What you Really Need to Get in Shape-The Great Fitness Industry Bamboozle
"The fitness industry is a giant. It’s big business, and not always with your best interests in mind. Ever wonder what fitness and exercise would be like if the industry were stripped down to bare essentials? What would you really need to get in fantastic shape? Forget looking good. Fit does look good. Instead of striving to look like a fitness model, a bodybuilder, an industry ideal, the goal would be to unlock the strength, mobility and athletic prowess our bodies were born with."
When I lived on O’ahu, Hawaii, there was an outdoor workout area at Kapiolani Park, right across from the beach. The workout area had pullup bars, possibly dip bars, and a set of metal gymnastics rings.
We lived close by, and about 4 days a week I would run at the beach or park, and then hit the rings, pullup bars and so on. It was a beautiful location to workout, and with the water so close, it was almost always ended with a swim in the ocean.
One Christmas we returned home to visit family, and one of the cousins commented on how muscular I had become. It took me a second to understand what she was talking about, but then it dawned on me. All that work on the outdoor gym at Kapiolani Park must have packed some muscle on my frame.
Although I had a physical job, this was the only other ‘weight training’ I did, and I wasn’t trying to build muscle, just having fun and trying to get stronger. I could even hold an Iron Cross for a few seconds back then. Eventually, we left the islands, and the steel workout station has since been replaced by a newer version without the metal gymnastics rings.
Muscle without a Gym?
The lesson I learned from that time has stayed with me, however: You don’t need free weights or a gym to get strong or build muscle. Old news? Perhaps. But considering how pervasive the health and fitness industry is today, it is the minority view.
Have we been bamboozled by big business? Have the marketers of everything from dumbbells to kettlebells to resistance bands and beyond fooled us into believing we can’t realize our physical potential without them?
In some respects I think the answer is yes. Yes for the average person who wants to reclaim their body and grow healthy and strong. This person often looks to a gym or workout program first. We are told that we should start with bodyweight exercises, possibly until the body is ready for serious resistance training.
The message is sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant, but it clearly states that one needs special fitness equipment, a particular type of workout or a specific gym membership to get serious about their health and fitness.
On the flip side the answer is no. Sport specific weightlifting is necessary for powerlifting, olympic lifting, kettlebell sport, discus throwing, hammer throwing, etc., etc. These athletes train to become the best at a specific activity, but they do not always have ideal body composition or good overall fitness levels (I stress not always. Many are the ideal of physical perfection.)
Throughout all of this marketing hype, one vital element is missing; the mind-body connection. Exercise without pure focus on the breathing involved, the action being performed, is superficial and lacking.
The tide of the fitness industry has been changing for some time now, but many still do not trust their bodies to themselves. They need a machine for their cardio, free weights for resistance training (or machines,) and a sanitized indoor environment to do it in. Fitness for fitness sake is great, but each person should know what they are striving for, and if you follow the cliche gym pattern of traditional bodybuilding exercises and prescribed machine cardio, what will your body actually be capable of?
Cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance and strength should be at the top of everyone’s fitness wish list. However, the body has six degrees of movement in open space, and the previous goals can be accomplished while improving coordination, spatial awareness (proprioception,) flexibility and recovery time. All without a traditional gym environment ( or with one, if you prefer.)
How to do it
Take a look at the following list. How many of these exercises can you do? How many repetitions? How long can you hold the movement for?
-One arm extended side plank
-Full back bridge (arms extended.)
-Dead hang with active shoulder (from pullup bar)
-Single leg stand; arms out to sides, opposite leg extended in front of you
-Spinal rock bringing knees to ears
-360 degree jump in place. (Just like it sounds. Stand in place, feet shoulder width apart , jump up and turn 360 degrees to land where you started.)
-Twisting toe touch (stand in place, feet 3 to 4 feet apart, reach with right arm to touch left toe and vice versa.)
So how did you do? We might add ‘touching your toes’ or ‘sitting in full squat’ to this list, but the above exercises are a good indicator of general physical strength, degree of equitable muscular development, flexibility and balance.
Now, muscleheads and marathon runners alike, see how you perform on one or all of the following:
-10 times 50 yard all out sprint. Maximum 10 seconds rest between each.
