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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Fight Back Against Back Pain: Fitness and Wellness Solutions

GettyImages-866081050With millions of people around the world suffering from back pain, is there any hope for relief outside of traditional methods? Low back pain can be excruciating and immobilizing, but there is still hope. When dealing with any pain or injury, exercising might be the last thing that crosses your mind, especially if it’s chronic low back pain (CLBP). However, that’s exactly what is recommended and what can help.

Research is revealing that people who exercise and stay flexible are better able to manage pain than those who are sedentary. So my charge to anyone reading this, whether or not you are living with low back pain, stay proactive and make health and fitness a priority. Rather than be forced into reacting to an injury that might have you sidelined for months, take a step toward low back pain relief.

The Impact of Lower Back Pain

Alarming statistics reveal that the single leading cause of disability globally is none other than low back pain. According to the American Chiropractic Association, “Back pain is experienced by 31 million people at any given moment.” After all, it is the third most common complaint during doctor visits and accounts for more than 264 million lost work days annually.

What Causes Low Back Pain?

Low back pain can flare up and subside in the blink of an eye. Often there is no warning and there are no other accompanying symptoms. Pain can occur in varying intensities and pain levels. It is important to take back pain seriously because it is your body trying to tell you that there is something wrong and that you need to make a change. Common causes include the following:

  • Muscle strain/sprain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Bulging discs
  • Arthritis
  • Skeletal irregularities

What You Can Do: Fitness and Wellness Ideas

Fortunately, there are several precautionary steps that you can take to prevent low back pain episodes as well as further injury. Keep in mind that humans are complex beings and it is important to address overall health.

  • Start and maintain an exercise program. Our NIFS staff can work individually with members to develop a proper strength-training program that addresses cardiovascular fitness as well as flexibility and mobility.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. According to the National Arthritis Foundation, “Every pound of excess weight exerts about 4 pounds of extra pressure on the knees.” Therefore losing a few pounds can take pressure off the back and knee joints.
  • Limit and manage stress levels. Paying attention to stress levels can help you avoid behaviors that lead to obesity such as overeating and a sedentary lifestyle. If stress levels stay low, it can help improve overall health.

Always keep in mind that we are complex beings and it is important to address our overall health needs. It might take multiple methods to address back issues, but why not jump ahead and try to prevent them through proper health and wellness strategies? Visit www.nifs.org to find out more information, see the up-to-date Group Fitness Schedule, and start your fitness journey now.

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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: stress group fitness muscles weight management pain fitness and wellness lower back pain low back pain arthritis

CXWORX: A Group Fitness Class for Core Strength

September_cxworxCXWORX is all about building core strength, which is important for living a more functional life. CXWORX targets the trunk, which is the area from the mid-thigh to the shoulders, and includes both the front and back sides of the body.

CXWORX is a 30-minute choreographed group fitness class created by Les Mills. It begins with a warmup and breaks off into working different sections of the core with movements both on the mat and standing. Participants use a resistance tube to add load to the muscles to increase muscle strength.

The Importance of a Strong Core

Most people think about a strong core as six-pack abs and doing sit-ups. The core is made up of more than just abs, but exactly as it sounds, it’s the core of your body. Building strength in those muscles will benefit you for the rest of your life. All movements stem from your core and provide support for everyday tasks you perform.

Having a strong core is of huge importance when it comes to balance and stability. Strong core muscles will also help improve your posture. Having good posture is better for your spine, prevents lower back pain or injuries, and allows you to breathe easier. Having a strong core helps you stand taller and straighter.

Working the Core

Working the core is more than just doing sit-ups. CXWORX is beneficial because it incorporates many movement patterns and exercises to strengthen and tone all muscle groups associated with the core. Trunk flexion and extension, trunk rotation, lateral trunk flexion, abdominal compression, and spinal stability are all movement patterns that you will perform in a CXWORX class to help build a balanced, strong core.

Check NIFS’s Group Fitness Schedule to find a class time that’s convenient for you!

