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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Back to Exercise Basics: The Split Squat

As we continue down the road of improving our basic movement patterns (which is always under construction, by the way), we take a look at the squat pattern and its variations a bit further. Many fitness pros, including myself, argue that we spend more time on one leg than we do on two. Think about it: walking, running, traveling up stairs—for varying amounts of time, you can find yourself on one leg a lot.

What Makes a Split Squat a Split Squat?

So if you are on one leg a bunch, it only makes sense that you build that position to be strong and stable, and in many different planes of motion. Let’s take a look at what makes a split squat a split squat, which is very different from the lunge but often is called by the same name (kind of a pet peeve of mine).

Tony_split-squat

  1. Base of support—Forward Foot – Weight on heel
  2. Base of support—Rear Foot – Weight on toes, heel up
  3. Base of support—Split distance is 3-4’ 
  4. Shin angle—moving forward
  5. Front Knee – Tracking over but not beyond toes
  6. Trail knee – path towards ground, suspended
  7. Glute “stacked” above knee
  8. Neutral Spine
  9. Shoulders back and down
  10. Eyes up

Many of the aspects of the regular squat are found in the split. You are simply in a single-leg-supported position.

Options to Get More Out of the Split Squat

Now that you have the foundation, here are a few options you can use to get more out of this movement pattern.

  1. TRX Split Squat
  2. 2KB Split Squat—Farmer position
  3. 1KB RFEE Split Squat—Down position
  4. 2KB Split Squat-Racked position

 

Exercise Variations in the Frontal and Transverse Planes

Human beings need to travel in 3D. It’s important to all of us, from the athlete to the accountant. Often we train in one plane of motion, typically the sagittal plane (in the regular squat, for example, or the overhead press). But in the real world we move in more ways than straight ahead. Here are some variations that will get you in the frontal (side-to-side) and the transverse (rotational) planes.

  1. 3D Body Weight
  2. Offset KB Spit Squat
  3. SaB Lateral Split Squat
  4. SaB + KB Rot. Split Squat

 

The split squat is a super-important movement pattern that I feel we need to train more. As single-leg beings, mastering this pattern in multiple planes will transfer big time to the real world and allow us to move better, more often, with fewer injuries.

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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: exercise basics injury prevention leg day squat fitness center movement stability functional movement

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

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

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

A Brief History of Foam Rolling

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

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

How to Start Foam Rolling

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

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

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

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

Foam Rolling at NIFS

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

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

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

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

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

How to Use a Belt the Right Way

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

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

Avoiding Over-reliance

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

Types of Belts

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

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

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

Topics: weight lifting powerlifting NIFS Powerlifting Competition equipment injury prevention

Stability and Mobility in Fitness: The Dynamic Duo of Movement

GettyImages-961867136Think about the most recognized duos of all time: Batman and Robin. Mario and Luigi. Buzz and Woody. Stability and Mobility. Wait, what? Yes, like superhero teams, stability and mobility work together to achieve a balanced, harmonious environment for functional movement.

It’s All Connected

First, I want to bring to your attention a concept that has been around for some time; however, we often forget the important role it plays in day-to-day performance. Let’s reflect on anatomy and the structure of the human body. I challenge you to think of it in terms of one continuous structure in which each joint affects the joints above or below it. This concept is commonly referred to as the kinetic chain. It boils down to stable joints being stable when they should be and mobile joints being mobile when they’re meant to be. In terms of starting or stopping movement, stability and mobility are quite often complementary in nature.

Being Flexible and Mobile

In case you missed it, let’s review the details from my preceding blog. Flexibility is primarily genetic, but can be improved slowly over time. It refers to the greatest length a muscle can achieve. This is often known as a joint’s range of motion (ROM).

Mobility is the ability to synchronize one’s coordination and overall strength to move around a joint under load—as, for example, when doing the front squat.

Now that we are adding stability to the equation, it enhances movement and helps it make sense. Stability is the ability to provide firmness and strength to certain joints, often with help from the surrounding connective tissue.

The Kinetic Chain in Action

The following illustration at www.acefitness.org depicts the six common links involved in the kinetic chain, along with their assigned level of stability. Each link or joint plays an important role in human movement and overall function.

