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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

BOSU Returns: 4 Reasons to Come to a Class at NIFS

COM_BOSUWhen I first came to NIFS more than a decade ago (I know, right?), I brought BOSU Conditioning with me, and the NIFS community welcomed it with open arms (and legs, and core…you get the idea). I was fresh out of a training opportunity with the inventor of the BOSU, David Weck, while working at another gym. I took to the BOSU very quickly and loved the many training dimensions it provided and wanted to share it with as many folks as I could.

In its debut here at NIFS, BOSU was a hit and saw eight great years on the class schedule with many great instructors and class designs. But it needed a break. Finally that break is over, and BOSU has returned to the class schedule and is getting a lot of hype again!

What Makes BOSU So Awesome?

Here are few things you need to know about this powerful, multi-use fitness tool:

  • BOSU stands for BOth Sides Utilized. This refers to the ball itself. You can use the dome side as well as the platform (flat side) for so many different movements. Both sides utilized also pertains to using both sides of the body in harmony.
  • You can train all aspects of fitness utilizing the BOSU, including mobility, stability, core strength, power, strength, and cardio.
  • Movement options are endless and can be adapted to the fitness level of the user.
  • Movements can become three-dimensional, which is how we move in the real world.
  • Provides an unstable surface, forcing the user to use important stabilizer muscles of the entire body.

Here are some videos that show some of those movements:

Screen Shot 2018-12-11 at 2.02.00 PM


Screen Shot 2018-12-11 at 12.52.56 PM


Five Reasons to Try BOSU

Now that we all agree that the BOSU is pretty awesome, here are some reasons to stop waiting and just take a class already. You won’t regret it!

  • Be different: There is no other tool like the BOSU, so a class session designed around this one-of-a-kind piece of equipment will be very different from any class you might have experienced. We use different body positions and equipment differently than most training disciplines, making each class different than the last.
  • Options for movement: There are countless options for different movement patterns that can be adjusted to suit any fitness level. No matter whether it is your first time on the ball or your 50th, the BOSU finds a way to challenge you.
  • Specific adaptations: As mentioned before, the BOSU is an unstable surface that will increase the usage of small stabilizing muscles that are found all over the body globally, and locally to the area directly in contact with the BOSU. An unstable surface elicits a specific adaption of stability. “Use more, burn more" is a direct effect from a class; the more muscle you have to use, the more energy you will burn. If the goal is to increase your stability, balance, and core strength, the BOSU will provide that specific adaptation.
  • Unique experience: There are exercises that are done on the BOSU ball, and then there are BOSU movements, both providing a unique exercise experience. There are also unique training effects that can only come from working with the BOSU. Effects such as the increased usage of the foot for grip and stability, which aids in all movement on a stable or unstable surface.

There are plenty more reasons why should try a BOSU class right away, but there are only four letters in the word. So what are you waiting for? Come see me on Sundays at 10am and realize what the BOSU can do for you!

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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: BOSU stability core exercises strength group fitness NIFS balance mobility cardio core strength

What Is "Good Posture" (and How Is It Related to Movement)?

GettyImages-955753008“Stand up straight!” and “Don’t slouch!” are just a couple of variations on the same advice we’ve all likely heard at least once. I apologize if I’m bringing up bad memories of being scolded for less-than-perfect posture, but this read might give you a few reasons why those remarks might have been useless after all. That’s right, folks. We’re diving into the widely covered topic of posture: What it is, whether there is such a thing as “good” posture, and what you can do to optimize your posture at any given point.

What Is Posture and How Is It Related to Movement?

If you look up the definition of posture, you’ll find different definitions depending on where you look. One, from Oxford, says “The position in which someone holds their body when standing or sitting.” Another variation, from Merriam Webster, says it is “The position or bearing of the body whether characteristic or assumed for a special purpose.” Which one is correct? Well, I’m not sure either is incorrect, but I do have a preference for the Merriam Webster version. Why? Because it assumes that your posture at any given time is serving a particular purpose, whether that’s standing, sitting, walking, picking up an object, or performing any other bodily movement.

Your posture is ever-changing depending on the task you need to perform, so we might be missing the point entirely by getting caught up in analyzing a snapshot of what your posture looks like while you are sitting or standing still. As it turns out, it's fairly difficult to agree on what the ideal static posture actually is. Given the variance in how different individuals’ bodies are built, it seems pointless to assign a perfect static posture across the board. Not to mention, there is little evidence that supports the claim that “bad” posture or asymmetries put you at greater risk for pain. Perhaps our thought process is backward. What happens when you have pain in your back? Your posture changes! Wouldn’t it be reasonable that consistent, chronic pain could be the cause of postural adaptations that become your new normal?

