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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Pull-ups Quickly

GettyImages-855620696Pull-ups are a great muscle-building exercise. However, many of us struggle to even do one or enough reps to truly take advantage of the muscle-building rewards of this exercise. In this blog I explain why that is, tell you how to improve your pull-ups, and give you a full pull-up progression intended to take you from 0, 1, 2, 3… up to 10 pull-ups in a row or moreLet’s be honest, pull-ups are difficult. First off, whether you weigh 100 pounds or 350, that will be the weight you will have to overcome with each rep. Secondly, pull-ups engage more than just your back. You may or may not have a big back and bicep muscles but still can’t do more than one or two pull-ups. No matter how big the muscles in your back and biceps are, if you have weak links in the chain of movement, you will still be limited in your ability to do more pull-ups.

Change Your Training for Strength

The first step to improving your pull-ups is to change your training for strength improvements. Based on where you are at, I like to break it down into three groups:

  • Group 1: 0–4 pull-ups
  • Group 2: 5–7 pull-ups
  • Group 3: 8, 9 and break through to 10

Group 1: 0–4 Pull-ups

If you are in the group 1 category, you currently can’t do a pull-up, or can’t do more than 4 in a row. You need to quickly build strength with a couple of exercises I like to do.

The first is inverted rows, which can be done under a bar in a rack or with the TRX Straps in the horizontal plane. 

The second exercise is negative pull-ups to assist and train your body in a vertical plane. With negative pull-ups you will work on lowering (descending) for time, adding seconds to each rep as you progress. Make sure to fight the lowering in a full range of motion. Do not hold yourself in the up position and then just fall. Control the descent for the full range.

Group 2: 5–7 Pull-ups

Group 2 is further along and ready for pull-up progressions. This is when we will build up volume and work toward getting in 2–3 sets, with the goal of reaching toward 20–30 reps completed. We will add assisted pull-ups to allow for reducing the amount of resistance you need to overcome reps the higher volume.  An easy way to do assisted pull-ups is to use a larger resistance band and loop it around the rack, giving you a platform to stand on while assisting your pull-ups. 

Group 3: 8–10 Pull-ups

Group 3 is essentially going to repeat what group 2 is doing but adding weight to your pull-ups to help you break through to 10. Adding weight can be as easy as adding a weight belt with 5 pounds on it or putting a 5-pound dumbbell between your feet. When you are doing the banded assisted pull-ups, start to use smaller, thinner resistance bands to stand on.

All Groups: Work on Core, Scap Retractions

All three groups need to work on weak-link areas as well. First is core work; as I stated earlier, pull-ups are difficult and place concentrated demands on the core, also a known weak link. I like to use Planks and Hollow Rocks. Next, you need to work on scap retractions, and you can do small pulls to train it with scapular pull-ups and face pulls.

Shoulder Prehab

Start with prehab exercises. Prehab exercises should be used to bomb-proof your body and potentially prevent future injuries. The overall goal of prehab exercises is to increase durability in your physical activities with better-quality movements, which will improve performance and overall health. Here are two I like to start with. Pick one that works for you for today’s pull-up workout.

Option 1: Shoulder Prehab—Light Weights

x10 reps each
Standing: I, Y, T, W’s, Scap Taps
Lying: I, Y, T, W’s, Overhead Scap Taps

Option 2: Shoulder Prehab—Bands

x10 reps each
Standing: Band Pull-Aparts with Bent Elbows, Banded Figure 8's, Band Pull-aparts with Long Straight Arms
Banded Over & Backs
Half-Kneeling Lunge: Diagonal Pull-aparts with Long Straight Arms

The Pull-up Workouts

Now that you are warmed-up and have bomb-proofed your body, let’s begin the pull-up workout. Here’s the strategy to vastly improve your pull-ups. Reference your pull-up ability and progress accordingly from there. This is a full back workout performed once a week.

Group 1: 0–4 Pull-ups

Inverted Rows (under bar or TRX straps): 3–4 sets or 8–12 reps
Negative pull-ups: 3–5 sets or 3–5 reps  ** FULL RANGE OF MOTION**
(Starting out 3x3 reps at 3s descents… progressing to 5x5 at 5s descents for each rep.)
Elbow or Push-up Plank: 3 sets of :30s–2mins
(Starting out with 3x sets at :30s… progressing to 2mins eventually)
Alternating your workouts with Scapular Pull-ups and Face Pulls: 3–4 sets or 8–12 reps with 2s holds
(Hanging from pull-up bar, squeeze scapular muscles, as if beginning the pull-up motion and hold for 2s for each rep. Next workout alternate with Face Pulls, keep elbows up and thumbs toward temples, again squeeze scapular muscle for 2s.)

