Category Archives: Training

Curtis Tips for Push/Pull Event

We are coming up on one week out from our member push/pull event on Sunday March 21st. As many of you are aware, we had initially planned to hold the event this time last year, but obvious events kept us from doing so. Now that our Performance Lab is open with access to a great outdoor turf addition, we felt as though it was a great time to bring it back and give our members a fun event and a thank you for sticking with us over the past year.

 

There’s a good chance that a large majority of our members who will sign up for the push/pull have actually never taken part in this sort of event, and that is completely fine. Our only goal with this is to do something fun for our members who have been working hard and have stayed consistent with their training and goals throughout the past year. With the addition of food and drinks, there’s no doubt it will be a great time. Along with this, we will be raising money for the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation, and a couple of their staff members will be joining us to hang out and get to know our members.

 

As far as the specifics of a push/pull event, there are a few things that you will want to know and take into consideration before you begin.

 

First, it’s very important to understand the rules. This is something that we will be discussing throughout the week during Powerful class, but we will also hold a rules meeting at 7:30am on the morning of the event. In a push/pull event, you will be performing the bench press and the deadlift. For each lift, you will have 3 attempts to successfully lift as much weight as possible within the given rules. Before the event starts, you will give your opening attempt to the scorer. A good rule of thumb is to open with a weight that you could easily perform for 3 repetitions. After your opening attempt, you will go back to the scorer and let them know what weight you would like to lift for you 2nd attempt. During that time it will cycle through the rest of the individuals, and then come back to you for your 2nd attempt. Keep in mind, if you miss an attempt you cannot lower your weight. You can only attempt the same weight or choose to go up in weight, so choose wisely.

 

Next, there are certain commands that you will need to obey in order to have a successful lift. For the bench press, you will unrack the bar and wait for the judge to give you the “start” command. Once they do, you will lower the bar and touch your chest, pause it until it becomes motionless, and then the judge will give you the “press” command. Once you lock out the weight, you will hold it under control until the judge gives you the “rack” command. During that time, you must keep your glutes on the bench. If these are successfully done, then the result will be a “good lift”.

 

For the deadlift, there is only one command. You will walk up to the bar, and when you’re ready you will lift the weight and stand with it locked out. This means legs straight, hips into the bar, and chest tall. Once you are completely locked out, the judge will give you the “down” command. During that time you will lower the bar to the floor under control, and if all steps are done correctly, you will receive a “good lift”.

 

Last but not least, remember to have fun. This event is a way for you to challenge yourself, try something and learn something new, and to support and cheer along your fellow members and classmates who you have been working alongside of throughout your time here at Union Fitness. As always, do not hesitate to let us know if you have any questions at all. We look forward to seeing you all enjoy yourselves. 

Cody’s Upcoming Meet

As some of you may know, Union Fitness’ very own Cody Miller has been preparing for his upcoming Powerlifting meet that will take place this weekend. Many of you are fortunate to know the Cody who waddles through the fitness center in his classic gray sweats, jokes with the members, and loves training his clients. But most people don’t get to see the other side of Cody. The version of Cody who loves to train hard and is extremely dedicated to his craft. Although he stays very reserved and calm on the outside, on the inside he is focused, locked in, and intense. This is the sign of a true leader, and something that makes him so great at what he does. Cody is someone who has never asked for a handout or a favor, but is always humble and willing to continuously learn and evolve as an athlete and a professional. 

 

I remember the day I was getting ready to leave work to head to my last competition. As I was walking out the door he stops me, hugs me, and says “There is no past, there is no future, there is only the present”. As I was sitting in my hotel room getting ready to compete, I thought about his exact words. Those words meant so much, and are something we should all strive to live by. This weekend, I hope that he too can live by those words, and perform to the best of his ability on the platform.

 

You see, the platform is one of the few places where you can be 100% free. When you’re standing up there, staring at that weight in front of hundreds of people, for those few seconds in time, nothing else matters. Not your job, your bills, your past, or your future can hold you back. Weeks, months, and years of training, dedication, and sacrifice are all wrapped up into one lift. Every time Cody get’s under that bar this weekend, he is facing every ounce of challenge and adversity that he has ever faced. But regardless of the outcome, from the sheer fact that he will stand up on that platform and give everything that he has to give, he will be victorious.

 

I am blessed to know Cody and to have the opportunity to work with and learn from him each day. Now, please help me to wish him a safe and successful competition tomorrow. May the iron be in your favor this weekend, brother, and remember, there is no past, there is no future, there is only the present. Live it the present, sir.