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

Topics: group fitness muscles balance Les Mills core strength posture CXWORX stability core stability

Powerbuilding: The Middle Ground Between Powerlifting and Bodybuilding

Davin_lift1Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed an increasing trend in bodybuilders and physique athletes migrating toward the sport of powerlifting. I’m no exception. I spent the first eight or so years of my lifting career focused almost exclusively on bodybuilding. Eventually, however, I got tired of the culture, the subjective judging criteria, and the politics involved in the sport. I decided that I’d rather be strong and functional rather than just big and muscular. Over the next couple of years, I began focusing more and more on strength-specific training. Eventually, this led me to my first NIFS Powerlifting Competition back in 2016.

How Are Bodybuilding and Powerlifting Different?

In case you’re wondering how the two sports differ, I’ll go ahead and give a brief overview of each of them. Bodybuilding is a sport that emphasizes muscle size, shape, symmetry, and definition. Competitors train specifically with the goal of inducing hypertrophy in their muscles. Much like a sculptor, they sculpt their own bodies with these specific goals in mind. On the competitive side of things, there’s absolutely zero emphasis on physical performance. It doesn’t matter how much weight you can lift, but rather, it matters how much weight you look like you can lift. The judges make their decisions based on the aforementioned criteria, of course, coupled with their own subjective bias.

Powerlifting, on the other hand, is sport in which athletes are ranked according to their combined strength on three specific barbell movements. They compete in a max squat, bench press, and deadlift. The total amount of weight lifted is added up and then usually a strength-to-weight ratio is calculated using what is called, the Wilks Coefficient.

The Rise of Powerbuilding

Powerbuilding has emerged as a sort of hybridization of the two sports. Bodybuilding and powerlifting each have their own respective training styles and dietary practices that ultimately lend themselves to the specific outcomes of maximizing strength or maximizing hypertrophy. Thus, powerbuilders are essentially bodybuilders who have decided that they want to be as strong as possible, or they are powerlifters who have decided to prioritize aesthetics as well as strength.

To the layperson, it would seem like these two goals should go hand in hand. I mean, it makes sense that a strong person would have big muscles, and a person with big muscles would be strong. Technically, this is true to some degree. Early on, hypertrophy will be the most predominant adaptation seen in response to any resistance training program. In accordance with the principle of “general adaptation syndrome,” as the muscle becomes more adapted to the presented stimulus, it will require greater intensities and more specific overloads to elicit a response. This is where the principle of specificity comes in to play.

Strength Training vs. Hypertrophy Training

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), to most efficiently train for strength, a person should perform 1–3 sets of 8–12 repetitions using a load that is 60–70% of their one-rep maximum (1RM) for novice to intermediate lifters; and 2–6 sets of 1–8 repetitions at 80–100% of their 1RM for advanced lifters.

Inversely, to maximize hypertrophy, the ACSM recommends that a person perform 1–3 sets of 8–12 repetitions at 70–85% of their 1RM for novice to intermediate lifters; or 3–6 sets of 1–12 repetitions at 70–100% of their 1RM for advanced lifters.

The recommended rest periods range from 2–3 minutes when working at higher intensities to 1–2 minutes when using lighter loads. In some training programs you might even see rest periods of 3–5 minutes between sets to allow for optimal recovery and performance on each set.

For more information on resistance training guidelines, see https://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/resistance-training.pdf.

As you can see from the above guidelines, the type of training required to maximize muscle size is different than the type of training to maximize muscle strength. According to a meta-analysis performed by Dr. Brad Schoenfeld in 2016, most of the research has demonstrated that there is a direct correlation between hypertrophy and volume (total sets and reps performed). Since strength-specific training usually consists of training with lower volume at higher intensities, it stands to reason that it is less hypertrophic overall. Even though there is a fair amount of overlap between the two training styles, optimizing muscle size ultimately means sacrificing some muscle strength. The same could be said about strength training. In order to train at higher intensities, the volume must be reduced to avoid injury and overuse.

Make Your Choice

So what does this all mean? Powerbuilding is a tradeoff of sorts. This is especially true when reaching beyond the levels of basic strength and fitness. Initially, the body will react to any sort of resistance training by developing larger and stronger muscles. When that adaptation stops, it starts to become a matter of prioritization. One must choose where they’d rather go. The same could be said about distance running and bodybuilding, or perhaps rock climbing and powerlifting. You can be moderately proficient at both endeavors, but in order to really excel at either, you’ll have to sacrifice the other.

