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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Get the Perfect Deadlift Setup Every Time

GettyImages-579405946With the sport of powerlifting taking off in the last couple of years, more and more people are taking up the sport as a hobby and to improve their overall fitness levels. Training to improve strength in the squat, bench, and deadlift is a great way to improve total body strength and improve body composition.

Some may argue that lifting heavy is unsafe and should be saved for the athletes. The common myth is that lifting heavy may lead to injuries. The movement most argued against is the deadlift. When performed too heavy with poor form, this may be true. However, when performed with the proper progressions, and the proper technique, the deadlift is the best total-body movement to improve strength, power, and body composition.

Why the Deadlift?

There are three main benefits to performing the barbell deadlift:

  • First off, it is a whole-body movement. The deadlift works multiple muscle groups at the same time, offering more bang for your buck compared to isolation exercises.
  • Secondly, the deadlift improves strength and stability. Because it is a compound exercise, working more than one joint, this lift can be performed with heavier loads, leading to greater increases in strength.
  • Lastly, deadlifts can help improve posture. The muscles used while maintaining a flat back in the deadlift are the same muscles that help with sitting and standing up straight. The deadlift strengthens these muscles, leading to improved posture over time.

Now that we have gone over the benefits, let’s talk technique.

The Deadlift Setup

Follow these steps:

  1. Foot position: With your feet hip-width apart, the barbell should be placed over the center of your foot. An easy way to get the best foot placement is to look down, and move forward and backward until your shoelaces are directly under the bar.
  2. Grip: Without bending your knees or moving the barbell, bend over and grip the bar right outside of your legs. It is important that you do not move the barbell.
  3. Shins to the bar: Once you have your grip established, bend your knees and bring your shins to the bar. Do not over-bend them and push the bar away from you.
  4. Chest up and back flat: Without dropping your hips any further, puff up your chest and squeeze your shoulder blades together. By doing this, you will naturally flatten out your back.
  5. Drag: Take a big belly breath, hold it, and drag the bar up your shins. Keep your back muscles engaged and keep the bar close to your body the entire movement. When you let the bar get away from you, you have to compensate with your lower back, and this can lead to injury.

Keys to Success

Now that you have a safe setup, here are a couple of things to think about while performing the movement.

  1. On the last step of your setup, look out ahead of you. You do not want to overextend your neck, and you also do not want to be staring at the ground the entire time. Keeping your head in line with your spine will allow you to keep a neutral spine throughout the whole movement.
  2. When standing up with the barbell, your hips and shoulders should rise at the same time. If you allow your hips to come up first, the bar will get out in front of you, and like I mentioned earlier, you will have to compensate by pulling with your low back.
  3. Lastly, take a deep belly breath. A belly breath does not mean air all the way in your stomach, but what it does mean is filling your lungs all the way to the bottom to pressurize your core. A pressurized core equals engaged abdominals. When performing any lift, you want to create a solid core to help stay upright.
Watch the video below for the proper deadlift technique in action.

Screen Shot 2021-01-19 at 11.23.53 AMIf you are new to lifting and don’t know where to get started, come visit us at the Track Desk in the Fitness Center.

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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: NIFS injury prevention weight lifting strength powerlifting deadlift total-body workouts heavy lifting

Meet You at the Barre! A Total-body Group Fitness Workout

Screen Shot 2020-12-08 at 3.29.43 PMAre you looking for a workout to strengthen and tone muscles without increasing bulk, but have not found anything that you like doing? Have you always wanted to increase your cardiovascular endurance and metabolism but hate doing regular old boring cardio? Well I might have an answer for you…

Barre is a workout that you can do every day. That’s right, a workout that you will want to do because it challenges you, but is low-impact enough that your joints will not be screaming at you the following day. Actually, studies have shown that Barre has various positive health effects! This fun and relatively new workout can help increase bone density while tightening skin and reducing cellulite.

What Is Barre Above?

Alright, well now you’re interested… so what is Barre, anyway? NIFS offers two Barre-based classes (Barre Above and Barre Fusion) (see the Group Fitness class schedule here). Today I dive a little bit deeper into what Barre Above is.

