press pattern difficult or painful? There are some options for you that can keep you safe while reaping the many benefits of the vertical press movement pattern. Before we get to those, however, I’ll ask a couple of questions.

What are your desired fitness outcomes and goals?

“If you think it, INK IT!” is a practice I learned long ago from a great coach, and for years I have been insisting clients write down what they hope to accomplish along their fitness journey. If you don’t know where you want to go, it will be difficult to formulate the map to get you there. Take the time to reflect, develop, and write your fitness goals before starting any fitness program.

How will the overhead press exercise help you get there?

Pretty straightforward question: how will the overhead press exercise help get you to where you want to go? Depending on your goals, the OHP may play a major role, or it might play a minor role in your success.

How do you know whether you should be including the overhead press in your training?

Once you have established your fitness outcomes and how the overhead press can assist in obtaining those outcomes, it is important to determine whether the overhead press is a safe exercise to include in your training. Your best first step is to complete a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) that will provide some crucial information to your fitness programming. First and foremost, the FMS, specifically the Shoulder Mobility Screen, will determine whether there is pain involved with the overhead position. If there is pain, you will need to see a medical professional to tackle that before anything else should happen.

A score of 1 on the Shoulder Mobility Screen signifies that, among other things, you should exclude overhead pressing from your training until the pattern is cleaned up and you are no longer scoring a 1 on the screen. A score of 2 or 3 means the vertical pressing motion can be included in your training safely. Schedule your FMS with one of NIFS instructors today to ensure you are able and safe to include the overhead press exercise in your programming.

Overhead/Vertical Press Options

Once you have your screen from your NIFS certified pro, you now know where you stand to shoulder the load. If you are cleared to press overhead, I say have at it and press on! But if you are directed to stay away from strict overhead pressing, here are a few options that can provide many of the same benefits from the overhead press while working in a safer shoulder space.

  • Landmine Press: 1/2K and Standing
  • Landmine Arc press: 1/2K and standing
  • Incline DB press: SA and double arm
  • Jammer Press

Screen Shot 2020-10-01 at 11.52.08 AM

Shoulder health, strength, and stability are so important in training and, more importantly, everyday living. The vertical press options here are great ways to continue to bulletproof your shoulders, and the best first step is to get screened and take care of your shoulders prior to heavy loading. One simple and highly effective way to tackle shoulder health is to add the “dead hang” into your training program. Learn more in Lauren’s recent post covering this effective drill. Stay shoulder safe!

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

Topics: shoulders injury prevention muscles weight lifting strength exercises videos mobility upper body stability overhead press shoulder mobility

Warming Up for Vertical and Broad Jumps with Pogo Jumps

GettyImages-1225454377Want to jump higher, jump farther, or possibly dunk a basketball? With all the athletes I have trained over the years, at some point within their sport they all jump. Competitive as athletes are, they want to be able to jump higher like in volleyball, or jump farther like swimmers coming of the blocks, for example.

Warming Up Your Lower Body

Before you start jumping, you need to warm up your lower body. A fun way to wake up your lower body and prepare for explosive work like vertical or broad jumps is to incorporate easy plyometrics into your fitness routines. Plyometrics refers to exercises involving rapid stretching and contracting of your muscles.

An easy warm-up drill into plyometrics for athletes is to start with pogo jumps. They are one of my favorite athletic drills to warm up with and incorporate within athletic workouts. Pogo jumps are a great tool for teaching athletes what it feels like to be fast and or explosive off the ground. I use pogo jumps primarily to target the calves and shins. To a lesser degree they also target the hamstrings and quads within our warm-ups.

Proper Form for Pogo Jumps

Here’s what we want to see out of athletes when doing pogo jumps: minimal ground contact time, and minimal knee flexion (knees over the toes). Each jump is mainly with ankle movement instead of hips and knees. Never let your heel touch the ground. Stay on the ball of your foot to utilize your lower-leg elasticity. Low pogo jumps look similar to bunny hops, and high pogo jumps are similar but emphasize more explosive power for height on each jump, making you look more like a kangaroo.

