Why I Get Fit With Calisthenics Over Weights.

Although weight training does have benefits, calisthenics has many of the same benefits with a lower risk of injury and more muscles incorporated at one time. I want to start with mentioning, I have no real problem with weight lifting, I did it for a long time. As a matter of fact, I have a lot of friends who prefer weight training to other forms of fitness. However, calisthenics, or body weight training, is the optimal way to exercise. Before we get into the workouts, we will start with the very long-standing history of body weight training. Calisthenics has been around since the dawn of man. Our early ancestors uses their hands and feet to climb trees to pick fruit and evade predators. Calisthenics is a form of exercise using body weight to achieve fitness. In ancient Greece, the human form was important; there was even the belief that, the better the physique was, the closer to a god you were. Their gyms didn’t have fancy equipment or huge amounts of weight, they had calisthenics. As a matter of fact, an early mention of calisthenics was found in the writings of the ancient Greek philosopher Herodotus from between 450 and 420 BCE. In his writings, he mentions a spy from Xerxes’ army who witnesses the Spartan army practicing calisthenics in the nude before the Battle of Thermopylae. It wasn’t only the Greeks that trained calisthenics, but also people of India with Yoga and the Shaolin monks of China with Kung Fu and body conditioning. In Yoga, you are constantly stretching your muscles and then holding them in isometric poses with no weight. Keeping them in this flexed position can induce muscle growth. In Kung Fu body conditioning, something I have years of experience in, the practitioner uses their own body and the local environment to become fit. This can include crawling up and down stairs on your hands, climbing trees or doing elevated push-ups while a partner hold your feet while they hold a squat. Body weight training has been around since the start of fitness and is still being used today.

Muscle Activation When Comparing Body Weight Vs. Lifting Weights

In exercise your progress comes down to proper muscle activation, so let’s compare results in muscle activation. Push-ups recruit more muscles at one time than the bench press. Why is that? When a push-up is done with proper form, they will engage your all the core muscles, not just your chest, shoulders, and triceps. When the bench press is being used, the bench provides the stability for the core muscles. This means that all muscle in your body other than your chest, shoulders, lats, and triceps will have little activation.  The pull-up not only activates the lats, and the rest other upper-back muscles, but also activates the abs more than many other known ab exercises like sit-ups and crunches. When compared to the pull-ups, pull-downs, purposefully remove the core muscle stimulation by having the user in a seated position with their legs held in place by a cushion or a harness. Weight training typically isolates one muscle at a time, so it doesn’t emulate real life situations. To be functionally fit, each exercise should incorporate multiple muscle groups at one time. This is what we do in everyday life. It is clear to see that using your own body weight is the optimal training method to activate multiple muscles at one time.


Another aspect to look at is simplicity of the exercise. Do you need to buy bunch of equipment or need a gym or can you do it anywhere you are? A huge advantage of calisthenics versus weight training is the ability to workout anywhere you are at any time. All you need is space to practice your routing and maybe a pull-up bar or a level stool. I personally like to go to local parks, even more so on nice days. The playgrounds and parks have all the bars and benches you will ever need. As for weight training you may have to get a gym membership or buy a lot of expensive equipment. Another thing to consider is, if you are lifting heavy weight, enough needed to stimulate the muscle growth, you may need a spotter or have to hire a trainer to ensure safety. The worst injury to worry about in a failed push-up is a bruised ego. Also consider, when lifting weights, your possibility of getting injured increases, so if you are new to weight lifting should seek training from a qualified trainer to ensure you have  proper form in each lift.

Gaining Strength

Both calisthenics and weightlifting are both great for strength training, and useful for developing muscles, weight training is a faster means to gain strength. The real question is, is it better? When put to the test, the pull-up came out on top as the better pound-for-pound way to build strength. The pull down, although it is great for the new gym goer, it didn’t offer much in the way of functional strength gain. However, the pull-up will provide an unbiased way to judge your strength-to-weight ratio. You could argue that the pull-up will eventually get easier, where the pull-down becomes more challenging when you just add more weight. Although this holds a truth, you can change the difficulty of a pull-up by advancing to the one-arm pull-up, which is an incredible challenge. Overall the strength gains is a tie. But, it depends on what you consider strength. If pushing as much weight as possible is the goal, there is no better choice than the bench press. While push-ups can help you create greater relative strength, the bench can foster greater absolute strength.

