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How to Use Bodyweight Exercises to Be Healthy

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At the start of this year we took a family trip to Europe. My wife Richelle and I have two young kids, Max who is 4 and Chloe nearly 2. Every holiday, no matter the location, we always seem to end up the same way. I join a gym on the first day for two reasons; 1) because the hotel ones aren’t normally that great, and 2) I’m a weirdo who really enjoys exercise while on holiday.

I have a sleep-in each morning until around 9am and run to wherever the gym is, I train for an hour and then run back to the hotel. My wife, being the star she is, already has the kids showered, fed and ready for the family adventure. In the morning we go somewhere touristy, then eat lunch, then it’s off to a playground or somewhere the kids can let off steam. We have an early dinner and a few beers. If there are no beers, I’ll head back to the gym in the evening…. It’s sad, I know.

It was about a week into our 4 week holiday that I realised I had a problem! The reason I was on holiday in the first place was because I was knackered from working long hours IN A GYM! I really just needed a holiday from it. I was faced with a conundrum; how was I going to train? The simplest answer was to go running but I found it difficult to get up ahead of steam in the middle of London with the constant stopping, starting and giving way to thousands of daily commuters. The countryside wasn’t easy either. Though the views of the rolling hills were amazing, the windy road barely fit a car down them and the verge was 99% mud.

With no gym and lousy running I had a few days off with no training and I just didn’t feel good at all. Daily exercise can be hard to get into the habit of but those of us who have committed to the lifestyle will tell you that the first hit of morning endorphins from a great session is THE ONLY way to start a day.

It was during our afternoon visit to a local park on a day I was feeling sluggish that I came a across an open space dedicated to calisthenics and I have to admit, I had one of the best and most humbling workouts I’ve had in years.

Let me introduce you to Calisthenics, the epitome of body weight exercise

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For those of you that haven’t heard of calisthenics, the easiest way to describe it is “body weight exercise”. This type of training has been around for a very long time with evidence of its use dating back to ancient Greece in the training of its warriors.

The basic nuts and bolts of Calisthenics are the mastery of the following movements:

  • Pushing. Any exercise that involves moving your body away from the object you are using. Think push up.
  • Pulling. Any exercise that involves moving your body towards the object you are training on. This chin up.
  • Body Line Work. Anything focusing on the core or movement of the spine. Think hanging leg raises
  • Leg work. Pretty simple. Think anything squat or lunge based.

The idea behind Calisthenics is simple but these types of workouts have some of the hardest exercises to master. The main thing that stops people continuing this type of training is because it shows our weakness in an instant. In the weight room the plates we pile on that bar are like trophies, we rep out and stand back and admire how strong we are.

Some people even go as far to leave the plates on just to let everyone in the gym know that they are getting their gains on. This is the exact opposite to where calisthenics is concerned as the new practitioner will struggle with more than a handful of push ups and chin ups.

It’s a regime that requires every muscle to pull its weight which dramatically ratchets up the caloric requirement of each exercise when compared with an isolation exercise. When we isolate the rest of the body it goes to sleep rather than the muscle being used.

Calisthenics and lactic acid

When a calisthenic workout is done properly you will feel the heat of the lactic acid in every part of your body. The worst area that affected me during my workout was my forearms that, I’m sure, came very close to exploding due to the constant focus on grip strength. The thing is lactic acid, despite all the pain, is AWESOME! Lactic acid is one of the main ingredients we need when it comes to training for fat loss.

You see, when lactic acid is released it has an effect on the PH levels in our blood that forces the Pituitary gland to increase levels of Growth Hormone. Growth Hormone or GH is the key to everything! Fat loss, muscle growth, better hair, skin and nails. You name it, GH does it. With its seemingly miracle working abilities, it’s not a surprise that it’s a body builder’s drug of choice!

It’s because of the amazing results that Calisthenics has made a cult-like return to favour within the fitness industry. The exercises are great on their own or coupled with other traditional gym-based exercise. Super setting a bodyweight exercise with a big moving barbell exercise can make a good set…well…SUPER!

The workout I had that day in the park was amazing on so many levels; it was challenging, it forced me to work on weaknesses, it made me think outside of the box and try something different which I found to be both mentally and physically testing.

The biggest surprise for me though was it was actually very Zen like. There was something Yoga/mindfull–ish (I realise that isn’t a word..but I’m sticking with it!) about the experience as it forced me to concentrate on my breathing and put 100% of my focus into each movement. Too be honest it was very surprising and worthwhile. I enjoy meditation and Heart Math, to be able to add this into my workout was great.

Calisthenic workout for beginners

This is a simple calisthenics workout aimed at the beginner. The exercises may seem simple but you really need to follow the rules outlined wholeheartedly:

1. Demand perfection from yourself

You are doing this to challenge yourself and yourself alone. It’s an honest workout. We are not trying to win a bench press tournament or win a crossfit competition. You are competing against yourself and the game is see how strictest you can keep your form.

2. Maintain your focus throughout the workout

Stay 100% focused on the task at hand and the outcome you are chasing. Get rid of the iPhone, don’t worry about taking a video of your workout or checking in on social media. It’s a primal exercise. Get primal.

3. Embrace the Zen of your workout

Get your Zen on! Feel the contraction of each muscle.

4. Keep breathing

Breathe, as with the point above. A meditative approach is the best way forward try and sync your breathing with your heart rate. This can be used as a great form of stress release.

5. Regress

If it’s too challenging either increase the rest period between each set or make the exercise easier. Remember we are not competing with anyone here.

Full Body Basic Calisthenics Workout

Perform all exercises with NO REST until all have been completed. Have 90 seconds rest at the end of the circuit. Perform 3 circuits.

Push up

  • 3 seconds down, 1 second pause at the bottom, 1 second up.
  • 10 repetitions

Squats

  • 3 seconds down, 1 second pause at the bottom, 1 second up.
  • 20 repetitions

Static Chin Up (no swinging)

  • 8 repetitions (if you can’t do 8 then do as many as you can).
  • If 8 is too easy slow down the lowering phase of the exercise to a pace where the eighth repetition is your maximum effort

Bench dip

  • 3 second lowering phase, 1 second pause at the bottom, 1 second up.
  • 10 repetitions

Inverted row

  • 45 degree position. 3 seconds lowering phase, 1 second pause at the bottom, 1 second up.

Repeat the circuit as per instructions above.

So there we go, a little peak into Calisthenics. You will see a recurring trend throughout my blog posts that variation is key. Have fun with your training and from time to time get out of your comfort zone and commit to improving in the areas that aren’t your strongest!

Come down to one of our gyms in Southern River, Morley or Baldivis and try your hand at Calisthenics today with our popular Body Step and Body Combat group fitness classes.

Adam Bailey

Adam

Adam Bailey is the owner of Bailey Fitness. He's a big believer in putting in the hard work to achieve great results. At Bailey Fitness, he strives to support a like-minded community who work towards their health goals.

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