A good friend and mentor of mine, Danny Kavadlo, help me out with my book “The Calisthenics Quest“. Here is what he wrote…
In my years as a health professional, I’ve been a personal trainer, a PT manager, an author, a blogger, a fitness model and even an international presenter. Suffice it to say, I’ve worn a lot of hats in this industry and I’ve met a lot of trainers!
Some of these trainers are more memorable than others. Some have impressed me while others have not. But every now and again a trainer comes along who just “gets it.”
I’m not just talking about understanding the science of training like sets, reps, and human anatomy—I’m a strong believer that anyone can learn that. No, I’m referring to something larger. Love, passion, spirit and more.
What I’m speaking of is the ability to connect to people, to resonate and to change lives. Hell, maybe even change the world.
Ray Shonk is such a trainer.
Ray and I first connected over social media several years ago. Since then, Ray has been my student at Dragon Door’s acclaimed Progressive Calisthenics Certification, my comrade as a lifelong advocate of bodyweight strength training, and ultimately, I’m proud to say, my friend.
Ray has the rare gift of being able to motivate and inspire, while never coming across as overbearing. He leaves the work to his students, while providing exactly what they need from him in terms of instruction. Nothing more, nothing less. He is a true expert of his craft.
So as you might imagine, when a copy of The Calisthenics Quest appeared across my desk, I couldn’t wait to tear into it. I found Ray Shonk’s writing to be informative yet friendly. It’s comprehensive, yet casual. He explores serious concepts with simplicity and humor. For example, when discussing the notion of challenging yourself, Shonk simply states: “It is called a workout, not an easy out. None of this will happen overnight.”
So honest, simple and true—but definitely not easy!
Whether Ray is exploring the roots of bodyweight training, sharing his own anecdotes, or explaining the details of step-by-step exercise progression, he delivers the goods on bodyweight training—and then some!
One of my favorite passages appears toward the end of the work, when Mr. Shonk discusses the character building virtues of working out. In his signature style, he explains the importance of focusing on form and quality of movement, rather than only shooting for high reps and letting the ego take over. This type of process-mindedness is at the very core of Ray’s philosophy as a trainer, a martial artist and a man. No rush here.
As Ray himself says, “This is your journey, so enjoy it.”
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April 28, 2018, is World Tai Chi Day, and to celebrate we are opening Quest Fitness to the public for a one-day free tai chi demo and seminar starting at 8AM. You will get to see some of our instructors and students performing different styles of tai chi, the martial applications of tai chi as well as the meditative properties of tai chi. Snacks and beverages will be provided. I really, really hope that you make time to experience the ancient art of tai chi with us at Quest Fitness.
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Change the Behavior: When you start to consider behaviors that aid in your wellness, such as being physically active and choosing a healthy diet, you may start comparing that with your current behaviors. Like many people, the odds are you are likely have some habits that are healthy and some habits that may place your health at risk. An example would be living a fit and active lifestyle but skipping meals throughout the day. It could even be focusing on your diet but not wearing your seat belt when you’re in the car. To improve your overall wellness, you will need to cultivate your healthy habits and work on overcoming your unhealthy habits. I’m sure many of you already know that changing and unhealthy habit can be much harder than it seems. When you make the decision to take on a lifestyle change, it may seem too hard, at first. When you make progress, your confidence will grow in your ability to make these healthy life changes. As these healthy changes occur, you will notice that you will have more energy, greater vitality and a much greater quality of life than before. You may even seen a curiosity of how far you can go (I know that happened to me). Before you get serious about making your healthy change, you have to know what behaviors are problematic first. To make these positive health changes you also need information about the relevant topics and issues, including what resources are available for you to help you make your change. Take a moment for yourself and ask questions such as “how are my current lifestyle choices affecting my health today” and “how will it be affected in the future?” Think about your current habits and which ones enhance your life and which ones do not. When you’re ready to begin your quest towards your wellness, start with the self-assessment, talk with your friends and family members about what they noticed in your lifestyle. Challenge any unrealistic optimistic ideas you may hold such as, “I don’t need to worry about quitting smoking until I’m over 40” or even “Being overweight won’t put me at risk for diabetes.” Health risks are out there and are significant at all ages, and building is healthy habits are important throughout your entire life. I tell many people I work with that when you start your fitness journey it’s best to start small, by choosing one behavior to change at a time and working on it until you succeed. Your chances of being successful will be far greater with a simple gold to start and this can be as simple as resisting the urge to snack all day or even adding in a little extra exercise. As you move along in your healthy changes you can start making your next goal a little bit more significant and build off of your prior success.
