All posts by rnagy

Using Cues During Training

Cues are a great tool in helping fix or improve any exercise or movement pattern. The best part with cues is that there are so many different options that can all be beneficial at some point. Each person is slightly different as to which cues will have the greatest impact on them.

 

These various cues can be internal or external. For example: in a hang clean an internal cue might be to extend the hips and an external cue might be to jump as high as you can. Internal cues refer to something within the body while external cues refer to something outside of the body or reference some sort of visualization movement.

 

With most of the people I coach, I find that external cues have a greater impact because they can better understand and apply the movement to a concept that they are already familiar with. Asking someone to abduct their femur might sound like a foreign language to them and thus the cue is useless. Asking them to think about driving their knees towards the walls on either side of them might make a bit more sense and have a more positive impact on the movement pattern.

 

The key here is understanding when to use cues in your own training. I find cues can become overwhelming and it is easy to start thinking about 100 different cues for one movement. Now that I’m thinking about 100 different things, I’ve lost focus on the task at hand. For example, when going for a maximal effort squat it can be easy to think about so many things: back tight, head back into the bar, knees out, screw your feet into the ground, brace into your belt, etc. For me, I know that if I think about all of those during a heavy squat, I will most likely miss the squat because I’m losing focus on the actual task at hand – squat down and stand back up.

 

As a coach it is so easy to throw out a million cues a day at the athletes I get to work with. However, I need to remember two things: 1. How would I perform if I was thinking about a bunch of different cues and ideas all at once? 2. Often athletes can feel when a movement is not perfect and can autoregulate themselves. The next rep is usually significantly better because they felt what went wrong. Further, week 1 of a new exercise usually will have some hiccups and not look the best. However, without any cueing or corrections the following week when they come back to that same exercise their motor pattern is usually naturally better because the body remembers what to do and how it feels. Week 1 with an athlete my cues are usually very simple to make sure they are not going to hurt themselves doing the movement. Week 2 and on can be more of a time to use more cues to refine the pattern as needed.

 

My overall point here is that cues can be super helpful to fix and refine any movement pattern. However, do not drown yourself in too many as it will be easy to lose sight of the original task at hand. Stay focused on your overall goal and use cues to help without losing sight of the end goal.

 

Simone

June’s Member Spotlight

Hello, I’m Lisa! I was born Congolese (from DRC), I speak French, lived in Belgium, and then I grew up and got my master’s degree as an Industrial Engineer in electronics. I lived in Belgium until the end of 2016.

 

Then, I got bored and went to work in Spain for 2.5 years. That’s where my fitness journey started, with CrossFit. I discovered that working out was not only great for losing weight, but was also very useful to get strong, and that quickly became my goal (that satisfaction when I lift heavy is gold to me).

 

In the summer of 2019, I arrived in Pittsburgh for a new project. I stuck to CrossFit for 1.5 years but being strong and lifting heavy became more important to me than being fast and good at gymnastics, so one of my coaches recommended me to check out Union Fitness, which I did at the end of 2020. Starting with the Powerful classes, and then following up with a programming tailored for me by the great Curtis Miller! His knowledge and patience have been helping me to get stronger physically and mentally every week.

 

Fun facts about me?

 

  1. I’m a sneaker addict, and not even trying to heal from it.
  2. I see music in color which is somehow helpful when I have to play keys.
  3. I speak different languages, which is cool at first, but makes me invent words that exist in none of them
  4. I always have a loooooot of questions in my brain

 

I’m really grateful to be part of the Union fitness community, it’s definitely a place that feels good to be fully yourself, and around people (staff and members) that push themselves and you to be better!

 

À bientôt !! ”

 

 

Lisa

Commonplace Outreach Bootcamp

Unioners, Coffee Drinkers, and Friends of Friends, do we have a Sunday Funday for you!