Barre Above is a fusion of yoga, Pilates, strength training, and ballet. Barre classes incorporate specific sequencing patterns and isometric movements that target specific muscle groups. This pattern of exercise helps improve strength, balance, flexibility, and posture. Barre exercise movements are low-impact and are made for all fitness levels. In Barre, the movements consist of plie squats, leg kicks, lifts, and holds as well as an array of core exercises.

At a Barre class, you can expect your whole body to be challenged in a way other group fitness workouts do not. Expect a great playlist to motivate you throughout the exercises because barre is a beat-based format. What does this mean? Beat-based formats are taught to the beat of the music. For example, you will squat to the main beat of the music up and down and eventually pulse it out until the beat changes. This type of workout is a blast because the music is the focal point of class. Expect playlists of popular and fun songs to move your body to at Barre every week.

A Total-body Workout

Do you know the shaking feeling you get in your core when you hold a plank position or when you hold a weight in your hand in an outstretched arm for an extended period of time? This is the type of challenge you will feel throughout your entire body at Barre. Barre offers an effective total-body workout focused on low-impact, high-intensity movements that lift and tone muscles to improve strength and flexibility made for every body.

If you are ready for a workout you enjoy coming to and feel accomplished afterwards, join us for Barre at NIFS.

See you at the Barre!

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This blog was written by Payton Gross, Group Fitness Coordinator and Barre Above Instructor. Learn more about the NIFS bloggers here.

Topics: NIFS cardio group fitness endurance metabolism core music strength training total-body workouts low-impact barre

Taking Dietary Supplements Safely: Advice from a NIFS Dietitian

GettyImages-505820296Dietary supplement usage is reaching an all-time high. The 2019 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements revealed that 77% of Americans consume supplements. This is a dramatic increase from the 53% reported by the NHANES in 2010. Americans are spending $38.8 billion a year on supplements, with more than 85,000 supplements on the market. Reasons for consumption are widespread, ranging from athletes hoping to boost performance to people who need more Vitamin D for bone health.

With the rise in supplement usage, it is important to be an informed consumer. While there are numerous reasons for this, one of the biggest is that supplements are loosely regulated by the FDA, meaning labels may not display what is truly in the supplement. Also, claims marketed about the benefits of a supplement may be false because companies are not required to obtain authorization from the FDA prior to making such nutritional support claims.

How can you know whether what you’re taking is safe and effective? Let’s dive in!

What Is a "Dietary Supplement?"

According to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), a dietary supplement means “a product (other than tobacco) intended to supplement the diet that bears or contains one or more of the following ingredients:

  • Vitamin
  • Mineral
  • Herb or other botanical
  • Amino acid
  • A dietary supplement used by man to supplement the diet by increasing dietary intake
  • A concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract, or combination of any ingredient described in the above.”

Are Dietary Supplements Regulated? Can Supplements Be Trusted?

Technically, yes, supplements are regulated by the FDA under the DSHEA. However, there are loopholes to consider:

  1. The FDA does not inspect products before they are sold, nor do they require registration unless the supplement contains a new ingredient not yet on the market.
  2. The only formulation standard is the Current Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP); however, 2013 report by the FDA revealed that 70% of inspected manufacturers were in violation of GMPs. Not all products even get inspected after being on the market. The FDA states the manufacturer is responsible for ensuring safety and quality, but clearly some manufacturers are doing a poor job, and the FDA is only catching some.
  3. Nutrition supplements may not claim to diagnose, cure, prevent, or treat diseases. Sure enough, some manufacturers have managed to ignore this. A 2003 study found that 81% of 338 herbal supplement retail websites made one or more health claims, and 55% claimed to diagnose, cure, prevent, or treat specific diseases.

What Can You Do to Be Safe When Taking Supplements?

Blind trust in supplements is unwarranted; however, there are steps you can take to ensure your safety while taking them.