Powerlifting Adventures With Sky CeJ…(more importantly Sky)

To my most excellent Dudettes & Dudes,

 

Skylyn & I are beginning our powerlifting meet prep for the 2021 Iron City, Open and we want to share our adventures with you! On this 12 week journey we will show our training, go to meals, technique and cues we’re working on, recovery, the excitement of wrapping our knees and all of our nonviolent fist fights  & verbal screeches in between.

 

Just a quick brush up, a powerlifting meet. Meets usually start in the morning and go to late afternoon, so bring your snacks and maybe some caffeine. Women and men are broken down into weight classes and compete in their flights. The lifter will get three attempts to lift their maximal weight in the Squat, Bench & Deadlift (in that order). There are some commands and rules you have to follow, such as proper depth on the squat, a press command and not lifting your tush off the bench on the bench press and to lockout and hold your deadlift until the down command, to list a few. You add up to total weight of your top 3 successfully completed lifts and that is your total for the day. Remember at the end of the day, it’s a competition against yourself and really just to have fun tossing some weight around.

 

This week, we will be building our blueprint plan of attack for the next 12 weeks with some main goals being, build strength, movement efficiency and increase confident in the Squat, Bench & Deadlift. Our plans will be similar yet a bit different to address our specific needs and improve our weaknesses. For example, Sky may be able to handle more volume and frequency (reps/sets & amount of days/times performing a exercise during the week) than I would. So she may have an extra squat & bench session or a few more sets and reps in her program. Also most days we won’t be able to train together and will have to utilize different equipment and that is ok and we will make it work! So hold on to your butts, ask us some questions as we go and lets see where this ride takes us!

 

Be most excellent to one another!

 

CeJ

Music and Motivation

Have you ever thought about what training in a gym would have been like through the 80s and early 90s? Many of us remember the days of using Walkmans and Discmans so we could hear our own jams while working out. Along with that came the annoyances of your CDs skipping, your tapes getting chewed up, going through tons of batteries, headphone cables getting in the way, and so on. Imagine what it was like even before portable music players, you would have to listen to what ever radio station the gym had on, eww! It has been known for quite some time now that music is associated with increasing work output while training , but what really happens when you are listening to your favorite tracks while lifting? Are there certain songs that are better for training than others? Is there a time that listening to music while training can be detrimental or make no difference at all? Let’s take a little closer look at music as a training stimulus. 

 

The most obvious effect, I think, we can intuitively figure out about music’s impact on training, is giving us a distraction to take our mind off how hard we are working. If we don’t think we are training as hard, it is likely we can delay the onset of fatigue. This has been confirmed already by several studies. Music not only lowers the rate of perceived exertion through distraction, but also can improve mood and increase arousal . Who wouldn’t think these are all good things before and while training. If we feel good, we train better, and if we don’t know we are tired, we train longer. However, if we look deeper into the type of exercise and the impact music has on it, there are some interesting findings. 

 

To my surprise, it has been found that when performing strength exercises to failure, self-selected music appeared to have no advantage over listening to no music at all. Although, in this same study, positive effects of self-selected music were found on the performance of explosive plyometric jumps . Perhaps what this may suggest is music has a different impact on your training depending on the duration of the effort. In this case, music has a greater impact on short explosive bouts of exercises in comparison to high repetition training. If this is the case, what is music’s impact on longer intervals of training such as long-distance cardio work? 

 

As stated earlier, it has been found that music can lower the rate of perceived exertion while training1, 2 but how does this occur? Is there actually a change at the physiological level in the body or does music merely work as a distraction? In a study where subjects were given fast rhythm, slow rhythm, and no music while performing 2 different anaerobic repeated sprint tests. What was discovered was the levels of blood lactate and heart rate where not impacted on not only training with and without music but also the tempo of music . Despite music not having an effect on the physiological aspect of training, studies have shown that soft slow music can improve cardiorespiratory performance when compared to no music at all or faster paced loud music . It was suggested that the slow tempo music allowed for a “distraction effect” from the stress caused by fatigue. I would also assume that slower tempo music helps set a better and slower pace for long distance training which would help increase the time till fatigue rather than altering anything at the physiological level to reduce the onset of fatigue. 

 

This information leads me to several conclusions about music’s effects on exercise. First off, music has a greater impact on exercises that are anaerobic (under 8-10 seconds) and aerobic (longer than 2 minutes) than it does on lactic training (20-90 seconds). This is shown by music’s improvement on anaerobic plyometric training and cardiorespiratory performance, but not on strength exercises to failure. Second, while the tempo of music does not seem to yet be studied in single bouts of explosive plyometric exercises, music tempo does have an impact on aerobic exercise by increasing the time to exhaustion through a “distraction effect” and possibly better pacing. The third and final point I would like to make about music and training is when music can actually be detrimental. An example would be when working on technique, whether that is on your own or you are coaching someone else. As noted earlier, music can produce a “distraction effect” therefore while learning something new or adjusting your technique music acts as cognitive interference and impacts your training goals. 