Bend_the_Bar_logo

Don't miss out on training for NIFS 2018 Powerlifting Competition! Our Bend the Bar training program starts in just a few weeks so get signed up now! September 11—November 1, Tuesdays & Thursdays 5p-6p at NIFS.

 

This blog was written by Davin Greenwell, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: muscles powerlifting strength training hypertrophy NIFS Powerlifting Competition bodybuilding powerbuilding

5 Core Exercises That You Should Be Doing

When most people think about core exercises, they just think of sit-ups or crunches; however, there are many options people don’t know about or forget. If you are only doing crunches, you’re not working your entire core. Think of your core as a cylinder; you have to work every part. Crunches target only one section, but they give you the “feeling the burn” sensation that makes you feel you got in solid core work.

Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 10.45.11 AM.pngHere are the top 5 core strength exercises that I think you should try.

1. Deadbugs

Deadbugs are an underrated core exercise. They look easy, but don’t let that fool you! They will work your core. Here’s how to do it:

  1. To start, lay flat on your back, arm straight up toward the ceiling, leg up with a 90-degree bend with knees pointed toward the ceiling.
  2. Once in your starting position with your low back in contact with the floor, start by slowly lowering your right arm/left leg down to a hover above the ground.
  3. Then repeat on the other side.

The most important thing to remember with these is keeping your lower back pushed into the floor. Once you’ve lost contact, you’re no longer working your core as much as you could be. Make sure your movements are slow and controlled. If you go too fast, you won’t feel these as much.

2. Anti-rotation Hold or Press

When you think of working your oblique muscles, rotation exercises always come to mind. What many don’t know is that resisting rotation can be even more challenging than rotating. This can be done using a cable or a band. Follow these steps:

  1. The band/cable should be at chest height.
  2. Once you have the right position, grab the handle with the hand that is farthest away; then place the other hand on top. This prevents your shoulder from doing more work than it needs to.
  3. Once you have a hold of the handle, bring it in front of your chest.

If you would like more of a challenge, hold your arms out straight.

3. Chops/Lifts

Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 10.51.56 AM.pngChops and lifts can be done with a medicine ball or with the cable machine. To start, you should do these in the half-kneeling position (watch video) so that you can’t get any help from your legs.

  • When you are doing chops, the knee closest to the cable machine (or your partner, if using a medicine ball) should be up. Think of this as a rowing-a-boat motion; you are chopping high to low.
  • When doing the lift, the knee farthest away from the cable machine is up. The start position is low, then you are lifting up and across your body.

4. Crawling Patterns

Bear crawl, dog crawl, alligator crawl, inch worm, scorpion crawl, lateral crawl—there are many different ways to crawl! These are great work for your core. Working on moving your opposite arm/leg works on the cross patterns. When crawling, to get in the most core work, you want to try to get little to no hip shifts. Trying to keep your hips square to the ground will allow your core to do more work.

5. Turkish Get-ups

Everyone’s favorite way to get off the ground! Turkish get-ups work much more than just your core, but are great to have in your core exercise bank.

***

Try these core exercises during your next workout. Stop by the NIFS track desk if you need to see a demonstration.

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This blog was written by Kaci Lierman, Health Fitness Instructor. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: muscles exercises core strength core exercise

Flexibility vs. Mobility in Fitness: Why Not Both?

GettyImages-509723338.jpgWhen you hear the word stretch, you might think immediately about flexibility (or perhaps your lack thereof). Flexibility was always the term used for enhancing limited movement, until the word mobility arrived and took the fitness industry by storm.

As a NIFS Health Fitness Instructor for five years now, I’ve spent plenty of time in and around the fitness center using these terms. Whether I’m speaking to a client regarding their goals or sharing instructions on warm-up drills, these two words often get used interchangeably; however, they are not identical.

An Exercise Example to Illustrate the Difference

Generally speaking, flexibility can simply be defined as the greatest length a muscle can achieve during a range of motion (ROM), passively or actively. Mobility also requires achieving a certain ROM, but it also requires coordination and core strength to move around the joint under load.