Maybe our efforts should initially be focused on moving very well in a variety of ways. Moving well means maintaining the position of your body throughout a given movement or task. If you can train to move with quality in a variety of situations, it might allow for new options for movement to complete a given task, instead of repeatedly compensating. Having a variety of movement options available to you can prevent a default to the same repetitive movement patterns over and over again.

Increasing Your Movement Options

So, how do we increase the amount of movement options that are available to us? Practice, practice, practice. Yes, the dreaded p-word. The only way to learn something is to repeatedly do it, and do it correctly. And then do it correctly again. And again.

How do you know if you’re moving correctly? Have somebody watch you, of course. Without the guidance of an experienced professional who is competent with how the human body should move—whether that’s a physical therapist, personal trainer, strength coach, or other professional—you will have no outside perspective on what your body is actually doing.

Take something as simple as foot position. Just recently, I corrected somebody’s foot position from being “pigeon-toed” to being more “neutral,” with the toes pointing straight ahead. “I feel like my feet are duck-footed now!” I heard her exclaim. This is a common occurrence. When correcting somebody’s position to be more appropriate for the goal of the task, all of a sudden they feel way out of line. When your body resorts to only one option to complete a variety of movements, exposing it to a brand-new option will feel completely foreign.

Even those of us who are trained in technically correct strategies for movement can’t view ourselves from the outside. So, either we need to analyze some video footage, or more appropriately, employ an outside source as an unbiased third-party reviewer to say whether we’re moving the way we should.

Get a Movement Assessment

FMS-NewIf you’re generally healthy and pain-free, you can consult with a competent trainer to do some sort of an assessment on your strategies for movement. Each individual uses preferred methods to assess movement, whether that is a Functional Movement Screen like we offer here at NIFS, a more general flexibility screen, or an even more in-depth orthopedic analysis. All have their limitations, but you can learn a lot if you know what to look for, regardless of the testing system.

One of my favorite big-bang movement assessments is watching somebody march in place. I have an opportunity to watch the strategy they use for shifting weight back and forth between sides, I can see somebody’s ability to extend one hip while flexing the other hip under the load of gravity, I can assess an individual’s thorax position during this activity, and I can even watch what’s going on with the upper extremities in response to a stepping pattern.

As long as the observer knows what to look for, the test or system of analysis becomes less important. What does take priority is the ability of your trusted expert to provide you with the strategies you need to maintain your position, or posture, throughout your daily life. Ultimately, however, it is up to you to employ those strategies and, yes, even practice them consistently so they can become your new normal, as if movement dysfunction never even existed!

To schedule an FMS with a NIFS certified instructor please click below to learn more.

Learn More

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

Topics: posture movement functional movement screen NIFS healthy lifestyle

NIFS November Group Fitness Class of the Month: Circuit Training

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 11.30.38 AMTo achieve electricity, you need a complete circuit; the same thing goes for achieving a higher level of fitness, which is why circuit training is a great total-body workout. It can be classified as a type of endurance training, resistance training, strength training, or high-intensity interval training, which is why we can see great results from it.

Circuit training is great for activating all of the muscles in the body. Typical circuit training is performed in a style of circuits. You will complete one exercise for a duration of time, and then switch to a new exercise and repeat the total circuit multiple times. During each circuit, you’ll perform upper-body, lower-body, and core exercises for maximum body results. Baylor University did a study proving that circuit training is the most efficient way to enhance cardiovascular and muscular endurance.

Endurance Training

Endurance training is the ability to exert yourself over a period of time. It’s also the ability to complete any aerobic or anaerobic exercise relating to cardiovascular and muscular endurance. Cardio endurance allows you to pump oxygen to your body for an extended period of time. This type of training is great for your overall health. Some of the benefits include the following:

  • Higher levels of energy
  • Heart function improvement
  • Increased metabolism
  • Performing daily life tasks more easily

Resistance Training

Resistance training is muscle contraction from external resistance during exercises. The external resistance can come from many pieces of equipment, including weights, bands, balls, boxes, disks, sleds, and definitely using your body weight. Benefits of resistance training might include the following:

  • Help keeping muscles strong during aging
  • Decreased osteoporosis
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increased metabolism

