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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Returning to Play and Activity Safely After Quarantine

GettyImages-1014940186The uncertainty of the last few months has taken a toll both mentally and physically on everyone. Many people did not have access to gyms and instead did at-home bodyweight workouts or virtual workouts—or did nothing at all. As time has passed, we are now returning to gyms and everyday normal lives. Returning to play and activity must be done in a strategic way. Going all out upon return can lead to many detrimental effects on the body. Making sure to take proper steps back into working out is vital to your body and your overall health. Sleep paired with hydration and a balanced diet will aid in the process of coming back stronger and more efficient. Taking a slow approach will also allow your body to get acclimated much more easily and quickly.

Safely Returning to Activities

You should return to play and activity with moderation. Jumping right back into the gym 5-6 times a week will lead to overtraining and other soft-tissue injuries. Trying to max out upon return after not lifting heavy weights is another challenge that will lead to injury or worse. Gradually getting back into the swing of things is the way to go, and will lead to the safest and most effective return.

Starting with bodyweight exercises and lighter weight is a great way to return. Focusing on form and taking the time to relearn movement patterns is another safe, effective tool to use. This is a great time to identify other imbalances you might have neglected before, or things that were brought about by the pandemic. Giving you the best possible options will not only help with longevity, but will also help with overall quality of life. 

There Is No Rush to the Finish Line

During lockdown, your focus should have been on trying to maintain a healthy, balanced diet and staying as physically active as you possibly could. I know times were hard and days were long, but it shouldn’t have derailed all the hard work you put in before the pandemic hit. That is why it is essential to take proper steps to gradually get back and acclimated to the weight room. Continue to set goals. Keep them within reason. There is no rush in achieving them. Staying healthy and creating longevity is the name of the game.

If your numbers are way down since the pandemic, trust that the process will lead you right back where you were and beyond. Find alternatives and alternative exercises that will gradually get you back into the swing of things. For example, if you love the squat, find other squat variations that will keep you healthy as you gradually work your way back to heavy squatting. Goblet squats are a great alternative. Cyclist squats are another great tool for developing the quadriceps. Utilize the TRX; it is a great functional piece that will aid in your return to play and activity.

Enjoy Being Back Outdoors and at the Gym

Staying healthy during this time is the ultimate goal. Doing it safely and properly is the way to go. Utilize your trainers and dietitians to help you on your journey. Never hesitate to ask professionals for advice on returning to the gym. We love seeing you back as much as you love being back. Continuing to practice safe and effective training methods with proper sleep and nutrition will make for a great rest of the year!

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This blog was written by Jason Quarles, IUPUI Athletic Performance Coach. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercise at home injury prevention weight lifting overtraining bodyweight quarantine covid-19 lockdown

5 Tips for a Safe Return to Fitness After Quarantine

GettyImages-1134331738Do you remember the last time you went on an extended vacation, came back home, jumped into the gym and your favorite class and thought you could pick right back up where you left off? You might remember feeling like you were not going to make it through the class and were so sore for days on end. And that was just after a vacation consisting of a long rest, relaxation, and food freedom. Just think what you may encounter once you return to your favorite class or training group after two to three months of quarantine.

Now if you have been able to keep up your training intensity during this time, that’s awesome, and what I’m talking about might not apply to you. But I would argue that most of us, even with the best intentions, might not have been exercising at the same intensity in which we left our favorite facility. And if you jump back in too fast, at too furious of an intensity, you could find yourself with far worse than a case of sore muscles—and maybe even losing your lunch during class.

As you make your way back into your gym and classes, here are five helpful tips that will aid in keeping you safe and free from injury so you don’t get knocked out for another couple of months.

Reset Your Mindset

I think the most important step in getting back to your previous fitness level is being okay with not being at your previous fitness level. There is no room for negative self-talk because your deadlift isn’t Instagram-worthy right now, or running a mile is now incredibly challenging when it was once a warm-up. Think short-term adjustment at the beginning as you get your legs back underneath you. Find the little victories and be proud of them as you continue to ramp back up to previous intensities.

Start Slow and Add Gradually

Stave off injuries or worse by starting slow and adding intensity progressively throughout the first 8–10 sessions back. Starting off too heavy or too fast can lead to physical injuries as well as emotional setbacks. Build some confidence every session, and you will be back to your prime self in no time, safely! 

