Every four years an interesting phenomenon takes place.
Billions of people sit glued in front of the television for hours (nothing new there actually) watching corrupted politicians and other assorted assholes deliver grand speeches where they praise God, hard work and human spirit while cozily spending the rest of the Games secluded from peasants, enjoying refreshments in unlimited quantities and – drunk from their own power as well as the free flowing booze – end up molesting the shit out of young, gullible VIP hostesses (again, this is standard procedure) who believe it’s part of their job description.
Meanwhile, the server systems at Askmen.com crash down when they release their gallery of TOP 20 hottest female Olympians pouting their lips and posing all sultry for the camera, disguised in what the fashion industry refers to as “clothing” but is merely an arbitrary piece of garment supposed to accentuate their tanned, nicely shaped buns.
When I was a young lad, you had to pull a girl’s panties aside to get a glimpse of her buttocks. These days you gotta pull her buttocks aside in order to see the panties.
Hey, I ain’t complaining!
Furthermore, the world gets exposed to the tremendous strength levels and ridiculously chiseled upper bodies of male gymnasts, and guys start wondering “Yo homie, whadda ya gotta do to get ripped like that?”
Those in the know reply with a mildly amused, if not downright irritated “Practice”.
Unfortunately, in our dumbed-down, instant gratification seeking society this is not the answer most people want to hear. They neither have the patience, nor the desire to follow through on anything that requires complete immersion in the task at hand beyond a few weeks at a time.
Inevitably, the amazing physiques of Yuri van Gelder or Chen Yibing are the talk of town for a few weeks until the closing ceremony is over, after which they become completely forgotten between today and their next big exposure four years from now. Everybody wants to look like these guys do but nobody wants to put in 10+ years worth of effort, train every day and come to the conclusion that bench pressing 500 pounds does not necessarily lend itself very well to advanced bodyweight movements such as handstand pushups or ring dips.
I had been intrigued by gymnasts’ training methods for quite a while but never gave them too much thought until I noticed how my joints became more and more worn down from lifting weights. Minor injuries occurred all of a sudden and prevented me from training frequently at high intensities, which drove me to the brink of frustration. I knew something had to give when I no longer looked forward to hitting the gym with enthusiasm.
After reading a few books on the topic I decided I needed to get my joints stronger while also learning how to get proficient at mastering advanced bodyweight exercises. I realized this was something I had been neglecting for too long. And I’m not talking about standard push-ups or pull-ups. I’m referring to muscle-ups, 1-arm pull-ups, levers etc.
The beauty of bodyweight training is that you train where you want, whenever you want. You are your own gym. The problem is that people associate calisthenics with high rep push-ups, squats and crunches. What are you gonna do when performing 50 push-ups becomes a piece of cake? Work up to 100? Pretty boring if you ask me.
Every neighbourhood has a playground within walking distance and by applying a touch of imagination, you can get in a training session every bit as fun and challenging as inside a real gym. Plus you don’t need to wait 15 minutes for a guy to finish his quarter-squats before you can occupy the rack.
It also makes a huge difference in recovery when you stop psyching yourself up for multiple sets with heavy metal booming in the background. That means you feel a lot fresher, can train more frequently and make quicker progress. With the sun pleasurably warming my face in the middle of a set of windshield wipers, there’s no way I’ll go back to training inside before next winter.
You’ve probably seen footage of “ghetto workouts” on Youtube before but these dudes are so friggin’ amazing that marveling their skills once again is time well spent.
If you really wanted to take your BW sessions up to another level, gymnastic rings would be a tremendous addition to your training. According to Christopher Sommer of GymnasticBodies.com, rings are “the single greatest tool ever made for developing upper body strength”. I bought mine online at Christian’s Fitness Factory and so far have greatly enjoyed performing ring work on their wooden ones. For the cost of a one month gym membership they were a bargain.
With nothing but the rings and your own body available, you’d be able to conduct a heck of a training session anywhere.
- dips, push-ups, pull-ups, inverted rows, face pulls, levers on rings for upper body
- pistol squats and shrimp squats for legs
- leg raises, L-sits, V-abs, plank walkouts, bridges for abdominals and back
Another wonderful aspect of calisthenics training is that there are hundreds of ways to make an exercise easier or harder depending on your current skill level. If you can’t perform a chin-up yet, use resistance bands or perform negatives. If they’re too easy, do close grip, sternum, towel, clapping or 1-arm chin-ups.
For a more thorough roundup of bodyweight training, progression and training setup, I suggest looking into Convict Conditioning, Ross Enamait’s Never Gymless, Sommer’s Building the Gymnastic Body or Overcoming Gravity by Steven Low.
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