Injury Risk

Working in the fitness industry for as many years as I have, I have seen my share of fitness injuries. All the injuries I have seen have been weight lifting related, never calisthenics related. This isn’t to say you will never get injured. With anything you do in the fitness world comes some risk. You can see hundreds of videos online displaying many different fitness related injuries, but let’s not be too hasty to judge. The possibility of injury when weight lifting is far more likely than it is in calisthenics due to bad form when training. People who get injured in training usually do so because they attempted something far outside of their current abilities. In a heavy bench press, poor form can cause shoulder problems such as muscle or tendon tares or other issues particularly in the long term. Push-ups with bad form can also be an issue, but since your body is what creates resistance there won’t be as much strain on the joints. With weighted squats I have witnessed gym members rip their ACL and meniscus, and with lifting too heavy on deadlifts I have seen hamstring tear and bicep tears or even go as far as ripping muscle in the lower back. As I said, it isn’t to say you will never get injured in calisthenics, it is just far less likely than it is with weight training.


Both, calisthenics and weight lifting offer many varieties of exercises you can perform, but there will be a winner in the end. The pull-down machine offers many different handles you can attach to pull giving you various grips and widths, but the pull-up offers even more than you can imagine. There are tournaments dedicated to just showcasing all the pull-up styles out there. Then we have the bench press, this offers very limited variations to work with, from dumbbell chest press to barbell bench press, wide or narrow grip or playing with angle of bench you are on. As for push-up variations, there almost never-ending variations with foot and hand placements. By elevating your hands or feet you change weight load on your arms. You can go wide or narrow with hands and feet or get creative and do push-ups on your knuckles, fingertips or the back of your hand or wrist. You can also focus on one side at a time by doing push-ups on one arm at a time. This will make sure each side of your chest is trained evenly. This will keep you physically and mentally stimulated for years to come.


In conclusion, calisthenics or bodyweight training is the clear winner. Calisthenics has been time tested, as it has been around since the dawn of man, and it still remains in the fitness industry. You can easily gain strength, as you would in weight lifting, while reducing the chance of injury. If that is not enough, you also get the option to leave the gym and take your workout with you everywhere you go, such as the park, living room or even at the bus stop. The options of exercises are next to limitless as well, there are countless push-up, pull-up and squat variations you can do, using the best equipment of all, the human body. All movements can be progressed and regressed by just changing angles or hand and foot position to increase or decrease difficulty and constantly keep you challenged with minimal risk. In the end the most important thing is, you continue to be active, fit, and healthy. Train smart and work within your limits to prevent those possible injuries. Even though there is minimal risk of injury in the world of calisthenics, it is never a bad idea to work with a fitness professional to get new ideas to push you to new levels of fitness. Working with a personal trainer is also a great way to make sure your form is where it needs to be to get the best possible results.

Have questions? Contact us.

What Is Tai Chi

Taijiquan (or tai chi) can be many things to many people. For some it is an exercise, for some it is a meditation and others it is a form of self defense. However when you continue to practice and reach a higher level of training, the above reasons lose their importance. At this time, you need to find the real meaning of your practice or you may become satisfied with your training and lose your enthusiasm for the art. You must start to wonder what is the meaning of this meditative martial art? Daoist practitioners use tai chi in their strive to become immortal where many non-religious practitioners used tai chi to gain a peaceful mind and reinvigorate their lives.

What you need to understand is that Taijiquan emphasizes meditation both in your stillness and your movement. Practitioners like a Buddhist priest trains himself in this meditation to be calm and concentrated. In your training, it is possible for you to achieve a sense of peace and centeredness that will allow you to judge things and events in a neutral way without any emotional disturbance. When you can truly calm and clear your mind, the spiritual side will start to open up. You’ll start to see things more deeply. As a practitioner’s skill increases, they may be able to sense a person’s intentions before they are expressed and you become more capable at looking deeply into people and events in a non-martial way, as well. In the past, many martial art masters were considered wise man and were consulted for their insight into the meaning of human life this world and the universe. Because of their training they learn to live in the world without confusion or doubt and find peace and happiness and all of this comes through meditation and continuous pondering.

In your practice and meditation, you need to concentrate your whole attention in order to develop the higher levels of the art. This concentration and dedication will carry over to the rest of your life and the strive for perfection becomes the real meaning of Taijiquan.

Have questions? Contact us.

Ready to take your own calisthenic quest?

Time to Celebrate!

Through the month of November, we are celebrating the release of the book “The Calisthenics Quest”. As part of the celebration, we will be offering special discounts for our group classes and even some of our personal training packages for new members. Since we love our current members, there will be something for them, too.
There will always be no cost memberships! But here are the special prices…
Group classes for new members will be $5 for your first drop drop-in. This is for Yoga, Beast Club Bootcamp, and Tai Chi.
As for personal training, you can get 3 hour sessions for $99 or 3 half hour $66!!

Have questions? Contact us.

New Yoga Class!!

Mindful Vinyasa Power Flow.

A vigorous flow that combines movement with breath to build strength, increase flexibility and improve balance. We will move, breathe and sweat through a powerful yoga practice.