Group 2: 5–7 Pull-ups

Pull-ups: Sets of 2–5 reps aim for 20–30 reps total.
Assisted Pull-ups w/larger resistance bands: Mirror how many sets/reps you accomplished with pull-ups previously. Shooting for the same.
Inverted Rows (under bar or TRX straps): 2–3 sets or 8–12 reps
Alternating your workouts with Elbow or Push-up Plank and Hollow Rocks: 3 Sets of :30s–2mins
Alternating your workouts with Scapular Pull-ups and Face Pulls: 2–3 sets or 10–15 reps with 2s holds

Group 3: 8–10+

Weighted Pull-ups: Sets of 2–5 reps, aim for 20–30 reps total.
(If you are just getting into group 3 and graduated up from group 2, start back over with reps and sets you began that group with; you are adding weight to your pull-ups now.)

Example, group 2

I started with 3x4 reps and progressed to 5x6 reps. Now do the same but with weight.

Assisted Pull-ups w/smaller resistance bands: Mirror how many sets/reps you accomplished with pull-ups previously. Shooting for the same +2 reps. Try to do a little bit more volume.
Inverted Rows (under bar or TRX straps): 2–3 sets or 8–12 reps
Alternating your workouts with Elbow or Push-up Plank and Hollow Rocks: 3 Sets of 1–2mins
Alternating your workouts with Scapular Pull-ups and Face Pulls: 3 Sets or 10–15 Reps with 2s holds

Use the Plan Once a Week

That’s it! Use the plan once a week to improve your pull-up potential. You will want to max out and test your pull-ups once a month to see if you are making progress and moving up groups to level up your strength gains.

As with any workout, to make gains, you must start somewhere, you must stay consistent, and you must work hard. Don’t be discouraged that you can’t do pull-ups yet. Stay the course and you will be blown away when you quickly increase your pull-up strength!

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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 core muscle building strength training prehab pull-ups

Upper-body and Lower-body Warm-up Routines

GettyImages-641796518I am often asked what is a good warm-up routine, and my answer typically consists of, “it depends.” A warm-up is typically done at the beginning of a training session and involves low-intensity movements to help get your body ready. The reason I tend to say “it depends” is that your goals, limitations, and what kind of training you have planned for a specific day will dictate your optimal warm-up.

Tailoring Your Warm-up

Now, a warmup does not have to be something innovative, but you do want to perform movements that will mirror your actual workout session. For example, if you have a lower-body day, I would recommend warming up with lower-body movements (and the same for the upper body).

How Long Should a Warm-up Be?

The time a warmup should last can range from 5 minutes to 10 minutes depending on how you are feeling that specific day. If you feel ready to go or have a time limitation, staying closer to that 5-minute limit would be best. If you are feeling a little tired and have no time restriction, then closer to 10 minutes would work better.

Sample Warm-ups

Here I provide a quick sample warmup for a lower-body day and an upper-body day. I do want to emphasize that this is a very basic warmup and it is not meant to fix any compensation that you may have.

Lower-body Warm-up

Perform 2 rounds for 10 repetitions for each exercise. If an exercise is unilateral, perform 10 repetitions for each side.

  1. Glute Bridge x 10
  2. Glute Bridge with Marches x 10e
  3. Downward Dog x 10
  4. Shoulder Taps x 10e
  5. ½-Kneeling Hip Stretch x 10e

Miniband Series: Perform 10 repetitions for each exercise. If an exercise is unilateral, perform 10 repetitions for each side.

  1. Squat (miniband around top of knees)
  2. Standing Marches (miniband goes around shoes)
  3. Standing Hip Circles (miniband goes around ankles)
  4. Lateral Walks (miniband goes around ankles)
  5. Monster Walks (miniband goes around ankles)

Upper-body Warm-up

Perform 2 rounds for 10 repetitions for each exercise. If an exercise is unilateral, perform 10 repetitions for each side. You will need a Superband for this as well.

  1. Sidelying Thoracic Rotation
  2. Downward Dog
  3. Superband Chest Press
  4. Superband Chest Fly
  5. Superband Pull Apart

As you can see, you do not have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the warm-up, but you do want to make sure that the warm-up will get you ready for your workout.

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: workouts warmups lower body upper body low-intensity warm-up

Plan a Fun Workout with a Deck of Cards

GettyImages-182243945Looking for a simple and fun way to plan your own workout? You can use a deck of playing cards to determine which exercises to do and how many reps. Here are the steps for planning this game-based workout.

Determine Your Workout Goal

What kind of workout do you want to accomplish? Is it cardio based, strength based, or a combo of both? Once you have determined this, choose exercises that coincide with your workout goal. For example, if you want to do a cardio-based workout, you will need an exercise designed to raise your heart rate, like hill sprints, sled pushes, or timed intervals on the rower. If your goal is strength-based, you need to choose resistance exercises like dumbbell bent-over rows, barbell bench presses, or bodyweight air squats. If you want to mix it up, pick exercises that are combo of strength and cardio that can do both, like dumbbell thrusters (front squat to push presses) or burpee to box jumps. 

