Tag Archives: Goals

Control Your Deadlifts for Better Progress.

Out of all of the major compound lifts, the deadlift is the only one that does not require an eccentric (lowering) phase to initiate the movement. Because of this, the concentric (lifting) portion is hands down the most important aspect to be trained. But, what if I told you that focusing on how you return the bar to the floor could greatly help you increase the quality and strength of your pull?

 

We’ve all seen it, someone sets up for a set of deadlifts, lifts it with great form and control, only to be followed by an uncontrolled limp-body descent. If you watch closely, there’s a good chance that you’ll notice each of the following reps become less sound and less technical than the one before. Whether you’re a powerlifter training for a competition, or someone simply looking to improve strength, the goal should always be to make every repetition an exact representation of the one before.

 

Now, I completely understand that holding a bar in your hands loaded with heavy weight for any period of time can be uncomfortable. The last thing that anyone wants is to feel the knurling of a bar trying to pull the skin off of their hands. But if you’re going to take the time to perform a lift every single week for months and years on end, why not take the time to get the most out of it possible, right?

 

So, if the deadlift is a concentric only lift, then what’s the point of worrying about how we lower it? Well, let’s look at the squat and the bench press. As you lower the bar, you’re gaining feedback from your body on what muscles are firing and how to keep them tense and engaged. This then allows you to be in a stronger position for the concentric portion. So even if the squat and bench press started from the bottom up, by practicing this technique we would sill get stronger. The more practice we have doing this and the better that we get, the more efficient we can be. Over time, this adds up into many technically sound lifts, which allows us to also get stronger.

 

So how do we apply this to the deadlift? The easiest way is to try to make your pull and your return look like a mirror image. If you were to watch the entire lift on film, it should look the exact same when played forward or backwards. While you’re doing this, be sure to start light and take your time. Understand that at first this may affect how much you can lift overall, but it will drastically improve your strength over time. Start with around 60-70% of your max and try to take around 3 seconds to return the bar to the floor. During that time, focus on recognizing which muscles are working, and what needs to be done in order to keep them engaged. Do not lose that tension once the bar returns to the floor. Even in between reps, keep tension, stay engaged, and in the exact position that you want to perform the next rep. This will then help you know exactly what to do when you begin your first pull, even without being able to perform the eccentric phase. Over time, as you learn how to build and keep tension throughout your body, you can start applying this to heavier weights, and you will begin to see your strength and technique improve tremendously.

 

If you see me in the gym, don’t hesitate to grab me and ask for help. If you follow me on Instagram, don’t hesitate to send me your videos. I’m glad to help any way I can. Stay strong, my friends!

 

Curtis

State of the Union

Summer is quickly coming to a close and we are preparing to spend more time indoors. With the change of season we feel it is important to discuss a few different things. First we want to be sure everyone feels comfortable training in a safe environment.  We also want to show all of you other projects we are working on to make us not just a stronger community but also a better community.

 

In August we began an assessment of the gym and of our services. We have had a questionnaire at the desk for over a month now. Over 50 members responded and most comments were positive. What we did learn is that keeping a clean and safe environment is very important to all of our members. We take this very serious, and have been running through cleaning products quite fast. We are doing our best to not only make sure the facility is clean, but to also make sure everyone feels comfortable. Please tell us when you see any issue that makes you feel unsafe.

 

As you have probably seen we have done our best leaving doors open and moving outside for as many activities as possible. We will continue to do this as the weather permits. Let’s hope it stays warm so we can continue to be outside. Once the weather changes and we can no longer move outside we will review how many people are permitted in the gym (this has not been an issue yet). We are hoping that everyone can continue to work together to make us the best gym in Pittsburgh and the safest.

 

Return of the podcast.

 

We now have our own recording studio. With the help of one of our awesome members and local podcast host Josh Elsass we set up a recording studio and we are going to return to recording weekly podcasts. These podcasts can be found on all your podcast apps and is called the Union Fitness Podcast. While you are at it check out the numerous podcasts that Josh hosts.