Appropriate for all levels and modifications will be made available for most poses.

Fitness and the Holidays 

We all know with the holidays, time runs short really easily. So, let’s look at how to keep health and fitness in your crazy holiday schedule.

First, and best advice, is to focus on quality over quantity. You don’t have to spend an hour on your workout when you could bust out a hard core workout in just 30 minutes. Try knocking out 2 or more muscle groups back to back while reducing rest time. For your cardio, try doing intervals or tabata training. This will keep the challenge high and reduce the time required for the workout.

Another idea is workout at home and focus on the basics! Push-ups, pull ups and squats. You do not need a gym for a great workout if you focus on these basics.

The healthy eating is the biggest holiday challenge. Junk food is everywhere!! But don’t get down on yourself if you have a few slip ups. We are all human. Just focus on portion control, then the little indulgences won’t add up as much.

See my fitness journey.

Have questions? Contact me.

What Quest Fitness Is All About

The theory behind Quest Fitness is that everyone’s fitness journey is unique. Sure, you may share the same goal as the next person, but how you get there can be very different. Not everyone wants to run miles, lift weights or do push-ups, and not everyone has the self motivation to do at home videos. What we do first, at Quest Fitness, is sit down and talk game plan. We need to be on the same page on how we will get through all the different phases of your workout. Then, we schedule times to meet. Yes, it will take time, but you will have the support that you need through all the struggles. Your Quest for a more fit you starts here.IMG_3641

Have Questions? Contact me.


(Beginner – Advanced Calisthenics)
This class focuses on workouts using zero weights. We work with a progressive system to advance from new-to-fitness to crazy human calisthenic tricks. You choose how far you want to take it. Even if you can’t do one push up or pull up, this class will get you there. Come see how the world can be your gym.

Wednesday nights at 7:30

My Fitness Journey

Contact me 

Full Body Boot Camp – Kentwood, MI Gym

What is a Boot Camp?

Full Body Boot Camp also known as Beast Club is a full body strength & cardio endurance class done completely with calisthenics. It is one of the most challenging workouts I have ever built and hope you’ll come and prove to yourself how good working hard can feel.  Do it for you.

Remember, no matter where you are modifications can be done to fit your comfort level.one day closer quote quest fitness gym grand rapids mi

Class starts Saturday at 10:30 AM and Wednesday at 6:30 PM. Bring water and don’t be late!

Have Questions? Contact Me.

Want to see how I’ve progress? My Fitness Journey.

Change Your Modalities of Training 

Exercise is something you can do anywhere and everywhere
The World Is Your Gym, Click Here To Find Out How

The human body responds to physical stress with improved performance. The systems of the body will respond to stress with improved fitness and performance according to the General Adaptation Syndrome.

Different training modalities have been developed throughout history to introduce you unique stressed to the body in an effort to promote improved function.

Ingenuity creativity and innovation have resulted in the development of a variety of different training tools that present different physical challenges to the neuromuscular system. The inventors and manufactures of the different equipment continue to change these modalities and ways to enhance effectiveness safety and challenge of the traditional exercises.

But overall it’s important to become familiar with the different modalities used in fitness and function to know how to best incorporate them into your training regimen and understand where their use is most valuable.

Ray - Quest Fitness - Getting results with a stick
Ray Shonk | Personal Trainer

There are lots of arguments over which modality is best in the fitness industry. In reality there is no “best” form of training for all populations. Instead you should be focused on the modality that most appropriately fits your goals and your appropriate training phase. It is very easy to become comfortable with the same type of workout over and over and rely too heavily on a limited number of modalities.

Overall you should be making changes to your workout every 4 to 6 weeks to prevent reaching that plateau. This can be done by varying the temple of the work out the weights in the workout and even the reps in the workout, or it can also be changed by the type of equipment you use whether you go from free weights to cable machines to body-weight or even suspension training. I feel it’s important to work with a fitness professional to determine the modality you need to be in to reach your goals.

Drop the Machines for Functionality 


push up

I know a lot of people love their workout machines, but here me out.

Let’s look at the machine like the leg extension. You will never really use this motion in everyday life, you are sitting in a fixed position just swinging your leg out. Sure, you do get a burn in your quads but where is the core activation?

Doing a squat is a much better alternative to leg extensions or even the leg press, and yes I know some people have issues with squats. There are ways around it such as a ball squat.

Before you use a machine ask yourself:  how will this help my over all functionality? Even physical therapists stray away from machines for more functional movements. If weights are not your thing also look at the option of calisthenics. Something as ordinary as a pushup has huge benign to your entire upper body.

Have Questions? Contact Me.

Want to see how I’ve progress? My Fitness Journey.