Pogo Jump Drills

Depending on available space, pogo jumps can be done in place for typically 10–20 jumps in a row, or you can do them for distance down and back in a 10-yard space. If doing pogo jumps laterally, I like to go 10 yards down right and switch halfway, and keep going 10 yards left. Like most exercises, you are only going to get out what you put into it, so really push yourself to jump for speed (quickness) or height (explosive) each time. As always, make sure that you are keeping good form when you jump as well.

Goal: Improve vertical leap, quickness, and footwork
Equipment Needed: None—just you!
Space: In place or 10–20 yards distance

Drill: Low Pogo Jump

Execution: Begin the drill in an athletic posture with the feet hip/shoulder-width apart. Raise heels up and stand on the balls of your feet. Quickly bounce up and down on the balls of your feet. Don’t let your heels touch the ground. 

Drill: High Pogo Jump

Execution: Starting the same as low pogo, stand tall with feet slightly spread apart about hip-width. Raise heels up and stand on the balls of your feet. Advance the low pogo drill by attempting to gain more height in your jump and still minimizing ground contact time.

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This blog was written by Michael Blume, MS, SCCC; Athletic Performance Coach. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercises plyometric sports warmups drills jumpings

Perfect Posture: Why It’s Important and How to Get It

GettyImages-501787264Whether you are sitting, standing, walking, running, or exercising, having good posture plays an immense role in not only how you physically present yourself, but how your body develops over time. Just like most habits, posture has both good and bad sides, each with distinct effects on your body. Focusing on ways to get the most out of your posture can ultimately give you not only a better workout, but also improved health for many years to come.

Benefits of Good Posture

When we talk about the benefits of improved posture, you might first think about how you look in a mirror or in front of a camera (which is also important). But there are many other physical attributes that can be affected which might not come to mind at first. This includes immediate impact areas such as low back pain relief and less tension in the shoulders and upper back. Further, long exposure issues such as joint wear and tear and poor blood circulation can be linked to bad posture. Other than physical effects, there are quite a few emotional health issues that come to light and are associated with bad posture, including self image and depression as well as relaxation and rest.

An Easy Posture Test

Getting back to the fitness aspect of good posture, I can present a simple demonstration. First I would like for you to sit in a chair, slouching as if no one was watching. Now, sit up tall with good posture. Obviously it takes more effort to sit with good posture, including core muscles. If you apply this concept to your exercises, you might find that not only will your form improve (along with your overall safety), but you will be recruiting more muscle (and albeit small and more calorie burning).

Develop Your Posture

There are things you can do in your day-to-day life that will help you develop better posture habits. Personal habits such as sitting taller, standing taller, and exercising with good form make having good posture much easier. Other things to consider include talking to an ergonomic specialist who can help you set up your workstation to better suit your body’s needs, and talking to a fitness specialist to help with exercise form and technique.

Even though it’s a lot easier to be lazy and not care about your posture, like other aspects of your physical wellness, caring for yourself and developing good posture habits will have long-lasting benefits for your body at a very low cost, so just do it! You will be making your grandma happy in the process.

If you feel as though your posture is getting in the way of your goals and possibly worse, your health, please take time to address the issue today. Talk to a fitness professional about safer, more effective exercises at the gym focusing on form and posture. At work, you can contact your HR rep to see whether an ergonomic specialist is available to help set up your workstation. You are not alone. Let NIFS help you.

Until next time, muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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

Topics: exercises workplace wellness core strength posture ergonomic health and fitness

Just Hanging Out for Shoulder Health and Pain Relief

GettyImages-172901773How many times have you looked around a room full of people and seen nearly everyone buried in their phones? Their shoulders are slumped forward and their head is hung low. Or maybe you’re at work, and everyone’s busy composing emails with that same forward head position? Chances are, it won’t be long before you notice this posture elsewhere, and it can wreak havoc when it comes to the health of your shoulders.

Although it varies from year to year, research has found that the prevalence of reported chronic shoulder pain in the United States ranges anywhere from 23% in 18–24-year-olds to just over 50% in those 55 to 64 years old. This can be the result of a variety of factors such as previous acute injury, musculoskeletal imbalances, or dysfunctional movement patterns and compensations that over time accumulate to cause pain.