 

Join CeJ and the crew this Sunday, June 26th in the Mexican War streets for a FREE bootcamp at Commonplace Coffee. After our Sunday sweat session, Union will buy your first coffee at Commonplace. The bootcamp is FREE but we will be accepting donations made out to Bridge Outreach of Northside. Here is the website link for more information about the group Nonprofit | Bridge Outreach | Pittsburgh (bridgepgh.org)  Here is the why behind Bridge Outreach “Based in Pittsburgh, PA: We are a team of dedicated individuals connecting those in all walks of life to resources meant to alleviate a myriad of challenges, including, but not limited to: housing instability, food insecurity, medical and mental health inaccessibility, and unsafe substance-use.

 

Often, helping-organizations locate an “at-risk” community and enter it with an expertise, agenda, and hypothesis for change and betterment. Bridge Outreach, rather, seeks to meet people where and how they are. We utilize a trauma-informed and humanistic approach, understanding people as holistic individuals unique in their stories and capable of determining their own goals and behaviors. We are relationship focused— patiently forming bonds and friendships to build and foster community while addressing the needs and challenges presented in daily life.

 

We are privileged to be welcomed into a beautiful community of individuals living life on the streets as we continue to learn from and listen to the voices of those we encounter.”

 

Where:

Commonplace Coffee 1501 Buena Vista St, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

 

When:

Friday June 26th 11AM- 12PM.

 

What:

Sunday Funday, hold onto your butts and get caffeinated for a good cause bootcamp.

 

Why:

To kick off your Sunday Funday, promote health & wellness, drink local coffee from our good friends at Commonplace & support Nonprofit | Bridge Outreach | Pittsburgh (bridgepgh.org)

 

Who:

Anyone and everyone who would like to join us can attend this Free event. You can sign up at Union’s website under the class tab or just show up and say hello.

 

Also remember to go to www.pghcitypaper.com and nominate UF for the best gym in town. You can vote every day..WOW!

 

Stay tuned my friends and come down to party with us!

 

Cheers,

CeJ

Union Fitness Run Club

Hey Union Fitness Fam!! Looking to start running more this summer? You’re in luck!! Starting June 24th at 7 am, we will start our weekly running club. Run club is open to all levels of running ability- beginners all the way up to marathoners.

 

Each week I will share out our planned loop and mileage options. The workout will include a warm-up and an optional cool-down. As we gauge interest and training goals the mileage and workout type will shift to help you reach those goals! Sign up on MindBody & keep an eye on Union’s Instagram story for our first running loop map! Let’s get after it!!!

 

Katie

Power Yoga for Powerlifters

It was a hot day in Tallahassee, Florida because, well, it was always hot in Tallahassee.  I decided to try a yoga class for the first time and the year was a distant 2008.  I remember it being more difficult than I expected.  I remember feeling defeated because I wasn’t any good at it.  I remember wanting more.

 

It is funny how those things sneak up on you.

 

I guess we should go back further.

 

Hello all! My name is Meagan and though I have met some of you, there are still so many to meet! I teach fusion on Sunday and am a substitute yoga instructor here at UF.  I’ve been around since 2019-ish but very casually.  When I’m not at the gym, which is much less than I would prefer, I am finishing my doctoral degree in nurse anesthesia.  When I tell you I am amped up on adrenaline, caffeine, stress, and on the struggle bus for sleep…believe you, me!  Trust that when I say yoga has been instrumental in helping me manage emotion, stress, and breath during some of the most challenging clinical situations and during some heavy classroom work.

 

When school and clinical don’t get in the way, I love taking a powerful class with Curtis and CJ; the benefits both physically and mentally of lifting heavy are ASTRONOMICAL! There is nothing like pushing around some heavy weights to feel empowered in your body and strength.

 

Let’s jump back in!  Before 2008, that first yoga class, I kept busy with a multitude of sports and activities.  I was a high school athlete and chose not to explore college athletics but used that time for personal fitness like swimming, lifting, and running.  Soon after that first yoga class, I became a regular and after moving to Pittsburgh would require it for my mental health and to navigate the stress of my new job as a veterinary technician in the operating room at PVSEC.  The next few years would find me diving deeper into my practice with a yoga teaching training in Costa Rica which lead to a 7 year stretch of teaching power yoga at Urban Elements and Cycology.  I also became Real Ryder certified at UEC and am so happy to bring those skills to the members of UF!

