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Sleep Deficiency Hinders Weight Loss, So Try Better Sleep Habits



Do you wake up feeling tired? Well, you’re not alone. One in every three Americans does not get the recommended sleep needed for optimal health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Sleep deficiency is known to cause weight gain, but also contributes to a whole list of more serious health issues, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, and diabetes, just to name a few.

Why Sleeping Is So Important for Weight Loss

Believe it or not, each and every day the most important thing that you do all day is sleep. Yes, you heard right! Sleep quality and duration are so important that they directly affect everything else you do in life.

“We are nothing but slaves to chemical processes,” says W. Christopher Winter, MD, in an article for Livestrong.

Nearly one third of our lives are spent asleep. During sleep, it is peak time for our bodies to repair muscle and release hormones that control natural processes, including appetite. All this is being done without any conscious energy being consumed.

Consequently, a deficiency in the sleep column affects everything; more specifically, it cuts weight loss and exercise performance by nearly 20%. This spirals into a decrease in hormone production, (which occurs when we sleep), and ultimately affects our daily eating pattern. Popular studies show that weight gain occurs because more calories are consumed on the following day, because of lack of hormone release. Therefore, a continued deficit during the night will only lead to months and years of unnecessary weight gain. On the flip side, if you aren’t already experiencing weight gain, you may just be unable to lose weight at all. So you don’t have weight gain, but no weight loss occurs, either.

Practice Better Sleep Habits

The best advice is to practice better sleep habits, getting optimal rest and avoiding insomnia.

Start with controlling your sleep environment by setting it at the appropriate temperature. Experts suggest trying between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Try eliminating all computers and television sets from your room as well, since any source of light tends to disrupt sleep patterns. Aim for consistency rather than trying to catch up on hours you might have missed the preceding day. Don’t be afraid to take short naps when feeling fatigued. These should be anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes long to help improve alertness, performance, and mood. Lastly, never consume caffeine in the afternoon because it has the ability to stay in your system and interrupt the natural onset of sleep several hours later (See our blog on giving up caffeine).

The final verdict is in. A poor amount of sleep greatly hinders weight loss and sets you up for other health problems. So do yourself a favor: turn out the light, tuck yourself in, and get some much-needed Zzzs.

This blog was written by Cara Hartman, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

creating healthy habits

Strength Training: Total Body vs. Split Workouts



Following a well-designed, appropriate strength-training program is one of the most transformational things you can do for your body and health. But sometimes, it’s hard to know where to start or channel your focus.

As a result, almost any fitness professional will tell you that one of the most commonly asked questions they get about strength training is, “Should I do total-body workouts or split my routine up?”

The answer is usually “it depends,” as there is a time and a place for both approaches. Let’s dig in.

Defining Total Body vs. Split When it Comes to Exercise

When doing a total-body routine, you’re engaging in a full-body workout that involves most, if not all, of the major muscles in the body from head to toe. Key muscle groups such as the chest, back, shoulders, glutes, quads, and hamstrings are trained in these workouts. If time permits, sometimes smaller muscle groups — such as biceps, triceps, and calves — are included as well.

Splits divide the body into either sections or parts, movement patterns, or specific muscle groups.

An example of a split dividing the body into sections or parts would be an upper-body/lower-body split. This means the body is split into two different parts, in this case the upper and lower halves. On one day you would train only the muscles of the upper body, and then work the muscles of the lower body the other day.

An example of a movement pattern split would be training with upper-body exercises that move in the horizontal direction on one day (think of a seated row, standing chest press, cable fly, etc.). The second day, leg exercises could be trained using hinge or squat movements. On the third day, exercises that move in the vertical direction (overhead shoulder presses, side raises, pulldowns, etc.) would be used.

Lastly, split routines can focus on muscle groups, with an emphasis on one to three muscle groups per session. An example of a muscle group split would be the following:

  • Monday: Chest
  • Tuesday: Back
  • Wednesday: Shoulders
  • Thursday: Legs
  • Friday: Arms

Total-Body Workouts

The Pros:

  • They are great for people who only have two to three days per week that they can train. (This can be a really useful approach during heavy travel times.)
  • They work well for people who don’t have time to do cardio outside of their training sessions.
  • They usually burn more calories than training split workouts do because more and larger muscle groups are trained.
  • They decrease the chance of having muscle imbalances as most, if not all, major muscle groups get trained.
  • They work well for those starting fitness programs as these people don’t need lots of exercises to target each muscle group.

