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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Optimal Movement Patterns for Building Muscle

Screen Shot 2021-01-14 at 1.10.19 PMThe traditional bodybuilding split of working one muscle group per day might work for the dedicated, high-level competitive bodybuilder who makes their living in the gym. But for the general population only looking to shed some unwanted pounds and improve their overall health, the traditional bodybuilding split is not ideal. Working multiple muscle groups in the same session is much more ideal because it ramps up the body’s metabolism more than working a single muscle group each day. To achieve this, we train the movement, not the muscles.

The Four Movement Patterns

There are four main categories in which we categorize the movement patterns: push, pull, squat, and hinge. Each category works a movement while working multiple muscle groups.

Push

This upper-body movement pattern uses all of your “pushing” muscles. The pushing muscles of the upper body include the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Common movements within this category include the following:

Pull

This upper-body movement pattern uses the “pulling” muscles. The pulling muscles of the upper body include the lats and the biceps. There are two different pulling variations, the horizontal pull and the vertical pull. The horizontal pull targets the lower lats and the vertical pull targets the upper portion of the lats. It is important to include both variations in your program. Common movements within this category include the following:

Squat

The squat movement pattern is the pushing movements pattern for the lower body. The squat pattern mainly works the quadriceps and the glutes. This category also includes all single-leg movements. The squat pattern is a large compound movement that should be progressed properly. Common movements in this category include the following:

Hinge

The hinge movement pattern is the pulling movement pattern for the lower body. The hinge pattern is better known as the deadlift. The primary muscles worked during the hinge movement are the hips, hamstrings, and lower back. The deadlift is another exercise that should be progressed properly for safe lifting. On days that you work the hinge pattern, you should do some additional hamstring isolation movements. Common movements for the hinge pattern include the following:

Using the Movement Patterns

Knowing that there are four movement patterns, and which movement pattern works which muscle group, you can build your exercise routines. In a future blog, I will discuss why the full-body program is superior, and how to schedule your week using the movement patterns. In short, you can build your exercise routine by putting together two or more of the movement patterns in one day. After working a muscle group, you don’t want to work that same muscle group for at least 48 hours.

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If you need any help building an exercise program, or want a health professional or personal trainer to put one together for you, come visit us at the Track Desk at any time.

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This blog was written by Evan James, NIFS Exercise Physiologist EP-C, Health Fitness Instructor, and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: weight loss muscles weight lifting weightlifting exercises building muscle movement squat leg day movement patterns pull hinge push

My 4 Takeaways from the Squatober Weightlifting Challenge

GettyImages-1148247238Fall is hands-down one of my favorite times of the year. There’s a crispness in the air, the leaves begin to change, there’s pumpkin-flavored everything, football season is in full swing, and there’s the return of a little phenomenon known as Squatober!

Yes, you read that correctly: SQUATober. Squatober is known as “the world’s largest knee-bending party,” and consists of squatting 5–6 times per week for the entirety of the month of October. Crazy, right? Crazy awesome! The program is written and was originally created by Aaron Ausmus, NCAA D1 shot put champion and strength and conditioning coach. It culminates in a PR party sometime around Halloween (“personal record” for those of you playing at home), and all proceeds from shirts and merchandise are ultimately donated to outfitting a high school weight room in need of some upgrades.

I can almost hear the confusion, apprehension, or flat-out scoffs through the screen. Squatting, and squatting heavy no less, five days a week, every week for a month—why would anyone want to embark on something so outlandish? Well, a lot of strength coaches, fitness professionals, and gym junkies have taken the plunge into Squatober since its inception.

And while I understand that it’s not for everyone, there’s something about stepping up to the plate (or under the bar, I should say) that really appealed to me. It was a "challenge accepted” moment that took me back to the days of being a competitive athlete. Plus, I wanted to be a part of a larger, worldwide phenomenon that ultimately ended in giving back to communities and those in need. There have also been numerous stories of other coaches citing Squatober as the reason they overcame personal struggles such as addiction, mental health struggles, and much more.