 

Bike ride time.

 

We are hosting a bike ride on Sept 26th (special thanks to Jessie Theisen). The ride will benefit Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh. We are asking for donations through our go fund me site and you can sign up on using MindBody app or through our website. The details are below and here is the link for donations.

 

 

Date: Saturday, Sept 26th

 

Location: Union Fitness

 

Ride Options: 10 mile family fun ride. This ride will leave UF at 10:30 AM with registration at 10 AM.

30 Mile Challenge. This ride will leave UF at 9:30 with registration at 9 AM.

50 Mile Challenge. This ride will leave UF at 8:30 with registration at 8 AM.

 

Other updates.

 

After our review we also discussed our classes and how we can improve the experience for you the member. We will be adding some free classes for all members until the end of the year (watch for an announcement), we are also going adjust our schedule slightly. As always if you see something that does not work for you please communicate that to us.

 

We are also beginning an instagram meet the staff series. Every Thursday you will see a short video highlighting one of our staff members. Hopefully this will introduce some of you to our amazing team here at UF.

 

As always feedback is welcome. If you every have any issues in the gym please contact Todd Hamer todd@unionfitness.com and feel free to give us the good, the bad and the ugly. We are here to serve you.

 

Todd Hamer

 

 

 

 

Humble Beginnings

When I was young, my dad had a small weight bench and a pair of dumbbells in our spare bedroom upstairs. He first showed me how to use them when I was around 10 years old or so, but after the first time that I took too much weight off of one side of the bar and it came up and hit me square in the mouth, I was over it. It wasn’t until I graduated high school that I actually found my way into the weight room.

 

Growing up, I was always extremely active and involved in sports. From growing up on my Grandfather’s farm, to helping my dad work on our 1970 Mustang, to racing dirt bikes and four wheelers, I was always doing something physical. From the age of 4, I played soccer and baseball up until the day that I graduated high school. I lived for all of it. These things were my way of hiding how shy and afraid I was on the inside. When I was standing on that pitcher’s mound or racing around a track, I felt unstoppable. Almost like a superhero. But when all of that went away and I had to go back into the real world, I was just a boy who was scared of what life was going to throw at him.

 

Eventually, I decided to put sports to the side and pursue a career for my love of cars. For a couple of years I worked in custom car shops as a metal fabricator and paint specialist. Although I absolutely loved it, there was now a hole in my life that I couldn’t fill. Without the strength and confidence that I gained from sports, I was still that scared kid from my childhood. One day, my best friend Trey asked me if I wanted to go to the gym with him after work. I hesitated as I flashed back to the time when the barbell hit me in the mouth at my parents house, but I still said yes. Scared and nervous, I walked into our old high school’s weight room as I was greeted by the football coaches. One of them, my History teacher Mr. Joseph, looked at me shocked and said “Miller! What are you doing here? Are you lost or something?”

 

Indeed I was lost. I was 145 pounds soaking wet, and had no idea what I was doing, but each day, I kept coming back. One month into working out 3 days per week, I received news that Trey was in a car accident, and was fighting for his life. I visited him in the hospital, and told myself that I would continue to train for him. As he progressed and got better, I began to realize what the gym had provided me during that time. It gave me the courage to keep pushing when I was sad and scared, and it gave me the strength to not give in even when I wanted to quit. 12 years later, and not a day goes by that I don’t try to repay and pass on everything that the gym has done for me. It has given me the strength to go back to school, to become an established professional, become an Elite powerlifter, build strong relationships, and face my fears every day in order to become a better human being. As long as I live, I will do my best to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to experience the same things that I have.

 

To Mr. Joseph, I am in fact still lost, but I’m finding my way a little more each day. Thank you for the encouragement.

