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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Build a Workout Program with Full-Body Training Splits

Screen Shot 2021-06-01 at 2.24.57 PMAs a young trainer, I struggled to find my training style. I spent the first few months trying to make my clients happy, trying to make every session as hard as I could with no real connection between workouts. Our training had no direction; they were individual workouts according to what my clients wanted to work on that day. More times than not, this turned into working out one muscle group for the entire 30 minutes. I did a good job at working one muscle group, but that did not benefit them in the long term. As I grew in my education and as a trainer, I learned that there was a better approach to training: the full-body training split

The Full-Body Split

The full-body training schedule reduces the amount of time you need to spend inside the gym while still working the different muscle groups more than once per week. A typical bro split is push, pull, leg. On that schedule, if you miss one day, you more than likely will not train that muscle group for another week. Now you have gone at least 14 days without training a specific muscle group. By training full-body in each training session, you will never miss hitting your lower or upper body within a week.

Putting It All Together

Using the movement patterns discussed in my previous blog, along with your weekly schedule, you can put together your weekly training schedule. There are a few different ways to schedule your week to make the full-body routine.

Three Days per Week

On a three-day-per-week schedule, your training days should be at least 48 hours apart. An example of an ideal schedule would be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. With this schedule you will hit each movement pattern with at least one exercise per category. There is room, depending on how much time you have, to add more isolation movements at the end. A very basic week would look like this:

Day 1–3: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

  • Bench press
  • Pull-up
  • Back squat
  • Kettlebell deadlift

Four Days per Week

For the four-day-per-week program, you will do a full-body push day and a full-body pull day. The full-body push day will consist of an upper-body press and a lower-body squat pattern. The full-body pull day will consist of an upper-body pull and a lower-body hinge pattern. The workouts can be done back to back at least 24 hours apart. An example of an ideal schedule would be Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. A basic four-day-per-week schedule would look like this:

Days 1 and 3: Monday and Thursday

Days 2 and 4: Tuesday and Friday

  • Deadlift
  • Pull-up
  • RDL
  • Rows

Five and Six Days per Week

This is a more advanced version of the four-day-per-week schedule. You use the same full-body push/ pull split, but with not as many rest days. A five-day-per-week schedule cycles through each week, alternating between push and pull days. Week 1 has three push days and two pull days. Week 2 then starts with a pull day, giving you three pull days and two push days. After a four-week cycle, you will come out with the same amount of push and pull days. A six-day-per-week cycle is much easier to make, with alternating three push days and three pull days. A basic five- or six-day-per-week schedule looks like this:

Days 1, 3, and 5: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

Days 2, 4, and optional 6: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday

Get Help Structuring Your Program at NIFS

For more information on how to properly progress and structure a training program, visit us at the track desk to set up a session. We are more than happy to help at any time, and as a part of your membership here at NIFS, you can receive as many free workout programs as you would like. All programs are tailored to your fitness goals by our health fitness professionals.

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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: muscle building leg day workout programs full-body programming pull push arms training schedule

Push and Pull: The Ideal Workout Program for Restarting Training

GettyImages-1267535453Let’s face it: building your own workouts isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Sure, you probably strike gold a few times a year and the exercises you choose seem to be flawless, from the balance of muscle groups worked to the flow of the routine that you get into. There is nothing better than having that program that just seems to get the job done.


What Workout Program Should You Use When You’ve Taken Time Off from Training?

But let’s say that life happens and you took an extended time off from training due to school, work, or some other important reason (pandemic maybe?). So what now? Where do you go from here? The go-to for many individuals would be to jump right back into the same program they were doing before their long layoff. It worked great for them before their break, so it must be the best way to resume activity, right? More than likely, this might not be the most ideal situation to set yourself up for future success. When your body has become detrained from a long layoff, you run the risk of overtraining—which could possibly lead to those nagging injuries that linger throughout your rebuild process.

Find a Program That Balances Pushing and Pulling

To me, a GREAT training program is a delicate balance of “pushing” and “pulling” exercises. The general consensus of the “push-pull” method is that you alternate (or superset) upper-body push movements (for example, bench press, shoulder press) with upper-body pull movements (for example, bent-over rows, pull-ups). Even the great Arnold Schwarzenegger used this method to pack on loads of muscle when he was at the apex of bodybuilding. Now, are you Arnold? No. Are you trying to look like Arnold? Also no (more than likely). Below you will find another interpretation of the “Push-Pull” method that may better fit those who are restarting their exercise routine, or those who are looking to switch up their programming.

