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Corpus Christi Caller-Times
Have you ever been to a Cirque du Soleil show or watched an episode of the wildly popular TV show "American Ninja Warrior?" If you have, you can imagine a person suspended sideways, completely parallel to the ground, using only their body for resistance.
The unique combination of strength, stability, and control required to perform such acts is unlike anything else.
Visually, it's one of the most eye-catching feats of strength possible, but being able to suspend yourself in mid-air is much more than just showing off your strength. Training the body without the use of external resistance equipment, such as free weights, dumbbells or cables, is known as calisthenics. It's been around since the dawn of humanity, but lately, it's been making quite a comeback.
Calisthenics, or bodyweight training, is the oldest and noblest form of exercise. Way before the invention of the modern gym, using only our bodies for resistance was not just the best way to train, it was the only way. It's no wonder that more and more people are getting excited, inspired and motivated by this resurgent phenomenon.
Working out, like life, should be fun and pure. No training style embodies these elements quite like calisthenics, which celebrates the use of our whole body cohesively, rather than attempting to isolate small body parts one at a time. Furthermore, employing numerous muscle groups promotes greater overall strength.
Pull ups, for example, use the biceps, latissimus dorsi (back), abdominals, shoulders and more. No machine comes close to simulating any similar type of overall effect or strength gain. The ability to confidently pull your body up and over a real object is a lot more impressive than the ability to move a weight stack straight up and down a machine.
And while the classic pullup is undoubtedly one of the best exercises out there, the realm of bodyweight training goes far beyond basics like pull ups and push-ups.
In progressive callisthenic training, progress is made by moving onto more challenging movements, not by simply adding weight to the same exercise. A beginner may start out with kneeling push-ups and bodyweight squats, while more advanced athletes can work on one-arm push-ups and single-leg squats. And don't be fooled by what appears simplistic. Once you master pull ups, you can begin working toward a one-arm pull up, meaning there are no limits on how far you can challenge yourself physically and mentally.
Standard callisthenic exercises to master include pull-ups, handstands, back bridging, single-leg squats, push-up variations, frog stands, front levers, elbow levers, L-sits, back levers and more.
Assembling a fun and challenging workout without relying on a lot of equipment or space has never been easier of more fulfilling. Give it a try, the results might surprise you.
Angie Ferguson is an exercise physiologist. She is a USA Triathlon Advanced Level 2 coach, USA Cycling coach and has a Specialty in Sports Nutrition certification. Read her blog at www.triathlontrainingisfun.com or contact her at www.gearedup.biz.
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