It's finally Friday at 5, and you're skipping out of the office knowing you have a whole two days away from the daily grind. Hopefully you have some fun ahead of you, but “Weekend Warriors” is here to help put an extra “to-do” in your weekend should you run out of ideas or have a bit more time on your hands.
This Weekend: Calisthenics
In its “five dollar word” form, calisthenics translates into exercises that can be done in most any location without the help of machines or free weights as it relies entirely on your own body weight.
If you have ever had to do a push up, crunch, or chin up in grade school, you've done calisthenic exercises before. Unfortunately, because of its simplicity, there can be a tendency to get bored of doing squats and side bends in the living room for hours on end in place of bench presses and bicep curls in a gym.
But the gym can get cramped and stuffy sometimes, especially on a beautiful weekend, and yet, you can't bring the weights with you, assuming you're not training at a crossfit facility that has outdoor circuits available. How could you possibly have both a good training session and fresh air?
The solution is a simple.
From parallel bars of all shapes and sizes, platforms of different heights, and plenty of space to run around, playgrounds are now being seen as the greatest calisthenic gym available outdoors by professional athletes and daily trainers alike. It's also one of the few places you can get a good workout and bring your kids or pets with you so they're not bored at home.
Here are a few exercises to try this weekend for a complete body workout:
Planking: designed to target abdominal muscles, planking on the ground can be a challenge enough. But finding a gap between platforms at a decent height off the ground allows gravity to act as a resistance in addition to natural body weight.
To plank, assume a push up position, but use your forearms and bend your elbows toward your chest rather than using your palms and having your elbows cocked outwards. From there, gravity does the rest by pulling right at your torso towards the ground.
Start with 30 seconds of planking at a good height and try to beat that time with every plank.
Pull/Chin/Muscle Ups: three standard body weight exercises that work shoulders, arms, chest, and abs collectively.
Pull ups and chin ups are virtually identical except that pull ups are done with an overhand grip (palms facing away) while chin ups are done with an underhand grip (palms facing you). From there, the exercise is simply pulling yourself up towards the bar.
Pull ups are great for training back muscles like traps and lats towards the ever desires “V-shapes” torso. Chin ups on the other hand are the choice for training biceps, shoulders, and pectoral (chest) muscles.
Of the three, muscle ups can prove to be the most challenging. Starting at a pull up position, instead of lowering yourself down upon raising your chin over the bar, the exercise keeps going by raising your entire body over the bar in an almost reverse tricep dip motion before lowering down and repeating again. This exercise can be done on both a parallel bar, or with gymnast rings if available.
Much like planking and platform height, the higher the bar, the greater the resistance. Start with as many repetitions as possible with each exercise. Over time, you may choose to “super set “ them together, meaning you will do however many chin ups you choose and then immediately switch to pull up stance and/or muscle ups without resting in between.
Box Jumps: a crossfit favorite, box jumps are an easy and effective way to train legs using just body weight.
Find a platform of reasonable height off the ground and stand about a foot and a half away from it and your legs shoulder width apart, slightly bent.
Next, swing your arms behind you to gain momentum, and leap forward high enough to clear the platform.
As you land, keep your knees bent to absorb the force of the impact, and then either step off the platform, or reverse the jump motion to dismount.
Take note that your choice of footwear, the material of the platform, and the overall strength of your hamstrings can lead to a tough recovery the next day due to the shock from landing the jump. Start out with easy to reach platforms at 5 to 10 jumps up to 3 sets.
As your body becomes more used to the motion, you can take on higher platforms and longer sets. In time, you may want to try super setting pull ups, chins ups, and box jumps to get the ultimate calisthenic workout!