The Cons:

  • There are a number of impacts due to time constraints:
    • They are usually the longest workouts to do because so many muscles are being trained.
    • It’s difficult to increase training volume (total amount of work being done) over time without extending the duration of the workout, which might take too long depending on your schedule.
    • Usually no more than three sets of each movement can be used due to time limitations.
    • A muscle and/or movement pattern that needs special attention (for aesthetics, weakness, or injury) might not get the needed work due to a lack of time.
  • They can increase the potential of overtraining and poor recovery, as lots of work is being done each session. Training the same large muscle groups on consecutive days can have a negative impact on recovery in some people.
  • Some people find these workouts to be boring as most of the exercises are basic.

Bottom line: While total-body workouts might be longer in duration and demand a lot of your body in each session, fewer training days per week are needed. These routines are designed to be more general, hitting larger muscle groups without specific focus areas.

Training Splits

The Pros:

  • Splits allow you to use multiple exercises and do several sets for each muscle group. As a result, people who have more training experience can benefit from them as more time and sets are needed to keep making progress.
  • People who can and want to train more frequently during the week on a consistent basis can gain value from splits, since the workout duration can be shorter than total-body exercises.
  • If certain muscle groups need more individual work, training splits are often needed.
  • You can train on consecutive days with minimal negative impact on recovery due to different muscle groups being trained on different days.
  • These workouts allow additional time for cardio and core work to be done since they often take less time than total-body workouts.

The Cons:

  • People usually have good intentions to do more workouts, but may end up skipping one or two, meaning muscle groups are often missed. There’s a common stereotype that men frequently miss leg days but stay consistent with arm days.
  • Training splits can cause muscle imbalances if some muscles are trained more consistently than others. For example, people often train muscles they can see (such as the chest, shoulders, arms, and quads) more than muscles they cannot see (such as the back, hamstrings, glutes, and calves).
  • The total calorie burn usually isn’t as high as total-body workouts as fewer muscle groups are trained.

Bottom Line: Split routines allow you to hit each muscle group a bit more, but this might allow for some imbalances to develop. Since each workout is shorter, more sessions are required each week to balance out your exercise approach.

Which one is best?

Depending on your goals, experience, and schedule, total-body workouts, splits, and combinations of both might be used in your routine at different times.

When to use total body:

  • You have limited time to train. If you struggle to get to the club more than two to three times per week, it makes sense to use total-body workouts.
  • Your primary goal is fat loss. Total-body workouts can be really effective for this goal as they burn more calories than splits do.
  • You’re a strength training novice. If you’re new to strength training, total-body workouts can be highly effective as they reinforce crucial movement patterns, which are important for your nerves and muscles to get used to as you advance in your fitness. Plus, those newer to strength training don’t need as much training volume initially.

When to use training splits:

  • You have no trouble working out four or more times per week. Since multiple weekly sessions are needed to hit all body parts, frequent sessions are a must.
  • Your primary goal is muscle gain or strength. Building muscle and increasing strength demand and require more training volume, meaning there needs to be a high number of exercises per muscle group and a high number of sets of each exercise performed.
  • You have experience with strength training. If you’ve been lifting consistently for more than two years, larger volume is needed to see continued progress and results.

How to Use Both Approaches

One opportunity that is often missed by many fitness enthusiasts is that they think they can only do one approach or the other. However, there is no reason why both can’t be used if needed.

Here are 12 different examples of various ways you can use total-body workouts, training splits, or a combination of both over the course of a week.

Workout Option Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
2X/Week Total Body Total Body Total Body
3X/Week Total Body Total Body Total Body Total Body
*3-Day Training Split Upper Body Lower Body Upper Body
**3-Day Training Split Upper Body (Vertical) Lower Body Lower Body (Horizontal)
***3-Day Training Split Back and Biceps Legs Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps
*4-Day Training Split Lower Body Upper Body Lower Body Upper Body
**4-Day Training Split Lower Body (Hinge) Upper Body (Vertical) Lower Body (Squat) Upper Body (Horizontal)
***4-Day Training Split Chest and Triceps Back Legs Shoulders and Biceps
***5-Day Training Split Chest Back Shoulders Legs Arms
3-Day Hybrid Upper Body Lower Body Total Body
4-Day Hybrid Upper Body Lower Body Total Body Total Body
4-Day Hybrid Upper Body (Vertical) Lower Body Upper Body (Horizontal) Total Body
*Represents a Body Section or Part Training Split

**Represents a Movement Pattern Training Split

***Represents a Muscle Group Training Split

Cycling through each approach in eight- to 12-week blocks is often what’s needed at different stages in your exercise journey. No matter which path you choose, know that consistent strength training is worth your time and effort in the long run — for your health, metabolism, and more. Use the guidelines above to help shape your approach so that it’s effective, enjoyable, and designed to drive the results that are most meaningful to you.

