Real world calisthenics

Calisthenics /ˌkalɪsˈ θɛnɪks/

I’d like to throw out an idea for your consideration; the idea of creating a training program with calisthenic movements that are contextual. The context I want to refer to (apart from a specialist strength or sport program) is the real world and the physical activities that stress our bodies on a daily basis or from time to time. If we are not preparing ourselves for our current and those potential physical activities and challenges we really are doing ourselves a disservice.

I totally get the reason for hitting up the local equipment packed gym with the intention of getting bigger muscles, to pull a bigger deadlift or to row a faster 5km. It feels good to see results. I’ve been there and (mostly / kind of) enjoyed the process.

You know what feels better though?

Being capable, competent and safely confident when met with physical challenges. I was reminded of this recently when a client spoke of a friend who goes to the gym frequently (and trains hard) but gets his kids to lift the shopping out of his car because… wait for it… he’s afraid of hurting his back!!!

I am a fan of purposeful training, much like I’m a fan of purposeful anything. Time is not for the wasting. Don’t get me wrong, I love to explore new things, but anything I do try out is for the greater cause and if it fails to benefit in any way, it’s gone.

So to recap, ideally the majority of our time exercising, training, practicing (whatever you want to call it) should be benefiting us.

Next, let’s look at traditional calisthenic movements. Calisthenics is defined as a form of strength training that uses our bodyweight as resistance and involves multiple muscles in full body movements. These range from pushing, pulling, gripping, squatting and hip hinging as well as jumping and climbing activities. Breaking these down to the usual suspects we have moves like:

  • Push ups
  • Pull ups
  • Squats
  • Vertical and broad jumps
  • Planks

These form the basics and they are great. In fact, the FitStrong January program is built around ‘reviving’ foundations with these movements.

Street calisthenics has been a growing progression to calisthenics over the 15 years or so but really takes the concept of bodyweight training to a much more athletic or dare I say performance level. Do most of us need to do a human flag, levers, flips and spins? Whilst cool, I don’t agree that it’s what we need to do if our goal is to live stronger and for longer.

Real World Calisthenics

Most us of will have a life that requires rather similar physicality’s. Carrying in the shopping, gardening work, taking out the bins to the roadside, lifting our kids or elderly (it’s going to happen at some time), cleaning up the house and all those other household DIY jobs. And it’s all good. We are meant to move and do all of these plus more. Most of us don’t have to hunt and forage our food anymore, but we still have a huge capacity to manage many physical tasks – if we are prepared.

Prepare by practice.

I’ll now start to break down how we could practice or ‘train’ with real world calisthenics. Again, let me categorise our real world movements.

  • Pushing
  • Pulling
  • Lifting and carrying
  • Getting down to the ground and back up again
  • Jumping over something, onto, off and across
  • Squatting
  • Low to ground locomotion, aka crawl like manoeuvres

Mostly, these are rather similar to traditional calisthenics. With a thoughtful couple of minutes you can easily imagine how these fit potential physical eventualities.

How would a training program look?

First off, a great program doesn’t need to be sterile and void of fun. A great program also doesn’t need to take ages. A lot of benefit can be gained from 30 minute sessions, three or even twice per week. Each session could be used to work on a handful of movement skills in a circuit or over three 10 minute blocks. You could practice the same movement skills per session and gradually build up the effort, or reps or repeat efforts.

There are so many options.

What I will do next is provide two training sessions that demonstrate this idea of real world calisthenics. I’ll pop up a follow up video post to check out or follow along with.

If you like what you see, I will have a progressive program made available soon.

Got any thoughts or ideas? Get in touch.

Best Workout Ever

There’s nothing like getting to exercise in the comfort of your own home… well, except for having access to a huge number of programs to follow as well.


The FitStrong Online Membership has just that, ‘years’ worth of programs to follow along with. I update programs every month and the membership has a library of short ‘workouts’ too.
Check it out and if interested, it’s just $1 a day!!!

Want a more personal service?

2020 taught us many things. Learning how easy it is to teach sessions online with our laptops and smart phones was one. Now with the click of a button we can meet virtually anywhere together to work through a training session.

Whether you need to give your kettlebells a good workout or you want to get to grips with body weight training, live online personal training is a great solution.

Get in touch below to get started.