 

Music is sweet. We all like jamming our favorite tunes when we train and thank god it is so much easier to do now than back in the day. This only really skims the surface of music as a training stimulus though. Hopefully, this short write up gives a little insight into selecting music for training or not getting bent out of shape when you are getting a body building session in and it’s not your jams on the speakers, it won’t make as big of a difference as you think. To wrap this up, I’ll leave my go to training record. I thought about doing a top 3, but I felt like that was even harder than picking 1 single album. After much internal strife, I came up with Madball “Look My Way”. This album is certified to increase all your lifts 15%. Go to this blog post on our Instagram and let us and everyone else know what your go to album or song is for the gym.

 

 1 Anshel, M.H., & MarisiD.Q. Effects of Music and Rhythm on Physical Performance. Research Quarterly, 49: 109-113, 1978

 

2 Hayakawa, Y. Miki, H. Takada K. & Takana, K. Effects of Music on Mood During Bench Stepping Exercise. Precept Mot Skills 90: 307-314. 2000

3 Baigini, M.S. et al, Effects of Self-Selected Music on Strength, Explosiveness, and Mood. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 26(7): 1934-1938. 2012

4 Atan, T. Effects of Music on Anaerobic Exercise Performance. Biology of Sport 30(1): 35-39. 2013

5 Copeland, B.L. & Franks, B.D. Effects of Types and Intensities of Background Music on Treadmill Endurance. J. Sports Med. Phys. Fitness. 31: 100-103. 1991

6 Yamashita, J. et al, Effects of Music During Exercise on RPE, Heart Rate and the Autonomic Nervous System. J. Sports Med. Phys. Fitness. 46; 425-430. 2006

 

Shareholder Vs Stakeholder

Early in my career I would scoff at reading business books. It was a huge weakness of mine. I did not understand that most lessons come from outside of one’s industry. As I’ve aged and matured (albeit slowly), I learned the lessons that can be offered from other industries are many times more important than just listening to those within one’s own industry.

 

This week I was driving and listening to a podcast with Abigail Disney. Ms Disney is, as her name suggests, a member of the Disney family (you may have heard of them). Her goal is to make Disney a better place to work and visit. She was discussing Disney’s culture as well as who the stakeholders of Disney were Vs. the shareholders. This is a topic some of you may be familiar with. I want to use this blog to write about how this applies to training and a gym environment.

 

Shareholders:

As people training in a gym I consider these people the ones who are focused mainly (not solely but, most of their focus) on external goals. As a lifter it could be numbers, or as one who wants to lose weight it could be the scale. The process is only as important as what outcome it gives someone in this setting. The world needs shareholders at time to be cold and make decisions based solely on outcome and no emotional connection to what’s going on.

 

Stakeholders:

For the people in the gym these are the ones who are there to enjoy the process and make the experience better for them all around. The stakeholder worries about the process, the outcome is important yet stakeholders live in the reality and know the outcome is not always a result of a good or bad process. There are many variables that can affect an outcome that the stakeholder can’t control.

 

We need both and we want to be stakeholders for you. Both of these groups are very important to our community. A good balance of both of these types of people can make everyone around us better. I do ask our staff when making decisions think like stakeholders. As a lifter spend most of your time thinking like a stakeholder. If you become to much of a shareholder then you will miss the beauty of having a great moment in the gym. Be involved in the process of helping improve yourself while you are here and also be in the process of others succeeding while you are here.

 

This idea reminds me of a quote, I have searched high and low and can’t find the author, “I want to come to the end of the day tired, defeated, victorious.” I remind myself of this quote daily. If I am being a true stakeholder for all of us and UF then I will be tired, beaten (due to winning some and losings some), as well as victorious for all that we have accomplished. If I (and we) do this everyday then the goals we all will reach will be well above what we could have done if all we worried about was the outcome.

 

 

Training Update and the Benefit of Just Showing Up

Earlier this week, our General Manager Todd Hamer wrote a blog about his good friend who recently passed away and the importance of showing up, even at times when you may not feel like it. This can help those close to you in more ways than you might know. If you haven’t read it, be sure to slide over and give it a quick read. It may be just what you need to hear right now. Today, going along with what Todd touched on, I am going to discuss the importance of showing up for yourself. More specifically, the importance of just showing up to train, even when you don’t feel motivated.