Do an RPE System Check

Do a frequent body system check using Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale. The Borg Scale is a rating chart from 6–20 of how hard you feel yourself working at any one given task. There is a modified version that is a simple 0–10 rating system. Either one correlates well with your heart rate and can provide a quick and reliable audit of how your body is reacting to exercise. If you feel like you are barely moving, you may be at a 6 or 7 (1,2); or if you feel like if you keep up the current intensity you may lose that lunch I mentioned earlier, you may be at an 18–20 (8–10). It’s quick and easy, does not require equipment, and can provide an accurate intensity level check. Do frequent system checks throughout your workout, and if you feel you are pushing to the higher numbers of that scale, you may want to back it down and gradually work up to that intensity level.

Warm Up/Prep for Movement

Take the time to properly warm up and prepare yourself for the work at hand. This message is not new, and should always be practiced, but even more so now that you may have had a lengthy layoff. Consider this as part of your workout and you are more likely to complete it every time; don’t treat it as an option that is nice to do if you have the time. Make time! Foam rolling and soft tissue techniques, dynamic warm-up drills, and stability work should all be completed before jumping into a training session or your favorite class. Five to seven minutes can save you months in rehabbing an injury that could have been avoided.

Hydrate and Recover

Same as above, not a new message but a super-important one these days! Start hydrating now if you have been lacking in that area. Don’t wait until midway through a training session to start fluid intake. If you are following the rule of thumb and ingesting half your body weight in ounces of water daily, you are in a great position. Just like your warm-up, take the time to cool down and perform recovery drills post workout. These will help with soreness and increase mobility while slowing down your mind to focus on the victories you just grabbed in the workout. Slow down the systems and reward yourself for a job well done!

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We were confident that this day would come when we could get back to our gyms, groups, and classes and get moving like we did before everything changed. Now that it is here, please take the proper steps in protecting yourself against injury or even worse. It may take some time to get back to where you once were, but it will be well worth it!

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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: injury prevention hydration recovery warming up mindset quarantine

Go from Sore to SOAR! Preventing Soreness and Injury in Your Workouts

GettyImages-1072667146A common nuisance to almost all fitness enthusiasts is the overall lethargic feeling you get from being extremely sore due to a challenging workout. Sometimes this is a deterrent to those looking to develop a consistent workout pattern, and can be especially bothersome if you haven't experienced this phenomenon before.

Does being sore mean that you should take more time off from fitness to recover, or would your time be better used if you could minimize soreness through workout planning and management? Beneath all of the reasons to either work out or stay home is your desire to see results. So this blog looks at ways in which you can shorten your down time due to soreness and eventually soar to new heights with your workout programming.

Pre-Workout Rituals to Minimize Soreness

We all have been sore from working out at some point. Being able to get back to the gym and work out again is key to not only keeping on track for goals, but also to set important habits. Excuses for not being at the gym can vary and many may be valid, but being sore from a previous workout is becoming less and less common because of our pre-workout rituals, which now include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • FMS corrective exercises (prescribed by a NIFS Health Fitness Specialist)
  • Foam rolling
  • Dynamic warmups (think about track stretches)
  • Even the whirlpool and sauna

With proper usage, these tools are designed to make you not only better at all aspects of fitness, but also safer as you grow into your workout. At NIFS, one of our focuses is on being an all-around fitness center, which includes these aspects. Getting screened with the Functional Movement Screen and talking to a NIFS staff member about your goals is one step toward a better overall experience at the gym.

Planning Your Workout Program for Injury Prevention

Another area to consider is your workout program. Would your weekly times and days allow for a six-day workout split (for example, Monday is chest day, Tuesday is legs, etc.), or would another path that includes total-body workouts make more sense? The answer depends on several things, including your personal goals, your workout experience, previous injuries, and workout frequency allotted. What you want to steer away from is overtraining a specific muscle to the point where it potentially can become injured. This would be more likely if you were to max out on squats six days per week for the next month.

How to plan this program isn't a road you have to travel alone because NIFS offers workout plans (included with membership) to those looking to take their fitness to the next level. Set up a time to meet with a staff member to get started right away.

Take Advantage of Information and Resources from NIFS

In today's world of technology, information is now readily available at your fingertips. You might do an internet search for a TRX exercise and find tens of thousands of websites and videos. NIFS has you covered here, too, as a resource to help you become more engaged in fitness. Posting weekly, the NIFS social media team has not only videos, but also great blogs regarding how to effectively work out, but also how to recover from a tough exercise. If meeting a trainer is a little intimidating, social media such as Instagram and Facebook can be a great way to not only learn, but also get to know NIFS staff who are here to help you.