Therefore, a joint’s health and function are ultimately determined by its structure and the continuous tradeoff between being stable or mobile. When there is more of one, there is always less of the other.

Why This Relationship Is Important: Injury Prevention

Why should you care? Well, when a joint is less stable, that means it is more mobile. More mobility means more motion at that joint; it can also mean more wear and tear, which can lead to more injury at that joint, including arthritis. Also, a less stable joint has to rely on surrounding muscle and tissue to provide the required stability, which can lead to injury in certain joints that are already highly susceptible.

So the next logical question is, how do I train to improve stability? We’ll explore that question in my next blog.

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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: flexibility stability mobility joints movement fitness injury prevention

Don't Skip the Warm-up: Injury Prevention and Workout Performance

GettyImages-658858192You might think that skipping the warm-up when you work out isn’t that serious. You only have so much time to get your work out in, so you think, “My warm-up was walking in here,” and “I don’t have enough time!”

Warming up is a significant component of your fitness routine, and skipping it could result in unpleasant and dangerous results. Muscle strains, muscle injury, and pain are just a few of them. In all honesty, a proper warm-up will actually advance your workout performance!

The Warm-up: Basics

A warm-up is a short workout time at the beginning of your exercise session. Warming up is generally low intensity and gets your body ready for the upcoming exertion.

The point of executing a warm-up is to increase your heart rate, raise your core body temperature, and increase the blood flow to your muscles. Cold muscles and other connective tissues do not stretch very easily. Adding in a warm-up can literally warm up those muscles and allow for them to relax, giving them a better chance to work better.

When you skip the warm-up, it makes you body more susceptible to sprained muscles, cramps, and other injuries. These injuries could actually prevent you from exercising altogether until you recover, and this is the opposite of the healthy lifestyle you are trying to live.

It can take the body about three minutes to realize that it needs to move more blood to your muscles. The ideal warm-up time is anywhere between five and ten minutes.

The Warm-up: Strategy

Now that I have explained the importance of warming up, let me share with you how I personally prepare myself, as well as each of the members I work with.

A proper warm-up is about more than just “warming up the body”; it is about preparing the body for an all-out training attack that is going to enhance your metabolism. I like to look at the warm-up as a preparation phase for what is to come. The three key components I like to focus on are the following:

  • Tissue quality
  • Corrective exercise
  • Mobility and activation

Tissue Quality

The majority of chronic joint pain or overuse injuries are caused by tightness and restrictions in the muscles above or below the area in question. In other words, it’s not about the victim…it’s about the culprit!

I struggle with knee pain that is often caused by restrictions in the tissues of my front/inner/outer thighs. Back pain can often be caused by restrictions in your glutes and hamstrings, along with shoulder pain associated with thoracic spine (T-Spine), chest, and lats.

Over time, we can develop scar tissue, adhesions, and knots and trigger points due to high-intensity training, overuse, and/or extended periods of sitting. My personal struggle is all the years I played high school, college, and professional basketball. The best way I know how to address my areas of pain is to self-massage the areas that may be sore and tight using good strategies I have learned from one of our massage therapists here at NIFS.

Corrective Exercise

We all experience “issues” with body mechanics and functional movement capabilities. For some the issues could be lack of flexibility, while others may experience balance and mobility issues. There could even be a difference between sides, with the right side being “stronger” than the left side.

The FMS (Functional Movement Screen) is a ranking and grading system that documents movement patterns that are key to normal function. By screening these patterns, FMS readily identifies functional limitations and asymmetries. These issues can reduce the effects of functional training and physical conditioning and distort awareness.

The FMS scoring system is directly linked to the most beneficial corrective exercise to restore mechanically sound movement patterns. Exercise professionals monitor the FMS score to track progress and identify those exercises that will be most effective in restoring proper movement as well as building strength in each individual.

To recap the importance of the FMS:

  • Identify functional limitations and asymmetries that have been linked to increased injury risk.
  • Provide exercises to restore proper movement and build stability, mobility, and strength to each individual.