 

If you’ve been training for any decent amount of time, then you have certainly experienced your share of a lack of motivation. When you were new to training, motivation was something that was much easier to come by. You had this vision in your head of what you wanted to accomplish, and woke up every day just waiting to be able to walk into the gym. Over time you realized that this is a very challenging journey filled with many ups, downs, and crossroads along the way. 

 

In today’s world, it can be easy to believe that if you aren’t moving forward then you aren’t making progress. Well I’m here to tell you that just showing up can lead to much progress and success. As humans, we cannot be full throttle at all times. Imagine driving your car as fast as it will go at all times. It won’t last very long. We are no different. If we are constantly pushing forward without pulling back on occasion, bad things will happen, and we may inhibit our ability to see through the road ahead. This is where it can be necessary to simply “just show up”. 

 

Being in cruise control at times is not a bad thing. It can help you reset, refocus, gain a new perspective, and analyze your current situation. This can all provide an opportunity for growth and progression in the future. Recently, I’ve just been showing up. Part of this is to help my training partners, members, and friends at the gym, and some of it is for me and my mental health. Although my routine is a bit different from what it typically would be, it is what I need for the time being in order to reset and rebuild for future opportunities and progress. Not just with lifting, but life as well.

 

Sample training week:

 

Day 1:

Pit shark goblet squat: 5×8 w/ 2 second pause

Leg press: 7x 20, 15, 12, 10, 12, 15, 20

Bulgarian split squat: 4×10 each leg w/3 second eccentric

GHR back extension: 4×15 w/2 second pause

Hanging leg raises: 4×15 (strict)

 

Day 2:

Bench press: 5×5 w/2 chains per side

Incline DB press: 3×20

Barbell tricep extension: 5×10 

Single arm rows: 5×10 each arm

TRX face pulls: 4×15 (slow and controlled)

 

Day 3:

SSB good mornings: 5×5

Banded RDL: 4×10 w/band around hips (3 second eccentric)

Bent over barbell rows: 5×10

Hammer curls: 5×12

Ab rollouts: 4×12

 

Day 4: Optional

Fatbell bench press: 10×10 w/60 seconds rest

Weighted dips: 5x 20, 15, 12, 10, 8

DB OH press: 4×10

Lat pulldowns: 5×12

Lying fatbell tricep extensions: 5×10

Curt’s Corner

As many of you are aware, we recently brought two interns on board to work with us here at Union Fitness for their final semester of College. As much as I enjoy giving them a hard time and testing their knowledge, they are both great and are willing to learn anything and everything they can.

 

Last week, I decided to quiz them and asked if they knew why the steel plates were flat on one side and grooved on the other. Naturally, they weren’t sure. Although the answer is very simple and something that everyone should know, it’s understandable why someone might not.

 

This got me thinking about some potential other areas regarding the weight room that may be overlooked, misunderstood, or even under appreciated.

 

  1. Putting plates on the correct way: The answer to this is simply so you can grab and load/unload the weights easier. This isn’t just for your own safety, but also those other members who need to use the weights after you. So be sure to put the weights on the bar facing inward, and put them back on the rack the same way.
  2. Proper warm-up: Your warm ups should always be done with purpose and intent. Do not take them for granted. The way you perform your warm-up will directly dictate how well you are able to perform your training session, along with the overall success of your session. If you are just putting a band around your knees and walking around for 1-2 minutes, I can assure you that you are not doing enough to prepare yourself for your training session. Select exercises that are directly related to the goal of your session and perform them with intent.
  3. Performing the full range of motion with your exercises: In the words of Thee Dave Jackson, “if the weight is dictating your ROM, then it’s too much weight”. Unless you are performing an exercise designed to be used with a shorter range of motion such as a floor press, or have a specific injury that you are working around, you should always be moving the weight throughout the entire range. Doing so will keep you safe, healthy, and strong.   
  4. Being aware of those around you: Little known fact, you are actually not the only person who is attempting to perform a workout in the gym. Be aware of how long you are on a piece of equipment in case someone else needs to use it as well. When you are walking around or carrying equipment, respect the space of those around you, especially if they are in the middle of performing a movement. The gym is one of the only places where we can all go to escape the challenges of everyday life. So respect everyone and share like your momma taught you.
  5. Ask for a spot: Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t make you less cool if you ask another member or employee to spot you during your lift. In doing this, you may actually get some helpful tips or pointers that you were not aware of previously. On top of that, it will keep you safe and accident free so you can lift for years to come.

Curtis Challenges YOU!

