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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

The Impact of Exercise on Chronic Disease: COPD

GettyImages-1140574879In my last blog, Impact of Exercise on Chronic Disease, I discussed how exercise may help individuals with a major chronic disease. In this blog, I discuss COPD and how exercise can improve symptoms and quality of life for those affected. COPD is an acronym for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. It is an umbrella term defined by the CDC as, “a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems.” This is in contrast to some other pulmonary disorders that restrict lung expansion.

COPD is a global disease, but due to underreporting it is often overlooked. In developed countries it is often associated with smoking; however, its prevalence in many developing countries can be linked to outdoor, occupational, and indoor air pollution. Common symptoms include

  • Shortness of breath at rest or with mild exertion
  • Difficulty taking a deep breath
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Excess sputum production

Diagnosis and Treatment

Unlike many other health conditions, COPD is not diagnosed by a single test. Physicians often use a combination of medical history, imaging, and special breathing tests called pulmonary function tests to determine a diagnosis. Lower pulmonary function test scores indicate increased severity of COPD. Home treatment often includes medications such as bronchodilators, mucolytics, or supplemental oxygen. If you have COPD and plan on exercising, I recommend gathering your treatment information for your trainer so that they can determine any contraindications to exercise.

Counteracting the Downward Spiral

Because physical activity makes them short of breath, many individuals with COPD abstain from exercise. This sedentary behavior leads to increased health risks. Their heart becomes weaker, blood vessels are less flexible and more likely to rupture, and muscles atrophy from the lack of use. These physiological changes make it harder to perform physical activity and accelerate the downward spiral many people with this condition face. Because it is an irreversible disease, COPD cannot be cured with exercise. However, exercise can drastically improve the quality of life people experience.

How Exercise Helps People with COPD

The 2019 Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) Report states that exercise training can increase physical activity levels outside of the gym in COPD patients. It recommends that they participate in multiple brief bouts of high-intensity work. By doing so, these individuals can stress their cardiovascular system without putting it over the edge. Over time individuals with COPD experience similar cardiorespiratory adaptations to healthy populations, including

  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased resting heart rate
  • Increased blood flow to peripheral tissues
  • Improved heart function

Resistance training also enables this population to complete activities of daily living more readily by increasing strength and muscular endurance. However, research shows that strength training does not improve their health status. A specific type of resistance training called inspiratory muscle training has been shown to increase the strength of inspiratory muscles, allowing individuals to take deeper breaths. Flexibility training is also believed to improve posture to allow for easier breathing, but no studies have specifically looked at this area.

NIFS Can Help

If you or somebody you know has COPD but doesn’t know where to start, speak with your physician about starting an exercise program. If cleared, come to NIFS, where we have trainers who are educated and certified to work with special populations. The Healthy Lifestyle Program is specifically designed to work with populations who need adaptations to exercise. If you are interested in joining the Healthy Lifestyle Program, stop on by and ask us what we can do for you!

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This blog was written by Brandon Wind, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercise NIFS programs resistance flexibility cardiopulmonary chronic disease COPD

Dynamite in a Small Package: Mini-band Exercises You Should Be Doing

GettyImages-1160240139In a world where in many cases bigger is better, just because something is small doesn’t mean it’s less important or can’t have big impact. Being short in stature my entire life, it has always been my motto that “dynamite comes in small packages,” and I have strived to create as much BANG as I can in all facets of life. Small in stature can provide big results when you light the proper fuse and utilize its power maximally.

The Little Resistance Band with a Big Impact

In health and fitness, using the proper tools to yield the outcomes you are working toward is a staple goal, no matter the size of that tool. The mini-band could be the best example of creating big effect from a rather tiny tool. This popular, small resistance band has been used for many years in fitness and even sports performance. The mini-band is versatile and can be used for strength and stability over the entire body.

One of the biggest advantages of this ready-to-use, do-it-all tool is that it can go anywhere and be used in any environment. From the basics to the advanced, the mini-band is built to challenge all fitness levels and body types. It truly is a small package that packs a dynamite punch!

