NIFS Healthy Living Blog

The Difference Between Compound and Isolation Exercises When Lifting

GettyImages-1368579391In a previous blog I discussed the importance of training within the movement categories. Those categories are upper body push and pull, squat, and hinge. To break it down even further within the categories, there are exercises that give you more bang for the buck than others. In this blog I differentiate between compound and isolation exercises. For those of you who are on a time crunch when you are in the gym, these exercises are crucial to get the most out of your training.

What Is the Difference?

A compound exercise is also known as a multi-joint exercise. This is an exercise in which more than one joint is required to move through the exercise. An example of a compound exercise would be a squat. To complete the squat pattern, three joints must move: the ankle, knee, and hip. Examples of compound exercises for the upper body are the bench press and overhead press. Both movements require the function of the shoulder and elbow. The reason that compound lifts have more payoff is that they work multiple muscle groups as well. A bench press uses the pectoralis muscles, deltoids, and triceps. This requires more energy to be expended than if you used only one of those muscle groups on a single joint exercise. Exercises that isolate a single muscle group are called isolation exercises. Examples of an isolation movement would be a bicep curl, triceps extension, leg extension, or a leg curl. The difference between a compound exercise and an isolation exercise is the number of joints that move.

Which Type of Exercise Should You Do?

Compound lifts are more challenging but less time consuming than performing multiple different isolation exercises. If you short on time while in the gym, a full-body workout full of compound movements will give you the most from your workout. I have written blogs about how to structure those types of workouts. If you want to sculpt your body in a particular way, and are focused on correcting muscle imbalances or injury rehabilitation, each may require the use of specific isolation movements to build up specific muscle groups. So, the question is, what are your goals? Once you define your goals, you can design your workout program.

Structuring a Workout

The most efficient way to structure a workout utilizing both methods is to perform a compound movement first in your workout followed by isolation movements to complement the muscles used in the compound movement. A quick example using the bench press would be bench pressing first, followed by isolation movements to isolate the chest and triceps. You want to save the most amount of energy for your compound exercises, which is why you should perform this one first. Fatiguing the triceps before a heavy bench workout will not yield the best results for bench press. This is why isolation exercises are best performed at the end of your workout.

For more information or guidance on how to structure your workouts, visit our training staff at the track desk in the fitness center. For nonmembers looking for help on your fitness journey, feel free to give us a call to set up a guest fitness assessment.

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

Topics: fitness center muscles weight lifting weightlifting muscle building joints gym isolation exercises compound exercises structuring workouts

How to Get a Start in Olympic Weightlifting

GettyImages-1320177931Olympic weightlifting is one of the oldest sports that is still around to this day in the Olympics. Over time the sport has evolved to what it is today, and there are more participants at the national-level events here in the US than ever before. With the help of CrossFit, the weightlifting community has grown substantially in the last decade. Still, however, not many people know of Olympic weightlifting and how to get started in the sport.

Who Should Olympic Lift?

Everyone! Olympic weightlifting is for everyone. In a previous blog post, I wrote about the benefits of learning and practicing the Olympic lifts. To sum it up, the benefits are learning a new skill, strengthening the muscles, having goals to work toward, and competing in a fun and welcoming environment. If you are a former athlete and have been missing that competition feeling, weightlifting might be for you. In America, you have the opportunity to lift in small local meets, state meets, larger national meets, and even international competitions if you have what it takes to qualify. The weightlifting community is full of fun, positive, and energetic people who are all there for the same reason. Once you commit to learning the lifts, the next step is to find a coach.

Why You Need a Coach

One of the most important things you can do when starting to learn the Olympic lifts is to find an educated and certified weightlifting coach. Weightlifting has one of the lowest injury rates of all the Olympic sports. However, if you don’t learn proper technique early on, you are more likely to injure yourself. Looking into the future, after proper technique teachings, a coach will give proper programming. A well-thought-out and structured weightlifting program will increase the length of your weightlifting career and ensure proper progressions.

If your goal is to compete in Olympic weightlifting, finding a coach will be crucial to your success not only as you prepare for the competition, but also at the competition. Competitions are fast paced and require more thought than just lifting the weight when it is your turn. There is a lot of planning that happens for competitions, from timing your warmups to counting the number of attempts until you must be on the platform. Having a coach makes the whole experience less stressful for the athlete and makes it go a lot more smoothly. A coach who knows their athletes will be able to motivate and push you to levels you did not know you could reach.