Now that you have some ideas to help you on your fitness path, there's only one thing left to do: get back to the gym. Meet with a NIFS staff member to set up your complimentary assessments (BOD POD, Fit3D, and FMS). Set up a workout plan that is based on YOUR goals, that makes sense for the amount of time you have to work out, and is centered on your starting point. Expect accountability, encouragement, and growth. Come to NIFS and SOAR!

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

Topics: Thomas' Corner workouts injury prevention personal training BODPOD warmups assessments fit3d functional movement screen soreness social media

The Functional Movement Screen Exercises in Depth

FMS-NewIn my last blog I briefly described the importance of the Functional Movement Screen to determine where one should begin with their workout program. The score that an individual receives determines whether they are ready for certain movements. In this blog I will go more in depth about the actual purpose of each test of the FMS, what the scores mean, and the reliability of the FMS.

The Purpose of the FMS

The FMS was created to measure motor control of movement patterns, quickly identify pain or limitations that need to be addressed, and to set a baseline for movement competency within the body. Being able to determine asymmetries in the body will help the tester figure out which movement has the greatest deficiency and which movement needs the most help. The FMS consists of seven movement patterns that are performed without warmup. The reason is that we want to see what a person’s movement capacity is at its natural state.

FMS-logo

The Exercises That Are Part of the FMS

Here is more detail on each of the exercises that are part of this screening:

  • Deep Squat: This test shows us the most about how a person moves. The reason is that it allows us to see total extremity mobility, postural control, and pelvic and core stability. If you think about it, everyone at some time in the day performs a squat, whether that is sitting down, playing sports, picking up something off the ground, and so on. When the dowel is overhead, this requires mobility and stability of the shoulders, and the pelvis must provide stability and control while performing the squatting motion.
  • Screen Shot 2019-10-08 at 11.56.10 AM

    Hurdle Step: This test demonstrates how well someone is able to walk (locomotion) as well as accelerate. The hurdle step is a great assessment to determine any kind of compensation the body performs while you take a step forward. This movement also lets us know how well a person is able to stabilize and control oneself while in a single-leg stance. If pelvic and core control is lacking with this, the person will not be able to stabilize themselves properly and will most likely begin to shift too much or lose alignment.
  • Inline Lunge: This test helps demonstrate the ability that one has to decelerate. This is important because we as humans need to be able to decelerate every day, whether that be in sports or just daily living activities. It also allows the tester to observe the rotational and lateral movement capacity of someone. Pelvic and core control and stability is extremely important to be able to perform this movement properly. Since this test requires the person to be in a split stance, the tester can also see how well a person is able to get into hip, knee, and ankle flexion when lunging down and determine whether there is a mobility or stability issue.
  • Shoulder Mobility: This test helps show the relationship between the scapular-thoracic region, thoracic spine, and rib cage. A person with good thoracic extension typically does well on this test. One side should demonstrate internal rotation and extension and adduction, and the other side should demonstrate external rotation, flexion, and abduction.
  • Active Straight-Leg Raise: This test helps demonstrate many things, even though it might seem very basic. With the leg that is coming up, we typically want to see a good range of hip flexion. On the leg that stays down, we typically look for how good the range of hip extension is. Another variable that I like to look at is how well their core stability is. If they are not able to keep their back flat on the floor, this lets me know that the person is not able to own that position and needs help with core stability.
  • Trunk Stability Push-up: This test often gets mistaken as being an assessment for upper-body strength. This is not the case, though. The actual purpose of this assessment is to measure the stability of the core. If the spine or hips move during the push-up movement, this is usually an indication of other muscles compensating for the lack of core stability.
  • Rotary Stability: This tests for rotary stability in multiple planes. Core, pelvis, and shoulder girdle stability are what is being assessed. This also allows us to measure the ability of a person to crawl. Being able to demonstrate proper weight shift in the transverse plane and also coordination during the stabilization and mobility of this movement will help determine whether a person is ready for more complex movements.