Let’s examine a front squat to help make this clear. A flexible person may reach the deep squat position, enabled by the flexibility in ankles, knees, and hips, but then lack the mobility (coordination and core strength) needed to correctly complete the exercise by standing up. Similarly, without flexibility, that person wouldn’t even begin to reach the range of motion needed for the deep position required for the front squat, so mobility isn’t even a factor without the proper flexibility.

The Affects of Age

When it comes to flexibility and mobility, age is definitely not on our side. As we age, we lose the elasticity in our muscles, and the tendons and ligaments tighten, making flexibility hard work. It’s not until someone suffers from poor movement patterns resulting in limited functional movement that causes injuries for someone to start trying to combat the effects of aging. (You can learn more about your own condition by having a Functional Movement Screening at NIFS.)

Movement vs. Static Hold

Lastly, when looking to improve and enhance these two concepts, mobility requires movement, whether we are testing for it or training to improve it. On the other hand, flexibility is done more often with a static hold. It’s safe to say that you could have excellent flexibility (the length of muscles required for a deep squat) but very poor mobility because you do not possess the ability to stand up out of a deep squat position under load.

Let me share with you a few helpful movements to further differentiate between these two concepts:

Flexibility Mobility
Elbow to instep Elbow to instep w/ oscillation
Half-kneeling ankle Ankle moving in and out
Knee hug Hip drop

                

Be sure to stay tuned for part 2 of this series as I discuss the important addition of stability to your movement patterns.

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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: exercise fitness muscles range of motion flexibility core mobility functional movement aging

Core Exercises to Take You from Snore to ROAR!

GettyImages-514734718.jpgSome of the number-one fitness goals are to strengthen the core, lose belly fat, and get six-pack abs. These are all pretty good goals that can be addressed by a fitness professional and a dietitian, but everyone might not have that luxury. From a traditional perspective, we have mainly used a few ab exercises such as crunches, sit-ups, and variations of them. For the most part, these are better than the alternative—nothing at all.

But what if there is a way to get more out of your workouts that allows you to get core exercise without doing sit-ups and crunches? If you are tired of the same old ab routine, or if you are finding it hard to get to the floor to do exercise, this may be exactly what you need to know to break plateaus and possibly change your life.

How You Use Your Core

Out of the many instances in which you use your core (basically your torso, minus your arms and legs), you could find occasions where you use sit-up movements, but not to the extent that we train them (hello 300 sit-ups, yes we are looking at you!). Overall, normal functions include standing; walking (sometimes up and down stairs); sitting at a desk, in the car, or in a recliner; and standing some more. The core really doesn’t move that much; however, it does stabilize all the time. Therefore, it would make sense to train for stability rather than movement, at least some of the time. This is true for everyone from beginners to seasoned athletes, and from young to elderly. Core stability is a part of your life and you use it all the time.

Before I talk about these exercises, know that good form and good posture is the backbone that makes this all work. This goes for every exercise, but also includes standing, walking, and sitting. People tend to slouch, mainly because it’s easier to do than sitting up or standing tall with good posture. Unfortunately, slouching does not activate the core at all. Good posture, however, allows the core to engage (which also helps in the calorie-burning process throughout the day). Focusing on this daily will help strengthen the core, even when you are not at the gym.

Core Exercises and Techniques

In addition to focusing on posture, you can easily add several other exercises and techniques to any routine.