  • Check the label for a stamp indicating third-party verification. Independent third parties are hired by manufacturers to thoroughly test products, ensuring accuracy of ingredients, potency, and amounts; absence of toxic compounds; and production in compliance with FDA GMPs. Credible third parties include NSF International and US Pharmacopeia (USP).
  • Athletes: look for the NSF Certified for Sport stamp. The USA Doping Agency (USADA) has recognized this program as best suited to assist athletes in choosing supplements that do not contain banned substances for sports.
  • Download the NSF International App. It shows which products are NSF approved—right at your fingertips anytime, anywhere.
  • Check out the Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets published by the National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. This government agency has quick fact sheets about a variety of dietary supplements, including vitamins, minerals, probiotics, botanicals and herbs, and more.

Speak with a Registered Dietitian for supplement guidance and which supplements may (or may not) be right for you. NIFS Registered Dietitians are available to help you!

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This blog was written by Sabrina Goshen, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS nutrition supplements dietitian drugs sports nutrition dietary supplements registered dietitian

Keeping Engaged and on Top of Healthy Habits During the Pandemic

GettyImages-1053860992These past few weeks have been trying times for not only our families and friends, but also for the athletes we engage with on a daily basis throughout the year. In our position we must stay in a lead-by-example mentality. If we let ourselves go during this time, our athletes will notice and do the exact same thing. This is definitely a time of uncertainty and there are a lot of unknowns. Controlling what we can control on a daily basis is what will help not just us personally, but also those around us, to get through and come out of this on top.

Start by Continuing to Practice Good Morning Habits

It’s easy during this time to sleep in and relax the majority of the day. That’s why it’s essential to keep as close to a normal schedule as you can. There is nothing wrong with sleeping in sometimes, but don’t make a habit of sleeping into the afternoon hours. Keeping a schedule will make it easier to get back into the swing of things once the world starts moving in its true functioning fashion again. Try to continue to start your morning with a well-balanced breakfast. Incorporate meditation or read a book or article. If you are used to working out in the morning, continue to keep that same routine. Read more about these and other healthy habits here.

Lean on Your Coach for Ideas for Working Out

Always remember that NIFS is a phone call, text, or email away to give you ideas for different daily workouts or activities. It’s still our jobs to help you get a quality workout. Not everyone is equipped with a full gym; and if you are, take full advantage. But at this time you might need to be creative, and if you need ideas (such as using objects from around your home as weights), reach out and get the help you need.

Technology is a great tool. Zoom and FaceTiming or videoing your workouts will give you something fun and exciting to do throughout the day.

Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition

You can’t out-train a bad diet! If you get off track nutritionally, you’re going to have an extremely hard road trying to get it back once we are able to meet as a group. Don’t let something as simple as nutrition mess up what you work for throughout the year. Keep it a top priority. This is a great time to do research and read more about nutrition and better ways to go about it. Reach out to the Teams Nutritionist to find new recipes and food ideas. 

Learn a New Skill and Have Fun with Your Teammates

Don’t let this time go by without learning something new. Read more books and learn new hobbies. Most important of all, continue learning. There are great podcasts to listen to and daily roundtable discussions to tune into. Keep exercising fun! Invite your teammates to do a Workout of the Day over Zoom or Skype to keep it fresh and fun. It will also hold you and your teams accountable during this pandemic. Daily or weekly challenges are great for continuing team-building.

Embrace the time. Control what you can control. Don’t let this pandemic move you to the back of the bus once we are clear to get back to work.

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

Topics: NIFS nutrition healthy habits exercise at home sleep athletes pandemic

Why I Do BODYPUMP™

Tasha BodypumpLes 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

Winter Weight Loss and Fitness: Pushing Through the Cold

GettyImages-1125853893There is no debate that it’s easier to make healthier choices and lose weight in the spring and summer months. The sun is shining and warm, the days are longer, and you feel motivated to get outdoors and be active. But when the cold, harsh months of winter come around, all motivation goes out the window. Let’s take a look at ways to keep your motivation high and get over those hurdles of temptation.

Temptation Is All Around

The cold months are full of occasions that bring temptations. Hot chocolate, cookies, cakes, holiday parties, and family and friend gatherings are everywhere. If you’re not careful, it can be easy to slip into the mindset that all indulgences are bad. When you label your food choices as “good” and “bad,” every decision becomes a loaded one. Any time you stray from your eating plan, you might feel a bit of guilt or shame. These emotions can trigger the body’s stress response, and when stress is involved it can set you up for more trouble.