Benefits of Full-Body Workouts

As I mentioned before, the push-pull method often refers to two upper-body exercises from opposite muscle groups (for example, chest and back). The superior version (in my opinion) of this would be to couple either an upper-body push exercise with a lower-body pull exercise, or an upper-body pull exercise with a lower-body push exercise (see table below). This type of full-body workout allows for two main benefits:

  1. Ample rest time is allowed: While the upper body works, the lower body rests (and vice versa).
  2. There is potential for reduced soreness: Instead of hammering one muscle group for a ton of exercises, a more gradual stress is applied to the muscles over multiple workouts. It could also be a great option for returning to exercise or resistance training.

Movement Examples

If you think this type of workout might be what you are looking for, give it a shot. Choose one exercise from column 1 and one exercise from column 2. Alternate those two exercises for the desired number of reps and sets. When finished, either choose one exercise from the same two columns OR switch it up and choose one exercise from column 3 and one exercise from column 4. Remember, the ultimate goal is to match each push movement you perform with an opposite pulling motion.

Column 1 Column 2 Column 3 Column 4

Upper-body Push (chest/
shoulders)

Lower-body Pull (hips/
hamstrings)

Upper-body Pull (back)

Lower-body Push (quads)

Bench Press

Trap Bar Deadlift

Pull-Ups

Front Squat

Strict Shoulder Press

Slider Hamstring Curl

TRX Inverted Row

Step-ups

Half-kneeling Shoulder Press

Single-leg RDL

Band Face Pull

Lunges

Push-up Variations

Lateral Lunge

Seated Row

Split Squat

“Jammer” Press

Reverse Hyper

Dumbbell Reverse Fly

Wall Sit

 

Adjust Your Program Periodically

As with most workout structures, adding wrinkles into the program every so often will allow you to continue the muscular adaptations that are occurring and keep you engaged. That could mean an adjustment to the number of reps, sets, or rest periods you are currently using, or simply choosing different exercises. The ways that you can tweak this kind of program are endless, and I believe that with great effort, you will see positive changes in whatever physical adaptation or change you are after.

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

Topics: injury prevention muscles training lower body upper body workout programs adaptations pandemic full-body pull push restarting workouts

Plank Progression Series

GettyImages-1168143615The plank series needs no equipment, only a wall (if you make it that far). Attempt to complete the plank series in order. Complete the plank progressive series on the days you work out at the end of your workout. If you are x2 days in a row successful and have perfect technique with the exercise, move on to the next progressive variation. You will see that the traditional plank is repeated multiple times and we will add time as you progress along over break. You do not need to do more than what is asked of you. It will be easy at first, but trust me: it gets harder by the end.

Step 1: Build Awareness

The dowel is placed along the spine and is kept in contact with three points: back of the head (not the top), thoracic region (between shoulder blades), and the sacrum (tailbone). This forces you to understand and become aware of proper alignment. Essentially, the dowel serves as your coach. If it rolls off or wobbles, you aren’t in good alignment.

Additionally, the quadruped position is great to begin to develop awareness of optimal alignment because it takes most of the load off the system while still keeping the torso in a very similar position to the abs plank. 

Once you can hold optimal position for 30 seconds, move on to step 2. 

Step 2: Lengthen the Lever Arm

The straight-arm plank is essentially a static hold in push-up position. This takes what we learned in step 1 and adds in some load due to the increased length in the lever arm. The load on the abs here is not as great as on the elbows.

If you cannot hold optimal alignment for 30 seconds, keep working here until you can. If you can maintain optimal alignment without disturbing the dowel, you are ready to move on to step 3.

As I stated above, the elbow plank with dowel increases the load on the torso even further over the straight-arm variation. In other words, it demands more strength and control of optimal alignment.

Step 3: Elbow Plank

Once you can hold this position for at least 30 seconds without much fatigue, you are ready to move on to the advanced progressions that I’ve laid out below.

If you cannot, remain here at level three until you can achieve a 30-second hold without too much fatigue.

Keep in mind that just because you are doing planks, it doesn’t mean that you can do them correctly. The dowel is a simple method of telling you how good your planks really are.

Once you’ve mastered the basic plank with the dowel, you no longer need to use the dowel.

Plank Progressions

Now that you understand what is required to perform an optimal fundamental plank, I can show you the complete progression spectrum from beginner to advanced planks. Once you can maintain optimal alignment here for required times, move on to the next level.