  1. Plank: Create a plank with your body. Your back must be flat; if not, you can go to your knees or introduce an incline. Proper form is imperative. To increase the difficulty, I suggest adding a leg-lift motion, alternating legs.
  2. IMG_2617.jpgAnti-rotational holds: Using either a cable machine or bands, stand perpendicular to the anchor point while holding your handle directly in front of your midpoint. To increase the intensity, I suggest introducing a kneeling or half-kneeling position, making the core work even harder.
  3. Suitcase carry: This is an adaptation to the farmer’s carry. Instead of using two balanced weights, I suggest using only one weight on one side (think about carrying a heavy suitcase through the airport). Try to keep the top of your shoulders parallel to the ground. To increase the intensity, I suggest trying the same walking pattern, but on a narrow line. This will enhance the balance difficulty. You can also go in reverse!
  4. Single-arm dumbbell press: This is a spin on a traditional exercise, the chest press. Using a flat bench and only a single dumbbell, proceed to doing a normal press pattern. If you place your other hand on your stomach, you should feel muscles in there working to keep you from rolling off the bench. You will have to engage your core to maintain posture, though. Be sure to keep your head, back, and feet in contact with the bench and floor respectively.
  5. Overhead sit and stand: What is more functional than sitting and standing? In order for you to sit and stand, your core is engaging constantly. To increase the intensity, begin by sitting and standing without using your hands. Once that is easy, try holding a weight plate or medicine ball overhead while you sit to the box and stand. Notice how much more your core is working?

As you can see, several exercises and techniques are available to assist your core training regimen. Adding one or more of these will add some much-needed diversity that will not only keep you interested in exercise but also able to break through plateaus that may have been giving you trouble for years.

If you want more information, contact a fitness professional or personal trainer at NIFS to develop a strategy to build your own core exercise knowledge library.

Knowledge is power.

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

Topics: muscles core strength functional movement posture personal trainer stability core exercises core exercise core stability plank plateaus

The Hidden Wellness and Fitness Benefits of Yoga

Yoga3.jpgMany of us know that yoga serves as a form of physical activity that increases flexibility for participants. Yoga focuses on putting the individuals in body poses that elongate muscles from head to toe. While this is very true, and I encourage anyone looking to improve their flexibility to incorporate yoga into their weekly workout routine, yoga has so much more to offer than just improvements in flexibility. In fact, the original context of yoga had very little to do with improving flexibility at all.

Originally the purpose of yoga was spiritual development practices to improve mind-body awareness. Over the years, however, many have begun to focus more on the physical benefits of yoga than the mental and spiritual benefits, which has led the practice of yoga to take on newly defined purposes. However, it is important to understand the mind-body awareness benefits of yoga, as they can be just as if not more beneficial than the physical attributes. Let’s take a look at what some of those hidden benefits are.

Nervous System and Digestive System

One major focus of yoga is to become more aware of and to control your breathing patterns. By learning to control breathing, you can move from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system almost instantaneously. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the “fight or flight” response, or the part of your nervous system designed to respond to stress. When the sympathetic nervous system is in control, heart rate and blood pressure rise as a response to fight a possible threat. You want to limit the activity of this side of the autonomic nervous system. This is important because when the parasympathetic nervous system (or rest and digest) is in majority of control, your heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels lower while your digestion rate increases. Once your body reaches this relaxed state, anxiety becomes something of the past. A faster digestive system helps your body make the most of nutrients found in the food you consume while regulating regular bodily function.

Focus and Creativity

If you ask an experienced yogi what the hardest part of yoga is, you might be surprised by their answer. Typically, one might assume that holding the different yoga poses would be the most challenging aspect; however, there is an even bigger challenge, which includes focusing—on nothing. Meditation is another crucial component of a successful yoga session. Experienced yogis are able to focus their attention on nothing but their inner self; all outside distractions are eliminated, at least temporarily. This may sound very simple, but if you have ever tried to completely clear your mind of all inner thoughts besides what you are feeling at that exact moment, you may be able to grasp how difficult a task this is to successfully complete.

However, once one is able to control their center of attention, they will find their ability to stay focused on one particular task (especially those that require attention to detail) becomes better and better. In a 2012 study published by the journal Frontiers in Psychology, researchers were able to determine those who practiced meditation for at least 10 minutes a day for up to 16 weeks performed better with divergent-thinking tasks than those who did not participate in meditation at all.

Strength and Muscle Definition

Just in case you are not fascinated by the mind-body awareness benefits of yoga, there is a less discussed muscle defining and strengthening benefit as well, for those who are solemnly interested in the physical benefits. Who knew that yoga is actually great for improving muscle definition, and in rare cases even muscle hypertrophy? Because yoga focuses on moving and upholding your own body weight in various positions, it serves as a great strength workout in addition to flexibility and mind-body training.