FMS Scoring

I will keep this section short and sweet and explain the basic fundamental purpose of the scoring and what each number means. The FMS scoring ranges from 0–3, so there are 4 possible scores that a person can get. A 0 indicates that there was pain during the movement. A score of 1 usually indicates that the person was not able to complete the full movement properly or was not able to get into the correct position to execute the movement. A score of 2 indicates that the person was able to complete the movement but had to compensate somehow to actually execute it. A score of 3 indicates the movement is optimal and no compensations were detected.

Reliability of the Test

Many research studies have been done to determine the reliability of the FMS in recent years. The main findings that have been discovered are that the FMS can accurately identify people with a higher chance of an injury. The three groups at a higher risk are professional football players, male marine officer candidates, and female collegiate basketball, soccer, and volleyball players.

People always ask me what score determines an elevated risk for injury on the FMS. What most studies suggest is that a score of 14 or lower gives a person a 1.5 times higher risk for injury than a person who gets a score higher than 14. This does not mean that if you score lower than a 14, you should be frightened; again, most studies done are with a specific population (stated above). More studies are needed on the general population, but what is certain is that the FMS is a great tool for personal trainers, athletic trainers, physical therapists, and strength and conditioning coaches to use on their populations to get a better understanding of how well a person moves.

If you are interested in completing an FMS screening at NIFS, click here for more information.

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This blog was written by Pedro Mendez, MS, CSCS, Strength and Conditioning Coach for IUPUI and Health Fitness Instructor for NIFS.

Topics: NIFS injury prevention pain exercises functional movement assessments movement functional movement screen

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

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

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

Testing Ankle Mobility

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

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

Stretches for Ankle Mobility

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

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

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

Get Help from NIFS

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

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

As always, muscleheads evolve and rejoice!

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

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

Happy Playmore: 5 Movement Tips to Stay on the Golf Course Longer

GettyImages-961002976It’s finally that time of year again—time to hit the links and chase a little ball all over a well-manicured green space with the hopes of golf immortality. If you are like me, you have a love/hate relationship with the sport of golf, but I look forward to my weekly round with friends to take on challenging courses and ultimately myself.

All levels of golfers are continually looking for ways to improve something in their game and to get out there more and more to test their skills. But are you taking the necessary steps to make sure you are able to lace up the spikes, strap on the glove, and swing a club anywhere from 70 to 100 times in a 3- to 4-hour span? We can plan practice like crazy on the short game, driver, and flat-stick, but if you can’t move well, or if you have an injury, you won’t be booking that tee time.

As an avid golfer myself, and an aging one at that, I have found some ways to ensure I can enjoy the game that frustrates me so much at times but provides aspects you just can’t get anywhere else. That’s why we play. Here are some tips to help you play longer and, ultimately, better.

Get Screened

Do you know whether you are moving well? Do you know whether you have some mobility issues in key joints for the golf swing, or imbalances? If you do, are you performing specific strategies to help correct and enhance any movement problems you may have? You wouldn’t expect a Corvette to drive at a high performance level if it had square tires, would you? But often we golfers expect to play in the 70s with glaring movement issues and become rather frustrated when we do not. See a certified pro, like all the coaches at NIFS, and get an FMS (Functional Movement Screen) completed to see if there are any movement deficiencies that could be holding you back on the course. You will receive an in-depth report of how you are moving and a bunch of strategies to help make your movement better. Our coaches take the approach of Gray Cook: that when you move well, you will move often; and in this case, moving better means more golf.

Emphasize Mobility

If you want to hit the ball farther, and more often, you have to emphasize mobility exercises and drills in your fitness routine when you are not playing, especially mobility of the thoracic spine. The rotation of the golf swing comes mainly from your ability to “turn” through the T-spine, or upper back area. The larger the turn, the greater the potential swing speed you can create, which can lead to bigger drives and adding yards to all of your clubs. You will receive drills from your coach after completing your FMS, and you can also read more on the importance of T-spine mobility from experts like Greg Rose and others at the Titleist Performance Institute. In most if not all athletic environments (life being one of those), it truly has to start with mobility. The more mobility you have, the more potential you can unleash.

