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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Train Like an Athlete with Help from NIFS

GettyImages-969284736I am often asked what kind of workout program I follow, and my response is always, “I follow a program that gets me faster, stronger, and more athletic.” When people hear this, they assume that I am some kind of athlete and that they won’t be able to work out the way I do since they are not “athletes.” This is a huge misconception that I have noticed throughout the years that I have been working out. What people do not understand is that we are all athletes in our own way, and can actually train like one in order to get faster, stronger, and more athletic.

Find Out Where You’re Starting From

For me the key is to understand where you are at in terms of movement. Many programs out there assume that you move perfectly, so starting them might not necessarily be the best if you have not had the training experience needed to actually perform those movements. A good assessment to determine whether you have any compensatory patterns or movement deficiency is the Functional Movement Screen (FMS). With the FMS, we can narrow down exactly which corrective exercises are needed to get a person ready for the complex movements that might be programmed.

Start with Exercises That You’re Ready For

Once you have determined where you are at movement wise, it’s important to start with exercises that your body is ready to handle at that time. Possibly regressing a complex exercise like the Barbell Back Squat to a simpler exercise like the KB Goblet Squat or 2KB Squat will allow you to own that movement better and in turn will prepare you to progress back to the complex movement faster while performing it better.

Perform Athletic Movements

Training like an athlete does not necessarily mean you have to match their intensity or lift the same amount of weight as they do. But it can mean performing the same movements, such as these:

  • Warm-up routine
  • Power exercises
  • Squat variation
  • Horizontal upper-body push variation
  • Split squat or half-kneeling variation
  • Vertical/horizontal upper-body pull variation
  • Supine/prone abdominal exercise variation
  • Accessory exercise

These are exact movements that I program for my athletes. The cool thing is that anyone can do these movements as long as the right exercise is prescribed. No two athletes that I have trained move the same, and there are many that actually need to start with the most basic forms of movement (body squat, hands elevated push-ups, etc.). I am sure many of you have performed these “basic” exercises in the past. These exercises are often considered “too easy” at times, but if they are performed correctly, it can be a challenge even to athletes.

You Can Get Help from NIFS Trainers

I get it, it can be very intimidating for a beginner or even an experienced lifter to train like an athlete if they don’t know exactly how to go about starting a program like that. Luckily, here at NIFS, our trainers are well equipped with the materials and knowledge to get anyone who is looking for a new challenge started toward being faster, stronger, and—most importantly—more athletic.

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This blog was written by Pedro Mendez, CSCS, FMS, Health/Fitness Instructor and Strength Coach at NIFS. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS training athletes personal trainer functional movement screen fitness assessment

Update Your Fitness Routine: Add Variety to Enhance Your Health

GettyImages-1026603090How do you define fitness? Whatever your answer is, it will shape the way you work out, influence the goals you set, and impact your long-term health. Although everyone might have different perceptions of what “fitness” means, the American College of Sports Medicine has defined what Health-Related Physical Fitness is and has broken it down into five measurable components.

Whether you know it or not, you use every single component in everyday life, so incorporating all of these factors is vital to maintaining high quality of life. As people age, their ability to carry out certain tasks may become compromised if they don’t regularly challenge their bodies to perform them. So, one key to aging well is to incorporate all of the components of health-related physical fitness.

The 5 Components of Health-Related Physical Fitness

  • Body composition is the comparison between fat mass and fat-free mass, where fat-free mass is everything that isn’t fat, including muscle, organs, bones, and so on. This proportion can be used to assess risk for potential health issues, or used as a baseline measure to be retested after you have started a program to track progress. There are several ways to measure body composition; the most accurate methods are water displacement or the BodPod. (See the complete list of NIFS assessments here.)
  • Muscular strength is the amount of force a muscle can produce in a single maximal effort. Muscular strength is relative to a specific muscle group, so a few different tests may need to be conducted to get an overall picture of your strength. A grip strength test is popular and has been utilized frequently in the fitness world. Another is the Repetition Maximum test that can be conducted by the NIFS Health and Fitness Instructors. It is important to gain or maintain muscular strength as you age for many reasons, but we use our strength every day.
  • Muscular endurance, by definition, is the ability of a muscle group to execute repeated contractions over a period of time sufficient to cause fatigue. Like muscular strength, it varies depending on the muscle group, so multiple tests are required for a proper assessment. A common muscular endurance test is the pushup test (you’re probably familiar with this test from grade school). Another is the plank test, which is relatively new, and is a way to get a baseline value for core endurance and use it as a reference for retesting to measure improvements.
  • Flexibility is having the ability to move a joint through its full range of motion. Having sufficient flexibility can help prevent injuries and ensure that you’re capable of performing movements that you may need in daily life. While having enough flexibility is necessary, too much can be risky.
  • Cardiovascular endurance is the ability of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems to deliver oxygen to the rest of the body during continuous exercise. It’s directly correlated to our ability to perform exercise that involves large muscles, dynamic movements, and moderate- to high-intensity workouts over a period of time. Having adequate cardiovascular endurance is vital to keep up with daily activities.

