There are many distractions in our busy lives, and all of them are competing for our time, effort and attention. All of them become excuses to not exercise. Many people now travel extensively for work, and hotel ﬁtness centers can be hilariously inadequate. Commuting to and from the gym, especially during rush hour, can be a major discouragement. So is trying to ﬁnd parking and waiting to use equipment. Some people forgo all those impediments and choose to exercise outside. Of course, the outdoors are beautiful…weather permitting.
What do you do when work, trafﬁc, crowds, weather and other obstacles block your workout mojo? One of the most effective forms of exercise is the broad category known as calisthenics. Also referred to as bodyweight exercises, these are activities that use your own weight as the source of load and/or tension.
Ashtanga yoga and dance are excellent for developing ﬂexibility, agility, endurance and focus. They are weight bearing, so they are also good for improving bone density. They develop tensile strength that promotes tone without adding size. However, if your goal is to add muscle mass, yoga and dance alone will generally not sufﬁce. There are videos you can use in your private space to do these activities, but doing them in a studio class presents many of the same potential challenges as staying motivated enough to go to a gym.
But here is where all your excuses get thrown out the window: Your body is with you everywhere you go. You can hone extremely effective programs without having to rely on equipment availability, without contending with commuting, without being undermined by weather and without paying for classes and/or memberships that you might not use. Also, the compound movements that form the basis of classical calisthenics can be made progressively more difﬁcult. By honing the number of reps, the number of sets and the amount of rest between activities, you can choose to build endurance, strength and/or mass in whatever way is best aligned to your personal goals. You can continuously level up while also combining many of the beneﬁts of yoga or dance with the beneﬁts of weight lifting.
Progressive calisthenics is a process of gradually performing fewer reps and sets of harder variations on an exercise. Be sure to look for programs that include push-ups, pull-ups, squats, bridges, inversions and core stabilization. Start with the variations of these exercises that are easiest, focus on developing perfect form and move on to the next level only when you are able to properly complete the current level. Advancing through the levels of your chosen regimen will be a long, slow, grueling process, which is exactly what you want from exercise. It could take you months or years to get through all the steps, so not only is progressive calisthenics convenient, affordable and effective, it is also appropriate for long-term ﬁtness goals.
An example of a year-long push-up progression might look something like this:
Perform 3 sets of 50 reps against a wall, performing the push-up motion while standing.
Perform 3 sets of 40 reps with your hands on a chair/desk/bed and your feet on the ﬂoor.
Perform 3 sets of 30 push-ups on the ﬂoor, but with your knees touching the ground.
Perform 2 sets of 25 half push-ups with your knees off the ﬂoor, but doing only the top half of the range of motion.
Perform 2 sets of 20 full push-ups with your hands below your shoulders.
Perform 2 sets of 15 full push-ups with your hands together below your chest.
Perform 2 sets of 12 push-ups on each side, putting one hand on a block/step/suitcase and the other on the ﬂoor (switch the block back and forth after each set of 12 reps).
Perform 2 sets of 10 on each side of one-arm half-push-ups, but doing only the top half of the range of motion.
Perform 2 sets of 8 on each side of one-arm, push-ups with one hand on a ball and the other on the ﬂoor, allowing the ball to roll in and out as you lever up and down.
Perform 1 set of 6 on each side of unassisted, one-arm pushups.
info: Jack Kirven completed the MFA in Dance at UCLA, and earned certification as a personal trainer through NASM. His wellness philosophy is founded upon integrated lifestyles as opposed to isolated workouts. Visit him at jackkirven.com and integre8twellness.com. He is also a former staff writer for qnotes.