What Does the Good Doctor Say?

Dr. John M. Kirsch is a practicing orthopedic surgeon with over 30 years of experience in treating patients with wide-ranging issues when it comes to the shoulder girdle. He is the author of Shoulder Pain? The Solution & Prevention, in which he details exercise and rehabilitative exercise protocols to help alleviate or eliminate shoulder pain. He found that in 90% of his patient population who were expected to have shoulder surgery, prescribing one movement as an alternative actually eliminated their pain altogether. And this movement is the brachial dead hang.

What Is a Brachial Dead Hang?

A brachial hang describes a vertical hanging pattern from a fixed point. Think back to when you were a kid on the playground. We climbed up and down structures and swung from the monkey bars during recess. This was routine. This hanging movement acts to positively change the structure of the shoulder girdle itself. Evolutionarily speaking, we were literally built to hang; it goes hand in hand with our physiology. However, when we spend years and years hunched over, gravity, along with lifestyle changes, makes it easier for the shoulder to be chronically stuck in an anterior, rolled-forward position. This can not only exacerbate any underlying shoulder injury, but can also cause dysfunction of its own, leading to potential impingements and pain.

The act of hanging works to reverse this shackled pattern that arises over time. It also aids in spinal decompression, encouraging appropriate space between the ribs, and allowing for more effective breathing mechanics as well.

How Do You Build Hanging into Your Routine?

If you’ve never hung from a pull-up bar before, the goal is to start small and gradually work your way up to supporting your full body weight. Specifically, start with a box underneath you so that you will have your feet touching the ground. Gradually let your body weight carry you down while keeping your feet on the ground, and support as much of your weight on the bar as you can tolerate. Hold this position for 10 seconds, resting for as long as needed, before trying another 10-second hang.

Dr. Kirsch has recommended hanging for up to 1.5 minutes per day, in whatever increments you can tolerate. This could be bouts of 10, 15, or 30 seconds depending on your grip strength. So the next time you’re in the gym or passing your local park, try giving a dead hang a shot. It could help quiet down some of those cranky shoulders.

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Internship Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: shoulders stretching pain exercises posture spine

Fitness Equipment Tools to Try in 2020: ViPR

It’s 2020, a new year filled with new ambitions for health, wellness, and performance. This is the time of year when we make deals with ourselves to try something new, get back to something we’ve stopped, and declare that this year is the year!

If you have followed my posts from the beginning, I feel a certain way about resolutions and waiting for a new year to make positive changes. For a review on my feelings toward a practice that typically results in failure, read Resolutions Redefined, one of my first pieces on the topic. But I want to help you try something new in the new year to help further your fitness quest. Let’s take a look at a tool that you might not have used or even seen before.

Vitality Performance Reconditioning (ViPR)

First on the list is the ViPR. Besides having a pretty cool name, the ViPR is a do-it-all piece of equipment that will make you what folks over at ViPR refer to as “farm boy” strong. Inspired by those farm kids who move with loads in their daily life, the ViPR combines task-specific movements and resistance training to add a multitude of dimensions to a fitness program. Living with energy and vigor (Vitality) to help build Performance and regain function for life, sport, and recreation is what the name ViPR stands for and pushes to achieve. Life is an athletic event, so it only makes sense that one should train for the event, train like an athlete, or in the case of the ViPR, like a farm boy.

Screen Shot 2020-02-17 at 4.09.57 PM
Movements with the ViPR Fitness Equipment

Ready to add the ViPR to your toolbox of fitness awesomeness? Here are a few of my favorite movements to help get you started:

  • Rocket Squats
  • Single Hinge with reach
  • Lunge to uppercut
  • Shovel
  • Rot. Fwd./Rev Lunge Combo
  • Lat Lunge to C&P w. Lat Step
  • Ice Skater with push
  • Lateral Shuffle Flip
  • Flip Squat

These movements barely scratch the surface of all the dimensions and patterns that can be challenged using the ViPR. You now know enough to give the ViPR a try, but for more information on how to add it to your program, schedule a session with one of our talented and highly trained NIFS instructors and take those first crucial steps in trying something new the right way!

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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 resolutions resistance exercises videos fitness equipment