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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Is Tempo Training Better for Overcoming Strength Training Plateaus?

GettyImages-rbhf_46Let me ask you a question. Have you ever hit a plateau in the weight room when it comes to increasing strength? What about when it comes to increasing power output (vertical jump, short distance sprint)? Well if you have, you are not alone. I know I have hit plateaus in the past and it can definitely be frustrating when you are not able to get past it.

The question I always asked myself was, “What am I doing wrong now?” Well it wasn’t necessarily that I was doing anything wrong. I followed the basic recommendations for strength gain (that being 2–6 sets of 2–6 repetitions). I used to follow those parameters religiously because that’s what I had learned early in my undergrad classes. What I didn’t know is that there are virtually endless ways to get past that plateau. I share my favorite here.

Traditional Strength Training

Let me first describe what strength really means. Strength is essentially how much force a person can exert—or to simplify that, how much weight a person can lift. Traditional strength training is lifting a certain amount of weight, typically about 80–95% of your 1-rep max by 2–6 sets of 2–6 repetitions (NSCA, 2016).

Tempo Training

Tempo training is essentially lifting a certain amount of weight for a certain amount of time. What I mean by this is that I can manipulate the amount of tension I want during each rep by how long I have my athletes either lower the weight or bring the weight back up. This type of training has been found to elicit more strength and power output gains than traditional strength training (Dolezal, 2016).

I can have my athletes train at two different types of tempos that will essentially give me the outcome that I desire, whether that be more strength gains or more power gains. The first tempo would be more eccentric based (lowering the bar during a squat, lowering the bar during a bench press, etc.). I typically have my athletes lower the bar for about 3–5 seconds and then explode up. The parameters I use, and that have been found to have the best results, are about 65–85% of their 1-rep max for about 3–4 sets of 3–6 reps (Dolezal, 2016).

The second method of tempo training I use is velocity-based training. This essentially means I have my athletes perform a certain amount of reps as fast as possible. This type of training has been proven to increase both strength and power output in both athletes and the general population (Banyard, 2019). Performing 3–5 sets of 3–5 repetitions at about 50–70% is enough to elicit these changes.

The Verdict: Which Strength Training Method Is More Effective?

In my opinion, tempo training is a much better tool to use versus traditional strength training. The reasons are that with traditional strength training, you really have to make certain you stay within the parameters. With tempo training, there is more freedom in how you train, as well as the additional benefit of improving power output and strength, whereas traditional training does not really increase power output (Banyard, 2019). If you’d like a more technical explanation of why tempo training is better, let’s meet up at NIFS!

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This blog was written by Pedro Mendez, CSCS, FMS, Health Fitness Instructor and Strength Coach at NIFS. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: nifs staff strength training strength and conditioning plateaus tempo training

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

Getting Geared Up for Cold Weather Wellness

GettyImages-1179065933As winter approaches, don’t let it discourage you from reaching your full potential and goals you’ve set for yourself. 2020 has definitely been a trying year, full of new normals. Continue to use exercise and strength training to keep your body healthy.

Keep Setting Fitness Goals

Continue to set goals; goal-setting will help you stay the course. Setting goals gives you purpose and meaning, and a reason to come to the gym. Set small goals and watch them turn into big ones. If you feel you’re plateauing, get a personal trainer to help you push past your threshold. They will keep you accountable as well as push you to new heights in your fitness journey.

Focus on Nutrition and Healthy Eating

Use the cold months to really focus on your nutrition. Winter months can lead to more relaxation since outside activities are not as prevalent. Keeping good nutritional habits will help you achieve your goals. If you need help with nutrition, utilize a dietitian to help you find the right foods to eat. Meal prepping and eating real foods will be key during the winter months—not getting set on carryout food and outside dining. Although every once in a while it’s okay to eat restaurant food, you want to focus on eating clean and getting proper nutrients into your body. Especially now during COVID-19, you want to make sure you’re staying as healthy as possible.

Maintain Safe Practices in the Pandemic

Speaking of the pandemic, continue to practice safe distancing while out in public. That way, you’ll keep your family safe and those around you. Try to minimize large gatherings. If you have to be with friends and family, make sure everyone does the proper things to keep everyone healthy and safe, including wearing masks. Use your best judgment while out and in social gatherings. Continue to wash your hands and sanitize equipment and any object that has been touched or will be touched.

