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The Art and Science of Calisthenics

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brendan_meyers_by_aster1210-dafgef2Since its inception, the fitness industry has evolved almost out of all recognition. Whereas 50, 40 or even 20 years ago, the emphasis was on natural movements that replicated the physical challenges that most of us faced on a daily basis, many fitness industry experts now place a lot of focus on exercise technology. It’s true – while personal trainers are more knowledgeable than ever before and have a greater understanding of exercise science, a great many are guilty of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” And they are all too quick to dismiss the training methods of past years and label them as out of date and obsolete.

This becomes even more apparent when you walk into any of the myriads of mega-gyms that crop up in just about every major city. These impressive-looking facilities provide exercise machines to hit just about every part of your body in comfort and, more often, while sitting down and with a great view of a widescreen TV! Sadly, while fitness technology and sports science have undoubtedly taken massive leaps forwards, many exercisers are missing out on one of the most effective forms of training there is simply because it is viewed as being old fashioned. That training method? Body weight exercise.

Also known as calisthenics, bodyweight exercises are often thought of as suitable only for beginners or for anyone who wants to work on their muscular endurance while avoiding building big, bulky muscles. While it’s true, some bodyweight exercises are decidedly low intensity; they are not all easy and, with some guidance from your personal trainer, calisthenics can be very demanding.

In itself, the term calisthenics is very entertaining and, like so many fitness and medical terms, it originates from Greek and is based on two words – kali meaning beautiful and stenos meaning strength. Even before the advent of personal trainers, those ancient Greeks knew a thing or two about exercise and health so the very fact that calisthenics means excellent strength should tell you that bodyweight training should not be so quickly dismissed.

So why is bodyweight training such a useful exercise tool?

Body weight exercises can be performed virtually anywhere. All you need is some space, an exercise mat and maybe a pull-up bar. With nothing more than your body and some space, you can use virtually every muscle in your body.

You can develop all fitness components with bodyweight exercises. Not just muscular endurance. Want power? Squat jumps and clap push-ups will get the job done. Want strength? Give one-armed push-ups, single-legged squats and pull ups ago. Need cardiovascular fitness? Burpees are a great solution. Your body is your gym! A good personal trainer should have no problem designing an efficient full-body working using almost exclusively bodyweight exercises

Body weight exercises are easy on your joints. As most bodyweight exercises use your muscles in a natural way, you are very unlikely to hurt yourself when performing bodyweight exercises. This is not the case with many machine exercises; especially if the machine does not fit you exactly right. In bodyweight exercises, YOU dictate the movement path whereas in machine-based exercises tend to force you to follow a less natural movement path. This can lead to a) developing non-functional fitness and strength and b) short and long term injuries

Body weight exercises mostly involve moving your body through area whereas most machine and even free weight exercises require your body staying still while your lift, push or pull a weight. Moving your body through space stimulates your nervous system which results in greater self-awareness, balance, coordination, and proprioception; all of which have a very positive carryover to the activities of daily living as well as sports

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Body weight exercises are more often than not full-body. Take push-ups for example; the push-up is commonly thought of as a chest and arm exercise BUT the reality is you have to use virtually every muscle in your body when you do this seemingly simple task. From your toes to your neck and everything in between, your entire body gets involved in push-ups. In contrast, the seated chest press machine does all the supporting for you and isolates your arms and shoulders from the rest of your body which makes the exercise easier and less involving. In an exercise, simpler is not better!

Of course, bodyweight exercises aren’t without drawbacks; you also have to consider the lack of variable resistance, er, um, actually; that’s about it. And even then, a simple alteration of hand or foot position means you can make bodyweight exercises as easy or as hard as you want. Check out this Bar Brothers review, diet, and calisthenics workout program pdf. No locking pins to move, no seats to adjust, no bars to load – you can make these changes all but instantly; even mid-way through an exercise if your personal trainer deems it necessary.