Train the Frontal and Transverse Plane

Working in a fitness facility I witness on a daily basis a lack of training emphasis on the frontal and transverse planes of motion. We are a pretty straightforward kind of fitness planet, and not in a good way. And many times I field questions about an injury that happened on the golf course from individuals who have never trained outside of walking in a straight line, or straight presses and pulls. They are confused that they move explosively in a plane of motion they never train and somehow get hurt. The golf swing happens in the frontal and transverse planes of motion, so you need to train with movements that challenge you in those planes. Countless exercises and drills can get you out of the sagittal plane (forward and back), and prepare and load your body to take on a big swing as well as provide the endurance to perform many swings. Here are a few of the classics:

Warm Up Properly

This really should go without saying, yet I have to: WARM UP BEFORE YOU PLAY! Racing to the course, pulling the bag out of the trunk, stepping to the first tee, and hitting the big dog after a few practice swings is a sure-fire way to at best play poorly, and at worst suffer a big injury that takes you out for the season. Take the time to show up a little earlier and warm-up properly. As I typically do, I reference the experts. I learned this quick and effective warmup from Jason Glass that I use every time. If you don’t dig this one, that’s fine; just do something to prepare your body to perform for that 3- to 4-hour round of golf.

RICE After the Round

If you don’t know by now, RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. You don’t have to suffer a trauma to enlist and perform this concept. Ice can go a long way in the recovery process, and that is the goal here, to recover quickly and get back on the course. You don’t think the pros finish up, go get some dinner, and hit the rack, do you? No way! They recover properly so they can swing well every time they step on the course. Take time to perform a light stretch after a round, jump in the hot tub, or ice down sore muscles after you are done enjoying this great sport. It will get you back out quicker and you will be playing longer.

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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 injury prevention golf recovery mobility movement functional movement screen

Get Moving with Improved Hip-Mobility Warmups

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

Benefits of Improved Hip Mobility

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

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

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

Improving Your Hip-Mobility Warmups

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

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

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

 

Address Your Hip Problems Now

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

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

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

 

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

3 Simple Rules to Train When You Have Pain

GettyImages-1017760106How many people do you know who suffer from a form of back pain? I’d be willing to wager it’s at least one person, and perhaps that person is you. The prevalence of nonspecific lower-back pain alone is estimated at 60-70% throughout the lifespan of a citizen of the United States and other industrialized countries. If you fall into this category or know somebody who does, first direct them to my previous blog about warming up with back pain to get started. Once you’ve made your way through that, keep reading to find out how to design a great workout even if you’re in pain.

For some, the idea of working out with pain is strictly off limits for fear of further injury. For others, the workout must be completed as planned, no matter how intense the pain might be. As usual, the solution will likely require a balanced approach between these two ideals. Unless your pain is an emergency (and this article might give you an idea of whether or not it is), there is likely something productive you can achieve by not skipping your scheduled workout. For one, if one of your goals is to establish a new habit or routine, making it to the gym for some self-love might just keep you on track. Self-love can mean foam rolling or other soft-tissue work, properly prescribed corrective-based activities or stretching, walking, or virtually ANYTHING that helps you feel better. The bottom line is that it must provide a feeling of relief.

Great, so you’ve made it to the gym and you’re feeling better than when you walked in thanks to some well-thought-out pain-relief techniques, or maybe just 10 minutes in the sauna. In any case, you’re ready to sweat and help that heart of yours pump some blood. Before you get too carried away, there are some general rules I like to follow if I know somebody has a history of, or is presently experiencing, back pain symptoms.

1. If It Hurts, Don’t Do It

This one sounds too simple to be genuine advice, and I’ll admit I stole it straight from my own father’s dad-joke arsenal. I’d say, “Dad, it hurts when I do this,” and he’d invariably respond, “Then don’t do that.” Of course, the older I get, the more I realize how wise much of his advice was, especially that nugget. If there is a particular movement or activity that you know for a fact will reproduce your pain symptoms, simply avoid it, at least until your symptoms go away. You can almost always find an alternative exercise to accomplish what you wanted, especially with the staff here at NIFS ready to provide you with such options. Regardless, no exercise is worth potentially worsening your symptoms, causing an even greater setback, or worse, leading to yet another injury.

2. Keep the Weight Off Your Back

The last thing you want to do while experiencing back pain symptoms is to make it any worse, and I see the risk as far outweighing the reward in having a barbell or any other load compressing your spine directly. You’d also be wise to approach higher-impact activities such as running and jumping with a fair amount of caution. Although not directly loading the spine, the landing portion of these high-impact activities requires a fair amount of compression throughout the body, particularly through the spinal segments. If a contributing factor to your flare-up of pain was a lack of integrity in your core strength and control, these higher-impact activities become even more risky.