Start with Things You Like to Do and Then Branch Out

If your main goal is to achieve good health, you’ll want to make sure you distribute your training so you can hit all of the categories. Start by doing things you like to do and then branch out by trying new things. It’s common for people to tailor their training to one particular component for whatever goal they are trying to achieve, but to be lacking in most of the other areas. For example, a marathon runner might excel in cardiovascular endurance but be less than average in muscular strength or flexibility.

On the other hand, someone who only lifts heavy weights may lack cardiovascular endurance. However, the runner may start to notice running is easier after incorporating resistance training into their routine, or their muscles might feel great after adding stretching and mobility work. This doesn’t just apply to marathon runners or heavy lifters; almost everyone can benefit from including all 5 components into their routines.

To sum it up, you should practice different forms of exercise to achieve a holistic fitness regimen. It’s perfectly fine to include running, resistance training, or group fitness such as yoga or BODYPUMP, and that’s just a few examples. There are so many different activities and classes to try to help get you to your goals. When you blend different types of training, you can discover your talents, weak links, and things you just enjoy doing.

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This blog was written by Hannah Peters, BS, CPT, Health Fitness Instructor. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: NIFS group fitness endurance flexibility strength exercises BODPOD variety fitness assessment physical fitness

Improve Your Weakness: Train Your Fitness Flaws

FMS-NewWouldn’t it be satisfying to not be weak at something? We’re all born with differing personality traits and those exist as either our strength or our weakness. We are generally aware of these traits, which fall on either side of the line. It is normal to single out our strengths to share and use publicly because we are proud of them. However, it makes sense that we downplay our weaknesses and hide them as much as possible. It is also our human nature to speculate how we stack up in comparison to other individuals. Whether applying for a new job, competing in a sporting event, or even scrolling through social media, we are looking to see how others are doing and comparing ourselves to them.

Here, I will explore the benefits of training your flaw—in other words, making your weaknesses your strengths.

Individual Goals and Beliefs

Everyone has their own goals and beliefs, but if it were up to me, I would rather be decent at several things than great at only one. When it comes to health and fitness, I urge you to be a well-rounded individual. Whereas the nutrition aspect is difficult for some, others might have the self-control and discipline to succeed at it. Some people might enjoy a good sweat session when others despise even setting foot in a fitness center for various reasons.

We gravitate toward what comes easy or what we enjoy more, leaving behind what we dislike, and that which needs the most work. My goal is to be the best version of myself no matter how long it takes. To accomplish this, I must first identify my weaknesses and dislikes. Once I complete this, the next step is to set new goals and come up with a plan of attack. This typically means starting with the weakest links.

Pinpoint Your Weaknesses

You may or may not have specific goals, so I will explain by sharing examples. The first example is CrossFit. I personally do not participate in CrossFit; however, the concept is quite clever. Their quest to attain the title of “Fittest on Earth” stems from being the ultimate athlete. CrossFit has identified 10 measurable fitness categories, such as stamina, strength, power, speed, flexibility, balance, coordination, agility, accuracy, and cardiovascular fitness. If every exercise that ever existed were written on slips of paper and you had to draw one out of the hat and complete it, could you do it and do it efficiently?

Another example would be the use of the Functional Movement Screen (FMS). It scores me based on what I am proficient at and where I fall short within seven distinct movement patterns seen not only in exercise, but also in day-to-day life. The strategic plan of attack is to start with the lowest scores to make them better so that all the other movement patterns can improve as well. Basically, the test pinpoints your weakest link (movement pattern), and the goal is to improve the movement and restore function by reducing the risk of injury.

NIFS staff members are certified to not only complete the FMS testing, but also to design corrective exercises and workout plans tailored to individual needs. Contact one of our Health Fitness Instructors, who can assist you in testing what may be a weak point for you (such as the bench press, squat, deadlift, pull-ups, stamina, mobility, and so on).

Strive for Progress

Lastly, it’s no secret that we tend to shy away from what we aren’t good at, even when it comes to our health and fitness. With some courage and the help of others, we can begin to expose our downfalls and identify weaknesses we may be blind to and start finding ways to make improvements. We should always be striving for progress rather than perfection. Find a program that improves on your weaknesses. Growth and change are not easy, but the benefits you gain are well worth it! 

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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: NIFS fitness center nifs staff personal training CrossFit goals fitness assessment

Bulletproof Your Health and Fitness New Year’s Resolutions

GettyImages-901324170Where did 2018 go? Whether it was the best year of your life, or you’re looking forward to a fresh start in 2019, you may likely have some health and fitness goals at the top of your list of resolutions. How do you make sure they aren’t just a pipe dream? Let’s find out!

Set (the Right Type of) Goals

Goals should be an obvious part of any resolution, but setting the right types of goals isn’t always so clear. To ensure that your goals are fulfilled, they need to be SMART:

  • Specific: You must have a specific attribute for improvement in mind.
  • Measurable: There must be some way to measure your progress.
  • Achievable: Setting realistic goals is crucial to motivate short-term success.
  • Relevant: Goals need to be relevant to what you want, not what you think other people want.
  • Time-sensitive: You must have a timeline for your goals in order to measure success.