After completing the sometimes grueling squat party for the first time last year, I came away with a little more than soreness. Here are my four biggest takeaways after completing Squatober.   

Our bodies are capable of some incredible feats.

Now, I’m not saying I broke the female world record for the back squat. But after squatting for 27 days, my estimated 1-rep max increased by over 10 percent! This definitely exceeded my expectations (seeing as all I wanted to do was make it to the end). And I understand that picking up things and putting them down might not be everyone’s favorite pastime. But if you’ve been debating signing up for that triathlon, or that Spartan race, or picking up trail running, or training to hike to the top of Pike’s Peak, my advice? Just start! It’s never too late, and our bodies are able to do some pretty cool stuff; you may surprise yourself with what you’re able to handle.

Coaches need coaches, too.

I’ve always been more of a nerd when it comes to training. I want to know the ins and outs when it comes to physiology, how certain periodization schemes affect the body’s ability to adapt. I view programming as a puzzle: trying to piece together the optimal exercises, at the correct dose, in the right order, in order to achieve the desired result. But when you do that for numerous clients, athletes, and friends, for hours at a time, week after week, I’ll be honest: I feel a little brain-dead when it comes to my own programming. Having another coach be in charge of the plan, so all I had to do was open my phone, see the workout, and get down to business? That was a huge weight lifted (pun intended). Since completing Squatober, I’ve reached out to colleagues multiple times to get not only their advice but also their take on my programming. I’ve found that this leaves me fresh, more motivated, and honestly more accountable.

If you want to improve a skill, do it every day (or close to it).

I’ll be honest, the first 6–7 days were a little rough. I was waddling around like I was learning to walk for the first time (hello soreness!). But once I progressed into week two and beyond, I noticed a few things. My depth was consistently better. I wasn’t compensating as much (toes turning out, trunk lean). And my bar path remained more constant (not moving forward or back). By addressing my ankle mobility each day, and my hip stability before each lift, the pieces started to come together. This premise holds true for any habit you want to start or any skill you want to learn. Even if you address it for only a minute a day, making your mission constant improvement, even if it’s only 1 percent each session, it can lead to profound results over time.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

This message was echoed from many of my coaches growing up. Similar sentiments float around the fitness industry fairly regularly. “Comfort is the enemy of achievement,” for example. And Squatober was a nice reminder of that. Again, going into week two, knowing that I had another heavy load that would literally be placed on my back, I started to shift my mentality. I began to look forward to the challenge. I wasn’t worried about any soreness that might ensue. I had begun to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Now, I’m not saying we have to be uncomfortable 24/7, 365 in order to achieve results. But rather, what was once uncomfortable became the new normal. We adapt, we overcome. And we ultimately change for the better!

I admittedly was only able to complete some of the workouts this year due to scheduling. And I do want to reiterate that I understand this is not for everyone. Would I program this way for athletes? No. Is this the end-all be-all in terms of workout plans? No. Was it fun? For me it absolutely was. I loved the camaraderie it offered. I loved checking in with former colleagues and coaches as we all progressed from week to week. I loved that I could look back and say, “Yeah, I did that. I made it.”

So, if you are interested in hopping into Squatober next year, you can check out @sorinex or @penandpaperstrengthapp on Instagram for workouts. Don’t be afraid to modify when you need to, either. And at the end of the day? Just have some fun with it while accepting the challenge! Happy lifting!

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Assistant Fitness Center Manager, Health Fitness Instructor, and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: workouts challenge weightlifting coaching squat

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)

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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

Make Training Less Complex with More Complexes

Screen Shot 2020-10-13 at 12.56.26 PMAs 2020 rolls on, a good majority of us are back to work and back inside the gym. If you are like me, with a busy, on-the-go lifestyle, you probably don't have more than an hour to get inside the gym and train. Lucky for you, that’s okay!