How to Find a Coach

Weightlifting gyms and coaches can be found on USA Weightlifting’s website. You can also do a quick Google search for barbell clubs in your area. You will most likely come across some CrossFit boxes as well. Make sure you find a coach that is certified through USA Weightlifting to ensure you that your coach has gone through the necessary trainings for technique and safety. Just like any other sport, you can be a self-taught lifter. However, learning proper techniques from the beginning will extend your career in the sport.

What Now?

After you have found a certified and experienced weightlifting coach that you trust, it is time to put in the work. Olympic weightlifting is not a sport that you will pick up overnight. It takes hours and hours of intentional practice to master this sport. The athletes at the very top have been training since they were young kids. You should set your goals accordingly and never compare yourself to the athletes that are competing at the highest level. If you trust the process and work hard, you will see progress and become the best version of yourself.

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

Topics: muscles weightlifting goals competition weight training coach olympic weightlifting

High-Intensity Circuit Training: Time-Efficient Results

Triple Threat with Jessie_poster newWith the world now instantly accessible through technology, it’s easy to understand why a growing number of people expect things to be done in a shorter amount of time. Like many others, I’m a big fan of things that are fast and effective, and that includes my workouts. High-intensity circuit training does just that by providing an effective and convenient way to increase exercise results in less time.

Whether you’re a career-driven adult or hardworking student, you’re probably a time-conscious person, so it may not be realistic to devote half of your week to aerobic and strength training separately. To really hammer this home, let’s do the math:

ACSM’s standard guidelines for aerobic training recommend 75–150 minutes a week of exercise, depending on the intensity. Let’s say you do 30 minutes of moderately intense cardio 4 days per week. That’s 120 minutes. Now let’s add strength training. Typically done 2–3 days each week, strength training should hit each major muscle group in 2–4 sets with 8–12 repetitions per set. Depending on the muscle group, this could take you 45–90 minutes. Average that out to about 60 minutes, 3 days a week. That’s 180 minutes. 180 + 120 = 300 minutes of time spent in the gym. 300! That’s as impractical as it is exhausting. Honestly, I’m tired just from doing the math on that.

With HICT, you’re combining both traditional training methods into one complete, high-energy workout that you’ll leave with a muscle and endorphin pump. Plus, you’ll be in and out of the door in less than an hour. What more could you ask for?

Benefits of High-Intensity Circuit Training

The concept of high-intensity circuit training is simple. By increasing the intensity of exercises that elevate the heart rate and limiting rest time, HICT can prompt greater gains in a shorter amount of time. In several studies, it’s been proven that the benefits of this type of training surpass those of the traditional protocols of aerobic and strength training. Let’s start with fat loss.

If you’re looking to lose excess body fat, tone up, or lean out, this type of training is the ticket. The strength training component accelerates the amount of fat burned during the workout. When this is paired with little rest between sets, the aerobic and metabolic benefits skyrocket, with results lasting up to 72 hours after the session. Even more interesting, the combination of high-intensity aerobic activity and resistance training may have a greater impact on subcutaneous fat loss. This is the type of fat that is troublesome for some people around their waistline, hips, and other areas.

Another significant benefit is the fact that HICT elicits the same if not greater gains in VO2 max, or peak oxygen uptake, when compared to traditional steady-state cardiovascular exercise. With the exercise volume substantially lower, high-intensity circuit training easily stands up to its traditional counterpart in improving cardiopulmonary health.

Other benefits of HICT include

  • Improved strength across all major muscle groups
  • Increased stability and movement efficiency
  • Lowered stress levels
  • Improved mental health
  • Increased adaptability to regressions and progressions of exercises
  • Saving time during the week that would have otherwise been spent on traditional programs

Sample HICT Program

Strength exercises for this type of program should be in an order of opposing muscle groups. For example, an upper-body station would be followed by a lower-body station. This allows the individual to have alternating rest and work throughout the circuit. On the same note, a highly intense aerobic exercise should be followed by an exercise with a low to moderate intensity. An example of this would be burpees followed by a stationary plank. If this is executed correctly, you should successfully complete these exercises at fast and intense pace with minimal rest. A typical format for a HICT session is as follows:

  • 9–12 exercise stations
  • 15–20 repetitions or 30 seconds of work
  • 30 seconds or less of rest time
  • 2–3 sets/rounds

What’s Next?