Stay Busy and Keep Planning

Find new hobbies. If you’re able to get outdoors, enjoy that time with family and friends. If you’re not fortunate enough to be able to be outdoors due to the cold weather, find indoor activities to pass the time, but keep yourself busy. Don’t let the winter months bring you down. Continue to plan daily to attack the day and stay motivated. Stay busy and stay healthy!

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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: winter fitness nutrition healthy eating winter strength training cold weather wellness goals pandemic

Stuck in a Rut? How to Avoid Plateauing in the Weight Room

GettyImages-679304968Let me ask you a question. Have you ever hit a plateau in the weight room when it comes to increasing strength? What about when it comes to increasing power output (vertical jump, short-distance sprint)? Well if you have, you are not alone. I know I have hit plateaus in the past and it can definitely be frustrating when you are not able to get past it.

The question I always asked myself was, “What am I doing wrong now?” Well it wasn’t necessarily that I was doing anything wrong. I followed the basic recommendations for strength gain (2–6 sets of 2–6 repetitions). I used to follow those parameters religiously because that’s what I learned early in my undergrad classes. What I didn’t know is that there are virtually endless ways to get past that plateau. I will share my favorite here.

Traditional Strength Training

Let me first describe what strength really means. Strength is essentially how much force a person can exert, or to simplify that, how much weight a person can lift. What traditional strength training is, is lifting a certain amount of weight—typically about 8095% of your 1 rep max by sets of 2–6 of 2–6 repetitions (NSCA, 2016).

Tempo Training

Tempo training is essentially lifting a certain amount of weight for a certain amount of time. What I mean by this is that I can manipulate the amount of tension I want during each rep by varying how long I have my athletes either lower the weight or bring the weight back up. This type of training has been found to elicit more strength and power output gains than traditional strength training (Dolezal, 2016).

I can have my athletes train at two different types of tempos that will essentially give me the outcome that I desire, whether that be more strength gains or power gains. The first tempo would be more eccentric based (lowering the bar during a squat, lowering the bar during a bench press, etc.). I typically have my athletes lower the bar for about 3–5 seconds and then explode up. The parameters I use and that have been found to have the rest result are about 65–85% of their 1 rep max for about 3–4 sets of 3–6 reps (Dolezal, 2016).

The second method of tempo training I use is velocity-based training. This essentially means I have my athletes perform a certain amount of reps as fast as possible. This type of training has been proven to increase both strength and power output in both athletes and the general population (Banyard, 2019). Performing 3–5 sets of 3–5 reps at about 50–70% is enough to elicit these changes.

The Verdict

In my opinion, tempo training is a much better tool to use versus traditional strength training. The reasons are that with traditional strength training, you really have to make certain you stay within the parameters. With tempo, there is more freedom in how you want to train as well as the additional benefit of improving power output as well as strength, where traditional training does not really increase power output (Banyard, 2019).

I realize that I have oversimplified this topic, but the actual mechanisms of why tempo training is more beneficial than traditional training are out of the scope of this blog. If you would like more information, I would be happy to explain in more detail in another blog or in person.

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This blog was written by Pedro Mendez, CSCS, FMS, Health/Fitness Instructor and Strength Coach at NIFS. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness center weightlifting strength training plateaus tempo training

CON-ISO-ECC: Muscle Contractions for Weightlifting Variations

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

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

  • Concentric
  • Isometric
  • Eccentric

Concentric

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

Isometric

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

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

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

Eccentric

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

Summer Sledding: Using Sleds for Fitness

Training with a drive sled, or what we lovingly refer to as the “Prowler,” is probably one of the most popular modes of training with the coolest toy. I can remember my first experience with a sled a long time ago during football practice. There was nothing that made me want to see my last meal more than pushing a heavy sled as fast and hard as I could.

What the Sled Can Do for You

That feeling hasn’t changed much for me after a hard sled session, and I think it remains the draw for many who love the feeling of being “maxed out.” But the sled has so many more uses than “push till you puke,” such as:

  • Power development
  • Upper-body strength development
  • Trunk stability work

Exercises You Can Do with the Sled

Screen Shot 2019-08-27 at 11.31.01 AM

Here are some of my favorite ways to train with the sled that are not just pushing it fast down a straight line. This piece of equipment can challenge the body in so many different and fun ways:

  • Double-arm rows
  • Single-arm rows
  • Rips
  • Press
  • Walking dead
  • Walking AR press
  • Lateral cross-steps
  • Power push
  • OH walk
  • Lunges

The sled is easily one of the most versatile fitness tools out there, and can be such a fun and exciting way to train so many aspects of fitness. This is just a short list of the possible movements you can complete with a sled. Add a few different movements using the sled during your next training session and reap the benefits! Remember to practice proper REST protocols and make it a part of your training schedule.

