2014-05-23

Outdoor Calisthenics

As previously blogged, I have been focused on calisthenics for building strength recently. How is it going? Swimmingly. Four weeks in, muscle strength and side gains are already exceeding my expectations. While I'll never be any sort of a Hercules, focusing my efforts on calisthenics has enabled me to zero-in on my specific weaknesses without getting bogged down in body building techniques.

As a quick aside, allow me to speculate about why calisthenics work so much better for me than weight lifting. First, body-weight exercises are always body-appropriate. I can't lift too much or too little because, as my strength increases, so does my size. Second, calisthenics put a greater emphasis on balance and stabilization, which results in better posture, and thus workout form that continues to improve with muscle strength. In short, not only do I get better, I also get better at getting better. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, there is no real downside to reaching the point of muscle failure when you're doing calisthenics. When lifting weights, the chief risk it's a always that you're going to push too far and drop something heavy on yourself, or collapse under a barbell or something. Even with a spotter, it can be dangerous. But when you can't do any more push ups, you just fall down safely into a lying position, when you can't do any more pull ups, you just drop safely to your feet, and so on. Thus, it's possible to reach muscle exhaustion every time, without it costing you anything.

But back to the point of today's post. Another enormous benefit to calisthenics is the fact that they can be done virtually anywhere. With the exception of pull ups, one can effectively train every muscle group unimpeded by a lack of training equipment. This means that you can get a fun workout in, no matter where you are, or more to the point, you can go somewhere fun, like a park or a nice space outdoors, to work out.

Yesterday I found myself in a nice local park, where I like to run on weekends. But it wasn't a weekend, it was chest-and-triceps day. Well, pushups can happen anywhere, decline pushups can happen with the help of a picnic table, and the local playground structures are perfect for things like dips. Once finished with my calisthenics, I was already in the right place to go for a run. What's more, I was further able to scout-out some places for future workouts, too.

This, of course, is just an example. You might not want to work out in a park, but imagine what you can do in your own back yard. This very thought occurred to me last week, and now I have visions of a modest outdoor gym in my future.

But don't get caught up on a single location, either. Every small change you make to your calisthenic movements offers a subtle modification on your exercises. Go anywhere, exercise wherever it seems interesting. This freedom of movement keeps things new, varied, and interesting.

And when your muscles get tired, you can head out for a run. It's great.