Mobility and Activation

A mobility and activation circuit truly prepares your body for a maximum-performance workout. Mobility describes the ability of a joint, or a series of joints, to move through an ideal range of motion. Mobility requires an additional strength, stability, and neuromuscular control component to allow for proper movement. Activation is often paired with mobility because many mobility exercises activate key, and often dormant, pillar stabilizers in your hips, core, and shoulders.

Not JUST a Warm-Up

So, the next time you decide to skip your warm-up or think you don’t have enough time, remember that a warm-up is imperative for injury prevention and your long-term health, fitness, and weight-loss goals. Don’t do yourself an injustice by not warming up.

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: functional movement screen weight loss injury prevention workouts warming up

Get with the Program: 5 Benefits of Having an Exercise Plan

IMG_0653-1“Success favors the prepared” is one of my favorite quotes highlighting what it takes to be successful in life and any pursuit that interests you. Without preparation and planning, effort and action really have no direction, which can result in you being lost. I would also offer that a misguided workout plan, although it’s a plan you didn’t have before, can be just as detrimental to your success. So having an exercise plan is really important, but having a solid and well-thought-out plan is super important!

Don’t confuse movement with progress when it comes to your weekly and daily training. Getting to the gym is step one, but what you do with your time there will be the difference between achievement and disappointment. We don’t usually argue the benefits of writing down your goals; it’s important and can usually lead to reaching those goals. You have heard me say many times “if you think it, ink it.” Why don’t we do that with our exercise programs? Goals give you your destination; your training program is the roadmap that can get you there. A well-designed map can get you there more quickly and safely.

So get with the program! Or should I say, get with a professional about your program. A well-trained and educated coach’s eye can be a game changer when working toward your fitness goals. The guidance they can provide is crucial to your development and ability to reach new heights. Named number 6 on the ACSM 2018 fitness trends list, educated and experienced fitness professionals remain an important commodity to you and the rest of the public. Utilize them!

And here are five more benefits of following an exercise program that is designed specifically for you by a fitness pro.

No More Guessing

Having a plan of attack takes the guesswork out of your workout. Fitness centers can be overwhelming at times; and with the amount of information and opinions that are out there, without a plan you could find yourself kind of meandering around not getting a lot of work done. I also think that not having a clear direction can lead to low confidence, resulting in an increased rate of giving up. Getting a program is not just a list of great exercises to do; it can act as your ticket to an “I CAN DO IT” mindset instead of “I don’t know what to do, so I’ll skip it today.” Which mindset do you think is the more successful one?

Proper Techniques and Principles: Injury Prevention

GT3“Move well then move often” is a great quote from the folks over at FMS and one that we carry as our motto around here. Performing exercises correctly that are based on safe and proper movement principles will be the difference between reaching your goals and being laid up for weeks because of an injury due to improper technique or progression. You can’t work if you are injured, and no one should be injured in fitness. But people get hurt all the time due to improper exercise technique and poor guidance. And if you don’t get hurt, you will definitely not receive all the great benefits of an exercise if you are performing it poorly. A great coach can design a program and provide the technical support you need to execute it well. Move well, move often! You get only one body; don’t you want to keep it running for a long time?

Progress Tracking

With a personal program design, you have your record-keeping right in front of you. Whether you are a paper-and-pencil person or a tech-savvy individual, logging your exercises, loads, intensity levels, and rate of perceived exertion is the best way to keep an eye on your progress. And believe me, when you see the weights go up, so does your confidence level and positive mindset.

Just as you wrote out your goals and the benefits of that process, logging your efforts is the next step. How do you know you are heading in the right direction if you don’t document the journey? Seeing is believing, and what better way to see the progress than to log the important variables that make up your program?

Keeping It Fresh

A great fitness pro will be able to design programming for you that is always progressing as you do, and will include different exercises and intensities to continually add new challenges. New stimulus equals new results; that’s just how the body works. After a certain amount of time, your body will no longer have to adapt to the previous stimulus, and with no adaption, there are no results. Also, keeping your program evolving will increase the enjoyment factor, leading to greater adherence to the exercise program. Nobody wants to do the same old thing over and over again. If variety is the spice of life, let a new fitness program be the chili powder!

