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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Plyometric Push-up Variations to Spice Up Your Workout

Hello NIFS Friends! With a show of hands, who loves push-ups? Well if you are one of those people who just isn't into push-ups (or if you are someone who just wants to spice up your workout routine), there is a wide array of push-up variations that can not only make you better at push-ups, but will also keep your workouts fresh and exciting. For these exercises, we are using a plyometric theme throughout.

Plyometrics are generally done with the lower body (think box jumps) to develop power through rapid stretching and contracting of a muscle group. Developing this type of power is great for athletes looking to gain a little quickness for their sport, as well as older athletes looking to maintain strength and muscle functionality. 

Give these exercises a try in your next workout and let us know what you think! Enjoy. 

  • Standard Push-up on boxes
  • Bias Push-up
  • Depth Push-up
  • Incline Push-ups
Plyometric Push-ups

 

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

Topics: Thomas' Corner workouts exercises videos plyometric push-ups

Plyometric Building Blocks: Creative Movements and Injury Prevention

GettyImages-601905120As an athlete there is no substitute for the ability to produce power and be explosive during your sport. From competitive weightlifters and NFL-caliber football players to distance runners, producing (and absorbing) high impacts is crucial for succeeding in your sport as well as staying healthy throughout your competition season. Are you incorporating any of these exercises into your current program?

Creative Movements

Finding plyometric, or more simply “plyo” exercises, has become relatively easy. They have become one of the staples of social media and other internet posts because of their ability to morph into unique movements that will get many likes and retweets. Many performance coaches are looking to become the first person to introduce a movement or show a variation that no one has seen, and plyo exercises allow for a lot of creativity to fit a certain sport or activity.

But should you choose a movement you have never seen and implement it into your program? My answer? It depends. The movement may benefit you in some way, but you must also ask yourself whether it is training a specific area that you are targeting and whether the movement itself is safe. Plyo exercises are meant to be very explosive. They are designed to tap into the high potential of the motor units of the muscle fiber, which are essentially the driving forces from the brain to the muscle. The goal is to reach these high levels of effort (85–100%) during repeated bouts, with the goal of the body adapting to those high levels with an increased recruitment of those high-level motor units. The more we express their abilities, the easier it becomes for us to do, leading to more power.

Injury Prevention in Plyometrics

Now you have to ask yourself a question: Can you perform a movement at full effort while being safe? If you are unsure, here are a few building blocks to consider when choosing a movement.

The Landing

Whenever I teach lower-body plyo movements, the first thing we learn is the landing. Regardless of the sport, landing on the ground always presents a potential risk due to the heavy forces that are coming down. Always be aware of your knees and make sure they are always stable when your feet hit the ground. Avoiding an inward collapse of the knees is a great place to start by making sure your hips are engaged, which will increase the stabilization of the knees.

A good place to start is a simple Box Drop drill. Step up onto a box that is about 12–18 inches high. Step off and land on the ground with flat feet, knees outward with a slight forward lean of the chest. This will start the healthy promotion of safe and soft landings.

Effort

I touched on this above, but effort is a nonnegotiable variable during plyometric movements. Your body and muscles have to have a reason to increase their power-producing capabilities. If you approach a plyo exercise with low effort or the “going through the motions” mindset, it will be a waste of time. For example, say you have a maximal broad jump of 10 feet. During training, the ideal distance you would jump might be around 8+ feet depending on the number of repetitions you are going for. Do you think that jumping to 5 feet during your training sets would tax your body to make improvements on that maximal 10-foot jump? Unlikely. Train with high effort and energy and you will be rewarded.

Simplicity

My final building block is to not overcomplicate things. It is so easy to get caught up in doing an exercise because it looks similar to movements you might perform on the field or court, but my advice is to step back and ask yourself whether there is more thinking involved during the movement, or are you allowed to focus on one aspect and give all you have for the sets and reps you are going for. If a plyo exercise you find has 3, 4, 5, or more aspects, “paralysis by analysis” will definitely kick in. Choose movements that do not require a lot of thinking and allow you to attack every rep.

BE POWERFUL!