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  But what does that all mean for ME? What about yoga is so great that I should give it a try?! How can I even do yoga; I can’t touch my toes! Plus, it is not an intense workout and I’m here to burn fat and make gainz!!

 

I’m so glad you asked.  If you’ve ever taken a lifting class here at UF, you have done a sweet warm up that, unbeknownst to you, was heavy on the yoga!  Most of the stretches that both Curt and CJ use have some roots in yoga.  Stay tuned for a breakdown to come on UF’s IG page!

 

We know yoga can help promote flexibility and is utilized for stretching, but what else?

 

According to literature on yoga and powerlifting, some of the benefits include:

  • Identifying imbalances between sides
    • This allows you to work on creating balance which will improve how you move weight and how weight can be moved. Balance also keeps you standing upright and trust me, you don’t want to break a hip as you get older!
  • Improves core strength
    • As you know, every lift starts with an activated core. A strong core supports your low back as well which can stave off or heal low back pain.
  • Improves mobility
    • It is no secret that most powerlifters struggle with hip mobility. This lack of mobility can affect the bar path during a squat, squat depth, and can also inhibit bench press arch and Sumo deadlifts. Improved mobility =improved performance.
  • Help with breath control
    • Creating intraabdominal pressure during heavy lifts is integral in moving max weight. Success can be made or broken with poor breath control.  Yoga is based in the union between movement and breath and can be very beneficial in improving breath control during powerlifting.

 

These are just a few reasons that yoga can and has been shown to improve maximum weight in powerlifting practice and competition.  A quick internet search with provide more information on the science and a vast array or articles written on the subject.

 

Because of the offered benefits of yoga and both Curt and I identifying a need here at UF in the powerlifting community, we have put together a class specifically targeting powerlifters.  Power Yoga for Powerlifting will be held on Sunday, July 10, 20022 here at UF.  The class will be 75 minutes and include a brief opening discussion, a practice which will sample several different styles of yoga, a closing meditation, and time for questions, socializing, and refreshments at the end.  If you’ve ever been curious about yoga but felt shy or unsure, stop by on July 10th! It is certainly a class for everyone and who knows, maybe you’ll leave as I did in 2008…wanting more.

 

Meagan

Self-Assess With The Overhead Squat

Self-assessment is one of our greatest tools for improvement in the gym. Self-assessment is done by recording ourselves doing specific movements and using the footage or pictures to see how we are moving. Using self assessment, we can point out imbalances or weak points in our bodies during a certain exercise and begin to strengthen those areas. Doing this will lead to better movement which will help with injury prevention and longevity in the gym. My favorite exercise to use to assess movement is the overhead squat.

 

The Overhead Squat

This single movement allows you to assess several potential imbalances and weak points at once, including mobility, favoring one side over the other during the movement, and which of your muscles may be over- or underactive.

An overhead squat is pretty simple to perform. You begin by placing your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes pointed slightly outward. Next, square your hips and shoulders forward. After that, extend your arms above your head. Once you’re in this top position, you can start squatting down. Slowly push your butt back and bend your knees as if you are sitting in a chair. Continue this motion until you reach a point where you can’t lower down anymore. From here, stand back up. If you are doing a self assessment, be sure to record the movement from the front and the side.

This video will help us determine how certain joints (shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles) are moving.

 

Potential Weakness 1: Overactive Adductors/Underactive Glutes

If your knees are coming in toward each other while you squat (knee valgus), this could mean you have tight adductors and weak glutes. We could improve this area by regularly stretching our adductors through frog or butterfly poses. This will help tame those overactive areas. To restore balance, we should strengthen the underactive muscles—in this case, that’s the glutes. Doing things like banded walks or lying hip abductions will help with this.