Select four exercises. Assign each exercise to a suit in the deck of cards. For example, here’s a quick view of suits for a combo workout:

  • Spades: Dumbbell thrusters
  • Clubs: Rowing (x50m for every # on card)
  • Hearts: Barbell bench press
  • Diamonds: Air squats
  • Jokers: (Wild card or rest break) x5 flights of stair climbs followed by a 2–5-minute rest.

Know Your Numbers

The number on the card is representative of the number of reps you'll perform. For instance, a 2 represents x2 reps, an 8 represents x8 reps, and so on. However, Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Aces can get tricky. You have a couple of options. You could choose to assign each face card the equivalent of x10 reps, so no matter which face card you draw, you always perform the same number of reps. As an alternative, to make it more challenging, assign each face card a different number of repetitions: Jack x11 reps, Queen x12 reps, and King x13 reps. For the Ace card, decide whether to make it a face card, assigning it the equivalent of x10 or more reps, or you can treat it as a x1 rep, assigning a single repetition. Whichever way you decide, the number or number equivalent of the card you draw from the deck is the number of reps you'll perform. Jokers are your wild cards or rest breaks. I typically use them to designate a rest or break within the workout with a special extra exercise before taking the rest break.

# of Reps
Ace = 1 rep, 10 or 14 reps, player's choice
2 through 10 = 2 through 10 reps
Jack = 10 or 11 reps, player's choice
Queen = 10 or 12 reps, player's choice
King = 10 or 13 reps, player's choice
Joker = Rest or player’s choice

Shuffle Up and Deal

Start your workout, perform the designated exercise for the assigned number of reps, and immediately pull another card from the deck after completing each exercise. Continue drawing cards and performing exercises until you finish the amount of cards you want to do for your workout, or until you have done all 52 cards.

Sample Workouts

Here are four different workouts that I have done in the past with my athletes. 

Workout: 52-card Pickup—Upper-body Strength

Goal: Complete reps to the corresponding card. Shuffle up the deck and complete the entire 52 cards

  • Face cards = 10 reps

First Half of Deck

  • Hearts = Barbell bench press
  • Diamonds = Wide-grip pulldowns
  • Spades = E-Z bar preacher curls
  • Clubs = E-Z bar skull crushers
  • Jokers = Manual resistance x5 reps of previous card pulled followed by 2-minute rest period

Second Half of Deck

  • Hearts = DB triple press (high/low/flat) broken up and rotating between cards
  • Diamonds = Seated wide-grip rows
  • Spades = DB hammer curls
  • Clubs = Cable/rope triceps OH press-outs
  • Jokers = Manual resistance x5 reps of previous card pulled followed by x2min rest period

Workout: 52-card Pickup—Strength and Cardio

Goal: Complete reps to the corresponding card. Shuffle up the deck and complete the entire 52 cards.

  • Face cards = x:20secs
  • Jokers = Sprint the distance and rest
  • Hearts = BOSU jumps—stick and hold (alt. direction of jumps)
  • Diamonds = Box step-ups w/sandbags
  • Spades = Med-ball slams (any variations)
  • Clubs = BOSU push-ups (alt. exercises) OR plyo push-ups
  • Jokers = x200m run (x1 lap) and 2-minute water break

Workout: 52-card Pickup—Cardio and BW Strength

Goal: Complete reps to the corresponding card. Shuffle up the deck and complete the entire 52 cards.

Sprint the distance associated with the suit on the card on a soccer or football field.

  • Hearts = x1 width of field sprint
  • Diamonds = x1 down and back width of field sprint
  • Spades = x1 length of field sprint
  • Clubs = x1 down and back length of field sprint
  • Jokers = Rest
  • Red cards = Push-ups
  • Black cards = Sit-ups

Workout: 52-card Pickup—Full-Body and Cardio Combo

Goal: Complete reps to the corresponding card. Shuffle up the deck and complete the entire 52 cards.

  • Face cards = 10 reps

Part I: Full-Body

  • Hearts = MB burpee slams
  • Diamonds = BOSU GUGDs
  • Spades = Push-ups plank shoulder taps (R/L)
  • Clubs = Plate halos R/L
  • Jokers = 200m (red lanes) sprint followed by 2-minute rest

Part II: Cardio

  • Hearts = Sled drive (10m for every card #)
  • Diamonds = Jump rope (x20 skips for every card #)
  • Spades = Rowing (x50m for every card #)
  • Clubs = Airdyne bike springs (x:10s for every card #)
  • Jokers = Stair climb to top of NIFS (hallway) followed by 2-minute rest

Part III

  • Hearts = Sledgehammer strikes
  • Diamonds = Sandbag clean and press
  • Spades = BOSU hand release push-ups
  • Clubs = KB swings

FINISHED!