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

Topics: fitness center equipment core exercises power strength training upper body fitness equipment sled

Hamstrings for the Win: Avoid Common Leg Day Mistakes

GettyImages-914656088What is the most feared and most skipped gym day of the week? Nearly every person despises it, and few survive it. Yes, you guessed it. I am referring to the infamous “leg day.” However, even if you can endure training your legs, how beneficial is it if you aren’t training your hamstrings correctly, efficiently, and according to their full potential?

The hamstring is a large group of muscles (the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus) located on the posterior side of the upper leg. They have two main responsibilities: flexion at the knee (pulling the ankle toward the glutes) and extension at the hips (pulling the ankle back toward the glute while maintaining a stiff leg). Therefore, the hamstring’s main goal is to balance out the action of the large quad muscles on the front side of the leg, assisting the knee in stability.

In his blog Five Biggest Mistakes in Hamstring Development, the late Dr. Charles Poliquin, a remarkable pioneer in the field of fitness and bodybuilding, put into perspective just how important the hamstring muscles are. He recollects, “When I was a kid, hamstrings were called in bodybuilding magazines ‘leg biceps.’”

Don’t Neglect Posterior Leg Development

A standard leg day, as one could imagine, might include the leg press, back squat, leg extension, leg curl, and perhaps a lunge variation. If that’s the case, there is simply not enough emphasis on posterior leg development. We naturally experience quad dominance simply because we are human and the majority of our daily movement requires being in a squat or quad-dominant position. This includes daily functions such as sitting and standing up out of a chair or car. The issues arise when the quadriceps overpower the action of the hamstrings throughout a certain range of motion or movement pattern. This can often happen when walking or running, but it occurs mostly when it comes time to execute cutting, jumping, and landing mechanics.

Simply put, athletes across most major sports have below-average hamstring development. This goes for every individual on the planet as well. It becomes a rather large issue and argument for some injuries that these athletes typically encounter.

Common Mistakes in Exercises for Hamstring Strength

If you are looking to improve hamstring strength, there are several exercises you could add to your workout program. However, I’m here to tell you that there are also a few common mistakes that could be holding you back from reaching your full potential.

  • Wrong timing: The first mistake is that you are most likely waiting to train the hamstring until the end of your leg workout. Ultimately, you should program hamstring-specific exercises.
  • Incomplete range of motion: Secondly, it is quite possible that you might not be completing the full range of motion when targeting this muscle group.
  • Not enough time under tension: The final common mistake is that when performing the movement pattern, you are not spending enough time under tension for that muscle to respond and grow. So a tip would be to use a tempo count where you control down and explode up each rep.

Do Those Leg Curls!

If you’ve learned anything from the last five minutes of reading this article, I hope it is the importance of training the posterior chain, especially the hamstring. Not only is it aesthetically appealing, but the with strong hamstrings, functionality and safety of young athletes should be at an all-time high. So jump in and do those leg curls!

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This blog was written by Cara Hartman, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: injury prevention muscles strength training hamstring leg day

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

Cardiorespiratory Fitness: Increase Your Strength and Endurance

GettyImages-671140578“Cardio day” are maybe the most dreaded words for a gym-goer. Or maybe you’re a cardio junkie and love nothing more than knowing it’s on the exercise menu for the day. In any case, most seem to have a love/hate relationship with cardio. We know we need it, but it can be a long and arduous task.

What the heck does it even mean, anyway? You hear about high-intensity cardio and low-intensity cardio, but surely one has more benefit than the other, right? Well, as always, it depends. Cardio is really just a fitness buzzword that’s been tossed around so much that it seems to have lost its definition (probably around the same time the Thighmaster started to fizzle).

What Is Cardiorespiratory Fitness?

According to Wikipedia, cardiorespiratory fitness refers to the ability of the circulatory and respiratory systems to supply oxygen to skeletal muscles during sustained physical activity. Blah, blah, technical jargon, blah, blah. Basically, it’s how well your heart and lungs can work together to pump blood, oxygen, and nutrients to exercising muscles. Again, it still doesn’t tell us a whole lot, but we’re getting somewhere.

Look at that simplified statement again and you’ll notice three key words: heart, lungs, and exercising muscle. (Okay, that’s four words, but you get the idea.) To simplify the discussion, I’ll focus primarily on aerobic adaptations, meaning improvements in the ability to use oxygen to produce energy, which are very different from anaerobic adaptations.