There are many alternatives to this acronym, but following these simple guidelines will force you to consider goals that are actually meaningful to you. Your aspirations should be just that—yours. Otherwise, the motivation to succeed becomes increasingly external, which leads to only skin-deep rewards. Successfully achieved internally motivated goals are much more rewarding in the long run.

Get a Starting Point

A huge mistake that is easy to make when goal-setting is not knowing where you’re starting. Without an accurate baseline value, you have no reference point for comparison to where you end. Don’t wait until you “get in shape” to test yourself. As painful as it can be, testing yourself at your “worst” will only make your accomplishments that much more rewarding.

We offer access to a wide variety of assessments to our members here at NIFS, and we take pride in providing feedback on your progress throughout your fitness journey. Whether you’re looking to track your body composition (body fat percentage), cardiorespiratory fitness level, movement quality, or even just your measurements, we encourage all of our members to take advantage of the complimentary assessments that we offer. After all, you can’t get where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re starting.

Retest!

After you’ve set your bulletproof SMART goals and established exactly where your starting point is, it’s time to get to work. Once you’ve reached your pre-established timeline for your goals, however, it’s time to retest! Just the same as establishing a baseline, it is absolutely vital to retest your initial measurements. Ideally your testing will be completed under similar conditions as your baseline tests, preferably at a similar time of the day with a similar state of digestion.

What is most important, though, is simply that you retest the same attributes you tested initially. There is nothing wrong with testing something new, but make sure that you’re at least measuring a value that has already been measured. Otherwise, you’ll have no feedback as to whether you were successful in achieving your goals. There truly is no more rewarding feeling than seeing black-and-white proof that you have improved from where you started. It just might be the motivation you need to stick to it in the long run.

As I said earlier, we take pride in assisting you in the goal-setting process from start to finish. You shouldn’t have to take on any goal, but especially a health-minded one, all on your own. Let us be part of your guidance toward being the best you possible in 2019—and beyond!

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The BOD POD® is the gold standard in body composition tracking and NIFS has it. This device accurately measures the percentage of body fat and lean body mass, enabling you to track your body composition more effectively over time.

 Schedule a Bod Pod Assessment

This blog was written by David Schoch, CSCS, FMS, and Healthy Lifestyle Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: motivation goal setting resolutions new year's assessment smart goals fitness assessment

Get a Grip: Exercises to Increase Your Grip Strength

GettyImages-505776960How long have you been stuck on your max for bench press or unable to become efficient at
pull-ups or even able to do a good pull-up? More often than not, people have many areas of concern; upper-body strength, stamina, and technique come to mind. Outside these main aspects of lifting weights, what else is there that you can focus on to help improve your personal bests without making it too complicated? One area you can focus on that gets relatively little attention is grip strength. You already use it a lot, right? The answer might surprise you when you take a look at how it can improve your overall fitness experience.

For the most part, most upper-body lifts require some grip strength. The exercises that require the most tend to be the ones for which you have to hold dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, or chin-up bars. Whereas other exercises on machines can provide safety and ease of use, they sometimes lack the grip strength aspect that is required with the free-weight exercises. In the fitness world, there’s a saying that goes, “If you want to get good at push-ups, do push-ups.” You can focus some of your exercise time on developing these muscles.

Exercises That Increase the Strength of Your Grip

Here are some easy ideas to implement into your own workouts next time you are at the gym.

  • Farmer’s carry: This exercise can be a little deceptive to the beginner, but as you will find out, there's more than just legs at work. Other than legs, core, shoulders, and back, you will notice that it is imperative that you have some grip strength to be able to complete the exercise, or else you won’t get too far. Remember the saying above.
  • Weightlifting: When you are lifting weights, be sure to grip the bar tightly. Always practice squeezing against the bar when you lift. Conversely, try to incorporate a grip aspect into other exercises as well. Tools to help you work on grip include Fat Grips, the Axle Bar (aka the Fat Bar), and Grippers. Grippers have been around for a long time, with the “Captains of Crush” being known as the toughest around.
  • Stress ball: The stress ball, which is extremely cheap and easily available, can act as an on-the-go tool. There actually may be more stress balls available in the US than there are people, so if you do not have one, I’m sure someone you know does. Simply put one in your car and while you’re stuck in traffic or at a red light, grab that ball and squeeze out 50 reps on each hand. Not only will your grip strength improve, but you may experience actual stress relief.

Let a NIFS Health Fitness Specialist Help Increase Your Strength

As you can see, there are many ways to help your grip strength. The most important thing to remember is that if you want to improve, you will have to use it and use it often. When you think about all the muscles you use for exercise and how they work together, you must understand that you are only as strong as your weakest link. If your grip is the weakest link, every exercise that requires you to hold weights, or yourself, will be subpar. With increased strength, those plateaus will fall.

NIFS has several options in the fitness center to help aid your quest for improved grip strength, including hand grip dynamometer testing (yes, we can test your grip strength). See a health fitness specialist to schedule an appointment to talk about your goals and fitness assessment options. Take control of your workouts, and get a GRIP on your life.

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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 weightlifting exercises grip strength grip carries fitness assessment