By training with a full-body routine utilizing complexes, you can spend less time in the gym and still see the results. This not only saves you time in the gym, but it also allows for more time with family and friends, all while seeing the results you want. One way to accomplish this is through a barbell or kettlebell complex.

What Is a Complex?

A complex is a series of movements that are performed back to back in which the set number of reps is done for a movement before moving to the next. A complex can be performed with a barbell or one or two kettlebells/dumbbells. Each movement within the complex should flow into the next one. A good way to achieve this is to start from the ground and work your way up.

How to Build a Complex

Any number of reps can be done for each movement. The more movements within the complex, the fewer reps you will want to complete for each one. A complex consisting of four to six movements should be kept at one to five reps per movement. If your complex is only two to three movements, you can use higher reps. Some examples of complexes include the following:

Barbell 1

  • Row x 1–5 reps
  • Deadlift x 1–5 reps
  • Hang Power Clean x 1–5 reps
  • Front Squat x 1–5 reps
  • Push Press 1–5 reps

Barbell 2

  • Deadlift x 3–6 reps
  • Clean x 3–6 reps
  • Press x 3–6 reps

Kettlebell or Dumbbell 1

  • Pushup x 1–5 reps
  • Row x 1–5 reps
  • DL x 1–5 reps
  • Clean or Snatch x 1–5 reps
  • Squat x 1–5 reps
  • Press x 1–5 reps

Kettlebell or Dumbbell 2

  • Pushup x 3–10 reps
  • Row x 3–10 reps
  • Swing x 3–10 reps
  • Squat x 3–10 reps

I recommend completing two to three rounds, but you can also work up to as many rounds as possible with good technique. Within each complex there will be a movement that limits the weight for the entire complex, and it is better to start the first round with a weight you think will be too light.

For example, the movement that will decide your weight in Barbell 1 above is the push press. The deadlift might feel easy, but that is okay. By the end of the complex you will be happy you did not go as heavy as possible. Try to do the entire complex without setting down the weight to rest, and remember to complete all of the reps for one movement before moving on to the next movement.

 

Why Should I Implement Complexes?

These complexes are an amazing full-body tool that you can use if you are running low on time for your session, or if you have limited days per week you can come in and train. They are also a great way to add additional volume to your workouts, or can even be used as a finisher at the end to build resilience and touch up your conditioning. If your goal is to be better conditioned, adding a sprint or jog component at the end using pieces such as the echo bike, rower, ski-erg, or SPARC trainer can provide a nice cherry on top of an already stellar total-body workout.

Give these complexes a try to get your blood pumping, and let us know how they go! If you need any technique tips or complete workout programs, come visit us at the track desk for more information on what we offer and how to get that set up!

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This blog was written by Evan James, NIFS Exercise Physiologist EP-C, Health Fitness Instructor, and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: workouts weight lifting weightlifting kettlebell weights strength and conditioning workout programs full-body complexes efficiency

Work Capacity Training with Kettlebells

GettyImages-1001563404The Russian kettlebell is unique among exercise tools. It is an offset-handle weight that travels easily between the legs in a pendulum movement that can be easily seen in the kettlebell swing (two-hand and one-hand swings). If done correctly, the hips hinge straight backward as if you were trying to push a swinging door open while holding a tray. If you squat, even a little bit, there is little rearward movement and the door doesn’t open. Hip power is lost.

The Swing

When I teach future kettlebell instructors, I spend 2 and a half hours on teaching the swing. It is that complicated, and as you will see, that important. Hopefully, a future instructor can take that information and skills and teach a client how to do a reasonable swing in 10 to 20 minutes, reasonable enough to get through a workout. Regardless of how long someone has been lifting kettlebells, their swing skills can always be improved.

That hip hinge swing movement is used for kettlebell cleans and for the glamour lift, the kettlebell snatch. Without proper swing skills, it is impossible to progress very far into the art of kettlebell lifting and to truly get the unique rewards of kettlebell lifting.