Challenge Preconceived Limits

One of the main jobs of a great coach is to demonstrate to an individual that they are far more capable than their mindset tells them. A personal fitness program that includes all of the above, designed specifically for you, will take you out of that box you have been living in and prove to you that you are stronger than anyone (including yourself) gave you credit for. I have worked with so many who believed that they were supposed to reside on an elliptical machine for their workout and prove to themselves that they are an athlete and love to move. Working with a fitness pro to develop your specific program can unlock the physical potential that has been waiting to be shown the world!

Most of us have heard the ageless quote from Ben Franklin: “Failure to plan is planning to fail.” Without a proper fitness program that fits your needs and works toward your specific goals, failure is a very real outcome. Like most aspects of our lives, a solid plan of attack usually leads to success. Why should we treat our health and fitness differently? Get with the program and be ready for the results!

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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: workout plan exercise plan goals fitness professional injury prevention tracking fitness fitness program coach

Steer Clear of Overtraining in Your Workouts

ThinkstockPhotos-sb10062340z-001.jpgOvertraining is something that is commonly experienced in the fitness world yet frequently not recognized. What exactly is overtraining? It happens when the volume or intensity of exercise goes beyond your capacity to recover. Progress is no longer seen, and as time goes on, individuals who are overtraining tend to lose strength and become weaker. This is something that by definition everyone would want to avoid, but it’s easier said than done!

A lot of exercise happens to be a mindset. We’ve all been there: “I’ll just go for a run since I ate a whole pizza last night,” or “I’ll grab a second workout today so I can pig out on dinner.” However, maybe these things are pushing you over the edge into the overtraining zone, a place that you really don’t want to be.

Let’s take a look at five signs that you could be overtraining, and then five potential solutions.

Five Signs of Overtraining

  • Repeated injury: Do you have an injury that heals and then comes right back again? One sign of potential overtraining is having repeated injuries pop up. Because you are not allowing proper recovery between training sessions, the injury will never fully heal and keep coming back.
  • Exhaustion: Do you feel like you just can’t quite seem to get enough rest between training sessions? When an individual is overtraining, the work capacity being done is greater than the recovery time allotted. If you feel your body is not quite ready for the next workout, consider taking a rest.
  • Lack of progression: Are you stuck in your workouts and not seeing any gains even with the greater work capacity? If you are overtraining, you will begin to see a lack of progression in strength and training gains. The workout plateau could be caused by other factors, but consider taking a look at your training if you are lacking in progression.
  • Nagging injury: Do you have a nagging injury that won’t heal? If you have an injury that you cannot recover from and it refuses to go away, you might be training too much. Taking a break will allow your body to recover from those nagging injuries.
  • Persistent muscle soreness: Are you constantly sore after workouts and never feel “normal”? A classic sign of overtraining is constant muscle soreness that will not go away. The lactic acid buildup in your body doesn’t have time to flush out of the muscles when the training regimen is too high.

If you are struggling with any of the overtraining signs, consider one of the following solutions.

Five Solutions for Overtraining

  • Take a break. This tends to be the hardest one because of the challenging mindset, but you will do your body a huge favor if you take some time off. Maybe it’s a week or two weeks, but allow yourself enough time off to fully recover and see the gains that come from it.
  • Reduce volume. One way to break overtraining issues is to reduce the amount that you are working out. You can reduce length or frequency of workouts during the week. Either way, cut down on the volume and see how you feel.
  • Rethink your training plan. You may need to rethink the training plan that you currently have. Maybe you need to change up days or space workouts apart from what you currently have going. Take a look and make adjustments where necessary.
  • Try a massage. Sometimes a deep-tissue massage will help to push out some buildup within your muscles. Take a day and schedule a massage in place of your training session and see if that helps.
  • Reevaluate your goals. While no one wants to reduce a goal they originally set, sometimes if your body cannot take the load you are putting it under, you may need to make a change. This doesn’t mean that you need to reduce your goals; maybe just making small modifications would be acceptable.

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This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Fitness Center Manager. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: injury prevention overtraining workouts exhaustion massage

Glute Exercises for Runners

ThinkstockPhotos-517225814.jpgHaving strong glutes is essential for reducing your risk of injury and preventing lower back pain. Those muscles help protect your knees while walking and running, they help you with your speed, and they stabilize the entire leg. Without strong glutes, the entire lower body may fall out of balance causing other injuries

I could talk all day about this group of muscles, but instead I’m going to show you three simple exercises you can do anywhere to help strengthen them.

