Sometimes it’s the shortest of conversations that have an everlasting impact on you. And this is where my journey took an unexpected sharp turn. Whilst in the middle of a weight training session, a gym friend suggested I take a look at a youtube channel, called ‘CalisthenicMovement’. Firstly, I had no idea what Calisthenics meant or how it was relevant to me. I hit up google and bingo, ‘Calisthenics is basically a form of strength training, using only ones bodyweight for resistance’. If we delve deeper, in to the actual definition ‘Gymnastic exercises to achieve body fitness and grace of movement’.
Now this is really starting to catch my interest, Weight training is one of the many regimes I use to supplement my Martial Arts. Along with cardio, weight training was part of my staple diet. Now this ‘Calisthenics’ training was going to help me develop gymnastic strength , whilst maintaining fitness and grace. I can’t lie I was interested.
So I get home, straight on to Youtube to check these guys out. To my surprise a lot of what I was watching I had been doing for years, over a decade in fact. Pull ups, press up and plank variations & so forth. Nothing overly impressive here I thought. But then I saw it, The Full Planche. That was it, I just watched a guy look as if he was floating in mid air! Nothing short of a spectacular demonstration of strength, balance and gymnastic grace.
As I started to look deeper down the rabbit hole, I found more and more:
- Back Lever
- Front Lever
- Human Flag
- Elbow Lever
- L sit
Each Movement defying or appearing to defy gravity and everything I previously believed to be possible. What I had stumbled across was ‘static’ or ‘isometric’ holds. Isometric holds are a stationary position that the body is held in, for a duration of time. A form of static stretching / resistance training, using nothing but ones body weight. For example, one I was familiar with like ‘the plank’. So what benefits can be found from just holding the same position for a prolonged period of time?
- An increase in overall strength
- Helps to lower blood pressure
- Can be trained anywhere
- Can help build bone density
- High % of muscle activation, per hold
- Can help target a large % of major muscle groups
Take the Back Lever for example, you start with simple warm ups like these:
- Shoulder Dislocate
- Hollow body holds /superman holds
Moving on to:
- Skinning the cat (not a real cat of course)
- German Hangs
- Back Lever – Full tuck
- Back Lever – Advance Tuck
- Single Leg – Back Lever
- Straddle – Back Lever
- Full Back Lever
Hours and hours of training fun right there, you’ll never get bored. Obviously this can be trained alongside your dynamic calisthenics training. The key thing that I found, it’s imperative you take the ego out of your training and go through the full range of progressions and make sure you’re comfortable before moving on. Basically, it’s just not something you can crash in to with reading the instructions first. You’ll 100% do yourself a mischief. Isometric holds, as a target, also provide you with something to train towards; within your standard training. After all, your not going to be achieving the ‘advanced’ holds if the overall strength / core strength is not there.
- Dave Lampert
- Wing Chun Illustrated columnist
- Wing Chun instructor at London Wing Chun Academy
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