My Favorite Mini-Band Exercises

Here are some of my favorite exercises that you may not be currently doing but should:

  • Single-Leg Squats
  • Goblet Carry
  • Single-Leg, Straight-Leg Dead Lift
  • Shoulder Drivers
  • Wall Sprinters
  • Renegade Rows
  • BONUS: Friday Finisher Featuring the Mini-band

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Schedule a Session with a NIFS Trainer

These are just a few of the many exercises that can be done using the mini-band. There are so many great ways to utilize this mighty-mouse of a fitness tool. Want more exercises and direction? Schedule a workout program with one of our highly trained Health Fitness Instructors and get on a path to reaching your health and fitness goals and have fun doing it!

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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: equipment resistance exercises videos personal trainer fitness equipment mini-bands exercise bands

Holiday Fitness: Equipment That Fits in Your Suitcase

GettyImages-533342462’Tis the season for holiday traveling, holiday parties, not having as much time to hit the gym, and eating more calories than are in your average diet. Spending time with family and friends is so important over the holiday season, but taking care of your health and fitness is just as important.

The key to this success is making exercise a priority. A few ways to do that are by committing to workout programs, scheduling in your workout times, committing to a fitness goal, and maybe even purchasing a few fitness essentials that fit in your suitcase to use conveniently when you are traveling.

Suitcase Equipment Essentials and Exercise Guide

Resistance Bands (average price $3–$8)

You probably have used a resistance band in your Small Group Training, Barre Fusion, or Circuit Training classes, or seen them being used by others in the gym. Versa Loops are a great tool to take with you during the holidays. These bands are very cost-effective and weigh almost nothing, nor take up much space.

A NIFS Fitness Center staff member can help you create an on-the-go workout plan using the band. Stop by and see an instructor for quick and effective band workouts.

The key to success is taking action. Just because you buy a mini versa band does not mean you will stay in shape like magic if it sits in your suitcase. Take time to schedule 20 to 30 minutes a few times a week to break a sweat and work on stability, mobility, and core strength with this amazing fitness tool.

Jump Rope (average price $10–$12)

Jumping rope is a great addition to a gym workout to get your heart rate up, but is also a great piece of equipment that you can easily add to your suitcase to torch calories anywhere and at any time. You can burn up to 10 calories a minute jumping rope. Pulling this piece of equipment out of your suitcase can definitely balance out the extra calories you consume during the holiday. Do it for 10 to 15 minutes straight for an endurance workout, or combine it with body resistance toning exercises for a great go-to HIIT workout.

TRX (average price $70–$130)

TRX is a great piece of fitness equipment that you can pack up to go anywhere. At moderate intensity, someone might burn up to 250 calories during a one-hour training session. TRX straps are light and easy to take anywhere. When you’re in town, taking classes at NIFS is a great way to learn proper form and new moves, but this equipment can be hung in door frames or places around the house to also get in a great sweat and total-body workout.

Running Shoes (average price $60–$150)

Running is a free, very effective workout that is great for burning calories. If you don’t have a pair of running shoes already, they can come at a price but make a great investment for staying accountable to keeping weight off over the holiday season (if you pack them in your bag and use them). If you are healthy enough for running, grab some shoes and hit the pavement or indoor track here at NIFS.

Some Other Holiday Wellness Tips

In addition to this equipment you can easily use to help stay fit over the holidays, don’t forget about the importance of diet.

  • Remember portions. Overeating is very easy to do at holiday functions, so set your mind to eating for results. This means practicing portion control and not overloading your plate or having too much sugar and alcohol. Keep on a balanced diet through your normal lifestyle and allow yourself a little extra only on special occasions.
  • Don’t be afraid to say “no” in the office. Just because a co-worker brings in a treat, does not mean you have to have all the holiday cookies and cupcakes. Maybe commit to having one a week even if someone brings in something new daily.
  • Have an accountability buddy. Find someone you trust and who also wants to stay healthy over the holiday season. Make goals together—like working out 4 to 5 times each week, or eating only one holiday dessert a week—that you commit to and achieve together so you don’t feel like you’re doing it alone!