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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 plyometric sports student athletes athletic performance team sports

Warming Up for Vertical and Broad Jumps with Pogo Jumps

GettyImages-1225454377Want to jump higher, jump farther, or possibly dunk a basketball? With all the athletes I have trained over the years, at some point within their sport they all jump. Competitive as athletes are, they want to be able to jump higher like in volleyball, or jump farther like swimmers coming of the blocks, for example.

Warming Up Your Lower Body

Before you start jumping, you need to warm up your lower body. A fun way to wake up your lower body and prepare for explosive work like vertical or broad jumps is to incorporate easy plyometrics into your fitness routines. Plyometrics refers to exercises involving rapid stretching and contracting of your muscles.

An easy warm-up drill into plyometrics for athletes is to start with pogo jumps. They are one of my favorite athletic drills to warm up with and incorporate within athletic workouts. Pogo jumps are a great tool for teaching athletes what it feels like to be fast and or explosive off the ground. I use pogo jumps primarily to target the calves and shins. To a lesser degree they also target the hamstrings and quads within our warm-ups.

Proper Form for Pogo Jumps

Here’s what we want to see out of athletes when doing pogo jumps: minimal ground contact time, and minimal knee flexion (knees over the toes). Each jump is mainly with ankle movement instead of hips and knees. Never let your heel touch the ground. Stay on the ball of your foot to utilize your lower-leg elasticity. Low pogo jumps look similar to bunny hops, and high pogo jumps are similar but emphasize more explosive power for height on each jump, making you look more like a kangaroo.

Pogo Jump Drills

Depending on available space, pogo jumps can be done in place for typically 10–20 jumps in a row, or you can do them for distance down and back in a 10-yard space. If doing pogo jumps laterally, I like to go 10 yards down right and switch halfway, and keep going 10 yards left. Like most exercises, you are only going to get out what you put into it, so really push yourself to jump for speed (quickness) or height (explosive) each time. As always, make sure that you are keeping good form when you jump as well.

Goal: Improve vertical leap, quickness, and footwork
Equipment Needed: None—just you!
Space: In place or 10–20 yards distance

Drill: Low Pogo Jump

Execution: Begin the drill in an athletic posture with the feet hip/shoulder-width apart. Raise heels up and stand on the balls of your feet. Quickly bounce up and down on the balls of your feet. Don’t let your heels touch the ground. 

Drill: High Pogo Jump

Execution: Starting the same as low pogo, stand tall with feet slightly spread apart about hip-width. Raise heels up and stand on the balls of your feet. Advance the low pogo drill by attempting to gain more height in your jump and still minimizing ground contact time.

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This blog was written by Michael Blume, MS, SCCC; Athletic Performance Coach. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercises plyometric sports warmups drills jumpings

Group Fitness Class of the Month: BODYATTACK

BODYATTACK.jpgGroup fitness classes can be a great combination of both cardio and strength exercises jam-packed into a session that ranges anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. Whether you are a rookie or veteran to the gym, a group exercise class can be a great place to look to when thinking about what to do for your workout. And with the huge variety of classes that most fitness facilities offer daily, you can get just about anything you are looking for in a workout.

Over the next several months, we are going to highlight a group fitness class of the month. We will be taking a closer look at what each class is composed of and the benefits of it. I understand that sometimes pulling up a facility’s group fitness schedule can be overwhelming, with all the options and names of things you’ve never heard of, but hopefully this will help you to understand that these classes are something doable and well worth your time at the gym.

Often, along with the overwhelming amount of classes offered each week, the intimidation factor can play a large role. Let me help soothe those uneasy feelings by telling you it’s okay: just jump into the class and you will quickly blend right in! Now I know that not all group exercise classes are for everyone, and not everyone is going to agree that all classes offered are the best option, but with a well-rounded selection of classes, strength training, and cardiovascular exercise, you will be well on your way to fit!

LM ATTACK CMYK BUTTON�.jpgWhat Is BODYATTACK?