These exercises are just general recommendations, and you should never feel any pain. If you are experiencing pain, recovering from an injury, or need a modification make sure to talk with a NIFS Fitness Specialist in the fitness center downstairs.

3 Glute Strengthening exercises for runnersFor all of these exercises, complete 10-20 reps 2-3 times 3 times a week.

Exercise 1) Curtsey Lunge—Begin standing with your feet under your hips and hands on your waist. Cross your left leg behind your right, bending your knee and lowering down into a lunge position. Drive through your front heel as you stand and bring your back foot to starting position. Repeat on the other side and continue to alternate.

Exercise 2) Glute Bridge—Lie flat on your back, feet flat and hip distance apart, knees bent and arms down at your sides. Position your feet as close to your bottom as possible. Drive through the heels to lift your hips up to the ceiling. Hold for a count of 2, then slowly lower down to starting position.

Exercise 3) Side Lying Diamond Leg Lifts—Lie on your side with your body in a straight line.
Bring your feet together and your knees together, your knees should be slightly in front of your body. Rest your head on your hand or lie down. Gently open your legs like a clam then close them for one rep. Repeat on the other side.

While getting in the miles is very important when training for a half marathon, it’s essential to balance your running routine with adequate stretching and strength training exercises to keep your body in good running condition. This will help prevent injuries and you will feel strong as you cross that Mini Marathon Finish line!

Fore more glute exercises see our blog,  Are You Glute-n Free.

Comment in the comment section below with some of the exercises you incorporate into your running routine!

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This blog was written by Tara Deal Rochford, nutirition specialist. Follow Tara on her blog, Treble in the Kitchen. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: running mini marathon Mini-Marathon Training Program glutes injury prevention exercises

The First Rule of NIFS Barbell Club: Talk About Barbell Club

Today marks the beginning of our Barbell Club here at NIFS. This is a free Olympic and Powerlifting program for anyone who is looking to:

  • barbell.jpgImprove performance of one or multiple lifts
  • Improve technique
  • Learn the basics about the lifts
  • Do all of the above
You may have years of experience with these different types of lifts, or you may never have attempted or thought about attempting them in your life. Regardless, everyone can benefit from what the program has to offer. As NIFS coaches, we have great experience coaching these movements in safe and effective ways that take you through the progressions. The importance of this is paramount due to the fact that the ballistic nature of many of the movements requires injury prevention. When you think about weightlifting in terms of a food chain, Olympic and Powerlifting are the king of the jungle.

What Movements Will You Learn?

Here are the movements that may be coached during your session:

  • IMG_7315.jpgClean (Hang or Power)
  • Clean and Jerk
  • Snatch
  • Deadlift
  • Squat
  • Bench Press
How Can Barbell Club Help You?

As one of the coaches of the NIFS Barbell Club, my plan is to help out with any individual questions that members may have. If you’ve been around these lifts in the past, you know that there are many details that go into making the movement safe and successful. One of my favorite tools to use is slow-motion video. Many people have done these lifts for years and have never seen themselves do it on video. This can give you an idea of your bar path as well as visual cues with posture (head/foot position, and spine angle).

Another tool that can help you achieve your goals will be advice in programming. You may have been working on a lift for months and have made steady progress but have recently plateaued. Where do you go from there? After ensuring that your technique looks sound, my next goal would be to give you a few ideas on other lifts that you can perform to improve the main lift. For instance, you want to improve your snatch and have failed for the past 2 weeks at 93kg. Instead of continuously failing at 93, how about adding a few sets of “snatch pulls” at that trouble weight or even higher? This will help your body start to adapt to handling that amount of weight.

Can New Powerlifters Join?

But what if you have never attempted to do any Olympic or Powerlifting movement? Are you still allowed to attend? Absolutely! Beginners are my favorite individuals to instruct in these techniques because they have no preconceived notion of what the lift is supposed to be. We will help you learn the basics of the movement and let the session lead to wherever it may. As a beginner, the goal is not to be doing a full snatch or clean and jerk on day 1. More than likely, you will not be able to absorb enough knowledge within that one-hour session to do that. Instead, our goal is to build the foundational movement pattern that will allow you to excel in future training sessions.

