Remember “Calisthenics”? Yes, those exercises that were taught to us at a very young age. Calisthenics are the art of using one’s own body weight to develop strength and the physique. Calisthenics consist of a variety of different body weight exercises, generally without the use of any equipment. They are commonly performed along with stretching movements for an entire body workout. Calisthenics can be dated back centuries, and are still used in today’s military around the world, including our own U.S. Special Forces. All calisthenics exercise can be performed in progressions in order to suit an individual’s ability. Slowly but surely your strength will increase and you will be able to progress to more advanced movements.
From my experience calisthenics alone will develop a person’s strength, help with weight loss, improve cardiovascular endurance and maintain excellent health. Calisthenics training is also great for rehabilitation of injuries. I teach people how calisthenics work and how to incorporate the training into their schedule and life style. Using body weight exercises solely versus working out in a fitness gym with weights and machines requires a different mindset . I see the entire environment as my gym. I see opportunities to train anywhere I may be. It is really fascinating that once you realize how convenient calisthenics training can be, it affects how you start to view the environment around you. That is what makes it so exciting. One of many advantages of calisthenics is that you can train anywhere, including a park, playground, your backyard, a hotel room, your kitchen, etc. Calisthenics are exciting and challenging. Body weight exercise can benefit anyone from young children to people well into their 80’s and 90’s. Watch children at a playground. Observe how naturally they gravitate to the monkey bars and jungle gyms. They love to grab bars, hang, swing and climb. Why? Because it is totally natural and our bodies are built for exercising with our own body weight. Machines and barbells move the body in more linear, unnatural movements. These machines do have their place, but calisthenics are, by far, more of a natural approach. The main reason people give up is they get bored and lose interest. That is where I come in.
First, I teach people to stay in shape using body weight calisthenics because they are fun, convenient, effective and safe for everyone. Calisthenics require little space, no equipment, and do not require using expensive gasoline to travel to a gym. Sounds like fun already right? In addition to this, calisthenics are complete. Body weight exercises are multi-jointed forcing muscle groups to work together, rather than isolating muscles. For example, push-ups and squats require the abdominal muscles to stabilize the spine while strengthening the arms, chest and legs. Calisthenics can also assist in weight loss and cardiovascular fitness. By minimizing time between your sets, you keep that heart pumping fast creating more oxygen flow. Your heart and lungs are becoming stronger. More blood flow and more oxygen flow equals better health. By combining some simple exercise such as push-ups, sit-ups, squats and jumping jacks into a circuit training routine, you can create a more interesting cardio work out than spending an hour on some boring stationary bike or step machine going nowhere fast.
The fact of the matter is, most people have no idea how to get themselves into shape. I have witnessed many people doing ridiculous exercises in the attempt to lose weight and build strength. To learn things correctly, nothing is better than one on one instruction. My approach is simple. I will meet with people wherever they feel comfortable and when it is convenient for them. I train people in local parks, playgrounds community buildings, their private residences, or my own personal training area. I show people how easy and enjoyable getting into shape can be. Most people I speak to admit that they have to drag themselves to the gym to get through a workout. This normally ends with quitting exercise all together. I show people all the different ways they can construct a workout so that they can tailor it the way they want, depending on how they feel that day. A routine can work at the beginning, but one must learn how to switch things up a bit if the excitement has gone.
In future columns I will break down specific exercises in depth, basic nutrition, designing your own workout programs and how to use the environment as your workout gym. It is very rewarding for me to know that I made exercise fun for someone, and that it is something they truly look forward to.
I teach my clients to have an open mind and not to be limited to the same routine over and over. Once they understand how to adapt their workouts, they become their own personal trainer and start to encourage others. When I see them excited about exercise, and have incorporated it into their lives, then I know that I have done my job.