Instead of sweating over the “shoulda, coulda, wouldas,” try making food choices that are right for you. Plan ahead, or maybe choose one small indulgence per day to satisfy your sweet tooth and engage in those fun winter activities.

Come Out of Hibernation and Get Motivated to Exercise

The snow is falling and ice is everywhere. The days are still short and daylight is minimal. Winter itself is enough to tank your motivation to exercise. Who wants to go out into the freezing weather to go for a run or to the gym when you can curl up on the couch with a blanket and be perfectly content? There are tons of ways you can stay active from the comfort of your own home.

  • Stay active while watching your favorite show or movie: Every commercial/intermission, get up and knock out a circuit of 10 pushups, 10 squats, and 10 crunches. Maybe even jog in place until the show comes back on.
  • Use apps: We have cut the cord when it comes to cable. We use our Apple TV, which is just like having an iPhone on your TV. Download an exercising app that you can play on your TV and get a quick 15–20-minute workout.

Keeping up with a fitness routine will help with more than weight loss. The benefit of working out is that it gets oxygen to the cells, keeps your body working, and gets you energized.

Staying Hydrated

It is so easy to indulge in all the sweet, alcoholic seasonal drinks such as eggnog. Don’t forget to make sure you are staying hydrated. Fun fact: According to a 2003 study on the metabolic effects of different water temperatures published by The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, when you consume liquids that are colder than your core body temperature, your body has to work to warm it up, and it burns extra calories in the process. So consider drinking ice water instead of hot chocolate!

Drinking water can give your immune system a boost and prevent you from getting sick during peak cold and flu season. Drinking water can also increase your metabolism and help you feel full longer. This in turn could help curb your appetite and enable you to maintain healthy eating habits.

Come Visit Us!

Get bundled up and come and see us. We would love to have you in one of our classes, write a program for you, conduct your assessments, provide training for you, or be here to walk around the track with you. Whatever you need from your staff at NIFS, please ask and let us help set the tone for your 2020!

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

Topics: NIFS winter fitness fitness center motivation weight loss hydration winter

NIFS Group Fitness Class of the Month: Les Mills BODYATTACK

COM_Screenly_BODYATTACK-02It should come as no surprise to anyone that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Metabolic Conditioning workouts are crazy-popular and are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Research continues to report the scientific findings associated with the many benefits of this style of training. In addition to the research, the anecdotal evidence and many testimonials from normal folks have shown amazing results from functional training done at higher intensities.

Benefits of HIIT

Here are just a few of the benefits that are continually reported from training at higher intensities:

  • Burns a bunch of calories and fat
  • Shortens workouts
  • Improves multiple facets of fitness (cardio, endurance, strength, power)
  • Includes fun and energizing movements

The bottom line is that training at higher intensities coupled with the proper exercises provides a bunch of bennies with a low time cost. Sounds great, right? Where can you go to reap such benefits?

NIFS Class of the Month

BODYATTACK is our class of the month, and it delivers that high-intensity and fun style of training that will help you attack your fitness goals. Check it out:

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BODYATTACK Highlights

Looks pretty cool, right? Ready to give a class a try? You can expect a great deal of the following:

  • High energy
  • Suited for all fitness levels
  • Functional fitness focus
  • Big calorie burn
  • Fun and athletic movements
  • Improves agility, coordination, and stamina
  • Energizing music
  • Group atmosphere to keep you motivated

Tips for Success

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Choose the length of class that is right for you. You do not have to take a whole class. Start slow and ramp up to a longer class.
  • Be sure to pay attention to the instructor for movement variations. Watch, listen, and take the options the instructor gives you for your individual success.
  • Take a buddy with you! Working in a group of like-minded people can be super powerful and will help keep you on track and help you enjoy the class even more.

I love to train hard; there is no better feeling than giving your best effort and knowing it after a great workout! If training hard is something that has been missing for you, don’t wait any longer: get into a BODYATTACK class immediately and “FEEL IT ALL”! Classes are offered on Tuesdays at 6:05pm and Thursdays at 5:15pm.