Not all programs are created equal, and traditional workouts are still the most effective methods if you want to specifically improve your strength and power or aerobic endurance. However, if you are looking for a new and exciting type of workout that helps you burn fat and build muscle in a short amount of time, HICT is worth a try! Our newest class at NIFS, Triple Threat, uses this type of format across three different areas of fitness: cardio, strength, and power. Join in on the class and start your journey to better health!

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This blog was written by Jessica Phelps, BS, ACE CPT, Health Coach. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Sources: https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/high-intensity-interval-training.pdf
https://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/fulltext/2013/05000/high_intensity_circuit_training_using_body_weight_.5.aspx

Topics: cardio group fitness workouts muscles strength power high intensity circuit training high-intensity circuit training

Five Benefits to Olympic Weightlifting for the General Population

GettyImages-1281363470The first thought that comes into most people’s heads when they hear the word weightlifting is, more times than not, “bulky.” The perception is that heavy weightlifting will cause an undesired large gain of muscle mass. This is true; weightlifting will cause you to put on muscle mass, but it will take a lot more than just lifting weights to be “bulky.” Please do not let your goals steer you away from certain exercises.

What Is Olympic Weightlifting?

The sport of Olympic weightlifting is comprised of the snatch, and clean and jerk. The snatch is a lift in which you take the bar from the floor to overhead in one swift movement. The clean and jerk is a lift in which you take the bar from the bar to the shoulder in one swift movement, and then take it from the shoulder to overhead in a second movement. The Olympic lifts are full-body, explosive movements that require the use of every muscle group in the body.

Take a look at any high-level athlete who competes in events such as track or wrestling. They have to get as strong as they can without putting on extra weight. They achieve this by lifting heavy loads for lower rep schemes as fast as they can. This is one reason why you will see athletes in these sports utilizing the Olympic lifts in the weight room. In the off season if they need to put on size, they will move to the higher rep ranges.

Benefits of Olympic Weightlifting

There are many benefits to learning and performing the Olympic lifts within your exercise routine. The lifts can be programmed in many different ways depending on your specific goals. These are my top five benefits of learning the lifts from a certified coach:

  1. Body composition: The snatch and clean and jerk are full-body lifts that use the legs, glutes, back, abs, shoulders, and arms. Performing the lifts burns more calories in a shorter period of time compared to performing isolation/single-joint movements. The lifts and accessory lifts can be used to put on lean tissue, increase strength, and ultimately decrease body fat.
  2. Muscular power and strength: Muscular power is how fast you can move a load. Decrease in muscular power over time is the main cause of falls in older adults. In Olympic weightlifting, nothing is done slowly. All loads are moved at max velocity, therefore increasing power. If your goal is to run faster and jump higher, power is the key ingredient.
  3. Coordination: The Olympic lifts require precise coordination, rhythm, and timing. Improving body awareness and coordination is great for the activities of daily living. Learning new things also increases cognitive abilities in old age.
  4. Range of motion: Most people associate heavy lifting with being stiff and bulky. The Olympic lifts, however, require the lifter to control a load through a full range of motion in the knees, ankles, hips, and shoulders. If the range of motion is not there now, or at the start of your lifting journey, over time training through a full range of motion will increase flexibility more effectively than static stretching one time per week.
  5. Work capacity: Depending on how the lifts are programmed, they can be used to cause a range of positive changes to your body. One way to increase work capacity is by limiting the amount of rest time in between sets. Over time you will be able to recover faster from higher-intensity training.

The Olympic lifts should be performed under the eyes of a certified, experienced coach. Learning the lifts on your own can be done, but will take much longer and will not produce the results you are seeking. If you are interested in learning the Olympic lifts, visit our Master Class here at NIFS, which is free to members. If you are looking for one-on-one or more personal coaching, you can visit us at the track desk and one of our staff will get you going in the right direction.

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

Topics: muscles range of motion weight lifting weightlifting strength muscle building body composition building muscle strength and conditioning coordination work capacity

Training Movement Pattern Variations: The Push

GettyImages-891407532In my previous blogs I discussed the four movement patterns that all training fits into. I then went on to talk about scheduling a training plan using the four movement patterns. In this post I will discuss one of the more popular patterns: the pushing movement pattern.

What the Pushing Movement Pattern Does

The first thing we must discuss is what muscles the pushing pattern works and why we should incorporate it into your training plan. This movement pattern works the muscles of the chest, shoulders, and triceps. These muscles are all responsible for pushing objects away with your upper body. These muscle groups are the primary movers for activities of daily living: lifting items over your head, holding your kids, or pushing other shoppers out of the way on Black Friday.