Circuit Training

Strength Training

Strength training is lifting heavier weight to increase muscular strength. Benefits of strength training include the following:

  • Lower abdominal fat
  • Better cardiovascular health
  • Controlled blood sugar
  • Reduced cancer risk
  • Lower risk of injury
  • Stronger mental health
  • Osteoporosis prevention
  • Increased confidence

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High Intensity Interval Training is a workout that alternates between intense bursts of activity and fixed less intense or rest periods. This type of workout is typically known as a “fat blaster” filled with many benefits that include the following:

  • Efficiency
  • Cardiovascular strength/endurance
  • Muscular strength
  • Weight loss, muscle gain
  • Increased metabolism
  • Can be done anywhere

So Why Circuit Train?

Circuit training is not just an exercise that can burn hundreds of calories. Based on the benefits of the types of training a circuit training class is made up of, it can lead to major results in total fitness and health. You can find circuit training on the NIFS Group Fitness Schedule with our highly educated staff Mondays and Wednesdays at 4:30pm with David or Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:15pm with Darius.

Group Fitness at NIFS

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: circuit training Group Fitness Class of the Month strength training endurance NIFS core cardio resistance

Get a Handle on Fitness with TRX at NIFS

GettyImages-501890636Have you tried TRX class at NIFS? For starters, you may be asking yourself, “What is a trx?” TRX is a body-weight suspension training system designed to give you a total-body workout, while playing to your skill set and allowing for nearly limitless body-weight–oriented exercise. TRX can provide a fitness beginner with an opportunity to learn movement patterns properly as well as challenge the most seasoned veterans in the gym with more advanced progressions.

The TRX concept is fairly simple: it’s basically two handles and straps that attach at an anchor point. Some exercises require various strap heights, but really, you can do most basic movement patterns (squat, row, and press) with one of three lengths. Intensity of exercise is determined by angles of your body as opposed to the anchor point, stability and balances, and progressions. The TRX was designed in the mid ’90s by Randy Hetrick, a former Navy Seal, as a way to develop total-body strength through body-weight–resisted exercise.

Getting Started

The first thing you notice when you see a TRX on the fitness center floor is that there are not many instructions on how to use it, although there are actually quite a few. A great way to become acclimated to some of the exercises is to take a TRX class, which is complimentary with your membership. A typical class consists of a warm-up or acclimation to TRX. We spend time every session practicing strap adjustment and proper form. Then we get down to business. Every exercise has a progression and a regression to ensure you are getting a workout appropriate to your abilities.

It is not uncommon to see a college student working out side-by-side with a grandmother. Although the variation changes slightly, the overall goal is to work to get better each and every time we train. At the end of each session there is time to stretch. Stretches are many people’s favorite, not only because you know you are finished, but also because it really feels good and works.

Exercises You Can Do on Your Own

TRX-3As you await your next TRX class opportunity, here are some exercises that you can add to your own workout in the meantime.

  1. TRX Row: With two handles set to the short length (one tick mark), start with arms long and body in a plank position, being mindful that you do not let your hips sag. While under control, pull yourself up to your hands. Lower back down under control. PRO TIP: You can pull with your hands parallel to the floor to engage the lats more, whereas pulling with your hands horizontal to the floor works the rear deltoids and trapezius. (See video here.)
  2. TRX Superman: With two handles set to the longest length, start facing away from the TRX. Your arms will start out by being fully straightened. By simply leaning forward and moving your hands toward the ceiling, the core control will be emphasized. PRO TIP: Being under control is always key, but you also what to start from a position in which the exercise is doable. Try moving your feet farther away from the TRX to make this exercise harder, or closer to the anchor point to decrease the difficulty. (See video here.)
  3. TRX Assisted Pull-ups: Start with two handles set to the shortest position (if you need assistance with adjustments, please see staff at the track desk) and body positioned directly below the anchor point and sitting in a cross-legged position. Use the TRX handles to slowly pull your body upward, not unlike a real pull-up motion. The assistance comes from the lower body and the resistance and difficulty can be determined by tempo and number of repetitions. (See video here.)