Holidays are a great time to have fun, so enjoy doing everything you love like spending time with friends and family while also living a healthy lifestyle.

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

Topics: running equipment holidays accountability resistance TRX traveling portion control fitness equipment

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

COM_CT_Poster

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, Wednesdays and Fridays at 4:30pm.

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

Out with the Old: Change Your Workout to Improve Wellness

GettyImages-529079056.jpgTake yourself back to the 1970s when Arnold Schwarzenegger was preparing for the Mr. Olympia contest. Everybody wanted to try his incredibly intense workouts. It has been rumored that Arnold’s workouts were so intense that at least three different trainers would have to give him separate workouts in order to keep up with him.

Following in the king’s footsteps, anyone who wanted to be a bodybuilder or get into shape undeniably thought that working out six days a week, two times a day, was the way to make this happen. Luckily for us and all of America, workouts have evolved from the old-school mindset to the new school.

Varying Your Workout

Old School: Sticking to the same workout for months.

Although this was the go-to, this pattern isn’t always going to work. When you do the same sets and reps for every workout, you miss out on allowing your body to change.

New School: Implementing the SAID principle.

The SAID principle is an acronym for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. When the body is put under different stress, it starts to adapt. In other words, the body is trying to get better. By providing your body with different types of sets, reps, and loads, you are able to tap into more of your muscle fibers, increase strength, and avoid plateaus.

Targeting Training

Old school: Focusing only on the trouble spots.

This type of focus won’t work for the majority of people who are coming to the gym to work out or lose weight. When there is variety in your workouts, there is room for growth and development. Focusing only on the areas that are the weakest isn’t going to help the areas that are already strong continue to get stronger.

New School: Correcting trouble spots while also training strong areas.

Correcting a weakness and building on a strong point at the same time will enable you to improve your body as a whole. A way to correct those problem areas is to figure out exactly why they are causing you problems. The Functional Movement Screen captures fundamental movements, motor control within movement patterns, and competence of basic movements uncomplicated by specific skills. It will determine the greatest areas of movement deficiency, demonstrate asymmetries, and eventually correlate these with an outcome.

Cardio vs. Strength

Old School: Focusing only on cardio will increase weight loss.

While it’s important to incorporate cardio into your workout regimen to help build and keep your cardiovascular systems stronger, it is not the only type of exercise that is needed for weight loss. Focusing only on cardio will lessen your chances of building muscle.

New School: Getting a healthy dose of both cardio and strength training will improve overall health.

Much like how a car stays warm after it turns off, the same can be said about your body after you finish a workout. EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) explains how your body’s metabolism can continue to burn more calories. Resistance training can provide a greater EPOC effect than running at a steady speed.

Out with the Old and in with the New

Training methods will come and go, and at some point the new-school methods will become old school. At NIFS we offer a wide variety of programs, assessments, and education to help turn those old habits into new routines. Stay positive, be willing to accept change, and explore to find what works best for you!

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

Topics: NIFS weight loss workouts calories resistance metabolism functional movement assessments programs wellness mindset assessment plateaus targeting workouts change oxygen

How Does TRX Help Your Workout? Try It at NIFS!

GettyImages-1162483613Starting from the ground up might sound like a daunting task, but with TRX it is possible. The TRX, which can be done as a group or individual, allows its user to perform various movement patterns with varying degrees of difficulty, all while using only body weight as resistance and a routine of exercises assigned to help you reach your goals.

The Equipment

The setup, designed by former US Navy Seal Randy Hetrick in 1995, is comprised of two straps, two handles, two cam buckles for adjustments, and a locking loop for safety. The equipment can be set up nearly anywhere, including but not limited to a TRX frame, a tree branch, or a sturdy piece of furniture. The unit is rather transportable and easy to set up. With that being said, it would seem to be the most ideal piece of equipment for home exercise and gym use. Although this is true, there still is a small learning curve, which you can easily overcome with some practice.