Back by popular demand are our monthly challenges for all members and staff here at Union Fitness. For the month of February, there will be 3 different challenges to choose from. You can pick one of them, or you can do all of them and see how well you progress throughout the month. Just as we did in the month of December, we will place the scoring sheets on the glass outside of the cardio lab. These challenges can be done either here at Union Fitness or in the privacy of your own home if you aren’t able to make it in. Just be sure to tag us on instagram so we can record your score for you. The winner of each challenge will receive a free massage. For those of you who are not ready to come back to the gym we can save your massage for a later date. 

 

Here are the challenges.

 

Challenge 1: Sand bag/Dball bear hug for time.

 

For this challenge, the goal is to bear hug a 200 pound sand bag or an 80 pound Dball for as long as possible without putting it down. You can stand in one place, walk around with it, or jump up and down if you want (although we don’t advise that). Just as long as you don’t put it down. Record your time and try to beat it throughout the month.

 

Challenge 2: Push-Ups.

 

Similar to our pull-up challenge from December, the goal here is to accumulate as many push-ups as possible over the course of the month. These can be done anytime and anywhere. Just record how many you have done. The only rule is that your arms have to reach a 90 degree angle on each rep. 

 

Challenge 3: Total calories burned.

 

This can be done on either the rower, ski erg, the assault bike, or a combination of all three. Record your total calories for each workout and add them up at the end of the month to see how you did.

 

As with each of these, we will select the male and female winners for each challenge. You’ve already started the year off strong. Now let’s keep it rolling and crush some new goals and personal records. Stay strong, friends!

Member Spotlight; Wardy

Union, we love our members so much it’s time we show you off and have CJ climb the incline like King Kong, and shout your presence from atop of the highest point of Mt. Washington!

 

This week we’d like to shout out Ward Stanford.

 

Ladies & Gents, here is the what is about, Wardy in his own words.

 

“I grew up in northeastern PA near Binghamton, NY. I’m not a native Yinzer but I moved here after living in a few different cities in PA, NY, and NJ to settle. I’m a Talent Manager for a Water Engineering company so I’m basically in charge of hiring people and keeping them happy. I’ve been doing Human Resources for my whole career. I’ve been training pretty seriously for about 6 years, I started doing some resistance training as part of a weightloss journey. I was obese from childhood through my later 20’s and decided after being over 400 pounds that I needed to change my life. I fell in love with the strength training side of exercise because it was truly a way to build myself and add something to my life that made me feel more confident. I still train that way to this day, focusing on just being muscular, strong and healthy for myself, I don’t compete in anything, I just train for me. I chose Union Fitness because it seemed like the best environment for me to do that. The variety of equipment and implements and supportive atmosphere made it easy for me to feel like I had a safe place to train anyway I wanted to and explore areas of fitness that you can’t really do in a gym with more specialization.  I love deadlifting and doing weighted carries for examples and finding a gym where I can do both of those things, inside or outside, and also use a treadmill and a preacher curl machine is extremely rare.”

 

A little more about Ward:

 

  1.  If Ward could lift with any President it would be Teddy Roosevelt. Our lift would be bully.
  2. Favorite PR song is Slaves and Bulldozers by Soundgarden. If you time the lift during the high note an angel lifts the bar for you.
  3. I have an entire Wall in my home dedicated to David Bowie.
  4. Shorts can never be short enough for me.
  5. Ward loves spicy food and will always try the ridiculous hot thing on a menu that will inevitably make him cry.
  6. Ward is a believer in the importance of a bigger picture of health so he advocates for therapy, meditation, stress management, philosophy, and mindfulness to support all of the physical and nutritional things we do for ourselves.
  7. If Ward was a character on a tv show he would be some combination of Patrick from Schitt’s Creek and Terry from Brooklyn 99.
  8. Ward is a much nicer in person than he looks, He is much friendlier than his face would seem
  9. Thank you Ward for being a great member of our gym community!

 

Cheers,

CeJ

Happy Inauguration Day my Bumpiest of Friends!

For the next few weeks in our #Powerful class we will be focusing our training for the March Push Pull Charity Event. The goal is to improve our technique , strength and confidence in our bigger barbell movements; squat, bench & deadlift. We will then be using smaller movements to build muscle, improve body composition and have some damn fun! 

 

If you’re not interested in the Push Pull event, #Powerful will still be a badass class for you if you’re looking to train with a community, build confidence in the gym, have fun, push each other, and learn old & new exercises.

 

Come on out and join us and let’s crush some weights in 2021 and have some fun!

 

Check out the video on our social media to get a lil inside scoop on today’s training session. 

 

See you soon, 

 

CeJ