Iron City Open 2020, Wrap Up

Well folks we hosted our first meet during a pandemic. We had to follow many new procedures and guidelines, yet I am confident that we pulled it off in a safe and strong manner. We want to thank everyone who was involved. Meet organizers, volunteers, competitors, judges, friend and family. Thank you all for coming out and supporting the lifters.

 

As most people know we had to have a meet with limitations on how many people were permitted to be here and while requiring masks. We are proud and happy about how so many people came together and supported one another while respecting all safety guidelines.

 

The meet itself had a very different feel as it was moved from a 2 day meet to a 1 day meet. There was no large crowd of cheering fans and anyone who wanted to watch had to bring their own chair and sit outside. At times it felt more like a picnic than a meet.

 

As for the lifting… let us have an ego here. UF did great! All the lifters who train here did great! Our own Cody Miller won best lifter. The best female lifter was Kelly Piccione. Josh, Bobby, Monica, Stew, Simone  (adopted UF lifter),  all had amazing days! I also want to thanks all of these people for helping make the day successful, Dave, Matt, Josh, Kerry, Liz, Cayt, Vicky, Bryce, Frank, Keenan, Curtis, CJ, Cody, Faruk, Jared, Nate, Derek, John,  Toria, Zain and all others hopefully I didn’t miss anyone.  Thanks to all vendors as well.

 

At the end it was a successful meet and we hope that we met everyone’s expectations. We also must thank you for being members and supporting us through these strange days we are living in.

 

Todd Hamer

 

 

Toria’s Trip

Hello! I’m one of the new kids here at UF. I wanted to introduce myself and share a little bit of my story with you all. So… I graduated from Slippery Rock University with my BS in Exercise Science and from the University of Pittsburgh with my MS in Health, Physical Activity, and Chronic Disease. I am currently an Exercise Physiologist at a research lab at the University of Pittsburgh, and a desk worker/soon to be trainer at UF. Now that you know my education and work background, let’s get into the fun stuff. 

 

When I was a student in college, I had gained just about 50 lbs over the course of those few years from being lazy and unmotivated. I believe I gained 25 of those 50 lbs in just one year. I only saw the inside of a gym maybe a few times per year. I was very unhappy with myself and didn’t care enough to try and lose the weight. I would eat fast food and drink pop (or “soda” for you oddballs out there) literally all of the time. I don’t think I really even knew what a vegetable tasted like. My physical and mental health both went down a steep hill. 

 

A little over a year ago, my doctor ordered a blood test because of the rapid weight gain and how badly I had been feeling. The test revealed that I had abnormally high LDL cholesterol levels (LDL = the “bad” cholesterol). At the age of 22 it definitely isn’t normal to have high cholesterol with no history of it in my family. Since I’m young it doesn’t seem like a huge concern, but I sure was scared for my future health. Not long after that news, I discovered a local CrossFit gym that I figured I could try out. I was intimidated and very unsure of it at the time, but I immediately fell in love with exercise and fitness. I ended up bringing my cholesterol levels down, losing all of that extra weight I had gained in college, gaining some solid muscle mass and a lot of confidence along the way. When I first started out, I could barely do a few pushups even from my knees and that extra weight I was carrying put a lot of stress on my joints. Now I can exercise with no pain, do movements I wasn’t able to before, and I feel great while doing it.    

 

I found a love and passion for exercise, and I realized that it’s something I will never give up on unless something crazy were to happen to me. Exercise is truly one of the greatest things on this earth. To be able to physically perform and experience what it can do to you is definitely a blessing as not everyone in this world is able to. On this journey I have learned that fitness is not about being better than someone else, it’s 100% about being better than YOU used to be. If you put even just a little bit of focus on yourself and your physical/mental health progress, it can truly go a long way. I hope my story helps you realize and remember that even with some of the setbacks that come throughout life, you can do anything you put your mind and body to!

 

Stay healthy friends!

 

Toria

Now That’s NEAT!