Adjusting Intensity and Difficulty Level

When you examine the exercises, you discover that the majority of them utilize angles to both increase and decrease intensity and level of difficulty. Furthermore, relying on the handles more and more can make things much easier. When it’s time to up the workload, you can grip the handles less (which requires you to utilize more body strength to get through the exercise).

When we program a TRX exercise into your routine or in a class, we would expect that at any time someone might need a regression or a progression, so there isn’t really a reason to stop or quit—just readjustments to help you keep moving!

How to Get the Most from this Equipment

Like all equipment, there are ways to best utilize this tool to get the most out of your time. When you understand that the difficulty level is determined by balance, stability, and angles, making just a few adjustments can really help you get a better workout.

Here are some tips that may also enhance your workout.

  • Do not allow any slack in the straps. The constant tension will force you to be in control while working through your movements.
  • Practice good form by having the straps as an aid. If you are having trouble with proper form at the bottom end of your squats due to ankle mobility or posterior chain flexibility, use it to help you move into and out of precarious instances where typically you would be uncomfortable. Once you are able to do the movements proficiently, try them again without the TRX and then eventually with a weight load.
  • Add an exercise to a workout circuit. To mix it up and give you a great workout, the versatility and multitude of exercises allows you to change exercises, sets, reps, and intensity at a moment’s notice.

Most floor exercises with a TRX are more challenging due to the idea that you are using more energy to keep good form (including core muscles).

Try It in Group Fitness Classes at NIFS

What exercises have you tried? The group fitness classes offered at NIFS are for everybody. Your Fitness Specialist can modify an exercise if you aren’t ready for it or if you need a little more of a challenge. The classes also offer variety to help enhance your own “exercise library,” which will ultimately lead to more confidence. Remember that your exercises can vary from person to person, but as long as you can continue to challenge yourself, your body will continue to develop and become stronger.

Whether you are trying to improve form or get a total-body, no-nonsense workout, the TRX is an adaptable and highly useful tool you can use along the way. NIFS offers free classes weekly to help guide your workouts. If you still aren’t convinced, contact a NIFS Fitness Specialist to discuss ways we can help you reach your goals.

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

Topics: NIFS Thomas' Corner equipment group fitness resistance workout TRX body weight

NIFS Group Fitness Class: Boot Camp

20170424_201605.jpgFor the month of May, we are highlighting Boot Camp as our group fitness class of the month. Have you outgrown some of the group fitness classes and want to take your training a step forward? Boot Camp may be just the thing you’ve been looking for to do that. This class is both challenging and exhausting, consisting of a 60-minute total-body workout. Let’s take a look at the benefits, class design, and who it best suits.

What does a Boot Camp class look like?

This is a good question, and the answer is simple: sweaty, exhausted people who need to jump into the shower immediately! Boot Camp takes place inside NIFS during the winter or stormy times; or often Steven, the class instructor, will take it outdoors. During the warmer months of the year, you will find Steven and his class along the Canal, downtown at the Indiana War Memorial, working out in White River State Park, or someplace around town that they find useful tools to utilize for their workout, all while getting a nice tan.

The format of the class typically involves some cardio, usually running or stairs and strength work like pushups, squats, lunges, and pull-ups. This class would fall into the categories of high-intensity, fast-paced resistance and endurance training.

Watch video.

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What is it good for?

Boot Camp is beneficial in lots of different areas of the fitness realm: cardio, strength, calisthenics, social interaction, and the never-give-up mental attitude that we all need to have! Also, often it takes place outdoors because it’s good for everyone to get out occasionally and see nature (unless the mosquitos are biting).