Weight Exercises

Kettlebells are a weight and can be used for typical weight exercises—sometimes successfully, sometimes passable, and many times just plain head-shaking stupid. What most people miss is what the Russians discovered a long time ago. In one-on-one athletics, the first athlete to fatigue is likely to lose. In military hand-to-hand combat, the first soldier to fatigue is likely to die. The repeatable hip hinge–based movements (swings, cleans, snatches, clean and press, clean and push press, and clean and jerks) are tremendously effective in building strength/endurance, and work capacity. The variables are time of lifting, reps per minute, and of course the amount of weight used.

Tasha Nichols, a group fitness instructor here at NIFS, won her 58Kg weight class in Dublin, Ireland 2015, doing the one-arm snatch for 10:00 (hand switch at the 5:00 mark) with a 16kg KB with a total of 203 repetitions. The time was 10:00, averaging just over 20 reps per minute, and the weight was 16kg (35.3 pounds). That is work capacity!

Work Capacity Kettlebell Workout

Here is a little workout to give you an idea what work capacity training feels like.

Maxwell Circuit

  • Swings: 15 
  • Goblet Squats: 5
  • Push-up: 5
  • One-arm row: 5/5

That is 1 round and the workout is a minimum of 8 rounds and a maximum of 15. Rest long enough to complete the next round but no longer. Swings can be done with a dumbbell if a kettlebell is not available. Be careful when holding a dumbbell by the bell end. It can slip.

Block off the space you’re using to swing anything. Children and pets can walk in when they are least expected

Goblet Squat is done with the weight held at chest level. If this bothers your shoulders, hold the weight at arm’s length between your legs but be sure to actually squat. Do not allow it to become a sloppy deadlift.

Kettlebell Training

Training with kettlebells properly, anyone can seriously improve their strength and endurance. Like most activities, you must put in the time to practice and get better to see real results. Interested in learning more about kettlebell lifting and how you can increase your work capacity? Contact Rick Huse for more information. 

Enjoy the pain!

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, CSCS, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness center workouts nifs staff endurance weightlifting strength kettlebell work capacity

STRENGTH: 6 Expert Weightlifting Tips to Be Stronger Than Ever

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

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

Get Strong Tips from Dan John

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

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

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

A Challenge to Prepare for the Upcoming Powerlifting Competition

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

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

Here is how I set up my challenge that may help you develop yours. I can’t stress enough that this is what worked for me. It may not work for you, but it could be well worth the try.
Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 3.00.04 PM.png

I found that after completing this 40-workout challenge, not only did I add pounds to my big lifts, but many of the other tasks in my life became easier. The other aspect of this challenge I really, really liked was that due to its simplicity, I can turn my brain down a bit and just lift. It provided that escape from our day-to-day tasks that I think we all need from time to time.

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

Screen Shot 2019-09-12 at 9.57.52 AM

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

Topics: NIFS weightlifting strength powerlifting

Five Great Things About the 5th Annual NIFS Powerlifting Competition

IMG_0151Almost five years ago, the team and I hosted the first ever powerlifting event here at NIFS. Also known as the Iron Triathlon (shirt slogan spoiler alert), the first year was a modest one with 25 athletes competing. This year, the competition registration sold out in just under three days! From our humble beginnings to this year’s event, it’s been a ride. There has been so much hard work, resulting in so many smiles and victories for both the athletes and the crew. We have learned a lot from year one to now, and we have developed from our challenges and gotten better each year.

As we near this year’s NIFS Powerlifting Competition coming up on November 10, I found myself wondering what were some of the best things that have happened in the five years of this event. Here are the five best results to come from the past five years.