Gathering Your Material: it’s important when you’re looking for health and fitness sources that you do a little bit of research. First off, make sure your source is credible, find out where they gather their information and have a few other professionals are agreeing with the findings. If you’re reading up on studies look to see if there was a large number of people study and who was doing the study. Don’t just look at a single person’s findings because what works for one person may not work for another. When you’re looking through different websites for information check in see how frequently they post as well as the current date of the information. Information in the health and fitness world change rapidly so it is important that that information is up-to-date. Many things you find out there on the Internet or TV or short-term solutions to long-term problems. So when you’re gathering your own information make sure it is up-to-date and fits your needs and goals. It’s OK to be skeptical, because odds are if something seems too good to be true there’s a chance that it is.
Visualize and Self Talk: when you want to boost your confidence and self efficiency one of the best things you can do is visualizing yourself successfully engaging in a new and healthier behavior. Take a moment and imagine yourself hitting that morning work out or that lunchtime run or even giving up smoking. Now, take a moment and picture yourself enjoying all the lifestyle benefits you will gain from this change now take a moment and picture yourself enjoying all the lifestyle benefits you will gain from this change. As crazy as it may sound you can also use self talk that little internal dialogue to increase your confidence in your ability to change. This could counter any self-defeating patterns of thoughts with more positive and realistic thoughts.
Support and Role Models: getting good social support can make a major difference in keeping you motivated and also in your chances of success. It’s possible that you may know a few people that have reached similar goals that you’re striving for. Asking them for help and advice is never a bad way to go. They could potential he have information you may be missing an offer of support that you need to push through. Another great idea to help you reach is healthier goals is to find a fitness partner who wants to make changes similar to yours. You can then take an active role in each others‘ goals and create a support system. It’s always great to have someone around that can help keep you accountable and motivated to further pursue your goals. You may even want to consider looking at exercise classes, I find these classes to be motivational with all the people around pushing each other to better themselves.
Skills of Change: The moment you decide you are committed to making a positive change it’s time to create a personal plan. Your success could be put together with a well-thought-out plan that sets goals for success and plans for potential problems and even includes possible rewards.
1) Start a journal and monitor your behavior and gather data and keep records of your target behavior. Record this information for a few weeks. Take time to write down each occurrence of your behavior noting the following: what your activities were, as well as when and where it happened and what you were doing.
2) Take time and look over the information and I didn’t fight any possible patterns after you have all the data on the behavior, while looking through it see if you can find any patterns. This could be things like when are you most likely to over eat or even skip a meal? What events trigger this appetite? Perhaps you even over eat when you go to a particular restaurant. Just make sure you note any connections between your feelings and any external cues including time of day situation or even the location.
3) Be “SMART” about setting your goals. If your goals are too challenging you will most likely have trouble making steady progress and will possibly even give up altogether. Remember all of this can take time. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time.
Tips for your healthy future: The person most in charge of your health is you. Every day we make decisions that will have an impact on the quality of our life both now and in the future. By making these positive changes, large and small, you can ensure a lifetime of wellness. Take 15 minutes and go for a walk or have a fresh piece fruit instead of that candy bar. Take a few moments and think about it healthy behavior you would like to add into your life. And then once you have it go after it. Your healthy life will be the best investment you can make.
Are you ready to make your healthy change? Start here.
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I have gotten into the debate multiple times with multiple personal trainers over what is the best way to get fit. Some say that you have to do a lot of cardio, some say you have to push a lot of weight, but I say there is no one perfect way to get fit. I have even gotten into argument with professional trainers who state that you can’t put on muscle mass unless you lift weight. Let’s take a moment and look at the science behind gaining muscle. In order to gain muscle, you must put the muscle under stress and break it down so when the healing of the muscle occurs, you gain extra muscle fibers. In other words, you have to challenge the muscles and this can be done in various ways including push-ups and pull-ups with bodyweight exercises (also known as “calisthenics“). So anytime someone tells you that you have to lift wait to put on muscle they’re not telling you the entire truth, that you need to challenge your muscles. Now, as far as losing weight and getting fit there is no one way to do it, because if there was only one way to do it there would not be the 50 million exercise DVDs and diet guides out on the market today. Let’s face it, everybody’s body type is different; therefore, how your body reacts to nutrition and fitness is going to be different. A good trainer will be able to help you down this path and, yes, there will be trial and error. But don’t get discouraged with this, because once we find the right combination that works for you, the health and fitness goals will start to flow together. Another thing to consider is not everyone likes lifting weight, or doing cardio all the time, or doing push-ups and pull-ups. So find a workout that you enjoy makes your fitness journey fun. It doesn’t need to be a chore. Health and fitness is your way of investing in your own well-being. After all, your body is your best investment.
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There have been a lot of changes going on here at Quest Fitness, with our new trainer, Erica, adding massage therapy with Margaret, and evening yoga class with Danni. The newest feature we are adding in is the ability to schedule online through Schedulicity. With this feature you’re able to schedule or reschedule appointments online or through the free app at your convenience. You are still welcome to contact us with any of your questions, concerns, or to schedule an appointment. We look forward to continuing to offer our professional personal training, massage therapy and group classes.
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.
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.
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.
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