Unlike traditional resistance training, which focuses primarily on the concentric contraction (the muscle contracts as it shortens) of a muscle, yoga focuses primarily on the eccentric contraction (the muscle contracts as it stretches) of a muscle. The eccentric contraction component gives muscles a more elongated look, while concentric contractions give muscles a shorter, more bulgy, look. If you have ever seen an experienced yogi’s physique, it may resemble that of a gymnast, basketball player, or even a track athlete versus those who participate in more traditional forms of resistance training, who might resemble a football player or bodybuilder with more muscle hypertrophy.

Yoga tends to train small and large muscles all over the body due to its high demand for muscles to work in conjunction with each other to perform the different body movements in various planes of movement. This is good for the reason that you often tend to work smaller muscle groups that may get little to no attention when practicing machine-oriented resistance training. With a machine that focuses on a one-dimensional plane of movement, it’s often impossible to train multiple muscle groups at the same time. Therefore, yoga tends to be a better option for improving overall body strength along with achieving a more proportional muscular physique.

Other Wellness Benefits

Some additional notable benefits of yoga also include (but are not limited to) immune system boost, pain management, increase in gray brain matter and increase in balance, and function ability. As noted above, the mental and nervous system benefits of yoga must begin to take back priority. Although improving flexibility can be a great thing, many have found that these additional benefits are what separate this form of physical activity from any other form.

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This blog was written by Darius Felix, Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: yoga muscles focus flexibility digestion wellness nervous system mind-body

Time Under Tension: Slowing Down Movement to Speed Up Fitness Results

ThinkstockPhotos-177455750.jpgOne of the major misconceptions I am happy to battle as a fitness professional is the wildly popular idea that if a little is good, more must be better. One of my favorite quotes from movement guru Grey Cook is, “More is not better; better is better.” It is a motto I strive to live by in my fitness world as well as my personal life.

So if more is not always better, why do so many continue to focus on how many reps, and usually how quickly they can complete them, with the hope of getting stronger and prepping the physique for the upcoming spring break? I guess I can’t blame them; when it comes to getting those physical results, volume does play a role; however, there are more ways to create the volume stimuli than simply 100 reps of everything as fast as you can.

So what are we talking about here, slowing down? Exactly! I know that can be a hard concept to grasp for many, but creating time under tension (TUT) or slowing things down can actually do more than twice the volume in a “reppy” workout. TUT simply refers to the time that a muscle is under load or under strain during a set of a particular exercise. Brad Schoenfeld, PhD, suggests you can achieve this with a heavy load for several seconds or lighter loads for a minute. This is definitely not a new concept, but it seems to have come and gone like a lot of fitness concepts due to something else becoming the next big thing in fitness, like the 6-minute abs. But TUT is worth keeping in the programming conversation because of the multitude of benefits that result from the concept of creating tension to build strength and muscle size.

Four Reasons to Slow It Down

We will discuss some examples of how to get some more TUT into your workout later, but here are four reasons you should keep tension in mind when you train.

