CALISTHENICS: Who says getting strong is boring, or needs a stuffy gym?
Hello everyone on HIVE and especially the Sports Talk Social Community! My name is Jasper and I’m writing to you from Cape Town, South Africa! The “sport” (more like “healthy addiction” really) that I tend to post about a lot on HIVE is one of my favourite sports, surfing!
When I have the time, I also like to do some martial arts like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and kickboxing. If I have even more time, I will perhaps hit a tennis ball a few times, even if it’s just to reward myself with a gin & tonic afterwards... haha!
When I had even more time, I used to like to supplement these sports with some basic strength training and running. I used to run quite well back in High School.
There are three reasons why I am writing this post:
•To try and motivate myself to get back into these other forms of sports and training! I became a father to a beautiful baby daughter about 14 months ago and obviously I have less free time then I used to at the moment. I have managed to keep surfing a bit, and to go to a few BJJ classes (slipping a bit recently), but I would like to try squeeze in more or build a routine!
•I read a cool post by a new HIVER from Cape Town, @marelizezeeman (https://ecency.com/hive-150338/@marelizezeeman/my-journey-breaking-the-never) where she says that she’s trying to focus less on the scale and more on being healthy, happy and strong. I am also a big advocate for doing exercise for fun, but also to measure your success by the things you can do (like your first 5km race), rather than what you weigh or how you look, because we are all different! For example, if I don’t exercise, I actually lose weight (lose muscle-mass) rather than put on fat!
•A lot of people don’t do strength training for the following reasons:
oThey think it’s boring...
oLadies (mostly) tend to worry that they will grow "massive" muscles and look like a bodybuilder!
oThey think they need to join a gym or at least buy their own expensive barbell and weights!
So let me tackle those concerns!
•You DON’T need a gym or weights to do strength training. When I had more time, my favourite style was “calisthenics”, which is just a fancy name for strength training using your bodyweight. At its most basic – I’m talking about squats, push-ups, pull-ups, etc.
•Ladies – unless you take significant protein, testosterone and steroids, getting stronger is probably not going to make you “massive”! Speaking of testosterone, compare a female gymnast to a male gymnast – both are basically taking bodyweight strength training to the elite level, but they tend to land up looking quite different... I’m sure you’d agree? Yoga and Pilates are basically other forms of strength training that ladies seem to have accepted as forms of strength training that won’t make them “massive”!
•Strength training is boring? Well with weight training you often dedicate yourself to certain exercises like bench press, squats, deadlifts and just add weight as you get stronger, and celebrate that. With bodyweight exercises, you actually start to be able to do completely new forms of the exercise. There are also many milestone “party tricks” or skills that you are trying to accomplish which adds to the fun!
There are many great Youtube channels to help you learn how to do the various bodyweight exercises and the skills you are aiming for. As these get harder and harder you start to look more and more like a “Street gymnast”!
One of my favourite Youtube channels is “Abnormal Beings” and he has a great video to explain the various levels of skills you can achieve here:
Here is an excerpt from that video:
So how was I doing a couple of years ago before my baby daughter was born?
The L-sit is about picking your butt and legs off the floor with your hands and using core strength to keep them up - so not easy, but probably the first one on the list to try and achieve - so give it a go and let me know if you can do it!
I think this elbow lever looks better and straighter when I do it on the ground - haha!
I managed to do all of the skills in the left hand "novice" column - and to be honest I think the muscle-up should definitely be in the intermediate column - even if you use your legs for a bit of momentum as I am doing here, you still need to be able to do about 10 strict pull-ups to have the strength to get up and fully over the bar instead
You can also do a muscle-up on gymnastic rings but it's not really easier - again, I would put this in the intermediate category
Of the intermediate skills, I was occasionally holding a handstand for a second or two, and the others that I was achieving (more or less) were the back-lever and the dragon-flag, which I am working towards in this photo. The dragon-flag is actually named that because it's something Bruce Lee used to do! It is also in the training montage from "Rocky IV" where Sylvester Stallone does the rep version (rather than the static hold) in rural, snowy Russia while his opponent is working out in a fancy gym and taking steroids! In its hardest form, you hold onto a street-pole next to your neck and lift your body up to be perfectly horizontal!
You're going to have to look up some of the skills in the "Advanced" column yourselves, as I have never been anywhere near that strong! The planche, maltese and iron cross are basically static holds that Olympic gymnasts do in between all the flippy-dippy stuff to demonstrate their insane, elite strength to the judges!