“Low energy flux, but not energy surplus, predicted future increases in body fat. Furthermore, high energy flux appeared to prevent fat gain in part because it was associated with a higher resting metabolic rate.”
-Hume et. al 2016

 

I often share this advice as one of the most actionable items for a fat loss client. Daily movement can be the secret weapon in achieving your fat loss goals. We are designed to move as humans, and we should be moving often. However, today’s society tries to make us move less and make life even more convenient than how it was for our ancestors. What’s worse, when we are in a caloric deficit and trying to lose fat, our brains may try to fight against us and down-regulate movement since we are consuming less calories. We need to be conscious of our movement and make it a daily habit like brushing your teeth and bathing. You do those things, right? Right?

 

I’ve had this conversation quite frequently over the past months: “I’ve gained weight during COVID-19 despite continuing to train or keeping my diet the same. What should I do?” While there are many factors why this could be, a big culprit in many might be the loss of NEAT.

 

NEAT is roughly attributed to 15-20% of your total daily energy expenditure. NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating, or purposeful exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, household chores, and even fidgeting. If you had a job that required you to be on your feet prior to COVID-19 and now you are exiled to your couch, this can be why those pounds seem to be racking up.

 

Research by Shook et. al showed that a threshold for achieving energy balance occurred at an activity level corresponding to 7116 steps per day, an amount achievable by most adults. This research also showed that “the theory of the zone of regulation is important because it relates the accumulation of adipose tissue as not only occurring as a result of low amounts of energy expended but also that physical activity plays a regulatory role in the amount of energy consumed via appetite signals.” So what this means if that NEAT is low, you likely won’t be able to regulate your appetite and there’s a greater likelihood of storing fat. I hope this gives you closure knowing that there was always a deeper reason why you were diving headfirst into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s on a Sunday night. Blame it on your lack of NEAT, anyone?

 

As part of a daily checklist for my fat loss clients, I require them to perform 10,000 steps. Put on a podcast/audio book, call an old friend while walking, or simply enjoy your time to yourself while exploring a new route and become one with nature. If you are a busy professional, consider taking walking meetings or perform 10 -minute walks. A 10 minute walk every 60-90 minutes can do wonders for NEAT and will probably provide better mental focus as well. No matter how you choose to do it, my advice is the same: get up and get moving! 

 

References 

 

Hume, D. J., Yokum, S., & Stice, E. (2016). Low energy intake plus low energy expenditure (low energy flux), not energy surfeit, predicts future body fat gain. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 103(6), 1389-1396. doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.127753

 

Shook, R. P., Hand, G. A., Drenowatz, C., Hebert, J. R., Paluch, A. E., Blundell, J. E., . . . Blair, S. N. (2015). Low levels of physical activity are associated with dysregulation of energy intake and fat mass gain over 1 year. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 102(6), 1332-1338. doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.115360

What the World Needs is More Coaches

What does it mean to be a coach? On the surface a coach can be defined as someone who is helping an individual work towards achieving a goal. This is what most of us think of when we hear the term. However, as we go deeper, we will realize that coaching consists of much more. The ability to coach is within each of us, and it’s something that we need now more than ever.

 

I’ve spent the last 11 years of my life as a coach to athletes, kids, the elderly, and general population individuals. During that time, my focus has always been to first build a connection with each person, and then help them to unlock their full potential with the goal of being able to become their own coach in the future. With coaching, the goal should never be to want people to rely on you in order to achieve those things, but rather possess the ability to learn on their own, and then to pass on those lessons which they have learned throughout the process. In my opinion, this is the true definition of a coach. 

 

The more experienced I become within my career, the more I realize that these actions go far beyond working in a performance setting, but rather a universal setting. In my opinion, coaching is not confined to a certain group of trained professionals, but anyone who has learned from their life’s lessons, and is willing to pass them onto others for the greater good of humanity. Each of us has a skill that distinguishes one person from another. We can use those abilities and skills to help coach others to work towards a better, more knowledgable version of theirselves. I strongly believe that this is the ultimate goal of life. It’s what we are here to do. Today, we need quality coaches more than ever. So, ask yourself “How can I help, and what things have I learned that I can pass onto others to help them become a better version of who they are?”. If we can all do this, we will be great.