 

Potential Weakness 2: Excessive Forward Lean

Another marker to look for is excessive forward lean as you squat down. This could indicate tight hip flexors and a weak lower back and is a common issue in those who are seated all day for work. If this is you, I would recommend lightly stretching your hip flexors and piriformis by doing figure four poses and kneeling runner’s lunges. The low back may also be underactive. Strengthen it through exercises like back extensions or superman holds. These exercises will strengthen and help you activate these muscles during movement.

 

This is an area I need to work on! I have a slight forward lean in my overhead squat. Another good indicator of this is to look at the back as a straight line and the shins as another line. If these two lines are not perfectly parallel, then there’s a slight forward lean.

 

Potential Weakness 3: Underactive Upper Back Muscles

Even though we think of the squat as a leg movement, it becomes a full body exercise when we place our hands overhead. This helps us assess the strength of our upper back muscles. If our arms fall forward while squatting, we can assume that our pec and lat muscles are more than likely tight, which brings your trunk forward.

Now, after reading a few examples, you know that if there are overactive or tight muscles, there are more than likely underactive muscles in that area as well. In this case, the underactive muscles would include the muscles of your rotator cuff and mid back. To release or stretch out the pec muscles and lats, I highly recommend getting a massage or using a doorway pec stretch. Foam rolling will also be helpful in relaxing the muscles for exercise but isn’t a long-term solution. To strengthen those underactive rotator cuff muscles, we can do things like external and internal rotation band work as well as face pulls on a cable column.

 

Refine Your Training Based on Your Results

The results of the assessment in and of themselves are neither good nor bad. What is important is using this information to refine your training and improve your weak points. We all have different body shapes, mechanics, and functional abilities, so using a test like this is not a cut-and-paste method. That said, it does give you a better understanding of how your body is moving in its current state. Use the information you learned from this self-assessment and upgrade the way you think about your training. What are your weak points (underactive muscles) and where are the muscles that might be a little overactive or tight during movements? If you have any questions about exercises or stretches you can do feel free to ask next time you see a trainer in the gym.

 

-Dylan

Olympic Weightlifting Class Update

It is now 3 sessions into the new Olympic Weightlifting class at UF, and it is still not too late to get in on the action. Whether you are looking to learn some new lifts or just brush up on some technique. I have decided to take a top down approach to teaching the snatch and the clean. This is because I feel that the “power position” is the key part of the pull when doing these two lifts. Understanding how to put force into the floor from this position is in my opinion the best way to become proficient at these two lifts. As the class moves forward, the plan is to slowly move down the leg, working from the hang and mid-shin positions before the floor. During this time both deadlifts and pulls will be trained so that working on bar positioning from the floor is not neglected. In the 3rd class, split jerk positions were mapped out for everyone and the footwork of the split was drilled. Since the split jerk requires a bit more footwork than both the snatch and clean, a little more focus was put on technique with this movement.

 

Even though we will be entering the 4th class this coming week, don’t think it is too late to join in. I will plan to meet everyone where they are at with their training. For anyone that needs a little more attention and being brought up to speed, that will not be an issue. Just as I mentioned earlier, as the class progresses, more of the full lifts will be implemented, more challenging variations / complexes will be added, and the accessory lifts will continue to be added to the training.

 

Ethan

Pittsburgh Passion

I first heard about women’s professional football while I was a sophomore in college, running track at the University of Rio Grande. I was also powerlifting at the time, so I was putting on a lot of strength while developing my speed as well. After my sophomore season, I transferred to Cleveland State and tried out for the Cleveland Fusion professional women’s football team. I made the team and fell into the running back position, and immediately fell in love with the game.

 

Then COVID hit, and like many other sports teams our season did not happen. So, my rookie year was put on hold. I continued to train and lift hard. My goal was to come even more prepared for next season. Eventually I found out that Cleveland was not going to have a team, but I chose to join the next closest team, the Pittsburgh passion.

 

I made the commitment of driving from Cleveland to Pittsburgh 2-3 times a week to play for this team and it was the best decision I have ever made. I found a sense of sisterhood and belonging among the Passion. The Cleveland head coach, Erik Kiester, also came to Pittsburgh to coach the defensive side, so I had him as a mentor for both years and he has made me the player I am today.