Try This Workout

5 Minutes AMRAP (as many reps as possible)

  • 12 TRX Rows
  • 12 TRX Superman Extensions
  • 6 TRX Assisted Pull-ups
  • Repeat

TRX at NIFS

Although class space is limited to eight individuals, there are no sign-ups. Just show up and enjoy a great, challenging workout. If you are having reservations about joining the class, but still want to try TRX, one of our certified fitness professionals can prescribe exercises. Classes meet Monday at 6am, Thursday at 5:30pm, and Friday at 6 and 11am. Check out the NIFS Group Fitness page to see up-to-date times and days for your favorite classes. Get a handle on fitness with TRX today!

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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 TRX total-body workouts body weight NIFS group fitness fitness center

Back to Exercise Basics: The Hip Hinge

In my previous “Back to Exercise Basics” posts, I broke down the push-up and then the squat, focusing on the individual aspects that form a properly performed fundamental movement. Now it’s time to take a look at the movement pattern that is considered by many to be the granddaddy of all movement patterns: the hip hinge.

Most movement in athletics (and in life) stems from a hip hinge. It is a base position that is the ultimate power generator. The hinge can be found in most movements and is a super important position and pattern no matter who you are and what your athletic event is, sports or life. Quite often, many individuals confuse the hinge with the squat; and although they are both lower-body movements, they couldn’t be more different. This confusion between the two generally leads to “squat-heavy” kettle swings, poor positioning for a deadlift, and lackluster power expression.

How the Hip Hinge and Squat Differ

So if you can live with my stick-figure drawings, take a look at how these movements are different:

Cara_hinge

HIP HINGE

  • Max hip flexion with minimum knee flexion
  • Hip dominant
  • Hips go back and forward
  • Vertical shin

Cara_squat_kb

SQUAT

  • Max knee flexion with minimum hip flexion
  • Quad dominant
  • Hips go up and down
  • Shin moves forward

The differences between the two should be pretty clear when looking at them side by side, even with these crude drawings.

Videos: How to Master the Pattern

But the hip hinge can be one of the toughest things for a coach to teach, and a tough pattern for a new mover to perfect. Of course, using an FMS to evaluate your ability to perform a hinge pattern is a key first step. But after that, how can you master this pattern? Here are a few drills that can set you up for success, as well as some variations of a hip hinge that you can add into your current program.

VIDEO #1: Set It Up

  • Karate-chop hips—Rock and lock—Charlie
  • Short-stop hand slide
  • Broad jump freeze

 

 

VIDEO #2: Grease the Pattern

  • Wall butt touch
  • Band distracted hinge
  • KB front-loaded hinge
  • Foam roller single-leg hinge

 

VIDEO #3: Variations

  • KB deadlift
  • Hip thruster
  • SaB deadlift
  • Landmine single-leg/straight leg/Deadlift

 

Just as with the push-up and the squat, we are merely scratching the surface here of both the position and the breakdown of the hinge pattern and the many ways to use and improve this ever-important fundamental pattern. But I feel good that the information covered here can at minimum get you underway toward being a hero for the hip hinge.

Get More Help from NIFS

Want more tips and information? Schedule a personal workout plan appointment with a NIFS instructor and cover cutting-edge drills and techniques to make you the best mover you can be.

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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: functional movement functional movement screen exercise basics fitness center NIFS hips

De-Stress with Results-Based Fitness at NIFS

Screen Shot 2018-10-02 at 12.31.57 PMGroup Fitness is kind of a "thing" now. With so many gyms, studios, styles, formats, and other variables, how do you know what to choose that will work best for you?

Before jumping into a workout program, it's important to list your goals. Research has shown that mixing up your workout routine is one of the most beneficial ways to achieve results. That's one reason Circuit Training classes and HIIT classes aregetting so much attention nowadays. The results they create are amazing, but the the hole they burn in your wallet is not.

Screen Shot 2018-10-02 at 12.31.48 PMSpecialty Classes are Included in NIFS Group Fitness Schedule

So is one of your goals to strengthen and tone your bod in a budget-friendly way? NIFS offers free circuit training classes all under our monthly membership cost. The average circuit-style class at a specialized studio is about $20 a class. Take three classes in a month, and you have already spent over $60. Did you know you could take three or more classes a week, plus have access to free individualized circuit training programming, all for a cheaper cost?