Growth

As mentioned before, our first event consisted of 25 athletes who put on a great show and set the tone for years to come. The next year we doubled our registration. Obviously the word got out that the athletes, event staff, and environment were second to none. We increased again the third year and sold out the 4th and 5th annual competitions. The team and I couldn’t be prouder to provide such a great event that athletes and spectators are flocking to Indianapolis to compete in and witness.

“The competition was amazing and it was extremely smooth from setup to setup. I will definitely recommend NIFS to anyone, and the crew you had there was stellar. I’ve volunteered for a few powerlifting meets myself and I understand how exhausting just setting everything up can be. The atmosphere was great.”
—Damon Bryant

Competition

As the number of registrations rose, so did the level of competition. Athletes were coming from other states to compete, and they all brought their talents to Indy to win. We have seen Squats and Deadlifts over 700 pounds and Bench numbers surpassing the 300 and even 400-pound mark. Our first event had five female athletes competing; this year there are 22! It’s awesome to see so many strong women competing.

"I would say that this is a great first meet for any beginner powerlifter or anyone interested in pushing their body to their weightlifting limits. It gives you the chance to compete against people around your body type and ultimately see what you're made of."   
—Tyler Mullen

Comradery

IMG_0363One thing we hear a lot is how inclusive and supportive the environment is on event day. Even though athletes arrive to be victorious over one another, they all support and cheer on each other to do their best. I think the sport of powerlifting is just this way, but I also think the NIFS event intensifies the comradery among these athletes. It sounds corny, but there is something in the air that day, something that reinforces that it’s “WE” and not just “I.”

"I loved how encouraging everyone was. Even though it was a competition, people were constantly saying ‘you can do it’ or ‘great job’. High-fives were everywhere and it was awesome. PLUS all the free goodies—what college kid doesn’t love free stuff?"  
Madison Stewart

Victories

One of the coolest aspects of our event is that, for many, it’s their first competition. As a non-sanctioned meet, it’s a great first step to see whether the sport of powerlifting is for you. So many first-time lifters, those who maybe once thought they couldn’t succeed in this kind of competition, have not only competed, but have taken home some hardware. There’s nothing like witnessing someone take on their fears and conquer them; it is so powerful!

"This was my first powerlifting meet, and I was a little nervous coming in not really knowing what to expect. However, EVERYONE was very nice, including the staff running the event and the competitors that were competing. After doing several powerlifting meets after this one, this one ran the smoothest and fastest by far. It was an amazing atmosphere with lots of spectators and everyone cheering you on every single lift.”
—Bailey Schober

Athletes

The amazing staff and crew are responsible for providing an energetic and smooth event, and so many thanks go out to each team over the past four years. But it’s the athletes who put on the show. I have had the great pleasure to meet and work with some pretty outstanding individuals during the past four years of this competition. These athletes work so hard for so long to put it all on the line that day, and they do such a phenomenal job. Of all the enjoyable aspects of this event, being around all these amazing athletes is by far my favorite. Having the opportunity to learn about them, maybe meet their families that day, and be able to give them that last word of encouragement before their last attempt at a PR—it lights me up! I know I speak for the entire crew that we cannot wait to get underway on November 10!

“NIFS is one of my favorite competitions each year because of the great people that make it all possible. Thank you for hosting such a great event that I look forward to returning to each year!”
—Ben Poore

So if you are interested in seeing why this event is so awesome, put it on your calendar for November 10, and witness the spectacle and a bunch of bars bending. Lifting begins at 9am, and it’s a measly $5 per person. Kids 12 and under get in free. We hope to see you all there!

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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 staff NIFS programs weightlifting Indianapolis competition NIFS Powerlifting Competition

Get a Grip: Exercises to Increase Your Grip Strength

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

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

Exercises That Increase the Strength of Your Grip

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

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

Let a NIFS Health Fitness Specialist Help Increase Your Strength

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

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

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

Topics: NIFS weightlifting exercises grip strength grip carries fitness assessment

Powerlifting Prep Lesson #3: The Deadlift

IMG_4534.jpgIn my previous posts, Powerlifting Prep Lesson #1: The Squat and Powerlifting Prep Lesson #2: The Bench, we took a look at how managing the three key principles of mobility, stability, and tension can have a huge impact on your ability to perform those two lifts at a high level while decreasing the chance of injury. We turn now to the big daddy of them all, the deadlift!

