23 Feb Calisthenics
In the world of personal training today we can safely say that with the majority of clients the driving force behind undertaking a training program is the desire to change the shape of their bodies. In a word, they are essentially focused on aesthetics. Aesthetics, from a health and fitness perspective, is your interpretation of a natural and beautiful physique. The pressure to look aesethetically pleasing has never been greater, and along with the prevalence of the ‘ideal body’ thrust into our daily lives via Instagram, it has become somewhat of an obsession. So much so, that the way in which we move and our mobility has been pushed aside in the pursuit of a body which may look impressive, but in actual fact is immobile, imbalanced and ridden with injuries. However there is another option, one which will give you the body you have been aspiring towards, and one which improves your mobility and quality of life; calisthenics training.
I’ve been training calisthenics the last couple of years. I used to lift weights four to five sessions a week, each time concentrating on ‘chest,’ ‘back,’ ‘shoulders’ etc, effectively a body building program. And it worked, and my clients got results. But I was getting tighter and tighter each year, I was picking up injuries most months, and my progress had stagnated. How interesting actually is it to be working towards picking up a weight with a bigger number on it week on week? It’s deeply unimaginative and an insult to your body’s true capability. You only need to watch gymnastics to see the incredible feats of strength and mobility we are capable of; gymnasts look both aesethetically pleasing and they move brilliantly – I am sure they feel amazing as well! Of course this level is far out of reach for the vast majority of us mere mortals, but it’s comforting to know that we can commence at a simpler level. All we need is to control our own body weight to build muscle, which is the definition of calisthenics.
In calisthenics it’s all about trying to work and increase your range of motion, whilst maintaining full tension throughout the chain of muscles engaged in the movement. Squats, press ups, pull ups are all classic calisthenics exercises; they all have regressions and progressions which serve to keep you focused and stimulated during the journey. The increased flexibility and subsequently mobility transfers over to all aspects of your life. Our bodies are not built to work in straight lines, we evolved to run, jump, twist, hang – once this idea crystalises in a client’s mind the self-awareness of “why are we performing this exercise?” becomes part of the natural thought process. Sometimes the client has lingering doubts over whether training without weights will create the muscular physique they pursue, but for instance by simply increasing the lever length far greater stress can be placed on the movement. Therefore an exercise that was once targeting muscular endurance very quickly becomes a strength or hypertrophic exercise. There exists a multitude of techniques to shift the focus to different energy systems, and it can all be done with minimal equipment, that’s the beauty of this type of training, its accessible to anyone!
Hopefully I’ve convinced you a little or perhaps opened the door to another style of training which you think may be worth exploring. I am certainly reaping the benefits myself and continuing to learn each day. Next time I’ll provide a little insight into the most mobile and misunderstood joint in the human body from a calisthenics perspective – the shoulder!