That being said, the primary aerobic improvements we’ll assume are the following:

  • We can help the heart and blood vessels improve their abilities to pump blood throughout the body.
  • We can improve the ability of the lungs to take in oxygen and put it in the blood.
  • Lastly, and this is often overlooked, we can train the muscles to become more efficient in using the oxygen from the blood.

Great, so how do we do this?

Global Improvements vs. Local Improvements

Before we answer that, it’s helpful to make a distinction between the two types of improvements we’re chasing: global (or systemic) and local (or specific). The first two areas (heart/blood vessels and lungs) are considered to be global changes, while improvements within the exercising muscle are the local changes.

Car analogies are helpful here (even if you’re like me and know diddly about cars). You might think about the global changes as being similar to putting in a bigger gas tank or a better air intake, while local changes might be similar to adding lighter wheels and tires. One is making a change to the engine, or system, while the other is making a change to a specific part to enhance the efficiency of the system already in place.

How to Train for Cardio and Respiratory Fitness

Now, back to what we can do to make these changes in your body.

Cardio

Let’s start with your gas tank, err, I mean your cardiovascular system. Your heart can either be trained to fill up with more blood, or it can be trained to contract more forcefully with each beat. But you can’t do both at the same time. Depending on your training style, your heart will change in different ways. This is vastly oversimplified, but training more aerobically (think endurance athletes) will adapt your heart to fill with more blood, making it “stretchier.” Training anaerobically, on the other hand, will cause an adaptation to your heart, making it thicker and stronger with each beat. Again, this is not absolute, but different training styles trigger different hormonal responses in the body. Without guidance for your training styles, some of those hormones might compete with each other. Therefore, instead of training to become really good at one thing, you might be training to become extremely average at both. Now, for competitive athletes who need aspects of both endurance and strength/power, timing becomes invaluable, and I’ll refer to the great mind of Joel Jamieson on that front.

Respiratory

As for the second part, several different improvements can happen in regard to your lungs, or respiratory system. Let’s focus on the more basic adaptations. First, your lungs will improve in their ability to fill up with more air, similar to the change in the heart we discussed earlier. This is partially due to the strengthening of the respiratory muscles. However, how the ribcage moves (or doesn’t move) during respiration becomes increasingly important so that you don’t reinforce inappropriate breathing muscles. This is a topic for another blog post, but if you’re really curious, check out this in-depth intro to the mechanics of your ribcage during respiration for now.

The other major improvement in your respiratory system I’ll discuss is on a much smaller, even microscopic scale. The way we get oxygen through our lungs is through tiny little sacs, just like the one in the picture here. Each sac is covered in a net of tiny blood vessels called capillaries, which is where the oxygen enters the bloodstream. With proper training this net becomes more dense, which allows more oxygen to enter the blood with each breath. More oxygen means more energy, just like more air into an engine means more power!

Muscular

Lastly, we can make changes in specific muscles if we so desire. It makes sense that a runner would want to train the legs specifically, just as a baseball pitcher trains his arm. One improvement is very similar to the change in the lungs: capillary density. Your muscles have those capillary nets just like your lungs do, and aerobic activity in a particular muscle group triggers more capillaries to form in those areas. Ergo, we get more blood and nutrients to the exercising muscle.

Another major change we see within the muscle is that muscle cell’s ability to actually use the nutrients it’s receiving. So, you have to both get the energy source to the muscle and make sure your muscles are using every possible molecule that they can to generate energy for your training. This happens in a number of ways, such as increasing the size of the muscle cell, increasing the amount of energy-producing mitochondria within the cell, and increased levels of the enzymes responsible for aerobic energy production.

Get Aerobic Improvements, Then Endurance, and Never Get Bored

Of course, the type of training you are doing heavily influences the adaptation you will be stimulating, but for aerobic improvements, these are some of the general mechanisms of those changes. Because the majority of people associate the term “cardio” with high levels of endurance, my assumption is typically that when somebody says, “I need cardio,” what they really mean is, “I get tired really fast during my workouts.” Therefore, it is almost always my priority to place an emphasis on chasing aerobic improvements initially.

After you’ve established a solid aerobic capacity, you can really start to push harder for longer periods if you so desire or require. Remember, your body is smart, but it’s virtually pointless to be training for two completely different goals at one time, only to make crawling progress in each. Instead, if you time your training accordingly, you can consistently make the improvements you desire, and never get bored in your training!