This month we are going to take a look at the NIFS Class of the Month, BODYATTACK! BODYATTACK is the sports-inspired cardio workout for building strength and stamina. This high-energy interval training class combines athletic aerobic movements with strength and stabilization exercises. Dynamic instructors and powerful music motivate everyone toward their fitness goals—from the weekend athlete to the hardcore competitor. This class can be catered to anyone, from the first-timer to the frequent attender. You will see a combination of athletic components like running and jumping intertwined with strength exercises like squats and pushups. You will also experience a variety of fitness styles including aerobics, plyometrics, agility exercises, upper- and lower-body conditioning, power movements, and core strengthening exercises[watch video].

BODYATTACK is a full-body workout lasting 60 minutes. And though the class may look intense from a distance, any group class like BODYATTACK can be tailored to each and every individual fitness level. No matter what level you are at and choose to do in the class, BODYATTACK is designed to burn calories, help you tone up, and get into better overall shape through the various movements.

Tips for Your First Class

With all this, I know it can still be scary stepping up to your first class at the facility. If it is your first time, allow me to give you a few pointers:

  • Get to class a few minutes early and introduce yourself to the instructor. This way you will feel more comfortable and the instructor can help you get set up if necessary.
  • Set up your stuff close to the front, or at least in good view of the class instructor so that you can watch what he or she is doing closely.
  • When the level options are given, take the lowest one first. Even if you consider yourself an elite athlete, sometimes classes may take you by surprise. Take the easiest level first and then ramp it up when you begin to feel more comfortable and confident.
  • Keep moving! You won’t master every single exercise or move during the class, and that is okay. If you mess up, just keep moving to the beat of the music and pick back up on the next move.
  • Don’t be intimidated! Contrary to popular belief, no one is watching you.
  • Be okay with giving it a second try—we all know how intimidating it can be when you walk up and you have all those “group ex-ers” who know the next move before it even begins. Be patient and try the class a second time. That will be you in no time!
  • Have fun! Laugh, make connections with others, and enjoy the next hour of time you have celebrating yourself and the journey to a healthier lifestyle.

Now that you are ready, give BODYATTACK a try! NIFS offers BODYATTACK two different times a week. Keep in mind all the great things that group exercise has to offer.

Not a member? Try a class for free!

Try a group fitness class for free

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

Topics: NIFS cardio fitness center group fitness strength Les Mills plyometric core strength strength training aerobic BODYATTACK Group Fitness Class of the Month

Training to Improve Barefoot Running Strength and Function

453099757Over the past decade, there has been an increase in the popularity of barefoot training or training in a minimalist shoe such as a Vibram Five Fingers, especially with running barefoot. Along with this has come a lot of controversy about whether barefoot training is detrimental or beneficial. No matter which stance you agree with or practice currently, I think anyone would agree that it is important to have functional and strong feet and ankles.

Going barefoot compared to wearing shoes will force your feet and ankle muscles to work harder initially, therefore making them stronger. It will also improve the mobility of the foot and ankle. Wearing a shoe takes a lot of the work away from the foot, which leads to dysfunction, imbalance, and weakness over time. This is all-important because your feet are what connect your body to the ground and ultimately play a contributing factor in your stability, posture, and balance.

For those who have not adopted a barefoot or minimalist shoe lifestyle, it is important to incorporate barefoot exercises into your workout routine to improve foot and ankle function and mobility for these reasons. Here are a few exercises to perform barefoot that you can incorporate into your exercise routine and see quick improvements!

Beginner: Work on single-leg balancing. Press your big toe, small toe, and heel into the ground equally and try to hold your balance on one foot for 20 to 30 seconds.

Intermediate: Once you are comfortable balancing on one foot,try catching and passing a ball to a partner or against a wall in the same position. This will further challenge your balance by adding in the element of movement in the upper body.

Advanced: Incorporate barefoot plyometric exercises. Be sure to reinforce activating the muscles in the foot by landing on the three points of your foot discussed in balancing. One example of a plyometric exercise is to jump over a cone on one foot and land on the same foot on the opposite side.

If you are ready to make exercise a priority in your life NIFS is here to help. Membership at NIFS includes a personal assessment and training programs designed for you by a Health Fitness Specialist. Try NIFS free for 7-days and see how we can help you make exercise a priority.

Try 7-Days Free!

This blog was written by Stephanie Kaiser, NIFS Fitness Center Manager and Health Fitness Specialist. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: running injury prevention muscles exercises plyometric