  • Mindful movement: Although we use fitness and exercise for health, wellness, physique, and other reasons, exercise can and should be used for creating a mind at peace. I know that I use exercise to reconnect with both my body and the environment; exercise and movement can be spiritual. But being in the moment, or in this sense, the rep, is important. I think we get too caught up in getting things done so quickly that we miss most of the enjoyment of why we move in the first place. This is also a great time to practice proper breathing techniques throughout your movement and training session. Proper breathing throughout a movement will help in alignment, neuromuscular control, and overall enjoyment of the exercise. Concentrate on what you are doing and be in that moment; you will feel the difference.
  • Motor control/Movement enhancement: Enhancing specific movement patterns should be atop your “to-do” list when you head to the gym. If you don’t know how you are doing with movement patterns, I suggest scheduling a Functional Movement Screen with a NIFS instructor. This will provide you with the necessary information about how you are moving. We use TUT in this sense to aid in developing and maintaining motor control of a particular pattern. Holding a certain position for a period of time, slowly moving through a pattern, and pausing to complete deep breaths are ways your brain can make the connection of what a pattern should feel like. This will also allow you to “press save” on the pattern you are working on. So next time you are doing some goblet squats, pause at the bottom and take a deep breath (5 seconds in through your nose and 8 seconds out through your mouth), and then stand to complete the rep and help upgrade your movement software.
  • Muscle hypertrophy: Muscle tension created through resistance training stimulates the growth of new muscle proteins, making your muscles bigger, a process called hypertrophy. Simply put, lifting weights at a certain rate of time under tension will elicit different rates of hypertrophy. Generally speaking, when you are looking at rep counts per set, 3–6 reps = strength and power, 8–12 reps = hypertrophy, and 15+ reps = endurance. For hypertrophy (and there are different schools of thought on this point), 60–90 seconds a set will provide an optimal stimulus to promote muscle synthesis. What do you need to know? Volume and time under load is what will get those muscles bigger, given that the load you choose allows for greater volume. So if getting bigger muscles is your goal, slow it down and make each rep count.
  • Adding a new challenge: If you have ever tried to either hold a position for a period of time or complete a bodyweight exercise as slowly as you can, you know how much more challenging that exercise becomes. Not only will TUT provide the above benefits, but it will add a huge challenge to the movements and exercises in your training sessions. If you are looking for something new, don’t look too far; just slow down a bench press or a bodyweight squat, or anything you are currently doing. It will change everything, and the challenge will go through the roof. And that soreness that you feel the next day and probably the day after is your body telling you that you created enough stimuli to promote growth! Ultimately, that’s what we want, right?

How to Add TUT into Your Workouts

Here are some movements that will add more time under tension when you exercise.

  • Isometric holds: To increase TUT, add movements that rely on creating more tension. Isometric holds are a great place to start. Examples of these movements are planks, static squats and split squats, and static TRX rows. As I mentioned above, pick a movement and hold the position at the most difficult portion of the movement. These exercises are usually timed and start with a short amount of time and progressively build up.
  • Tempo reps: With this method, you slow down both the eccentric (lengthening) and concentric (shortening) phases of the movement. Typically 3–6 seconds per phase will increase the load on the muscle group being worked. Take the TRX row, for example; here Thomas would lower his body for 3 seconds and pull his body back up for 3 seconds for 8–12 reps, increasing his time under tension. You could go even more slowly for a super-slow set to muscular failure as another option of tempo reps.
  • Hypertrophy sets and reps: As stated above, to promote hypertrophy in a particular muscle group, a solid set and rep range is 3 x 8–10 with a tempo of 3:3 (total rep time of :6) for each movement. This is not fancy, but it will get the job done if you are hoping to increase size. So keep it simple and slow it down a little bit.

No matter whether you are looking to enhance your movement, muscle building to get those biceps ready for the beach, or find more joy and fulfillment in your exercise, slowing down can help get you there. If you need some assistance on how to implement TUT into your workout routine, schedule your free personal training session with a NIFS instructor today.

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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 fitness center workouts muscles muscle building functional movement

Posture and Fitness (Part 2): Anterior Pelvic Tilt

ThinkstockPhotos-611184084.jpgIn part 1 of this series covered kyphosis (rounded shoulders). Now we move on to another posture issue, anterior pelvic tilt.

What Is It?

Anterior pelvic tilt (APT) is a postural deficiency that results in an excessive forward tilt of the pelvic region. Essentially, it protrudes the abdominal region while creating an excessive lower-back curvature. This postural deficiency can cause one to have lower back pain, more abnormal movement mechanics, and muscle accommodation throughout the body, which we refer to as reciprocal inhibition.

What Causes It?

APT is commonly caused by excessive sitting. While in the seated position, your hip flexor muscles become very tight from being in their shortened position. When the hip flexors become tight, they pull down on the pelvis, which causes a forward tilt. Tight hip flexors also keep the gluteus muscles from firing efficiently, which causes the hamstrings to compensate for the lack of use, which in return causes them to become overworked. (The root cause for tight hamstrings may be anterior pelvic tilt.) APT is also a cause of weak abdominal muscles. The abs become loose and overstretched, which allows the pelvis to tilt forward even more. This may lead to a false conclusion of having too much fat around the abdominal region because your belly tends to stick out farther than what is natural.