No matter your experience level, come give Barbell Club a shot. Did I mention that IT’S FREE? You have nothing to lose and a wealth of knowledge to gain!

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

Topics: powerlifting weightlifting NIFS NIFS programs group training personal training injury prevention safety

Weightlifting Gear: Equipment to Enhance Training—or Ego?

lifting.jpgThere are numerous different products on the market now that are supposed to help improve your strength training. From lifting belts to Mark Bell’s patented Slingshot, there is more gear available now than ever. For a novice lifter, the multitude of available products will probably just leave your head spinning. What is actually helpful and what is just a moneymaker? Here is my take on some of the most popular products out there.

Lifting Belts

There are some products that I will advise most lifters to stay away from, but this is not one of them! A lifting belt is imperative to a good strength training regimen. Any kind of substantial load for a squat or a deadlift is going to put a lot of pressure into your abdominal cavity, as well as onto your spine. A lifting belt acts as a brace when the lifter takes in a large breath and pushes their abdomen out into the belt. This ensures that the spine stays stable in place and has nowhere to go, resulting in a much-reduced risk of injury. This piece of equipment is the first that I would recommend purchasing for any new lifter, especially if you are thinking about competing in powerlifting.

Not sure if you want to compete? Try it out at the annual NIFS Powerlifting Competition! It is a great starter meet to get your feet wet and see what competition is all about.

Olympic Lifting Shoes

You have probably seen or heard of lifting shoes before. They have an elevated heel and make a nice, loud “SMACK” sound on the platforms at NIFS during a properly executed Olympic lift. These shoes can be helpful for more than just Olympic lifting, though. They can be very helpful for front and back squats (depending on your body type). If you have the right body type (usually tall and lanky), these shoes will create better leverage for you to squat more efficiently. The elevated heel actually shifts your center of gravity forward just a slight bit, which allows the squatter to sit backwards and reach “good depth” easier.

These shoes can be somewhat costly for students. Try to find a good deal on a pair of lifters if you are strapped for cash. The more expensive pairs (Nike Romaleos) can run up to $250 or $300, but Adidas makes a similar shoe that you can find for around $75. If you are not an Olympic competitor, there is not much need to spend a couple hundred dollars on these shoes.

Mark Bell’s Slingshot

So, we have looked at an “almost necessary” product and a “nice to have, but don’t totally need” product. Here is an example of a “don’t really need at all” product. Mark Bell’s Slingshot is a highly elastic band with two arm sleeves on the side, which, once you put the Slingshot on, causes the elastic band to stretch across your chest. Basically, this tool allows the lifter to handle heavier loads on the bench press than they normally could. The few advantages to this product are

  • Less shoulder pain for those with very severe shoulder issues
  • Overloading the bench press with above-maximal weight
  • Frankly, loading your ego by seeing how much you can bench when using it

If you’re thinking I am just hating on Mark Bell or his product without just cause, please reconsider. I am a big fan of Mark and his no-nonsense business style. He knows what his product is for and to whom he should market it. I even have a Slingshot of my own! That being said, I think there are too many young lifters who buy his products just because they see him as an idol and they want to be like him in any way possible. The Slingshot is a tool that can be utilized by experienced lifters, and it can be helpful. But, for the beginner lifter, this product will almost certainly do you more harm than good.

Start with the Basics

There is a time and place for most lifting products, but most of them are not needed until you are way down the road to being competitive. Start with the basic products that will benefit you, not confuse you. A lifting belt is a great product to start with, and possibly a pair of lifting shoes. Do your research about all lifting products and try to determine which ones will work the best for you. I urge you to not just buy any of these products on a whim, thinking that they have to help you because somebody famous said so.

For more information on lifting gear, or lifting heavy weights in general, contact Cara Hartman at chartman@nifs.org. Cara runs the LIFT program at NIFS and has some great expertise to share with you!

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This blog was written by Aaron Combs, NSCA CSCS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.


Topics: weightlifting strength training equipment NIFS programs injury prevention powerlifting