This class helps those who feel they have outgrown some of the other group fitness classes and really need to take their fitness up a notch. You will benefit from the high-intensity workouts that boost your cardiovascular endurance and overall strength—not to mention, Steven has a good group of folks who love working out together and interacting socially.

I’m new to exercise; is this class for me?

While we never want to exclude anyone from our classes, it would be wise to work your way up to this one if you are a first-time exerciser. The goal at NIFS is to get everyone comfortable and confident in their workouts and not leave anyone discouraged. If you feel you are physically fit and ready to raise the bar a little bit on your own workout standards, this is the class for you to try next. If you are uncertain whether it’s too much, just show up a few minutes before class time and talk with Steven to guide you in the right direction.

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Click here to see our full group fitness schedule and when classes are offered.

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

Topics: NIFS cardio group fitness boot camp resistance endurance workout high intensity Group Fitness Class of the Month

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

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

The Importance of Pushing Past the Pain

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

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

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

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

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

Yes! I want to try a HIT class!

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

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

Max Results with Minimal Equipment, Part 2: Superbands for Resistance

Screen_Shot_2016-08-23_at_1.59.16_PM.pngNext up on the minimal gear with max results list is truly one of my favorites, the superband. In part 1, we took a look the slider and all its versatility and ability to challenge the body in many different ways. The superband provides even more options with very little gear (mainly because we can perform more pulling movements with the band). So now we add “load” to a movement pattern on top of gravity. The superband is definitely next on the packing list when I travel, and I always have one available at home.

Favorite Portable Exercise Equipment: The Superband

The superband has been gaining in popularity over the last decade or so. With its easy-to-use and on-the-go capability, the superband has become a staple in many programs, from the weekend warrior (guys and gals like you and me) to elite-level athletes. Dave Schmitz, also known as “the Bandman,” has been teaching and promoting the use of superbands (resistance bands) since the mid-1990s. I have learned a great deal from Dave, not only about programming using bands, but also the motivation to reach as many people as I possibly can.

The band can be used anywhere, all by itself or attached to a stationary object or partner. This versatile tool uses tension as its load, and maintains resistance pretty much throughout a range of motion, which skyrockets its potential for strength gain and metabolic cost of the movement. The movement possibilities are endless, which can provide so much variety to your program either at home or away.

Best Superband Exercises and Workouts

Here are some of our favorite superband exercises:

Workouts:

M & M Bands Final

Circuit—:40/:20—3–5 Rounds

  • Front squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Bent-over rows
  • Jump press
Strength
  • A1 Chin-ups      4x5 (add load)
  • A2 Band push-ups      4x max reps
  • B1 2KB front squats      3x8-10
  • B2 Band hip press      3x8-10
  • C1 Band 1/2K lift      3x8
  • C2 Band bent-over rows      3x8
Give a few of these (or all of them) a try in your current program or on your next trip and you will find out what the band can do for you. Take along your sliders and you’ve just doubled the movement capabilities, and yet you are still only at two tools.

Stay tuned for the next installment, when we take a look at easily one of my favorite pieces, the TRX.

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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 fitness center equipment workouts resistance

Five Resistance-Training Mistakes that Slow Muscle-Building

ThinkstockPhotos-517048740.jpgBuilding muscle is perhaps the most common goal (second to fat loss) of an exercise program. Many people eventually hit a plateau with exercise routines and muscle-gaining processes and find it increasingly difficult to continue putting on new muscle. Once the body becomes too familiar with certain exercises or a certain style of training, your results will be hindered.

However, you might in fact need to take a closer look at your training habits before you jump to the conclusion that you have hit a plateau. Take a look at my top 5 muscle-building mistakes, and how to power through the plateau and continue making gains.

1. Overtraining

Overtraining is a very real trap to which many people trying to gain muscle fall victim. In our society we often think that when trying to gain muscle, “more is better.” However, when it comes to training, more is often not better. Only the right amount of the right type of training will be beneficial to increasing muscle in the body.