This hinging/pulling lift is easily one of the most popular lifts on the planet, and everybody wants to pull a huge bar from the ground and slam it back down. There really is no feeling like it. And not only does it look pretty cool on Instagram, the deadlift is one of the most functional exercises you can do that transfers very nicely to the outside world. Since the dawn of time we have picked up heavy things and set them back down, essentially doing deadlifts day in and day out. In the powerlifting world, the deadlift is where champions can be forged, or injuries suffered.

So let’s break down this giant lift, focusing on the three key principles introduced earlier:

  • Mobility: The full range of motion of a particular joint(s).
  • Stability: Alignment, with integrity, under load.
  • Tension: Defined with terms such as stiffness and phrases like “bending the bar,” and “spread the floor.”

Mobility

You might think that mobility would not play a big role in this lift, but like most weightlifting movements, it’s imperative. I hope I have done a good job in this series of posts to stress that it all starts with mobility. Strength, power, endurance, and any physical attribute must start at mobility, if you want to be the best that there is. The deadlift is no exception; and if you can’t touch your toes, you probably need to take a few steps back before heavy loading the deadlift.

The deadlift is a hinge pattern, so we will start there by focusing on the active straight-leg raise to monitor and improve the mobility of that pattern. A great place to start is with a leg-lower exercise or a kettlebell butt touch exercise to help improve your mobility for the deadlift.

Stability

For stability, take one more look at the active straight-leg-raise pattern to ensure you capture the mobility you gained through the two movements described above. The lying leg raise with core activation looks a lot like the leg-lowering exercise from above, as it should, but here you are adding stability to the mobility you just gained. Trunk stability is key in the deadlift; without it, spines tend to hyper-flex and lead to injury. Planks and plank variations are always a great place to start, as well as loaded carries and dynamic-stability movements such as a sandbag plank drag to challenge and train the musculature of the trunk so you can pull more weight safely.

Next, and just as with the squat and the bench, intra-abdominal pressure will also be key in pulling the most weight possible. Remember to “fill the can” by inhaling fully and pressing the air against your belt during the set-up and first phase of the deadlift. This again will help fire all of the muscles of the trunk to provide maximum stability during the lift. If you want to learn more about breathing and stability in loaded movements, check out this article from Mike Reinold as he breaks down this concept even more.

Tension

Tension in the deadlift starts with grip! Many studies correlate grip strength to overall strength, so the stronger the grip the bigger the deadlift. Loaded carries and all the variations are my go-to to help train grip strength as well as any pulling motions such as chin-ups and inverted rows.

In the other two lifts I referred to “bending the bar” as a cue to create tension in the system (body) during the lift. In the deadlift, I want you to think about taking that tension out of the bar by preloading the system before pulling the bar from the ground. Pull the bar toward your body without it leaving the ground; you should hear the plates make a kind of clicking noise. This will fire the lats and other spinal musculature to brace before accepting the load of the bar. Ideally in doing so, your entire body will move as one system, like a crane lifting a two-ton I-beam. This will make you a stronger unit to pull the bar off the ground and help eliminate hyper-flexing in the spine that can lead to a bad injury.

***

Executed correctly, the deadlift is a super-functional and super strength-building exercise. It is also one of the more exciting lifts in any powerlifting competition, and it’s sure to make some noise once again at the NIFS 5th Annual Powerlifting Competition coming up on November 10. Registration is full, but you should still come out and support all the athletes competing. It is a great show of strength, competition, and sportsmanship and great way to spend a Saturday morning in November!

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

Topics: NIFS weightlifting powerlifting competition mobility deadlift stability tension