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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: cardio workouts total-body workouts strength workout

Pre-heat the Oven: Your Warm-up Guide to Maximizing Your Workout

GettyImages-629588986The “perfect” workout rarely happens. Every so often, you may have one of those training sessions where every block flows smoothly and programmed repetitions and sets are executed flawlessly. But for most days, there will be missed reps, you may feel more fatigued than you think you should, or the workout may not come together as you hoped it would. That is fine. Your goal should be to strive to be as close to perfect as possible, with the understanding that it may not always happen.

Prepare for the “Perfect” Workout

A ”perfect” workout cannot happen without preparing your body to perform in the correct way. Preparation in this instance is in reference to your warm-up and what you are doing to get your body ready to do what is on your program. Always remember the 5 P’s:

Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.

Without a good warm-up, you can’t strive for the perfect workout and you are further set up for underachieving in the movements you will do for the day.

What Should Your Warm-up Look Like?

About five years ago as a younger strength coach, the dynamic warm-up was always my go-to. Plyometric day? Dynamic warm-up. Squat day? Dynamic warm-up. Bench day? Dynamic warm-up. Speed/agility day? You guessed it, dynamic warm-up. The dynamic warm-up has its place, obviously, when you are going to sports practices or training sessions that will require multidirectional movement, but as I grew in my knowledge base I asked myself one question: Shouldn’t your warm-up get you ready for what you or your athletes are actually going to do for their workout?

A Guide to Common Training Sessions

Below is a quick guide on some points to think about for common training sessions as you approach and build what might be one of the most important aspects of your workout day.

Plyometric Day

Mobility: Ankle and Hip (could add T-Spine if doing upper-body plyometrics)

Warm-up: Core, Jump Rope, Line Skaters, Lateral Line Hops, Small Box Jumps

Speed and Agility Day

Mobility: Ankle and Hip

Warm-up: Core, Dynamic Warm-up (Hi, old friend!), low-intensity plyometrics (i.e. skips, hops, bounds), agility ladders

Upper-body Day

Mobility: Thoracic Spine

Warm-up: Core, Rotator Cuff/Shoulders, lower-intensity exercises that mimic the bigger lifts for the day

Lower-body Day

Mobility: Full Body (ankles, hips, t-spine)

Warm-up: Hips (band/monster walks), Goblet Squats (squat/quad dominant day), Hinge Work (good mornings, hip thrusts, etc.) for deadlift day

The Staples of an Efficient Warm-up

As you can see, an efficient warm-up really consists of three staples: mobility of the joints you will be using that day, core (you are always stabilizing), and smaller, low-intensity movements that will mirror the bigger movements you are going to perform. An old coach from my college football days used to preach at us on the regular that, “You practice how you want to play.” Well, Coach Alex is offering the same sentiment: “You warm up with the same intent as how you want your training session to go.”

When you bake a cake, you don’t mix the batter, put it in the oven, and then turn it on. That gets you crappy cake. You pre-heat the oven. Always preheat the oven.

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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: workouts plyometric speed warming up lower body upper body movement agility warm-up

High-Intensity Circuit Training: Time-Efficient Results

Triple Threat with Jessie_poster newWith the world now instantly accessible through technology, it’s easy to understand why a growing number of people expect things to be done in a shorter amount of time. Like many others, I’m a big fan of things that are fast and effective, and that includes my workouts. High-intensity circuit training does just that by providing an effective and convenient way to increase exercise results in less time.

Whether you’re a career-driven adult or hardworking student, you’re probably a time-conscious person, so it may not be realistic to devote half of your week to aerobic and strength training separately. To really hammer this home, let’s do the math:

ACSM’s standard guidelines for aerobic training recommend 75–150 minutes a week of exercise, depending on the intensity. Let’s say you do 30 minutes of moderately intense cardio 4 days per week. That’s 120 minutes. Now let’s add strength training. Typically done 2–3 days each week, strength training should hit each major muscle group in 2–4 sets with 8–12 repetitions per set. Depending on the muscle group, this could take you 45–90 minutes. Average that out to about 60 minutes, 3 days a week. That’s 180 minutes. 180 + 120 = 300 minutes of time spent in the gym. 300! That’s as impractical as it is exhausting. Honestly, I’m tired just from doing the math on that.

With HICT, you’re combining both traditional training methods into one complete, high-energy workout that you’ll leave with a muscle and endorphin pump. Plus, you’ll be in and out of the door in less than an hour. What more could you ask for?

Benefits of High-Intensity Circuit Training

The concept of high-intensity circuit training is simple. By increasing the intensity of exercises that elevate the heart rate and limiting rest time, HICT can prompt greater gains in a shorter amount of time. In several studies, it’s been proven that the benefits of this type of training surpass those of the traditional protocols of aerobic and strength training. Let’s start with fat loss.