The easiest way to explain this concept is to first point out that in order for muscles to grow in size (hypertrophy), they must be allowed to fully recover from micro tears experienced during an intense resistance-training workout. If we fall into the trap of thinking more is better, we often find ourselves either doing an absurd amount of sets and reps for each muscle group, or training the same muscle group multiple times a week, and not allowing proper recovery time. While I do applaud the effort in this technique, I have learned from personal experience that sometimes instead of training harder, we must train smarter.

2. Under-training

As opposed to mistake number 1, numerous people also often under-train when working out. Under-training happens when you walk into the gym and head over to the leg extension machine, perform a set of 12 reps at low-moderate intensity, and play with your phone for 2 or 3 minutes while resting, waiting on your next set. When trying to build muscle, the number of reps you complete does not mean anything if you are not bringing the correct intensity to those numbers. If you are on rep 12 and it feels like you are trying to lift a car, you are at the correct intensity for that exercise. If you get to rep 12 and you are already looking forward to your next set because you felt as though 12 reps was not enough, you might not be training with the proper intensity to build muscle. A good workout should come with challenges; therefore, you should almost be reaching failure on each set you do. If a person does not push themselves close to their limits, gaining new muscle and improving lifts will be rather difficult.

3. Avoiding the Hard Exercises

Most of us are guilty of this (including myself). We tend to avoid the hard exercises because they challenge our comfort level in the gym. However, since a majority of the “hard exercises” we tend to avoid happen to be compound exercises, we are actually doing ourselves a huge disservice. Compound exercises are extremely beneficial when trying to build muscle. They tend to use multiple muscle groups at the same time (even the ones we are not accustomed to working out individually). Therefore, compound exercises are great not only for working the major muscle groups in the body, but are also great for working the smaller muscle groups, which will result in improved strength levels overall that should transfer over to other lifts.

4. Failure to Build a Foundation

Before you can move to the “hard” or compound exercises, you must first build a solid foundation through muscular strength, muscular endurance, and proper movement patterns. These three components tie into one another very closely. If a person does not have a solid foundation with correct movement patterns, he or she will be performing compound exercises with improper lifting techniques, causing untargeted muscle groups to compensate. If the targeted muscle is not firing as effectively as it should be within the compound exercise, how can you expect a great deal of muscle growth?

Conversely, if a person has not improved their muscular endurance before attempting to improve their muscular strength, he or she might only be able to lift a certain amount of weight for only a short time (due to lack of muscular endurance), even if the person has learned proper movement technique. Lastly, if a person has not improved their muscular strength, it will be very difficult to continuously improve the weight needed to lift in order to create muscle hypertrophy (or size). So as you can see, building those three foundations first plays a huge role in long-term increase of muscle.

5. Nutrition

The last and arguably most common mistake seen when trying to build muscle is actually undernourishing the muscles themselves. Can you really expect your muscles to be able to grow when you are not giving them the proper amount of nutrients? That’s like expecting your car to survive a family road trip from Indiana to California without putting gas in it first. It simply won’t happen.

The mistake we usually make is thinking that as long as we are allowing our bodies to be in a “caloric surplus,” we will grow new muscle as long as we participate in a consistent resistance-training program. Unfortunately, not all foods are created with equal nutritional value, meaning there are foods we consume on a daily basis that are not giving us the proper amount of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats our muscles need in order to grow. Instead they fill us up with “empty calories” (no nutritional value) that include calories from sugar and saturated fat that provide little to no health benefits.

To make matters even worse, you actually intake more calories per gram when you consume fats compared to carbohydrates and proteins.

Nutrient Calories per Gram Calories in 50 grams
Carbohydrates 4 200
Proteins 4 200
Fats 9 450

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Many times people overlook these mistakes when trying to build muscle. However, if you begin to understand that all of these factors play a huge role in the efficiency of the muscle-building process, you will finally be able to get past the physical barriers you have unintentionally created for yourself.

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

Topics: nutrition muscles resistance overtraining recovery muscle building