No gym, no problem

No gym, no problem

Before fancy gymnasiums and high-tech equipment became the norm, warriors and athletes relied on their own bodies to build muscular strength and endurance. Now, the tide is starting to turn as experts are beginning to revisit old school workouts.

Calisthenics has been a part of physical training for thousands of years – from ancient Greek Olympians through the strongmen of the 1950s, to the participants of extreme sports competitions today. And if you look into your personal history, you probably first experienced calisthenics workouts in school PE classes in the form of sit-ups, push-ups and jumping jacks.

Realising its many benefits, fitness enthusiasts and trainers are beginning to incorporate calisthenics in their workout modules. This form of training gives practitioners the freedom to explore their full movement potential, which is often restricted with machine workouts. Its increasing popularity is owing to its recognised benefits in evenly conditioning the body and protecting the joints. The movement motivates participants to use their body as a machine, relying on our body’s natural weight to tone and condition the physique.

Faster results
Bodyweight or callisthenic training programmes are much more effective when compared to machine exercises that usually focus on specific objectives such as muscle building, weight loss etc. As most bodyweight movements are functional, they trigger a neuro-endocrine response and promote faster results. The neuro-endocrine system is responsible for the secretion of all kinds of hormones in the human body, and triggering this system can positively impact the overall functioning of the body.

Using the high-intensity interval training (HIIT) method in cross training, strength and conditioning, boxing and mixed martial arts, you can also boost your metabolism. Not to mention, this kind of workout requires multiple muscle groups in the body to work together, which leads to more effective results than isolated movements.

Callisthenics is also known as a street workout as it can also be practised in public areas such as open parks, which helps fight the biggest deterrent to one’s fitness regime – boredom. Around 48 million users post pictures of themselves sweating it out on Instagram every day. The movement started gaining global popularity in 2011, when videos of people doing gravity-defying tricks such as the human flag – a feat of strength that involves holding a vertical pole and lifting one’s body, parallel to the ground – started circulating on YouTube. However, for most people, it doesn’t have to be this dramatic. The point is that anyone can do bodyweight exercises on the spot, as your surroundings turn into a fitness playground.

For all ages
It doesn’t matter what level you are currently at – Olympic athlete or someone taking baby steps to become fit – everyone can, and should, be doing callisthenics.

Age is no limitation. Children take to bodyweight exercises effortlessly. Unlike other disciplines, bodyweight strength training becomes more critical as you get older, not less. There’s a zero risk involved as there are no external loads. The idea is not to stretch people beyond endurance but by their capabilities.

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding bodyweight training and the biggest of it all is that it’s good for basic fitness, but it is difficult to develop maximum strength and power through these exercises. In reality, bodyweight training and serious muscle gain go hand-in-hand. Charles Atlas, one of the most popular bodybuilders in the world, relied on calisthenics-style workouts. And not to mention the impressive strength and physique of the legendary martial arts master Bruce Lee.

What you can do
Push-ups: Works on strengthening arms, chest, core and back, all at the same time
Pull-ups: Works on building strength in your lats, shoulders and arms. Burns a lot of calories.
Air squats: Works on quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus and lower back. Also creates a body wide muscle building environment which helps promote full body growth
Mountain climbers: Full body workout. Along with building cardiovascular capacity it works on strengthening multiple muscles majorly on your obliques and abdominals. If you have been struggling to get rid of the lower belly fat, try these.
Dips: A closed kinetic chain exercise that works opposing muscles in different phases (lifting and lowering). Great for building lean muscle mass and strengthening your triceps and pecs.

(The author is co-founder, CureFit)

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