ARTICLE: HOW I GOT SERIOUSLY STRONG THROUGH BODY WEIGHT TRAINING
Calisthenics or body weight only training and the benefits that it provides to those that practice it are not as well known as weight training. It is often viewed as much easier and far more limiting than lifting weights. Lifting dumb bells, barbells and kettlebells is seen as the premier way to get strong, look defined and lose weight. I really do not know what caused the 2 disciplines to evolve this way and to have these two perceptions, all I do know is that I believed lifting weights was the only way until I discovered Calisthenics, through personal research, and since adopting it have never been in better shape, including being the strongest I have ever been.
I have often talked about my love of Calisthenics and why I think it is a good choice, but today I want to focus on the strength benefits of it because I think it is this part that is the most misunderstood. As always, I am not looking to criticise lifting weights. If you love to go into the gym and do some serious lifting, that is awesome! Keep it going. I simply want to let people know that it is not the only option and, for me, Calisthenics was a far better option.
To clear up the first misconception about body weight training, it is resistance training in every way that lifting weights is. To get stronger you need to put your muscles under load and it makes no difference whether that load is dumb bells, kettlebells, barbells, your own body or in fact lifting sacks of potatoes or bricks! The stimulus is completely irrelevant. All that matters is that the load is heavy to move and your muscles have to respond to lift it. As I said I used to lift a lot of weights and I enjoyed it, but I always found it limiting. When training at home, I was limited by my resources and also the safety of lifting too much on my own and when I joined Crossfit (which I loved) I was also limited by time to make classes and to fit it into my schedule, which is one of the main reasons I gave it up.
At this time I felt frustrated, everything I read said I needed to lift weight regularly and to lift more and more, but it just wasn’t working with my lifestyle. My whole life I have worked irregular hours so I have always preferred training at home as it meant I could do it regularly, consistently and timely. On the hunt to train more effectively at home for myself and for my clients, who all had the same time restraints, I found Calisthenics. I started to understood all the levels of body weight training from basic to insanely difficult! 3 years into specialising in this discipline, and whilst I am now fairly accomplished, there is still plenty of room for me to grow. It is limitless. This means the previous idea that body weight training finishes at basic press ups or body weight squats just could not be further from the truth. Therefore, if you can push the limits of body weight training in the same way where you can add an extra weight to the end of a barbell, how could the results not be as good?
What I knew for sure before starting then was that I could get as strong as I was when lifting weights but what I didn’t imagine was that I could actually feel stronger. My results were even better than imagined, again not because lifting weights is inferior, but because of what Calisthenics allowed me to do. It allowed me to do strength sessions much more regularly, instead of only when I could get to the gym and it gave me an incredible focus, which again I had not had. Prior to doing Calisthenics I was focused on how many sessions I did a week, but I wasn’t following a programme. I trained weights if I could or I just did a HIIT session. Now I write a strict programme and I am able to stick to it! It also gave me a new desire that I didn’t have before, a desire to explore what my body was capable of doing, to learn how far I could push myself and to understand more about how the body should work together as one.
It is on that final point that I want to finish as I think my body is stronger than it has ever been due to the fact that it has never worked so well as a whole. To progress in Calisthenics, having strong biceps or strong quads is not enough. The body has to work as one to move forward and this has been my greatest achievement. Gone are the days when I could squat heavy but not do a pull up or a strict full press up. My whole body is strong and it works together like it never has before. This obviously benefits my training but it benefits me in day to day life even more! If, like me, you struggle to get to the gym regularly, it is worth looking into Calisthenics, it could be just the change you need.
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