Four pillars: Training

Disclaimer: There is a big distinction that I want to make when you read this article. To accomplish any goal you must work hard but doing pointless work for the sake of working hard is dangerous. Hard work does not need to be complicated but precise and consistent.

 

This training article is not going to be about how I believe everyone needs to be a “beast”. There are enough videos out there that yell at you for an hour telling you to work harder. This article does not address what the best program is either. If must know I believe 5/3/1 is, simply because it’s easy to follow.

 

Of course, I believe that a good program helps to achieve a goal but the real challenge is to recover from that program. Hence why the first two pillars are about recovery. I truly mean a challenge. It is psychologically and physically challenging to recover better. It takes time and self-discipline. Now how to address programming.

 

Training needs to be simple. The more complex the program is the more room for error on your part. Most people do not need an intricate program with the latest research. Yes, I believe that some programs are better than others but what I mean is when you are starting out, make the simplest program ever. By simple I mean you are going to come in and do 3×20 on leg press and hamstring curls. Done. That’s a wrap for the day. Now, what are you doing tomorrow? The easier this program is, the more likely you are going to do it for a long period of time. The length of time following a program is far more important than the intensity of the program.

 

 

Injuries will slow you down. Injuries are inevitable no matter what level you are at, how long you have been doing it, or the intensity that you bring. What I believe to be far more controllable is the severity and length of the injury. Most people can remember that their shoulder felt weird that day when they decided to max out. Or when you woke up and your back wasn’t fully prime for that hard deadlift day. You probably did the workout anyway because you are no (whatever word you choose) and now your back/shoulder has been hurting. Congrats.

 

Here is another idea. Do the things that specifically only make your body feel good. If the pain or aggravation persists go see a doctor or physical therapist but what do they know. People know that I am bias towards physical therapist but a good therapist can help tremendously in keeping you on the path to accomplish your goal. Now ideally you have a program that has certain warm-up exercises or assistant exercises that will help the reduce severity of an injury that was to come.

 

Your primary focus should be on your weakness. Again the program doesn’t need the most complex excel sheet you can find but it does need to work on your weak points as the focus. In my case, my hamstrings are not a strong point for me. They have no idea what they are doing and are constantly sore. Hamstring exercises have always been in my programs but not to the extent they should have been. When I currently train legs  ¾ of the workout are now hamstring focus and my back has thanked me for it. This is where a coach, personal trainer, or training partner can be a tremendous help. One of these people should let you know what “thing” needs to focus on.

Why Team?

When I was younger nothing stuck for me, it wasn’t until my mother forced me into swimming that I eventually learned to love it. I started on a summer swim team, it was an outdoor pool and this less than 100lb girl would shiver like no other, my lips were blue and I was always and I mean always cold at practice. It was so bad that my mother had to buy me a wetsuit just so I could withstand an hour plus of practice. The Colby Sailfish is what started it all for me and from there my parents decided to put me into winter swimming, I remember it being a huge deal and caused so much drama. Back then moving from summer swimming to winter meant you wanted to be more competitive and looking back I realized if that never would have happened then I wouldn’t have been as competitive as I am today.

 

Swimming was a big part of my life and it helped me learn the importance of routine and structure. I followed swimming with cross-county and paired those together for the remainder of my school years. It didn’t leave much room for anything else but my life was sports and for as long as I can remember, even at 27 thats how it has always been. I’ve always enjoyed putting my all into something that gave me results based upon what I put in, it was entirely up to me and how hard I wanted to work. It showed me that work ethic didn’t throw out favors and it didn’t give away trophies for participation, there was a clear winner based upon time that was spent grinding.