If you’re looking to lose excess body fat, tone up, or lean out, this type of training is the ticket. The strength training component accelerates the amount of fat burned during the workout. When this is paired with little rest between sets, the aerobic and metabolic benefits skyrocket, with results lasting up to 72 hours after the session. Even more interesting, the combination of high-intensity aerobic activity and resistance training may have a greater impact on subcutaneous fat loss. This is the type of fat that is troublesome for some people around their waistline, hips, and other areas.

Another significant benefit is the fact that HICT elicits the same if not greater gains in VO2 max, or peak oxygen uptake, when compared to traditional steady-state cardiovascular exercise. With the exercise volume substantially lower, high-intensity circuit training easily stands up to its traditional counterpart in improving cardiopulmonary health.

Other benefits of HICT include

  • Improved strength across all major muscle groups
  • Increased stability and movement efficiency
  • Lowered stress levels
  • Improved mental health
  • Increased adaptability to regressions and progressions of exercises
  • Saving time during the week that would have otherwise been spent on traditional programs

Sample HICT Program

Strength exercises for this type of program should be in an order of opposing muscle groups. For example, an upper-body station would be followed by a lower-body station. This allows the individual to have alternating rest and work throughout the circuit. On the same note, a highly intense aerobic exercise should be followed by an exercise with a low to moderate intensity. An example of this would be burpees followed by a stationary plank. If this is executed correctly, you should successfully complete these exercises at fast and intense pace with minimal rest. A typical format for a HICT session is as follows:

  • 9–12 exercise stations
  • 15–20 repetitions or 30 seconds of work
  • 30 seconds or less of rest time
  • 2–3 sets/rounds

What’s Next?

Not all programs are created equal, and traditional workouts are still the most effective methods if you want to specifically improve your strength and power or aerobic endurance. However, if you are looking for a new and exciting type of workout that helps you burn fat and build muscle in a short amount of time, HICT is worth a try! Our newest class at NIFS, Triple Threat, uses this type of format across three different areas of fitness: cardio, strength, and power. Join in on the class and start your journey to better health!

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This blog was written by Jessica Phelps, BS, ACE CPT, Health Coach. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Sources: https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/high-intensity-interval-training.pdf
https://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/fulltext/2013/05000/high_intensity_circuit_training_using_body_weight_.5.aspx

Topics: cardio group fitness workouts muscles strength power high intensity circuit training high-intensity circuit training

Try Cluster Set Training to Get Stronger Faster

GettyImages-524703038If you are an athlete, powerlifter, or just a person who loves to see progress, you might want to try out cluster set training. This is an advanced type of training designed to get you stronger faster than traditional set training.

Traditional Set Training and Cluster Set Training Defined

Traditional set training is typically what everyone at the gym does when lifting weights: you perform a set of continuous repetitions and then rest. An example of this would be Barbell Back Squatting 3 sets for 8 reps.

Cluster set training is performing the same amount of sets and reps, but instead of continuous repetitions, you perform 1 or 2 reps and then rest, then repeat the same reps until you get to your desired rep goal. An example of this would be Barbell Back Squatting 3 sets for 8 reps, but those 8 reps are divided into clusters of 1 or 2 reps followed by a short rest period. You also typically want to rest 15 to 30 seconds between each cluster to get the desired effect.

Why Cluster Set Training Works So Well for Strength and Power

The reason cluster set is so beneficial for strength and power gain is that it allows you to continue to train at close to max or max effort longer than traditional set training would. The reason is that you get short bouts of rest in between your set, which decreases repetition fatigue. Another reason it works is that you are increasing your motor unit synchronization and decreasing your reciprocal inhibition, which allows you to get stronger. Those last two are neural mechanisms that occur during training, especially max effort training.

How to Add Cluster Set Training to Your Workout

The best way to implement this in your training is to use cluster set training with your main lifts: Power Clean, BB Back Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift. One thing to note is that this type of training is designed to improve strength and power gains and not necessarily hypertrophic gains (an increase in muscle mass). If your main goal is to increase muscle mass, I would recommend sticking to a traditional set training method because this has been proven to increase those effects more so than the cluster set training method.

Get Help from NIFS

Give this type of training a shot and see whether your numbers increase! If you have any questions about cluster set training, you can reach out to me at pmendez@nifs.org and I will gladly answer any questions or concerns. Last thing here is that this is an advanced type of training and should be done by advanced lifters. If you are a novice lifter, I would recommend sticking to traditional set training until you are ready for this.

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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: workouts weightlifting power strength training weight training cluster sets

12 Days of Christmas: A HIIT Workout You Can Do Anywhere

GettyImages-1267513535We’re in the midst of the holidays. You probably have family commitments or events pulling you away from the gym or time with your favorite trainers at NIFS. You never want to feel as if you are missing out on something during this festive period when you have to work out from home or on the road away from the gym. But with this super-setted HIIT workout, fittingly named for the holidays, you can be sure to improve both your muscle strength and overall fitness while torching some holiday cookie calories over this break.

All you need is yourself and a bench, chair, or step to complete this intense superset HIIT session. This workout includes 12 supersets in total, each designed to get your heart rate up as well as challenge your various different muscle groups.