How about the yoga and Barre trend? Those classes are great for helping strengthen the core, stretching, and relaxing the body and mind, and are proving to have many other health benefits. Unfortunately, they are also not always beneficial to your budget. To take a barre or yoga class at a studio, the average cost is $30 a month. At a gym, you also would have to pay an additional fee for training of this sort. At NIFS, Barre Fusion is one of our group fitness classes! Brittany, our Barre Fusion instructor, comes to us with knowledge from NYC, where she was mentored by some of the top fitness and yoga professionals, and has trained red carpet celebrities. Brittany’s passion for helping others find body balance, but also budget balance, allows members to get this training as part of their NIFS membership

Other "specialty" classes included in our Group Fitness Schedule are TRX® and Bootcamp. Total body workouts with proven results, you wont have to pay extra for.

No Limits

When choosing a class, it's important to never feel limited. What is your goal? If it's to get a good cardio workout, yoga is a great workout, but in terms of cardio it might not completely fulfill your goal. Our group fitness schedule does not limit your workouts each day, but provides many options at once. The average studio or gym offers only one type of class during prime time hours of the day (mornings, afternoons, and evenings.) Our group fitness schedule offers a variety of classes at each prime time hour, so everyone's goals can be met! Whether your goal is a cardio, strength, or MINDBODY workout, you don't have to adjust your life for fitness; instead, fitness can conveniently fit into your life.

So what are you goals? If getting effective, trending fitness on a budget is, look into a NIFS membership. If having many options at all times of the day is another, look into a NIFS membership. Fitness is for de-stressing, not adding stress to your budget or schedule! 

Download Group Fitness Schedule

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: NIFS yoga barre group fitness group training circuit training

Stress Relief with Physical Activity: Sweat Therapy

GettyImages-896274520Throughout your life, you will come across times and situations that are tough, making you feel as though getting through it all is inconceivable and hopeless. There are more traditional ways to deal with these ups and downs of life, such as therapy, but there are other ways to overcome stress in life that can be as easy as taking a walk, shooting some basketball, or even lifting weights.

Forget Your Worries: Emotional Benefits of Exercise

There seems to be something about exercise that allows us to forget our worries and deal with our stresses while also improving our lives through wellness and fitness. With as much stress as we see in people's lives today, it would seem as though fitness would stand out as a blessing to anyone who wants to make their life better. Because this isn’t always the case, you can start as slow and as basic as needed to make sure you are getting the right exercise at the right amount at the right time.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has determined that exercise is essential for good mental well-being and that the benefits go beyond just reducing stress. Improved mood, increased energy, better sleep, reduced anxiety, and improved self-esteem all are payoffs too.

Get Your Endorphins Going

You might have heard of endorphins. They are the hormones that are released from the brain and nervous system and into your body. We feel good when endorphins are released into our bodies. This can happen as a result of almost anything that stimulates your brain, ranging from riding a rollercoaster to seeing your favorite band perform. With fitness, the same endorphins can be released through exercise, giving you similar feelings. We call this the “runner’s high.” You don’t have to be a runner to achieve this feeling, but exercise is the key ingredient, however you decide to score those endorphins.

Thomas’ Tips for Getting More Active

  • Start small, start smart. Take a walk around the neighborhood or with friends after work at the mall. Walking is definitely exercise and has many benefits. .
  • Do activities you like to do. If you are trying to keep this fitness and wellness going for a long time, you’d better like what you are doing (at least some of the time).
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Not only are there fitness professionals who can help you, there are other individuals who are in the same boat as you. Make time to commiserate and help each other overcome obstacles together.

Getting started in fitness can be a daunting task. Even knowing the benefits associated with exercise might not be enough to light your spark. NIFS has certified and degreed individuals ready, willing, and able to assist with every aspect of wellness and fitness, ranging from fitness programming to nutrition and wellness. Let us know how we can help you reach your goals and hopefully reduce stress along the way. Make a choice to be a better you today!

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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 stress relief NIFS fitness and wellness endorphins emotional physical activity

Strength in Numbers: Benefits of Group Training

Bootcamp-1You either love them or you hate them… group workouts! In a world where technology is seemingly taking over the human connection and interaction, working out with a group can offer the opportunity to meet real friends instead of virtual ones online.

Whether you join a small group or just get a group of your friends to work out together, here are a few reasons why more is merrier for working toward your fitness goals.

Motivation

Group workouts give you motivation that you might not get by doing a solo workout. Unless you’re that rare person who can jump out of bed at the sound of an alarm and hit the ground running, odds are motivation will go away as quick as you pressing the snooze button. We all battle the everyday ups and downs of life, but once you get together with your group, the energy levels go up and worries go out the door. You will find that you are motivated by the people around you and that’ll make the workout much more fun and enjoyable.