Sometimes I like to check I can still do some of these fun party-tricks... usually when I'm at an actual party! Here's a much more recent photo where I still seem to have some strength left - my new "Dad-Strength"?
So yes, you don't need to be in a stuffy gym to do strength training. A few weights do help for leg training (squats) and posterior chain (lower back, hamstrings, etc - versions of deadlift for example) so I did eventually save up and buy a barbell, but there are some options for how to work these muscles with bodyweight exercises too!
But yes, it's nice to have something you can do out in the fresh air with just your body, even if it's just because you can't get to gym like you normally do? (I actually detest the gym and its stuffiness as it triggers a physical issue I have). It's also fun to test your progress with party-tricks!
So? If you want to get strong but hate the gym, or can't afford it - maybe look up calisthenics?
I've never liked exercising. Oh wait, I used to love jogging. I think I loved it because it didn't involve having to lift metals or going to the gym. All I did was put on my jogging boots and for the next hour or two, I will be on the road jogging to where ever my legs could take me.
I think just recently I tried arm pressing. Previously I could do up to 10 or 20 pushups but now I can't even get to 5😂. It's a sad situation for me but then it's funny too.
Any recommendations on how I could get back pushups form?
Push-ups are a question of leverage and angle! To make them easier you can do one of two things:
Shorten the lever - basically instead of doing push-ups on your feet, you do them on your knees. This will make a very big difference to how easy they feel.
For a less drastic change... the other thing is angle - if you can use a box or a bench to make your hands a bit higher than your feet, you should feel that that is another way to make the push-ups feel a little bit easier, and hopefully as you improve, you can find things to put your hands on that are lower and lower until your hands are on the floor, level with your feet, again!
Then from there, why not raise your feet instead of your hands - this will make the push-ups harder and put more load onto your small shoulder muscles instead of the big muscles in your chest!
Once you can do more than about 12 reps of any exercise, it's time to find a way to make it a little bit harder again (or add some weight to the bar/dumbbell for those without any imagination! Haha)
🤔Wow, never really thought of this.
Never thought putting your hands in a position higher than your legs will make it easier. In fact I always thought it made it more difficult.
I think I will have to try that one first and the moment I get it I will do the harder one. My main aim is to be fit, am not interested in having big muscles.
Well as you can see I don't have big muscles! I think Calisthenics lends itself towards people who want to be lean and strong compared to their bodyweight - so you land up looking like more of a gymnast or rock-climber than a bodybuilder.
Thanks for the tag! I can't agree more with you. Strength training is not always exciting but prevents injuries and makes you faster! Awesome read thank you.
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Calisthenics is a very strenuous activity but it is incredible the benefits it has for our body and how it makes us feel.
And you have to be careful! Similar to how you will hurt your back if you don't do weighted squats or deadlifts properly in conventional strength training, you need to know that your tendons and ligaments often can't handle the strain as fast as your muscles get stronger - so you need to look after your elbows, wrists and shoulders, warm them up and take things slow!
These exercises look extreme to me and I think among them the cardiovascular exercises are the best and like the experienced physician I also do support the fact that,muscles and bodies as well as the heart needs to be in the good shape and for that cardio workouts have no alternatives!
Calisthenics can be a good prop at anywhere and much of what this form of physical exercises dont need to have any special instrument.
Have a nice time in Johannesburg, the city is so greener and healthy!
Lots to unpack there! Yes, the benefit of calisthenics is you don't need weights or any special equipment besides hopefully some kind of bar, rings, tree or door-frame to do some pull-ups on!
I think you're also saying that strength training is great, but remember to also do cardio/fitness exercise for the good of your heart, lungs and the flow of blood around your body! So in my case, remembering to surf, run or do the fitness aspect of boxing/kickboxing (skipping/sparring/bagwork), but other people could choose to do soccer, swimming or some kind of cycling as well!
You get people who think that cardio will make them lose their muscle-mass and don't do any at all as a result, but I think that's terrible and only a marathon runner is potentially doing THAT much cardio!
Getting stronger 💪 everyday will always makes you to look young and happy 😊. My routine for everyday is to be fit more and more and since I'm a Tae-kwon-do player i enjoy doing extreme exercises just that the one you posted. In fact i appreciate that fact that you posted this here i have gained one or two things I'm looking for.
I'm reading this while eating oreos 🤣🤣🤣🙀🙀🙀