The Workout

Get ready to tackle 20 to 40 minutes of different HIIT cardio exercises in today's sweat fest! No equipment is needed, so you can work out at home or the gym. Focus on challenging yourself and doing YOUR best!

  • 1x Jump Rope x 30 seconds
  • 2x Spider Push-Up (alt. R/L)
  • 3x Switch Lunge Kicks (alt. R/L)
  • 4x Dip + Knee Pull (alt. R/L)
  • 5x Squat Toe Taps (alt. R/L)
  • 6x Dead Bugs (alt. R/L)
  • 7x Reverse Lunge to Half Burpee (alt. R/L)
  • 8x Elevated Reverse Plank Alternating Knee Pull (alt. R/L)
  • 9x Bird Dogs (alt. R/L)
  • 10x Rear Foot Elv. Split Squats (alt. R/L)
  • 11x 4x Mountain Climbers + Launcher
  • 12x 2x Reverse Lunge to 2x Jump Squats = x1 Rep
  • BONUS Rd13x Push Up + Hyperextension + Knee Tucks
  • BONUS Rd14x 3x Plank Jack + Pike-up Hop
  • BONUS Rd15x Elevated Plank Hip Drop + Knee Pull

Sub/swap exercises as needed. Follow order, accumulating rounds/reps

  • Rd 1 - x1 rep (in this case, Time: 30 seconds)
  • Rd 2 - x1 + x2 reps
  • Rd 3 - x1 + x2 + x3 reps
  • Rd 4 - x1 + x2 + x3 + x4 reps

... And so on until you're finished with round 12

  • Rd 12 - x1 + x2 + x3 + x4... x10 + x11 + x12 reps

(You will do round 1 x12 times, whereas round 12 only once)

  • **Bonus**… Rd 13, 14, 15 (x3 more additional rounds)
  •   - x1 + x2 + x3 + x4... x10 + x11 + x12 + x13 + x14 + x15 reps

Increase the Intensity

If you want to increase the intensity of this particular workout, I suggest two options. First, add another round with the bonuses. Second, repeat this routine for another series depending on your fitness level.

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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: cardio exercise at home workouts calories holidays high intensity HIIT strength workout superset

King of the Gym, Part 4: Bodyweight Squat Exercises on the Go

In part 4 of this series on squats, I focus on body weight again, setting up lower-body conditioning routines you can do at home, outside in the park, or in the hotel when you’re on the road. These are some of my favorite go-to workouts when I’m on the road or don’t have time to get in a quick leg workout. As I have reiterated throughout this blog series (part 1, part 2, and part 3), regardless of your fitness goals, you can and should add some form or fashion of squats to your fitness routines.

A Quick Workout: AMRAP Challenge

This video is a 6-minute lower-body AMRAP challenge. Your goal is to follow the routine and complete the series for as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) in the 6 minutes. Keep in mind, if you’re a beginner, start with less time (start with 4 minutes) or fewer reps of the combination. I love doing this quick workout when time is limited and I need to get in a quick lower-body workout.

 

HubSpot Video

 

Follow order:

  • Reverse Lunge
  • BW Squat
  • Reverse Lunge
  • BW Squat
  • Box Jump
  • BW Squat (on Box)
  • Step-down
  • BW Squat

A Tougher Lower-body Workout

When I’m on the road but do have time to get a tough lower-body workout completed, I like completing the following six series combined for a workout. Start with the first video and work your way through all six challenges. This has a variety of work to be completed, from EMOMs (Every Minute on the Minute) to Ladders (x1–10 Reps). Again, keep in mind, if you’re a beginner, start with less time, fewer reps, or a combination of the six challenges. As you advance, add more time or complete more than one challenge together if time allows. Also, if time is short, just like the 6-minute lower body challenge, complete one of the challenges instead of all six.

CHALLENGE 1: 10 minutes EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute) x15 Bodyweight Squats

CHALLENGE 2: 3 rounds x15 R/L—Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats

CHALLENGE 3: 5 rounds x5 Reps—Squat Jumps w/Floor Taps

CHALLENGE 4: x10min EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute) x10 Single-leg Bridges (R/L)

CHALLENGE 5: Burpee Ladder x1–10 x1 Rep x2 Reps x3 Reps... x8 Reps x9 Reps x10 Reps—Finished

 

HubSpot Video

 

CHALLENGE 6: Alternating Split Squat Lunge Jumps—Ladder x1–10 x1 Rep x2 Reps x3 Reps... x8 Reps x9 Reps x10 Reps—Finished

HubSpot Video

 

Get “King of the Gym” Results Outside the Gym

Whether you’re taking a break from heavy back squats or just need variety, or possibly you’re on the road traveling, you have ways to focus on your lower-body strength without a barbell and rack. Throughout the four posts in this series, Instead of adding more weight to your back squats, you’re changing up the exercises to make it more difficult and challenging. Your squats can progress in a similar way if you’re not barbell back squatting: You can start by doing air squats with both legs, then progress to split squats, and eventually one-legged pistol squats, which are a lot more challenging. On the road, focus on body weight again and set-up lower-body conditioning routines.