EPT

An even simpler solution if you are happy to train alone without the live online interaction is EPT.

‘Email Personal Training’ provides a detailed program for you to follow. With an extensive video library and customised videos just for you, I can quickly compile a program to meet your needs, provided straight to your inbox.

Intrigued?

Don’t kill time, love it

How many times do you hear people say they’re killing time in the gym or whatever else? Yeah, I know it’s just an expression but the underlying statement implies time can be just thrown around like some spare change. 

However, time can’t be earned back. If you’re in the gym just doing stuff, you’re not spending time on other valuable agenda items. You know, things like spending time with your family, tending to your home, garden, preparing healthy meals and attending to your career. Actually, much like the last two points there, you don’t just go to the kitchen or work to kill time. You follow particular tasks to accomplish specific outcomes… and that leads me swiftly to my point here. 

Use your time in the gym to accomplish specific outcomes. 

  • Turn up.
  • Do the work.
  • Don’t quit

Three mighty fine rules to live by in the gym, the kitchen, in your chosen career and family time.

If your goal is to move better, practice that. If you goal is get stronger and more useful, practice that. If you want to [enter the goal], do what must be done.

Now, for many people, they might not know for sure what the practice should be to move better, stronger etc.

That’s where the willing professional comes into play and this is where I make my offer to finish off 2020.

‘Express FitStrong’

Well, I could have been more imaginative in the title, but in keeping with the message, it says what it is – express.

Express FitStrong offers the chance to get straight to the point with the minimum fuss. In these 30 minute sessions we’ll warm up and prepare very specifically for the following session. If you’re coming in to work on lower back pain issues – we’ll focus directly on that. If you’re coming in to work on your deadlift strength, explosive power or metabolic conditioning, we’ll get straight to that. 

Our slightly longer sessions do of course focus on goals, but we always include the ‘other stuff’ for a very well balanced routine, but let’s consider the wealth of time for some people and just get to the job at hand.

In keeping with the theme of 2020, this is available both virtually via a choice of video platforms or in person. 

If you’re keen to jump onboard, get straight to the point with express training, email ASAP. 

Get Up Challenge

Earlier this year I spent a few weeks and posts describing a variety of ‘get up’ exercises. For some, the act of exercising getting off the floor and back down again might seem odd, a waste of time (“what muscles does that work bro”?) or best directed to the circus performers, but really, you never know when it’ll come in handy.

Here’s an example. Let’s call our subject Jim. After much waiting, Jim finally got his triple hernia operation. I must add, his hernias arose from his employment demands, not the gym. Anyhoo, surgery went very well but Jim learned very quickly post surgery how the get up technique applied to getting out of bed. After having your abdominal wall poked around at by a surgeon, crunching up and getting out of bed is not a good choice. Using your hip to roll over to get up out of bed made perfect sense.

Here’s the Strength Get Up

Back to the Challenge

If you are a kettlebell fan, you’ll probably be aware of the Turkish Get Up (aka TGU) but there many other forms of get up drills to help you develop mobility, strength, ‘fitness’ and to learn how to operate the one piece of hardware you’ll own until death – your body. If get ups do something great, it’s just that – building physical autonomy.

Over October I’ll be dedicating 10 to 20 minutes daily to practicing the following get ups:

I’ll post these when I can here, my private Facebook group (yes, I am back on FB but with limited purpose) and my Youtube channel.

To get going, here’s todays 10 minutes of Turkish Get Ups

Want to join in?

Study each or any of the above get ups and practice for 10 minutes a day. If that’s just Monday to Friday, sure that’s fine too. You’ll gain many benefits from frequent practice. Not killing yourself with huge efforts mind you, just simple, step by step practice.

You can still do your other training of course. Feel free to share your challenge on your own facebook etc but please use #fitstronggetups or even just post my sites link fitstrong.com.au

Got any questions?

Where’s your Head at?

Head nods are some of the greatest restorative movements we can practice on a daily basis. Where the eyes go, the body follows but that can be inhibited by poor neck mobility. It’s not uncommon for me to see people increase their toe touch movement by just carrying out a series of head nods.

The vast majority of us live with occupations that sees us with a forward or dropping head posture… then we head home and do some more. Practicing restorative head nods isn’t necessarily going to improve our posture at work, but it goes a long way to feeling better, and feeling good feels good.