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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: cardio workouts endurance strength strength training aerobic strength and conditioning cardiorespiratory

Powerbuilding: The Middle Ground Between Powerlifting and Bodybuilding

Davin_lift1Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed an increasing trend in bodybuilders and physique athletes migrating toward the sport of powerlifting. I’m no exception. I spent the first eight or so years of my lifting career focused almost exclusively on bodybuilding. Eventually, however, I got tired of the culture, the subjective judging criteria, and the politics involved in the sport. I decided that I’d rather be strong and functional rather than just big and muscular. Over the next couple of years, I began focusing more and more on strength-specific training. Eventually, this led me to my first NIFS Powerlifting Competition back in 2016.

How Are Bodybuilding and Powerlifting Different?

In case you’re wondering how the two sports differ, I’ll go ahead and give a brief overview of each of them. Bodybuilding is a sport that emphasizes muscle size, shape, symmetry, and definition. Competitors train specifically with the goal of inducing hypertrophy in their muscles. Much like a sculptor, they sculpt their own bodies with these specific goals in mind. On the competitive side of things, there’s absolutely zero emphasis on physical performance. It doesn’t matter how much weight you can lift, but rather, it matters how much weight you look like you can lift. The judges make their decisions based on the aforementioned criteria, of course, coupled with their own subjective bias.

Powerlifting, on the other hand, is sport in which athletes are ranked according to their combined strength on three specific barbell movements. They compete in a max squat, bench press, and deadlift. The total amount of weight lifted is added up and then usually a strength-to-weight ratio is calculated using what is called, the Wilks Coefficient.

The Rise of Powerbuilding

Powerbuilding has emerged as a sort of hybridization of the two sports. Bodybuilding and powerlifting each have their own respective training styles and dietary practices that ultimately lend themselves to the specific outcomes of maximizing strength or maximizing hypertrophy. Thus, powerbuilders are essentially bodybuilders who have decided that they want to be as strong as possible, or they are powerlifters who have decided to prioritize aesthetics as well as strength.

To the layperson, it would seem like these two goals should go hand in hand. I mean, it makes sense that a strong person would have big muscles, and a person with big muscles would be strong. Technically, this is true to some degree. Early on, hypertrophy will be the most predominant adaptation seen in response to any resistance training program. In accordance with the principle of “general adaptation syndrome,” as the muscle becomes more adapted to the presented stimulus, it will require greater intensities and more specific overloads to elicit a response. This is where the principle of specificity comes in to play.

Strength Training vs. Hypertrophy Training

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), to most efficiently train for strength, a person should perform 1–3 sets of 8–12 repetitions using a load that is 60–70% of their one-rep maximum (1RM) for novice to intermediate lifters; and 2–6 sets of 1–8 repetitions at 80–100% of their 1RM for advanced lifters.

Inversely, to maximize hypertrophy, the ACSM recommends that a person perform 1–3 sets of 8–12 repetitions at 70–85% of their 1RM for novice to intermediate lifters; or 3–6 sets of 1–12 repetitions at 70–100% of their 1RM for advanced lifters.

The recommended rest periods range from 2–3 minutes when working at higher intensities to 1–2 minutes when using lighter loads. In some training programs you might even see rest periods of 3–5 minutes between sets to allow for optimal recovery and performance on each set.

For more information on resistance training guidelines, see https://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/resistance-training.pdf.

As you can see from the above guidelines, the type of training required to maximize muscle size is different than the type of training to maximize muscle strength. According to a meta-analysis performed by Dr. Brad Schoenfeld in 2016, most of the research has demonstrated that there is a direct correlation between hypertrophy and volume (total sets and reps performed). Since strength-specific training usually consists of training with lower volume at higher intensities, it stands to reason that it is less hypertrophic overall. Even though there is a fair amount of overlap between the two training styles, optimizing muscle size ultimately means sacrificing some muscle strength. The same could be said about strength training. In order to train at higher intensities, the volume must be reduced to avoid injury and overuse.

Make Your Choice

So what does this all mean? Powerbuilding is a tradeoff of sorts. This is especially true when reaching beyond the levels of basic strength and fitness. Initially, the body will react to any sort of resistance training by developing larger and stronger muscles. When that adaptation stops, it starts to become a matter of prioritization. One must choose where they’d rather go. The same could be said about distance running and bodybuilding, or perhaps rock climbing and powerlifting. You can be moderately proficient at both endeavors, but in order to really excel at either, you’ll have to sacrifice the other.

This blog was written by Davin Greenwell, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: muscles powerlifting strength training hypertrophy NIFS Powerlifting Competition bodybuilding powerbuilding