As I have reiterated in each of the preceding posts, regardless of your fitness goals, some form or fashion of squats can and should be added to your fitness routines. The end result for your lower body is similar to what you can get from working out with “king of the gym” back squats.

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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: fitness center workouts videos body weight bodyweight lower body outdoor exercise squat

Spooktacular Outdoor Halloween Workouts at NIFS

GettyImages-1307733923The month of October, also known as ROCKTOBER or SQUATOBER and famous for Halloween, is here. I thought I would put together two workouts—a fun workout, Pumpkin Partners, and a challenging workout, The Hell Bridge—that everyone can enjoy this October! Both are great for outdoor training in cooler weather

The fun workout requires one large pumpkin between partners. If you don’t want to bring a pumpkin to the gym, there are plenty of med-balls to use instead to do the trick. The challenging workout requires good running shoes and a couple of trips across the bridge between the NCAA and the Indianapolis Zoo. 

Fun Workout: Pumpkin Partners

This workout is a two-part AMRAP workout (AMRAP means “as many rounds as possible”). 

Part 1

Pair up and complete as many rounds as possible of the circuit in 12minutes. Partner #1 does the exercises below while Partner #2 is resting. Switch roles, alternating partners, after completing the circuit.

  • x15 yds Traveling Overhead (MB / Pumpkin) Lunges—Traveling Down
  • 20x Thrusters (MB/Pumpkin) Squat to an Overhead Shoulder Press
  • x15 yds Traveling Squat Jumps with (MB / Pumpkin) [Swing MB/Pumpkin as you Jump]—Travel Back to Start
  • 20x Mountain Climbers with Hands on (MB / Pumpkin)

Part 2

Another paired-up AMRAP of 8 minutes. Again, Partner #1 does the exercises below, while Partner #2 is resting. Switch roles, alternating partners, after completing the circuit.

  • 5x (MB / Pumpkin) Push-ups [Close grip for harder variation, one hand on/one hand off for easier variation]
  • 10x (MB / Pumpkin) Sit & Reach Crunches [Crunch with an Overhead Press as You Sit Up]
  • 15x (MB / Pumpkin) Half Burpee OH Presses [Burpee with no Push-up to a Pumpkin Curl and Press Overhead]

Finisher

Partner who completes the most work during both workouts gets to Pumpkin Toss:

  • 1x Reverse (MB / Pumpkin) Toss for Height… Throw as high as possible and smash that pumpkin!

I suggest you do this outdoors to avoid a big mess. If pumpkin does not break on the first toss, repeat between partners until it is destroyed. HAVE FUN!

Challenging Workout: The Hell Bridge

Head out to the bridge between the NCAA headquarters and the Indianapolis Zoo. (It’s the bridge with all the art installations in the middle.) The workout is run SHORT to LONG, starting at the blue art installation next to the NCAA side of the bridge. Your goal is to do the exercise listed below all the way to the break in the grass/sidewalk. Each lap will get progressively longer. Follow with a run back to the start (the blue art installation) at the break in the grass/side walk. Essentially you will be making big circles/loops that progressively get longer until you have finally made it all the way across the bridge. 

  • Lap 1: Burpee Broad Jumps (Leap Frog + Push-ups) + Run Back to Start
  • Lap 2: Zig-zags (Line Skaters) + Run Back to Start
  • Lap 3: Lunges (change any direction—FWD/BKW/Side) + Run Back to Start
  • Lap 4: Sprint (as fast as possible—middle of the bridge) + Run Back to Start
  • Lap 5: Power Skips + Run Back to Start
  • Lap 6: Lateral Shuffles (stay low, no galloping) + Run Back to Start
  • Lap 7: Back Pedal + Run Back to Start
  • Lap 8: Sprint (all the way to the Zoo—as fast as possible) + Run Back to Start—FINISHED!

Whichever workout you choose (or possibly both), please get a good cool-down and stretch. You’ve earned it: go trick-or-treating after you’ve completed these workouts!

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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: fitness center workouts holidays fall outdoor exercise halloween

Resistance Training for Fat Loss: The Science and a Workout Template

GettyImages-1264433129Science News (August 9, 2021) reported a study released by the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and College of Health Sciences that adds to the growing evidence that resistance training has unique benefits for fat loss. As a longtime fitness trainer, I have known about the effectiveness of resistance training for fat loss and body composition from my experience with clients and my own personal health and fitness journey. However, it is interesting to see science finally start to catch up with the real world and offer up some details of human physiology and systems biology as evidence as to why resistance training is so effective.