Training the pattern instead of individual muscle groups is useful because of time efficiency. For gym-goers who don’t have two hours to spend at the gym seven days per week, it doesn’t make sense to train one muscle group per day. That would not be the best use of your time. Training one to two movement patterns will ensure that you hit multiple muscle groups with fewer exercises. The reason for this is that correctly chosen exercises can work multiple muscle groups at the same time.

Exercises for Pushing Movements

The following exercises, organized by muscle group, help you work the pushing movement pattern.

Chest

  • Pushups
  • Bench Press
  • Incline Bench Press
  • Decline Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Variation of all the movements
  • Machine Variations of all the movements
  • Pec Fly

Shoulders

  • Barbell, Dumbbell, or Kettlebell Overhead Press
  • Military Press
  • Push Press
  • Olympic Push and Split Jerk
  • Arnolds Press
  • Machine Overhead Press
  • Lateral and Frontal Raises
  • Rear Delt Fly

Triceps

  • Close Grip Bench
  • Skull Crushers
  • Dumbbell Kickbacks
  • Triceps Extension
  • Dips (bench, assisted, and bodyweight)
  • JM Press

Movements That Work More Than One Muscle Group

As I stated before, there is also some overlap in muscle groups with some movements. Unless it is a complete isolation move, there will be some muscle recruitment across the whole upper body. For example, the barbell bench press is primarily a chest movement; however, the lockout of the arms is dominated by the triceps. The role of the chest is to push the bar off the chest, but once it reaches a certain height, the triceps take over. The same can be said for any overhead pressing as well. This is what makes training within muscle groups so time efficient. Isolation movements are best left for the end of the workout.

For more information on how to properly progress and structure a training program, visit us at the track desk to set up a session. We are more than happy to help at any time, and as a part of your membership here at NIFS, you can receive as many free workout programs as you would like. Our health fitness professionals tailor all programs to your fitness goals.

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

Topics: muscles personal training exercises movement patterns push

Push and Pull: The Ideal Workout Program for Restarting Training

GettyImages-1267535453Let’s face it: building your own workouts isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Sure, you probably strike gold a few times a year and the exercises you choose seem to be flawless, from the balance of muscle groups worked to the flow of the routine that you get into. There is nothing better than having that program that just seems to get the job done.


What Workout Program Should You Use When You’ve Taken Time Off from Training?

But let’s say that life happens and you took an extended time off from training due to school, work, or some other important reason (pandemic maybe?). So what now? Where do you go from here? The go-to for many individuals would be to jump right back into the same program they were doing before their long layoff. It worked great for them before their break, so it must be the best way to resume activity, right? More than likely, this might not be the most ideal situation to set yourself up for future success. When your body has become detrained from a long layoff, you run the risk of overtraining—which could possibly lead to those nagging injuries that linger throughout your rebuild process.

Find a Program That Balances Pushing and Pulling

To me, a GREAT training program is a delicate balance of “pushing” and “pulling” exercises. The general consensus of the “push-pull” method is that you alternate (or superset) upper-body push movements (for example, bench press, shoulder press) with upper-body pull movements (for example, bent-over rows, pull-ups). Even the great Arnold Schwarzenegger used this method to pack on loads of muscle when he was at the apex of bodybuilding. Now, are you Arnold? No. Are you trying to look like Arnold? Also no (more than likely). Below you will find another interpretation of the “Push-Pull” method that may better fit those who are restarting their exercise routine, or those who are looking to switch up their programming.

Benefits of Full-Body Workouts

As I mentioned before, the push-pull method often refers to two upper-body exercises from opposite muscle groups (for example, chest and back). The superior version (in my opinion) of this would be to couple either an upper-body push exercise with a lower-body pull exercise, or an upper-body pull exercise with a lower-body push exercise (see table below). This type of full-body workout allows for two main benefits:

  1. Ample rest time is allowed: While the upper body works, the lower body rests (and vice versa).
  2. There is potential for reduced soreness: Instead of hammering one muscle group for a ton of exercises, a more gradual stress is applied to the muscles over multiple workouts. It could also be a great option for returning to exercise or resistance training.

Movement Examples

If you think this type of workout might be what you are looking for, give it a shot. Choose one exercise from column 1 and one exercise from column 2. Alternate those two exercises for the desired number of reps and sets. When finished, either choose one exercise from the same two columns OR switch it up and choose one exercise from column 3 and one exercise from column 4. Remember, the ultimate goal is to match each push movement you perform with an opposite pulling motion.