-30 non stop jump squats (about a minute of jumping if you don’t stop)
-400 yard all out sprint, one time.
As a runner, did you perform as well as you expected? (Track sprinters keep quiet!) How about the powerlifters, bodybuilders and olympic lifters out there?
If you didn't perform as well as you expected to, maybe your workout program is missing something. Maybe it is time to break out of the traditional gym routine and toss your workout equipment aside.
The truth is, you don't need anything but your own body.
Here is a list of bodyweight exercises that will build muscle, increase absolute strength and isometric strength, increase muscular endurance and improve cardiovascular fitness. Using your own bodyweight has another important advantage; greater self-awareness.
The mind-body connection can't be denied when you are working through personal physical obstacles. Those are the special knots related to stress, repetitive bad movement patterns and muscular imbalances unique to each of us. Bodyweight exercise is also very effective for developing a lean, muscular body if you're into that type of thing.
Have a look at this gym-free, equipment free list of bodyweight exercises and activities. It should leave no doubt that for most people, additional equipment will never be necessary again; and it is only a partial list!
Have fun with your workouts, tune up your body with your mind, and don't get bamboozled!
-Running: Involves the entire lower body and can be used for cardiovascular endurance, as well as building muscle, power and anaerobic capacity.
-Swimming: Whole body exercise that burns an enormous amount of calories.
-Surfing: Although more adept at building anaerobic capacity, some breaks require extended paddles and the sum total of several hours of paddling 'sprints' burns calories and improves muscular endurance.
-Pick your favorite sport...can you keep it up for at least an hour?
-Yoga: This is at the top, because in my opinion, most bodyweight exercises stem from a yoga asana. Besides, if you practice yoga, especially a variation like Ashtanga, it is a serious workout. Mentally and physically.
-Pushups, Squats, Sit-ups, Leg Raises, Pullups, Lunges, Trunk twists: These are all very basic strength/endurance exercises which shouldn't require further explanation. With all your bench pressing and back squats, can you do 50 pushups or bodyweight squats?
-Pushups Variations: Straight pushups are good, but there are dozens of variations. Be sure to master these:
-Pushups to Side Plank: Pushup, as you drop down, roll to one side and push up onto one arm. This is extended side arm plank. Now come back to pushup position and roll to the other side.
-Divebomber Pushups: These will hit every pushing muscle in your upper body.
-Handstand Pushups: You can do an assisted handstand pushup by reaching down from a standing position and walking your hands out a few inches. Lower your head through your arms and press back up.
To start off with unassisted handstand pushups, use a wall to kick up to. Practice holding the position with your feet off the wall. When you are strong enough, lower your head to the ground and press back up. Leave your feet on the wall if necessary.
Pullup Variations: Once you have mastered the basic pullup, add these to your repertoire.
-Chin Up: The underhand grip on these really hits the biceps. Keep the grip inside shoulder width to avoid injury.
-Mixed Grip: Do a close alternated grip pullup. Pull first to one side and then the other, or pull straight up.
-One Arm 'Comedowns.' Great for training the one arm pullup, use a mixed grip to pullup, then slowly lower down on one arm. If you can't do this, pullup with your legs on a stool/chair/side post, and then lower with the legs supported.
-Leg/Knee Raises: Okay, so not a pullup, but a great grip enhancer, and an excellent core exercise.
-Toes to Bar: Great core exercise, and when done properly will improve strict and kipping pullups.
Important Core Exercises:
-Planks: So many variations. On your elbows, walking out the hands, wider elbows, touching elbows, one leg up, side planks, extended arm side planks, starfish (one arm and one leg extended,) and how about the Superman? Arms fully extended in front of you. Can't learn that on an ab machine.
-Good Mornings: Many people know these with a barbell on their back, but the lower back muscles love endurance, and doing 50 of these with your hands laced behind your head is great for your lower back.
-Supermans: The original definition of the Superman exercise; laying on your stomach and raising the upper body with your arms extended. Raise the legs simultaneously if you like.
-Birddogs: From the all four's position, raise one arm and the opposite leg at the same time. Hold for a few seconds, release and repeat on opposite side.
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