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

Topics: NIFS workouts group training calories Les Mills high intensity BODYATTACK Group Fitness Class of the Month HIIT

The Functional Movement Screen Exercises in Depth

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

The Purpose of the FMS

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

FMS-logo

The Exercises That Are Part of the FMS

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

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

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

FMS Scoring

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

Reliability of the Test

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

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

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

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

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

STRENGTH: 6 Expert Weightlifting Tips to Be Stronger Than Ever

9power.jpgStrength. We all want it, and many of us will go to great lengths to obtain it. Strength and the ability to be strong will find its way into all of our lives, from weightlifting in the gym to all the activities of daily living (ADLs). It was once explained to me that you should picture your absolute strength as a bucket; the bigger the bucket (the stronger you are), the more things you can put into the bucket. Aspects of health and fitness such as mobility, endurance, agility, and power can all be better developed and improved with the presence of strength. To put it simply: be strong—be better.

Of course you can google “how to get strong,” and you will find no shortage of philosophies and program theories to wade through to answer that question. Some may actually be safe and useful, but who can you trust these days? I tend to learn from those who have “been there and done that” and continue to do it because of a high success rate of most-wanted outcomes.

Get Strong Tips from Dan John

Dan John is one of the top fitness coaches, and I never miss a chance to hear him speak or read his weekly newsletters. I have learned so much from reading his materials and implementing his principles into my training and the training of others. Dan will be the first to tell you that he continues to learn from people like Pavel Tsatsouline and many others. Dan believes his tips are an “easy” way to get strong.

Following are six of his expert tips that I have integrated into my training (and the training of those I work with).

  • Lift heavy. This seems obvious, but it really is where it all begins. If you lift heavy weights to get strong, you have to challenge the system and force it to adapt. Without adaption, there will be no gain.
  • Perform the fundamental human movements. There are some variances in what is believed to be fundamental, depending on who you talk to. But I believe those movements are Squat, Hinge, Push, Pull, and Carry.
  • Keep sets and reps low. I love Dan’s “Power of 10” rule: never go over 10 total reps for any exercise. For example, 2x5, 5x2, 3x3, 6 singles, 5, 3 and 2.
  • Stop your set and workout before fatigue. Stay fresh and leave some energy for the next training session.
  • Don’t even struggle. Choose the proper load so that you can finish each rep with integrity, not sideways and crooked.
  • Never miss a rep. Choosing a load that you are 100% confident you can make can be hard for some. Most of us want to challenge the limits with every rep and set. Refrain from that for true gains.

A Challenge to Prepare for the Upcoming Powerlifting Competition

Following these tips, from time to time I will cycle in my training what Dan refers to as the 40-Workout Strength Challenge. With the NIFS 6th Annual Powerlifting Competition coming up on November 9th, I wanted to share a program that I learned from Dan that added 10 pounds to my bench, 30 pounds to my squat, and 50 to my deadlift. Dan also has seen a few PRs fall in both throwing and weightlifting competitions. I am a big believer in the program’s concepts and simplicity. We are very good at overcomplicating things when it is not necessary. Here you work on fundamental movements all the time, and you make sure you hit every rep. This could be a great challenge for you leading into the competition; however, just like anything else, it might not work for everyone. Here’s the setup:

  1. Pick one exercise from the fundamental human movements described above. If competing in November is your goal, I would suggest a back squat, bench press, and deadlift. Add in a chinup and a farmer’s carry and you are good to go.
  2. Perform these exercises for the first 10 workouts every training session with varying sets and reps.
  3. Never miss a rep, and if the weight feels light, add more weight.
  4. After the first 10 workouts you can repeat them 3 additional times or make small changes to the movements every two weeks (for example, change to an incline bench, front squat, rack pulls, barbell bent-over rows, and racked carry). There are far too many examples of exercises and combinations to list here; I would suggest scheduling a personal program session with a NIFS instructor to help you out.

Here is how I set up my challenge that may help you develop yours. I can’t stress enough that this is what worked for me. It may not work for you, but it could be well worth the try.
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I found that after completing this 40-workout challenge, not only did I add pounds to my big lifts, but many of the other tasks in my life became easier. The other aspect of this challenge I really, really liked was that due to its simplicity, I can turn my brain down a bit and just lift. It provided that escape from our day-to-day tasks that I think we all need from time to time.