The Science

This study showed that in mice and in humans, in response to mechanical loading, muscle cells release particles called extracellular vesicles. These extracellular vesicles instruct fat cells to enter fat-burning mode.

It has been understood for a while that extracellular vesicles played a role in selectively interacting with proteins, lipids, and RNA and more recently had a role in intercellular communications. This study adds to that understanding by showing how skeletal muscle communicates with other tissues.

According to McCarthy, “To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of how weight training initiates metabolic adaptations in fat tissue, which is crucial for determining whole-body metabolic outcomes. The ability of resistance exercise-induced extracellular vesicles to improve fat metabolism has significant clinical implications.”

What It Means for You: Resistance-based Training Is a Fat-loss Tool

Well, that was science-speak, but what does this mean to you? “Significant clinical implications” means that the research provides clinicians with findings that can be used in treating medically needed fat loss with resistance-based training along with diet and other forms of exercise, such as cardiovascular training. 

Fitness in the US Is Declining

Our culture is getting heavier, with a rising percentage of the population crossing over to obesity. Recent studies have shown that 88 percent of the adult American population is metabolically unfit, with expected conditions that include high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. And Covid showed us clearly that metabolic unfitness was associated with bad Covid experiences and poor outcomes, including death. (Oh, and by the way, American life expectancy has been trending down even before Covid.)

Whatever we are doing as a culture is not working for health and longevity. Changing these adverse conditions requires changes at the individual level because large parts of our social fabric (business, media, and special interests) are too wrapped up in greed and maintaining the status quo for their interests and not acting for the greater good. So it’s up to each individual to decide what is best for their own health regarding diet, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction. All four of these factors are all very important, but exercise and diet seem to get the most attention and are the places where most people start their journey of making life-quality changes.

Where Do You Begin Your Fat-loss Journey?

“Experts” are all over the media with supplements, books, and podcasts. The number of theories and opinions is staggering. Most seem reasonable on the surface, which adds to the confusion about what to choose and where to start.

Adding to the complexity, huge international corporations, through massive advertising campaigns, are marketing online workout programming to support a major purchase of their in home exercise equipment. They offer cardio equipment and digital-controlled strength machines—slick and attractive to someone sitting on the couch with pizza and a beer.

And your online fitness searches provide social media marketing the information they need to dump even more choices in your lap based on what you have been viewing online. Hmm…

Confusing? Overwhelming?

Let’s erase the messy whiteboard and create a simpler view of the objective.

Remember, I started this blog with a study that showed how resistance training sets the cells up for burning body fat. The purpose of sharing this study was to support the concept of resistance training as an effective method for fat loss and an approach you should consider seriously.

A Training Template for Fat Loss

The following is a straightforward template to serve as a starting point to begin your resistance training/fat-loss exploration.

The human body has six patterns of functional movement:

  1. The body sits down and stands back up. The knees and hips flex and extend. In the gym, we see this in various forms of squatting, lunging, and step-ups.
  2. The body hinges at the hip joints and bends down to pick up things using the largest and strongest muscle complex of the body, the glutes. In the gym, this could be deadlifting on one end of the spectrum to lying on your back on a mat, knees up and feet on the ground for doing hip thrusts. (Both the squat and deadlift techniques should be taught by a competent coach to speed the acquisition of proper skills and to avoid injuries).
  3. While standing, if you hold your arms out in front of your body, the arms would be horizontal  to the ground. This right angle to the spine position is called the horizontal plane. If you were doing a push-up facing the ground or lying on your back doing a chest press, the arms would still be at a right angle to the spine, thus on the horizontal plane. The arm movement on this plane would either be pushing away from the body (for example, the bench press) or pulling back toward the body (for example, the back row). There are numerous options to choose from for working on this plane.
  4. When the arms move in line with the spine, this is the vertical plane, and once again you are either pushing away (for example, the shoulder press) or pulling toward the body (for example, the lat pulldown or pull-up). The horizontal and vertical push/pulls cover the basic functional movement patterns of the upper body. When done standing, the core ties the lower- and upper-body segments into a functional unit for expressing strength and power.
  5. The core is an important component of the basic workout template. As indicated above, the core ties together the lower- and upper-body segments, but also serves to stabilize and protect the lumbar spine.
  6. A forgotten and often overlooked exercise that is key to a strong-functioning body is the carry. As simple as it sounds, you pick up something and carry it: moving weight for distance and/or time. This exercise brings together strength, balance, muscular endurance, and grip strength.

There are numerous exercises to choose from to fill in the slots of the template: various reps and sets schemes, frequencies of sessions, recovery days and resistance sources depending on what best meets the needs of the individual, but having a structure to work with is critical for success, especially at the beginning.

You can certainly explore and experiment on your own, but I recommend that you take advantage of the trained professionals here at NIFS. There is a lot of knowledge and experience available to help you on your journey. We are here to assist you—just ask.

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

Topics: weight loss workouts resistance functional movement fat loss resistance training