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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

Member Spotlight, Matt Wylie

I grew up in a small town called Chippewa which is very close to Beaver Falls, PA. I graduated from Edinboro University and after living in the Strip District and Bellevue, I now reside in Mt Washington with my fiancé, 6 year old son, and a miniature dachshund named Finn. Since graduating college in 2011, I’ve been an active musician for a little over a decade. I’ve played guitar in a lot of original bands and have done just about every genre of cover band that you can think of from 80s, 90s, nu metal (a gig’s a gig, right?), and everything in between.

 

My professional background is in sales and I work as an Account Executive for a SaaS company based out of Boston, MA where we offer financial planning & analysis automation solutions. I get to work remote 100% of the time and haven’t met an actual coworker in about 3 years.

 

Union Fitness has become my home away from home since I began my fitness journey. I started in February of 2021 and didn’t have a clear goal in mind but I knew that I wanted to get into great shape and make positive lifestyle changes.  I am the type of person that needs to be learning something and to have the ability to apply it in order to stay motived. With the help of my old buddy CeJ (T-luv, Tito, Uncle Tito, etc) he introduced me to the #powerful classes and the other fantastic trainers here at UF. I hadn’t even looked at a weight in about a decade and I had never done a squat or deadlift a day in my life prior to this so we truly started from the bottom. The #powerful classes created a positive environment for me to be able to learn how to lift properly and the workouts created by the instructors will get anybody going towards where they want to be. The results I’ve seen in the gym have been great, but the results outside the gym have been massive in my personal and professional life.

 

Fun facts:

 

  1. A self proclaimed beer connoisseur (this is why we’re here).
  2. Learned to play guitar by taking formal jazz lessons and by learning songs from my favorite metal bands.
  3. Played hockey from childhood to end of high school.
  4. I like all foods and I like to cook a lot at home – avid griller.

 

Thank you to T(CeJ), Curtis, Dave Jackson, Dahveed, Todd, and all of the other great people at UF!

 

Matt

Meet the Interns, Elias Dimitrakopoulos

My name is Elias Dimitrakopoulos, and I am from Harrisburg, PA. This past year I completed my Bachelor’s in Exercise Science at the University of Pittsburgh, and currently I am completing my Master’s in Clinical Exercise Science at the University of Pittsburgh as well. Along with my master’s program I am working as a Graduate Student Assistant where I teach classes and work as a personal trainer at the University’s fitness club. My future goals are to continue to expand my knowledge as an exercise professional and work as an exercise physiologist or in a performance-based setting.

 

Other things you should know about me are that I love lifting and pushing myself to get better. Usually in the gym you will see me performing a hybrid style workout geared toward powerlifting and bodybuilding as I love improving my strength as well as performing volume and hypertrophy style training. My favorite clothing brands are Inaka Power and Get Better Today so you will probably see me wearing them a lot. In terms of other hobbies, I like sports, anime, going on walks, food, and just overall doing things that I enjoy and push me to get better as an individual. My favorite sports teams are the New York Giants, New York Knicks, and New York Yankees. Some of my favorite athletes are LeBron James, Patrick Mahomes, and Giannis Antetokounmpo (as he is Greek). I do take pride in being Greek (as my family is from Greece) and always root for Greek athletes and sports teams as well. My favorite anime is probably Naruto because I love the story, his hard work ethic, and it was the first anime I watched. Currently, I am watching One Piece, Demon Slayer, My Hero Academia, and have also seen quite a few others.

 

I chose Union Fitness as my internship site for this summer as I love the atmosphere and believe I will be able to learn a lot from the trainers here. I want to expand my exercise knowledge and add new styles of training and workouts to what I already know. I believe I always have something to learn regardless of how much I have done, so I know I will gain a lot from Union Fitness. Finally, I believe my purpose and goal is to help others achieve the best versions of themselves, and I truly believe exercise is something everyone can benefit from, and I want to show others that health and wellness are a way of life and everyone has the opportunity to get better every day.

New Staff Spotlight, Amelia Bogovich

Hi! My name is Amelia Bogovich and I’m from Pittsburgh, PA. I’m currently a college volleyball athlete at Chatham University. I’ve been playing volleyball since I was 10 years old. I used to tag along with my parents to the gym when I was younger, which got me into lifting along with my club volleyball career. I began taking fitness seriously during my summer going into college to become a better athlete. My fitness journey has given me knowledge and better mental health. After attending school and playing volleyball in Ohio, I decided to transfer to Chatham University to be closer to home, and to have more opportunities to reach my academic and lifestyle goals!

 

Some facts about me are: I’m a SUPER picky eater, deadlifts are my favorite lift, and I recently started a fitness page on Instagram to meet others and track my progress (ameliab.fit). I’m an exercise science major and still unsure of what I want to do, but I hope to keep creating content and helping others.

 

I chose to work at Union because of the family culture and being able to surround myself with others who strive for a healthy lifestyle. I’m excited to learn more and grow closer to my goals on this journey!