Additionally, the head hosts our vestibular system, our balance central. Every sensory system in the human body runs through the vestibular system and every muscle is guided by messages from the vestibular system. Good head movement, without restrictions helps to fine tune our vestibular system and thus our balance, coordination and senses.

Let’s look at head nods then:

Please get guidance from your physiotherapist / chiro / medical practitioner if you suffer from neck injuries, prior to commencing restorative neck movements.

Got any questions or feedback? Get in touch below.

Every Day Is Training Day

Exercising to achieve some kind of benefit, whether strength, ‘fitness’, metabolic changes, recovery, rehabilitation, sport training and so on; rely on some set principles. Specificity, overload, recovery, safety and specialised variety are some key considerations. Failure to apply those principles equates to poor or negligible outcomes.

However, ‘opportunity’ is my favourite principle not mentioned above and probably not in the standard list of requirements for training adaptations.

Opportunity appears consistently. That’s the wonderful thing about health, strength, fitness and skill – you don’t actually need to the contrived 45 to 60 minutes of gym time to achieve goals. It sure helps with some goals, but overall, it’s just a convenience.

If a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade.

Tom Peters, Businessman and Author

Life can be busy, disruptive, random. Always expect the unexpected.

For the unassuming, disruptions to the ideal daily schedule can result in sacrificing that 45 minute training session. However, keep in mind that the standard 45 to 60 minute gym session is only a convenience and contrived. The reality is that the body hasn’t and doesn’t need an organised block of time to adapt to specific, overloaded movements / exercises to progress.

Labourers of the past with chiseled physics haven’t frequented a gym after work to build their physiques. They accumulated the specific and reasonably overloaded physical movements to carve out strong, useful and fit bodies.

I will never forget my neighbour when I lived in Carryduff, a quiet little (former farming) town in Northern Ireland. Neil was a professional painter, heavy smoker and a mighty fine fisherman at the weekend. Neil never went to the gym and found it odd that I made a living making people ‘do stuff’ in a gym haha. Neil however had calf muscles that the most seasoned bodybuilder would have been proud of. He had round, athletic shoulders and vascular forearms.

Note again that he never exercised at a gym, but his life provided all the opportunities his body needed to adapt to the specific demands of his occupation. Climbing ladders, painting, holding heavy tins of Baltic Mist and Beige Chiffon gave Neil his calves, shoulders and arms. I can guarantee he never counted reps or maxed out his brush strokes. He did a bit, rested a bit… repeat for the day and most days of the year.

The human body thrives on frequent, reasonable physical stress.

FitStrong Strength & Wellness

In the StrongFirst methodology of training we talk about strength being a skill. Skill takes practice, frequent practice. The same applies to health and fitness. Sports research demonstrates time and time again that frequent exposure to movements increases the skill and adaptation to the stresses involved. Mix this with good quality sleep, and ‘wham’, you’ve got results.

So, you find yourself without 45 minutes to train. Not a problem. You can still progress by practicing whenever the opportunity arises.

Everyday Is Training Day… or at least an opportunity to add to your bank of training practice.

‘But how do I train every day Jamie, won’t I overtrain’?

Training is practice… ok? Training is not; let’s be clear, NOT training hard every day. Not maxing out or even working beyond 70 or 80% of your maximum. Training is the practice of the requisites of progressing. Punching the clock. Turning up and putting in reasonable and thoughtful efforts.

Many programs exist that work on this premise. The 40 Day program aka Easy Strength by Dan John / Pavel Tsatsouline is one such program. This program is a 5 day a week strength program where you turn up, do the work, in this case 10 reps for each of 5 different strength lifts.

There are great movement skill programs too, that ask for daily practice to develop the required skills.

Many schedules can be drawn up to work with the ‘Every Day is Training Day’ principle.

One such schedule could look like this:

  • Monday – mobility routine
  • Tuesday – strength routine
  • Wednesday – mobility routine and walk
  • Thursday – strength routine
  • Friday – mobility routine
  • Weekend – hike, walk, play, have fun.

Yes, it could take other looks but this demonstrates a simple yet reasonable approach to practicing being healthy, strong and mobile every day.

If you are wondering how to build your daily training practice, why not get in touch to arrange an online, virtual solution.

Jamie