Registration is now open for NIFS 6th annual Powerlifting Competition. Get registered today online or at the service desk.

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

Topics: NIFS weightlifting strength powerlifting

Using Battling Ropes for Training

_68R5895When you begin your fitness quest and are getting started on a new program, finding exercises that are appropriate for you is key to your success. Your fitness staff at NIFS has your back! Training methods and training tools developed from years of research and practice have shown that sometimes a simple exercise done well can be quite effective.

In this case, we will be looking at training with battling ropes (also known as battle ropes). I was lucky to have been in attendance at one of the top fitness summits recently and was humbled by the overall amount of work that can be accomplished with the ropes. (Taking some learning cues from renowned fitness professionals has given me the opportunity to deliver some great, purposeful workouts to NIFS members and clients.)

You may have seen the battle ropes in your gym, but did not know exactly what exercises could be done with them. For the most part, the movement patterns are simple, yet effective. Slamming the ropes utilizes multiple muscle groups and also gets your heart rate to rise. Taking the training one step further, your rope slams can be broken down into many movement patterns including small movement patterns, large movement patterns, and several other fun, specialized movement patterns (which we will look at in this blog).

What Are Battle Ropes?

Before we get started on the exercises, it would be helpful to have a better anatomical understanding of these ropes. For starters, ropes come in many lengths and thicknesses. The longer the rope or the thicker the rope, the more challenging the exercises become. Also, using a poly rope with shrinkwrapped endcaps has advantages over the less-expensive manila gym ropes traditionally used for climbing. The poly rope material tends to be softer on the hands and more durable than the manila rope. The manila rope, however, can work fine and be more cost-effective.

Small-Movement Pattern

The first movement pattern we will discuss is called the small-movement pattern. This pattern is the easiest to learn and progress from. Once you have selected your rope and have attached it to its anchor point, simply get your body into an athletic position (not unlike getting ready to hit a volleyball or pick up a groundball in softball). You will slam the rope quickly, yet rhythmically in cadence so that the small slams create a ripple that flows all the way down to the anchor point. This pattern can also have several small variations including single-arm slams. Typically, this exercise can be done for time (i.e., 20 seconds per set) or with your interval training (i.e., :20 on, :20 off for 3 minutes).

Large-Movement Pattern

The second movement pattern is the large-movement pattern. With this movement pattern, the goal is to create big slams with the rope. This movement is similar to the one seen with medicine ball slams, where you take your body from a small movement position to a fully extended position with the ropes overhead and on your toes, and then end by slamming the rope with maximum force into the ground. This movement can be rhythmic, but sometimes seems a little more aggressive in nature than the small-movement pattern. The benefits here, though, are definitely more athletic in nature, as many sports require movement patterning based on this exact exercise. Because this exercise makes it easier to count reps, being able to do sets such as 4 x 10–12 reps, makes sense (but do not limit yourself; intervals here are also appropriate).

Other Ways to Use Rope Training

Outside of these two movements, you can explore rope training in many ways. Thinking back to grade-school times, we used the rope often during physical education class as the true tests of strength with tug-of-war and the rope climb, but we can make ropes fun and challenging when we put them back into our workout plans and add a little competition. With tug-of-war, you need several people to compete, but other exercises can replicate this movement solo. The Marpo Rope Trainer machine can convert to a standing tug-of-war rope pull, just you versus the machine! The rope climb, which is a daunting challenge for most, can be replicated on the rope machine as well. But if you don’t have the rope machine, starting with rope descends is an excellent way to get more comfortable and definitely stronger.

BONUS: Here is a great Friday Finisher series using the Ropes!

 

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These rope challenges are great additions to most workouts because they are simple and they can be done with individual maximum efforts or in groups where a cardiovascular challenge is needed. If you are interested in adding ropes to your workouts and want more information, NIFS staffers are more than happy to help you begin your new rope training workout. As always, muscleheads evolve and rejoice!

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

Topics: NIFS exercise fitness center Thomas' Corner equipment workouts strength sports movement