Screen Shot 2021-01-28 at 2.10.59 PM

Level

Plank Progression Exercise

Sets & Time

Notes

1

Half-Kneeling Elbow Plank

2x1min

On knees & elbows

2

Traditional Plank

2x :45 sec

On elbows & toes

3

Push-up Plank

2x :45 sec

Push-up position

4

Plank w/ Leg Lift

2x :20 sec

Push-up position

5

Plank w/ Arm Lift

2x :20 sec

Push-up position

6

Half-Kneeling Side Elbow Plank

2x1min (R/L)

On knee & elbow, hip up, x1 min—R/L

7

Elbow Side Plank

2x :45 sec

On elbow & foot

8

Up/Down Plank

2x :30 sec

Alternating elbow plank to push-up plank continuously

9

Decline Plank

2x :45 sec

On elbows & toes with feet elevated

10

Plank w/Knee to Chest (March)

2x1 min total

Pull knee up to chest & alt R/L every 10-15 secs

11

Side Plank w/ Knee to Chest (March)

2x1 min total

Pull knee up to chest & alt R/L side after 30 secs

12

Side Plank w/ Leg Abduction

2x1 min total

Leg straight and extended upward & alt R/L side after 30 secs

13

Bird-Dog Static Plank

2x:30 sec

Push-up position, bring opposite elbow to knee touching underneath hips and hold (R/L)

14

Bird-Dog Active Plank

2x:30 sec

Push-up position, bring opposite elbow to knee touching underneath hips and then actively extend same arm/leg out and back to touching (R/L) & repeat

15

1-Arm Rotating Plank to Side Plank

2x:30 sec

Starting a traditional plank, take one arm/hand and reach for opposite armpit. Then actively rotate to a side plank and extend the arm to the sky & rotate back to plank (R/L) & repeat

16

Wall Plank

 

On elbows & toes—feet against the wall & elevated

17

Wall Plank w/ Knee to Chest (March)

2x 1 min total

Feet on wall—pull knee up to chest & Alt R/L every 10-15 secs

18

Wall Plank w/ Bird-Dog Static Plank

2x :30sec

Feet on wall—push-up position, bring opposite elbow to knee touching underneath hips and hold (R/L)

 

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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: workouts plank workout programs

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

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

In Training, Consistency Is the Key to Your Fitness Goals

GettyImages-1134374639Consistency is arguably the most important component when working to accomplish goals, in or out of the gym. Without consistency, programs are unorganized, the body has a harder time adapting, and forming habits may be more challenging.

Build and Follow Workout Programming

Whatever your goals may be, they require a consistent level of training for you to reach them. One way to ensure consistency within the scope of your goals is to build a program. Programs make it much easier to stay on track because you won’t have to think about what you’re going to do at the gym today—it’s already written out. Most programs are designed to be followed for a set amount of time, typically about 4 weeks. Depending on the desired goal, the program will have a different focus—hypertrophy, endurance, strength, and so on. Each day is designed with the goal in mind, while ensuring that you are training in a way that minimizes imbalances within the body. If you aren’t following the program consistently, the chance of it working is reduced.

Theoretically, if you have a program and you don’t follow it, the body is not going to be able to adapt to the program because there isn’t an opportunity for progressive overload, which is when the amount of stress on the body is gradually increased over time, leading to increased strength and performance.

Work Toward Adaptations

Biologically, a lot of things happen in the body during exercise. Over time these reactions change the body to become stronger, grow, or run more efficiently. Different factors affect adaptations in everyone, so it’s impossible to predict when these changes will occur. But being consistent with training will increase the likelihood of seeing adaptations sooner.

Different modes of exercise elicit different adaptations. Endurance training will produce different changes than resistance training. While there are far too many adaptations to discuss in this blog, a few examples reported by the CDC include the following:

  • Improved ability of muscles to use fat as energy
  • Stronger ligaments and tendons
  • Increased VO2 max and lactate threshold
  • Increased number of capillaries in muscles
  • Cardiac muscle hypertrophy
  • Increased force production

Each of these changes is beneficial for different scenarios. The body is either becoming more efficient or stronger, or performance is enhanced. However, these long-term benefits are seen only after consistent training over a period of time.

Create Habits

We are creatures of habit. The more we practice something, the more natural it becomes. We experience this when we learn to walk as babies, when we learn to drive, and when we exercise. It’s normal to feel out of your element when you try something new, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you feel.

Current research suggests that to make a habit stick it must be performed for 68 consecutive days. The idea of sticking with something brand new for 68 days may feel overwhelming for some people. When taking on a new challenge, focusing on taking it day by day might be a helpful mindset. Yes, we might be aiming to create a lifelong habit; however, thinking about just starting a habit to last for years could seem daunting. Start by doing it for one day, and then two, and then three, and so on.

Once you feel comfortable with one small change, add another small change, and so on. Small changes are more sustainable over the long term and add up to form new habits. There will likely be days that your plan doesn’t work out how it was supposed to, but that doesn’t mean all progress is lost.

The Takeaway

Our bodies adapt gradually to exercise. In the end, consistency will help you reach your goals. Without it, you might not have enough structure to allow for growth. Work first on figuring out your goals, determine the best route to achieve them, and get started with one step. If you’re not sure how to get started, the trainers at NIFS can help you set goals and develop programs tailored to those goals.

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This blog was written by Hannah Peters, BS, CPT, Health Fitness Instructor. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: goal setting mindset fitness goals workout programs adaptations habits consistency