3. Use Perfect Form

This should be a no-brainer, even when you’re not in pain. However, it becomes vital when the fear of pain is on your mind. Use this time to make sure every aspect of your movement is as close to perfect quality as you can get it. When in doubt, refer back to Rule #1. A great way to monitor your form closely is by either performing each repetition with an extremely slow tempo, or doing some static holds (unless you have high blood pressure or higher risk for aneurysm), meaning holding still during the repetition. Performing your repetitions in this manner will also require you to use significantly less weight, therefore limiting another risk factor. Many of our members take advantage of completing a Functional Movement Screen, which allows one of our trained fitness professionals to analyze your movement on a fundamental level. This is included as part of your membership at no extra cost, and it can provide essential strategies for you to make sure you’re moving to the best of your body’s abilities.

You may have noticed this post is largely about what not to do instead what you should be doing. That’s because each presentation of pain is completely different from another, and should be approached individually, and with care. No two humans are the same, which is what makes us fascinating creatures, but it also provides a challenge of finding the proper activities for each unique case. This is true no matter what your current physical condition is, but requires special attention when you’re limited by increased symptoms of pain. Whatever the case, movement will almost always be the answer to returning to your “normal” self; it’s just a matter of what type and how much.

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

Topics: injury prevention pain lower back pain back pain

Hamstrings for the Win: Avoid Common Leg Day Mistakes

GettyImages-914656088What is the most feared and most skipped gym day of the week? Nearly every person despises it, and few survive it. Yes, you guessed it. I am referring to the infamous “leg day.” However, even if you can endure training your legs, how beneficial is it if you aren’t training your hamstrings correctly, efficiently, and according to their full potential?

The hamstring is a large group of muscles (the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus) located on the posterior side of the upper leg. They have two main responsibilities: flexion at the knee (pulling the ankle toward the glutes) and extension at the hips (pulling the ankle back toward the glute while maintaining a stiff leg). Therefore, the hamstring’s main goal is to balance out the action of the large quad muscles on the front side of the leg, assisting the knee in stability.

In his blog Five Biggest Mistakes in Hamstring Development, the late Dr. Charles Poliquin, a remarkable pioneer in the field of fitness and bodybuilding, put into perspective just how important the hamstring muscles are. He recollects, “When I was a kid, hamstrings were called in bodybuilding magazines ‘leg biceps.’”

Don’t Neglect Posterior Leg Development

A standard leg day, as one could imagine, might include the leg press, back squat, leg extension, leg curl, and perhaps a lunge variation. If that’s the case, there is simply not enough emphasis on posterior leg development. We naturally experience quad dominance simply because we are human and the majority of our daily movement requires being in a squat or quad-dominant position. This includes daily functions such as sitting and standing up out of a chair or car. The issues arise when the quadriceps overpower the action of the hamstrings throughout a certain range of motion or movement pattern. This can often happen when walking or running, but it occurs mostly when it comes time to execute cutting, jumping, and landing mechanics.

Simply put, athletes across most major sports have below-average hamstring development. This goes for every individual on the planet as well. It becomes a rather large issue and argument for some injuries that these athletes typically encounter.

Common Mistakes in Exercises for Hamstring Strength

If you are looking to improve hamstring strength, there are several exercises you could add to your workout program. However, I’m here to tell you that there are also a few common mistakes that could be holding you back from reaching your full potential.

  • Wrong timing: The first mistake is that you are most likely waiting to train the hamstring until the end of your leg workout. Ultimately, you should program hamstring-specific exercises.
  • Incomplete range of motion: Secondly, it is quite possible that you might not be completing the full range of motion when targeting this muscle group.
  • Not enough time under tension: The final common mistake is that when performing the movement pattern, you are not spending enough time under tension for that muscle to respond and grow. So a tip would be to use a tempo count where you control down and explode up each rep.

Do Those Leg Curls!

If you’ve learned anything from the last five minutes of reading this article, I hope it is the importance of training the posterior chain, especially the hamstring. Not only is it aesthetically appealing, but the with strong hamstrings, functionality and safety of young athletes should be at an all-time high. So jump in and do those leg curls!

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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: injury prevention muscles strength training hamstring leg day

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

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

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

Wall Sit Knee Pain

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

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

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

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

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

Overhead Shoulder Press Pain

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

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

Cues to consider here include the following:

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

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

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

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Lat Pulldowns, the Safe Way

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

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

Here are some cues for a safer lat pulldown:

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

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

***

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

Muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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

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