 

This season has been nothing less than amazing with this team and this city. We have our first playoff game in Tampa on June 11th against the Tampa Inferno.

 

I am looking forward to the rest of this season, and also the off-season training with my teammates at Union Fitness who is also a sponsor of the Pittsburgh passion team.

 

Maria

Yoga for Lifters

On Sunday July 10th, we will be introducing the first installment of Power Yoga for our members and non members here at Union Fitness. The idea for this class was a collaboration between myself and our amazing Yoga instructors Meagan Gnibus and Haley Tamilia. Over the last few months, the three of us have discussed how we have benefited from the concepts and application of different Yoga techniques. More specifically, how we have applied them to our training, and how beneficial they have been in assisting with our lifting goals.

 

At first, it started as a simple discussion regarding the types of mobility and activation work that I apply to my powerlifting training, as well as within my client’s training. Then it progressed to how further techniques could be applied to reach even more specific goals. What we found was that there was a huge similarity in our approaches between what is practiced in yoga, and what is used by many individuals who perform rigorous weightlifting techniques. Because of this, we decided to bring you all a class specifically for the people who love to throw chalk on their hands and a barbell across their backs, but may not yet realize the benefits of applying yoga within their training routine. Or, you may already practice this, but maybe would like some new ideas, or a fun group to perform it with on a beautiful summer day.

 

I took my first Yoga class in 2009. At the time I was beginning my powerlifting journey. After just my first session, I noticed the benefits through mental and physical relaxation, along with an increased muscular and central nervous system recovery, just to name a few. From there, I researched further methods and began incorporating them into my training program within my specific warmup routines, along with my rest and recovery sessions on my off days. What I found was a much higher recovery rate between sessions, along with an increased sense of well being and ability to perform at my highest level on my training days. It has been a huge contributor to my longevity and success within the sport over the past decade. If you want to continue to progress in your weightlifting and powerlifting journey, then you’re going to have to keep your body firing on all cylinders. I can promise you that picking things up and putting them down is only a part of the equation. It’s the things that you do outside of your training sessions that make the biggest difference.

 

Be sure to block off that calendar for Sunday July 10th, and keep an eye out for more details regarding this awesome event.

 

– Curtis Miller

Fitness, Fact, Fiction, & It Depends

Too often in fitness people look for the easy answer. Rarely is it black and white. Most answers are “it depends.” Today I am going to take a look at some different beliefs and how true they are.

 

  1. Calories in vs calories out. It has often been said that this is all that matters. While clearly increasing calories tends to make you gain weight. Yet there are many other variables. The type of calories does matter. Marshmallows are not the same as an apple, also protein vs carbs make a huge difference.
  2. Knees over toes is good…or bad. Well it depends. For a time knees over toes was assumed to be bad. Then knees over toes was all the rage. As with anything it depends on the person. There is a time and place to train a vertical shin angle and there is also a time to force your knees forward.
  3. Behind the neck pulldown and presses are dangerous. This depends upon your anatomical structure. A third of the population have a very open shoulder joint and are fine with behind the back presses and pulls. Another third of the population will probably be able to get away with doing behind the neck work. The final third of the population tend to have an aggressive hook on their acromion process and should avoid these movements. How do you know which third you are? You won’t, so if these movements bother you, then don’t do them.
  4. Train your core. I personally loathe the word core. Too often this is just a catch all. I’ve too often heard, this person’s core is weak. How do we define this? Maybe their body is weak? We know there are movements that we should use to improve our strength and at times the rigidity of our midsection. Yet, saying core is unquantifiable and often unjustified.
  5. Stretching before you train. Are you tight? Then sure do some stretching. If you have hyper-mobilty, then no need to do the extra stretching before training. With all of that said it is important to move through full range of motion prior to training. So stretch, move, and exercise more.

 

This is just a short list of fitness ideas that may have some truth yet also need some explanations.  Be careful when anyone tells you the way things MUST be done as they are either selling something or full of crap.

 

Hamer