Exercise Can Be the Best Prescription

During the years 460 to 377 BC the prominent physician Hippocrates strongly recommended physical activity and proper nutrition for good health. Fast forward more than 2000 years to the 1990s when the medical profession formally recognized that physical activity is vital to the body’s health.

In 1992 the American Heart Association explained that a lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease, which placed it alongside smoking, abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and hypertension. In 1995, both the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine announced the importance of physical activity as a public health initiative. They published a consensus statement by a panel of the National Institute of Health advocating physical activity as important for cardiovascular health. Then, in 1996 the surgeon general of the United States released a written report on the health benefits of physical activity.

People too often think lifting weights until their muscles fail or jogging five miles a day is proper exercise. This myth was the focus of the CDCP/ACSM Report published in 1995 which showed that significant health benefits are attainable with moderate amounts of physical activity, such as a 30 minute brisk walk, 15 minutes of running, or 45 minutes of playing a sport such as volleyball. This does not have to occur every day of the week, just two to three days.

Box Jump

Not everyone should jump into a new fitness regimen. It may be necessary to get clearance from your doctor. This is recommended for people with outstanding medical conditions such as heart issues or a family history of heart conditions, pregnant women, or people with other serious medical conditions. 

Once you are cleared for physical activity you should meet with a fitness professional such as a certified trainer. Trainers can help you discover the proper modes of training to begin. They can help prevent plateaus in your training as well as aid in injury prevention. A good trainer will explain how long your workouts should be, the right intensity for your workouts, as well as how often you should be exercising to start. It is also important to communicate openly and honestly with your trainer so you can reach your health and fitness goals in a healthy and safe manner.

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What is Progressive Calisthenics?

If you have checked out my book, “The Calisthenics Quest”, then you have a small idea of what calisthenics is all about. But, what is progressive calisthenics? Calisthenics or as it is translated “beautiful movement”, is using your own body’s weight for fitness. But just like in any other fitness routine, you have to progress and, in some cases, regress. Let’s face it, after a wile those push-ups, pull-ups and squats are going to get a bit easier and you will have to add in a ton of reps to get that burn… or do you? There are many ways to progress your calisthenics workout without boosts reps or adding weight. So let’s look at some options…

First, look at slowing that tempo down. Sure you can now knock out 30-50 push-ups, but now try it slow with a tempo of 3 seconds down and 3 seconds up. That time under tension can be killer and your muscles will be burning with far less reps.

Another option is to increase the range of motion. A few good examples are, instead of bringing your legs to 90 degrees in a squat, go all the way down bringing your butt to your heels. In push-ups bring your chest all the way to the floor, or in pull-ups try pulling your chest to the bar. Full range of motion makes a big difference!

Finally, try to progress to a more challenging version of the basics. This can be done is many different ways. First look at the push-up. You can knock out lots of classic push-ups, so now try bringing your hands closer together or try them with your feet on a bench to change the angle. Of course, if that isn’t challenging enough, you have the one arm push-up. Pull-ups also have many varieties to choose from. Try progressing to the archer pull-up or even commando or L-sit pull-ups. As far as the squat goes, yes they can be made more challenging. Try the archer squat or the Bulgarian Split Squat. If you feel really adventurous, you can also try the pistol squat or the shrimp squat. They will not only challenge your strength but also your balance.

When it comes to progressive calisthenics, never be afraid to try new things but never forget the classics. They will always have their place in your routines. Keep advancing your Quest!

By, Ray Shonk NASM-Master Trainer, PCC Instructor

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What is the right way to get fit and healthy?

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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Dip Progressions

When it comes to improving your fitness, you have to constantly keep yourself challenged. In weight training, this is done by increasing weight to increase difficulty. With calisthenics, however, it works  little differently. Challenging yourself and calisthenics can mean changing the angle, changing the depth of the movement, or looking at different variations of exercises for the same muscle group. Whether you’re lifting weights or doing calisthenics most of us are familiar with dips. When I was starting to increase the difficulty of my dips, I add weights. But taking a step back and taking a better look at the exercise I found that the weights are not necessary. As I progressed I moved from bench dips, to elevated bench dips, to parallel bar dips, the straight bar dips, and eventually Korean dips. Before I would progress from one to the other I made sure I was reaching the maximum depth with proper form to make sure I was maximizing my range of motion. One of the things I love most about calisthenics is the near limitless amount of exercises you can do if you get creative. You can find a video of all these dips here.

Want to get fit without paying for a gym membership? Do it all in the comfort of your home or local park with my new book The Calisthenics Quest!

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