The post Strength Training: Total Body vs. Split Workouts appeared first on Experience Life.

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Cat–cow is a two-part yoga flow that stretches the front and back of the body while mobilizing the spine. It’s commonly included in yoga classes and in broader fitness sessions, often as part of a warm-up or mobility sequence.

By all appearances, it’s as easy as getting down on hands and knees, arching the back to lower the belly and point head and tailbone to the sky, and then reversing the move to round the back, tucking the chin and pelvis.

But it’s common for people to move quickly and aggressively between the cow (bitilasana) and cat (marjaryasana) poses. Often, limited mobility causes them to flex and extend well only in some segments of their spines. Moving fast and forcing deep flexion and extension can exaggerate these imbalances and lead to neck and lower-back pain.

To avoid these troubles, the first thing to do is slow down. Move through your range of motion painlessly, focusing on finding movement throughout your entire spine. Inhale as you drop your belly and move into cow; exhale as you round your spine for cat. Feel free to practice each pose individually, returning to a tabletop position instead of flowing between cat and cow.

Once you gain comfort flowing with control, explore ways to have fun with cat–cow or further adapt it to your needs. Try adding lateral movement by shifting your hips from side to side with each breath, or try rolling your shoulders back each time you exhale.

Challenge yourself to try to move extra slowly; imagine articulating through the spine vertebra by vertebra.

See what happens if you initiate the movement from your tailbone, especially if you tend to lead with your head and neck.

Practice the move in a chair or other seated position for a more upright variation of the pose.

  1. Start on your hands and knees in an active tabletop position; keep your neck in a neutral position, with your eyes looking down.
  2. Move first into cow: Inhale and lift your tailbone and chest toward the ceiling, as you allow your belly to relax downward. Lift your head to look forward.
  3. Round into cat: Exhale and draw your spine toward the ceiling. Relax the top of your head toward the floor, but don’t force your chin to your chest.
  4. Reverse the motion on an inhale to move back into cow, and repeat the sequence. Stay active through your hands and feet, but take care not to shift your shoulders and hips forward or back by pushing hard into the floor.


Seated Cat–Cow

  • Sit upright on a chair, stool, or bench with your hands in your lap or hanging loosely at your sides, your feet parallel and hip width apart. If your chair has a back, don’t lean into it; sit on the front edge of the seat.
  • Slowly roll the tops of your hips backward, rounding your lower back and allowing your head to tip forward so you are looking down at your lap.
  • Slowly roll the tops of your hips forward, arching your lower back and allowing your head to tip backward so you can look at the ceiling.
  • Repeat the sequence slowly and with control; focus on the breath and quality of movement rather than pushing or forcing your body to stretch. Draw your shoulders downward, away from your ears, while you perform the movement, and focus on the movement in the hip joints.

This article originally appeared as “The Cat-Cow” in the May 2021 issue of Experience Life.

The post BREAK IT DOWN: The Cat-Cow appeared first on Experience Life.

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Buff Bombshell Show Special Guest: Rachel Daniels



In this week’s episode, the ladies – Emma Hyndman, The Posing Pro and Bikini Amateur Lauren Lotter – talk to the incredible Rachel Daniels. In a short but well-earned competitive career, Rachel has gone from IFBB Bikini amateur to Women's Physique pro and also made her Olympia debut in 2020. We have no doubt that Rachel is here to conquer all her goals, one being The New Era Poser.

We will be catching up with Rachel later this year to find out how she has progressed in her bodybuilding career and hear more about her continuing passion for the sport.

–Lauren & Emma

#FitnessRXforWomen #Olympia #WomensBodyBuilding #RachelDaniels


The post Buff Bombshell Show Special Guest: Rachel Daniels first appeared on FitnessRX for Women.

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