 

My biggest takeaway from swimming was relays, it didn’t occur to me until later in life that I absolutely enjoyed the rush of being on a team consisting of four people. I’d always push myself harder, I’d swim faster and I’d leave it all out there in the pool for my teammates. This translated fluidly to when I started competing in the sport of Functional Fitness, being on a team consisting on two males and two females took pushing myself to a whole new level. In all my years of being an athlete I have never pushed myself to the point I continue to push myself on a day to day basis with my current teammates. 

 

This is why I think playing sports when you are younger is so important, it truly is part of what makes you who you are in this present moment. It teaches you things that you will carry throughout your life and give you skills that you can apply to many situations that aren’t even closely related to sports. When I was put on a relay in swimming I knew that I had a part to play in the outcome and with that being said, in life you play a part alongside many people. This can be your relationship, as a daughter, brother or sister, it could be as a parent or a coach. We are all constantly surrounded by opportunities to showcase our ability to work within a social structure and create something beautiful alongside others.

 

So, to answer the title of this blog, why team? I think it all comes down to being able to share something greater than yourself with other people. When working within a team generally you know your teammates abilities and they know yours so you’re able to jump in when they need a break and vise-versa. To be able to have this understanding amongst three other people is so rare and to even be able to communicate in such a way that you all understand what each individual is feeling is a learned skill from your younger years of competing. 

 

At the end of the day I absolutely love being on a team, it has given me a sense of belonging in a world that makes it so hard to be yourself. It’s also more than a team, they are your friends, your family, not because you spend so much time together but because you truly do care about each individual. I think I’ll always choose to be on a team in every aspect of my life, not just my athletic pursuits. If the life lessons of team sports taught me this much that it carried through till my 27th year around the sun then there is something to be said about the kind of person you turn into when you learn to let people help you and they let you help them in return.

 

Much love,

 

Jocelyn

State of the Union

We have now been closed for just over two months. Like many of you we can’t wait to return to the gym and Nova Place for some lifting, coffee as well as food and libations from Federal Galley. We still do not know when we will be re-opening, yet we are doing all we can to prepare for when that does happen. I wanted to write this post to tell all of you what we have been doing to prepare. We have some exciting things on the horizon and when we do re-open we will be ready to do more to help each and every one of you.

 

Expansion.

 

The expansion that we have been working on is moving forward. The work is almost done and the floor and outdoor turf will be down in two weeks. The equipment from elitefts is going to start arriving soon. When this space opens we will have more outdoor space than indoor space. We will also have garage doors that open to the turf. In the age of Covid-19 it will give us the opportunity to train without being stuck indoors. 

 

Cleaning.

 

We have increased our cleaning in the facility. This began before the shut down and will continue when we are able to re-open. We will continue with hourly wipe downs as well as our night crew disinfecting the entire facility. We have also had the ceilings and overhead ducts cleaned during this shut down.

 

Redefining who we are.

 

We have spent time doing discussing what we want to be and how we want to best service our members. It is important that we remember during this process that we want to be a part of the community and a gathering place for a diverse group of peoples to arrive and become better versions of theirselves. With this in mind we have set up a meeting with outside organizations to help us serve our clients better.

 

Following safety guidelines.

 

We have yet to receive safety guidelines from the state on how we can safely re-open. To be proactive we have reviewed Ohio’s safety guidelines and we are prepared to open with these guidelines. While we understand that Ohio’s guidelines are not going to be the same as PA’s we  are being prepared based upon the best information that we have available. The moment PA announces their guidelines we will review those and update ours to match. We want to make sure that you have a great and safe experience at UF and will do all we can to make this happen. 

 

In addition to these guidelines we are working closely with Faros properties to make sure that we are doing everything in accordance with the state, county and city to keep our facility safe. 

 

We appreciate each and everyone of you and hope to see you very soon.

 

Todd Hamer