Why Is It Bad for Fitness?

APT causes an overextension of the lumbar spine, lack of glute activation, and quad dominance, which leads to compensation patterns and poor exercise technique.

How to Fix It

There is a solution! In order to fix this problem, you must attack the root cause. Most commonly you will need to improve your hip flexibility, which can be done with a variety of hip stretches and proper warmup and movement patterns that I will list below. Once the hips have regained flexibility through stretching, the gluteus and hamstring muscles should be allowed to fire more efficiently. This will allow the pelvic region to rotate back into proper alignment, which will make movement patterns such as the squat and deadlift more comfortable, especially for the lower back. It is also a good idea to strengthen up the abdominal region as this will pull up on the quadriceps muscles, also allowing the pelvis to be pulled back into place.

Muscles to Stretch

  • PSOAS
    Hip stretches: Butterfly stretch, pigeon pose, kneeling hip flexor stretch, etc.
  • Quads
    Quad stretches: Standing quad stretch, kneeling quad stretch, etc.

Muscles to Strengthen

  • Glutes (Gluteus Maximus and Minimus)
    Glute exercises: Hip thrust, squats, etc.
  • Hamstrings
    Hamstring exercises: Straight-leg deadlifts, Swiss ball leg curls, lying hamstring curls
    Anti-extension abdominal: Planks, hallow holds, hanging leg raises, reverse crunches, lying pelvic tilt 

See a NIFS Health Fitness Specialist today if you believe APT may be keeping you from proper exercise mechanics.

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This blog was written by Darius Felix, Health Fitness Instructor. Click here for more information about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: NIFS fitness muscles stretching strength training glutes functional movement assessments posture glute abs hamstring APT anterior pelvic tilt

High Intensity Training (HIT): No Pain, No Gain

HIT-6.jpgIf you have ever participated in High Intensity Training (HIT), you will quickly discover what separates this style of workout from other popular styles you may know, like super sets or pyramid training. The main intention behind high intensity training workouts is that the workout will challenge your body to such a level of discomfort that its threshold or maximum capacity has no choice but to rise. Now don’t let the word “such a level of discomfort” scare you away; it’s the discomfort level that we all feel during exercise at some point, and of course you can push past it.

The Importance of Pushing Past the Pain

During resistance training, you will at some point begin to experience a level of discomfort. This happens because lactic acid begins to be produced by muscles during intense exercise bouts, which causes muscle fatigue. Although lactic acid may slow down muscle productivity and intensity, it does not mean you have reached muscle failure and are unable to continue. Quite honestly, this means your set is just now starting (if you want to bring down barriers and advance to the next level). Most individuals get to this point of discomfort and stop their set. However, if you stop here, you are more than likely not pushing your body past its threshold point, which is important in order to increase muscle strength, endurance, and even hypertrophy (muscle building).

Specifically, in high intensity style training, most often you will reach that lactate threshold and then be pushed beyond that. Just when you think that your body can go on no longer, you dig deep within yourself and the encouragement of your teammates and find that new level. And this is why we see so many success stories in people who attend HIT workouts. They push beyond what their bodies thought they could do, past the threshold, resulting in an increase in muscle strength and endurance.

hit-high-res-logo-web-new.jpgHow NIFS Can Help

If you need help discovering what those new levels are, and some accountability to keep pushing, then I invite you to try NIFS’s High Intensity Training. Our classes are designed to motivate you to push past the limits you think are there by utilizing short bouts of high intensity work, which will increase your body’s thresholds, causing an increase of metabolism. We use our training expertise to provide the necessary motivation to close the gap between you and your body’s threshold. Once you reach this threshold, we will teach you how to tap into that next level to take your workouts to the next step on the ladder of success!

We invite you to come experience a good workout, a good team feeling, and a good environment where each participant has the same goal: to get better! Get your first session for FREE by contacting Tony Maloney at tmaloney@nifs.org.

Yes! I want to try a HIT class!

This blog was written by Darius Felix, Health Fitness Instructor. Click here for more information about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: NIFS cardio motivation group training accountability NIFS programs muscles resistance strength HIT pain high intensity muscle building strength training