Column 1 Column 2 Column 3 Column 4

Upper-body Push (chest/
shoulders)

Lower-body Pull (hips/
hamstrings)

Upper-body Pull (back)

Lower-body Push (quads)

Bench Press

Trap Bar Deadlift

Pull-Ups

Front Squat

Strict Shoulder Press

Slider Hamstring Curl

TRX Inverted Row

Step-ups

Half-kneeling Shoulder Press

Single-leg RDL

Band Face Pull

Lunges

Push-up Variations

Lateral Lunge

Seated Row

Split Squat

“Jammer” Press

Reverse Hyper

Dumbbell Reverse Fly

Wall Sit

 

Adjust Your Program Periodically

As with most workout structures, adding wrinkles into the program every so often will allow you to continue the muscular adaptations that are occurring and keep you engaged. That could mean an adjustment to the number of reps, sets, or rest periods you are currently using, or simply choosing different exercises. The ways that you can tweak this kind of program are endless, and I believe that with great effort, you will see positive changes in whatever physical adaptation or change you are after.

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

Topics: injury prevention muscles training lower body upper body workout programs adaptations pandemic full-body pull push restarting workouts

Optimal Movement Patterns for Building Muscle

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

The Four Movement Patterns

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

Push

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

Pull

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

Squat

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

Hinge

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

Using the Movement Patterns

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

***

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

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

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

CON-ISO-ECC: Muscle Contractions for Weightlifting Variations

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

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

  • Concentric
  • Isometric
  • Eccentric

Concentric

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

Isometric

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

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

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

Eccentric

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

Shouldering the Load: Safe Alternatives to the Overhead Press Pattern

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

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

Questions to Ask Yourself

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

What are your desired fitness outcomes and goals?

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

How will the overhead press exercise help you get there?

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

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

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

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

Overhead/Vertical Press Options

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

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

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

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

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

Why I Do BODYPUMP™

BodyPump ScreensnapLes Mills® BODYPUMP™ has changed my life. There are hundreds of workouts to choose from, but this one…it’s all mine. It’s my workout rock, the base of my week, and the base of my training. Why do I do it? Keep reading.

How I Got Started with BODYPUMP™ and Why I Stay With It

I have to give credit to my sister for starting what some would call an obsession. She discovered BODYPUMP™ and became an instructor. She knew I wanted to be a group fitness instructor and she showed me how to do it through Les Mills. She invited me to take her BODYPUMP™ class and I fell in love with it after the first class. I very clearly remember her telling me that I burned 400 to 500 calories and I thought, “That’s like an extra meal!” I was hooked. The music, the repetitions, the strength behind it; it’s not traditional weightlifting—it’s better!

After the initial love bubble, the true test of a program comes: will you keep coming back? What kept me coming and still does to this day is the effectiveness of the workout. Before starting BODYPUMP™ I was unable to do a single pull-up on my own. After about 6 months, I was able to do one. Then two… then three…without actually practicing pull-ups. It doesn’t matter how many different workouts I try, I always own them and continue to impress others with my strength. I may be small, but I’m mighty and I wouldn’t have gotten there without BODYPUMP™.

The Dynamic BODYPUMP™ WorkoutTasha Bodypump 2

Les Mills BODYPUMP™ is a very dynamic program. It’s always changing and evolving. It’s stable enough that I know I will always get a good workout, but it’s never stagnant. It continues to push me and my fitness level with every release. I am now a National Trainer, Presenter and Assessor for Les Mills BODYPUMP™ and I see every day how both new participants and experienced weightlifters can be both welcomed and challenged by this program. When I look out in class and see 20+ people waking up at 6am to work out with me and do BODYPUMP™, I know we have something special. I can speak from experience that we get stronger with every class. We are more than just a group of people who work out. We are a team of friends working toward a common goal of increasing our fitness and enjoying the feeling of success that only BODYPUMPers know when they finish a set with 8 bottom halves.

BODYPUMP™ has made me strong and keeps me strong. And that is why I do what I do. BODYPUMP™ is offered every day of the week, so check out the Group Fitness Schedule to find a class that works with your schedule. Aim for 2 to 3x per week for the best results. Request a class for free and enjoy!

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This blog was written by Tasha Nichols, Group Fitness Manager and Program Coordinator at NIFS and a Les Mills US National Trainer, Presenter, and Assessor. Meet our NIFS bloggers.

Topics: NIFS group fitness workouts group training muscles strength Les Mills BODYPUMP