Accountability

Remember when you were a high schooler and your parents would wake you up in the mornings? How nice of them to hold us accountable. A workout group can do the same thing for your health and fitness goals. There’s something about knowing you won’t be the only one getting your butt kicked that day. Not only will you have your group members to help hold you accountable, you will have a coach who is checking in on you. The effectiveness of a team member can influence the whole team. Therefore, don’t let your coach and classmates down by not showing up.

Support System

One day a month, all the members of the Ramp Up to Weight Loss program come together for a group workout followed by a post-workout snack. Not only do they get a chance to meet one another, work out, breathe hard, and sweat; but they also get a chance to see that they aren’t in this alone. They see that they have the support of all the other members who might be in a situation similar to theirs. Having a support system can give you a new sense of hope and encouragement because you know you aren’t in this alone.

Fun

Some people like working out by themselves while others need a group around them. Being part of a group workout can really make exercising fun and enjoyable. You’ll benefit from the energy and hard work you can feel being created by you and the people in your group. The motivation you receive and the people you surround yourself with will make exercise fun, not a chore you feel you have to do.

Mental Health

Group workouts offer you the advantage of getting to meet people who have similar interests to yours. You will feel part of something by being surrounded by likeminded people. You might be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and make new friends; group workouts give you that opportunity to stay within your comfort zone while making new friends.

Although group workouts might not be for everybody, you should try it at least once. You might find that a group atmosphere is exactly what you need to push you past your health and fitness goals. There are so many ways here at NIFS to get involved with a community of supporters: Small Group Training, Group Fitness classes, the Ramp Up to Weight Loss Program, and many of the other programs we provide throughout the year.

“When we try to exercise alone, we can feel isolated and uninspired; together we can achieve our fitness goals.”

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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: group fitness group training motivation accountability weight loss attitude NIFS NIFS programs

Get a Grip: Exercises to Increase Your Grip Strength

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

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

Exercises That Increase the Strength of Your Grip

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

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

Let a NIFS Health Fitness Specialist Help Increase Your Strength

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

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

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

Topics: grip strength grip exercises fitness assessment NIFS weightlifting carries

Yoga: What Is It, and How Do I Choose the Right Class?

Yoga3Yoga is pretty popular, and not just in the fitness industry. It’s getting lots of press for its ability to aid in living a generally healthy lifestyle. When people hear about healthy living, they often associate that only with exercise, and sometimes neglect the importance of a balanced diet and de-stressing techniques. Studies are now showing that it’s important to balance out all areas of life; not just one part should have dominance.

What Is Yoga?

By definition, yoga is a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation. Yoga was developed in India up to 5,000 years ago as a comprehensive system for well-being to balance the body physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Contrary to common thinking, yoga is not a belief system but a guidance technique to enrich living and aid in attaining goals.

Forms of Yoga

There are many types of yoga you might have heard of, including Vinyasa, Hatha, Iiyengar, Bikram, Ashtanga, and restorative, just to name a few. When it comes to picking the "right" yoga class, I say give them all a try because each of them is unique. Some involve lots of moving, some involve lots of deep stretching, some involve heat, and some even involve the use of nature and animals. The whole concept of yoga is to breathe and relax the mind. If you take a class that does not bring out those feelings in you, don't give up! Try that format a couple of times and see whether it is enjoyable. If it's not, research what you are looking to get out of your class and try one that offers that. 

Yoga to Me

Yoga means so many things to me. I began my yoga journey in 2009 to relax during a tough family situation. I was in love with the way it made me feel, and every week I looked forward to my Sunday night time on my mat. In 2011, my mom’s medical condition worsened and I began going to yoga 3 to 4 times a week. In 2014, I decided I was so impressed with the way it changed my mindset that I wanted to become certified, so I spent 3 months intensively training to get my 200 hour yoga certification. My yoga journey has a lot more depth, but that was the beginning. I never knew cancer would lead me to a career path of success and happiness, which is ultimately living a daily life of yoga.

Yoga at NIFS

Yoga is a growing class at NIFS. With a wide variety of instructors, you won’t find your standard “gym yoga.” All of the NIFS yoga instructors are 200 hour or more certified. You might take a class with a “flow” to it, be in a class with a more restorative approach, or even see that Yoga for Athletes is offered for those who want a strength-based yoga class. Check the Group Fitness Schedule for classes and times.

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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: yoga group fitness NIFS healthy living meditation relaxation stress relief strength