What is going on? CrossFit, calisthenics, MMA, bodybuilding, and more. Working out is a sport, trend, or a matter of preference?
I have been in various types of sports for more than twenty years. I’ve tried martial arts like kickboxing and taekwondo, bodybuilding, running, and cycling.
If you ask me what I liked most, I would tell you it was bodybuilding.
It has always given me the feeling of power and shape. The euphoria that I get when I lift heavy weights, cannot be matched.
I like kickboxing too, but for someone, whose sport is not a full-time job or career, it cannot be sustainable.
I remember once when I got hit badly on my rips. It took me days to recover. I had to come up with excuses for my work. After a couple of months, I had another hit on my knee. Another story had to come up.
It wasn’t easy to make the balance.
I didn’t stop bodybuilding during my kickboxing training, though.
The thing about bodybuilding is that it is just between me and myself. I do not need to hit someone or get hit to feel powerful and strong. I sense it as a self-challenge. I can feel and see the progress of my power-lifting and the shape and size of my muscles. Age becomes only a number.
But recently, I have found the same feelings and more in Calisthenics.
It has all happened by chance.
One of my favorite exercises is the pull-up. I was watching a video on YouTube on how to strengthen pull-up training. A video on calisthenics showed up. It drew my attention as a more challenging workout.
But before we get into calisthenics, let me tell you a short story about CrossFit.
While I was training in the gym, some of my friends got interested in CrossFit.
I tried some of its exercises and saw that it was good. Since I had to work for many hours, these exercises offered me cardio and power training at the same time. It was sort of efficient.
However, I didn’t feel that I added a skill or something new. It was just a combination of some of the exercises I used to do but with a faster pace and circuit format.
I shared my view with some of my friends, but I got shocked by the reaction.
The debate was intense. They were very defensive and sort of religious about it. Critiques were not welcomed.
When I looked into the matter, I found that CrossFit was more than just a sport. It became a community, and members of that community are somehow connected.
There are website and application that keeps records of what you achieve during your training session. You can compare your records with others and see how you did. I saw it as a competitive sport. It keeps you on the edge and pushes you to do more.
This is interesting. But wait; there is more!
The thing that made me not interested in CrossFit and saw it as more of a trend and business is how the organizers handled it.
Look at the money they got from it and see how some famous brands have a whole product line named CrossFit.
Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with that. It can be in any other sport. But what I don’t like about it is how the sport is being promoted.
I’ve seen people who barely could do one clean pull-up getting a trainer certificate.
For a sort of unbiased expert opinion on this matter, listen to what Jeff Cavaliere has to say about CrossFit.
There are competition levels for each group of performers. No need for you to do a full round of 10 clean pull-ups. You can do assisted pull-up or you can do kipping.
What the hell is kipping? It is not even an exercise. See it yourself and judge.
Another thing about CrossFit is that I have seen people got injured because of the fast-paced performance it requires.
If you are into sports and workouts, you know that certain exercises need focus, slow motion, and proper position. Any miss-handling of those could bring you serious injury.
Now, you cannot oversee the fact that some cross-fitters are amazing and considered top performers. They are really powerful.
Yet, I don’t see a skill; t is just a performance and competition. Every competition has its criteria and power image. Look at the Strong Man competition.
How stronger and competitive can it be?
Sorry. This was not enough for me to get into CrossFit.
Now let see why I favor Calisthenics over CrossFit
As a beginning, it is the skill, art, and beauty of motion and performance.
I feel that I have a sense of bias towards calisthenics. Maybe I have, but I didn’t invent it or have any stake in promoting it. It will not be about its history or who is promoting it. There is no head, organization, or business behind it. It is about people, who express their skill, stamina, and performance in an artful manner.
It is more of a street sport, which makes it for everyone. Nobody owns it.
Now, let me tell you about my experience with calisthenics and what I found appealing and challenging.
With calisthenics, you cannot move from one level to another without mastering the previous one. For example, you cannot do the muscle-up without doing at least full, clean pull-ups.
You cannot kip, but you can use resistance bands to assist you master pull-ups.
You cannot do the handstand push-up without mastering the basic push-up exercises first.
It is a progressive workout that needs focus, technique, skill, and combination. It has four levels: beginner, intermediate, advanced, and professional.
This progressive model is what makes it appealing and determinantal.
You need to plan your training program and put your objectives ahead to move from one level to another.
There is a skill you need to master. This skill entails increasing your strength, endurance, and improve your mobility and flexibility.
For example, you put a goal to master the muscle-up skill. The following video can give some insights into how to train and master this movement.
You see that you need to work on your core muscles and strengthen the main and support muscles to help you move from pull to push technique.
The same can apply to other skills like handstand, front and back lever, human flag, and full planche.
You always need to work on and improve your essentials, pull-up, push-up, dips, and leg capabilities. These are the core exercises that take you to the next level.
My bodybuilding background has helped me in moving from the beginner level to the intermediate one. It took me only one month to move to the advanced level.
Now, I can do dragon flag, jumping muscle-up, V plank for more than one minute, toes-to-bar, frog-stand for more than 30 seconds, handstand, L-sit, and L-sit pull-ups/dip.
My main goal is to master the muscle-up. Honestly, it is hard and challenging. Sometimes I get frustrated from a plateau of progress, which is one of the main challenges in calisthenics. But once you overcome challenges and move forward, you feel ownership and achievement.
This is critical. Anyone can get frustrated too, so you need to be prepared and overcome this feeling of no progress. It is temporary. With more determination, goal-oriented training, and perseverance, you can for sure progress and achieve your goals.
Yet, there are downsides to this sport like any other sport.
It is hard to master and can be slow-progress.
It can hurt you if you do not practice well and pay attention to details.
It puts a lot of pressure on your joints and muscles. You need to have a good warm-up and improve your mobility and flexibility.
The workout session takes a longer time than a regular workout. There are warm-ups, core exercises, and improving the skill. So you need to plan your session ahead.
Recovery time is longer as well. With all this pressure, core muscle exercises, and long training, sometimes you need 48 to 72 hours of rest and start afresh.
However, with all these downsides, it is an enjoyable sport. I really enjoy it.
With the COVID pandemic and lockdowns, this sport has given me leeway and gateway from all the stress and negative energy.
In sum, it is feasible and practical as you can practice it anywhere. You can do it in your home, outdoors, and in the gym.
It does not need a lot of money. You only need some space, a hanging bar, two parallel bars, and your bodyweight.
I made the equipment in-house with some help for less than $300.
For training and guidance, there are plenty of free-of-charge YouTube videos.
Yet, some well-known calisthenics applications can be for-money-training programs.
But you can get training for free. You can watch these YouTube videos that can help build the foundation for moving from one level to the next.
They are very helpful for moving from the beginner level to intermediate, and then to the advanced.
It is in Arabic. Still, it can be helpful for those, who don’t know the language. It is illustrative and self-explanatory.
For more detailed and specific movements, You can turn to some top calisthenics performers Like Chris Heria.
I did it this way, It was a full free-of-charge training program.
But you need to pay attention to your recovery time and eating regimen.
I took some basic supplements to help me recover and improve my performance like a protein shake and creatine. Yet, this matter is up to you as you need to check your susceptibility to such supplements before you take them.
You cannot force yourself to practice a sport that you are not passionate about or, at least, has no interest in.
Even if you manage to make it in the beginning, it will not be sustainable.
You need to recognize your objectives to keep yourself motivated.
Try to figure out your body and identify what type of training suits you well.
I have a saying of my own: ‘you need to keep your body fit to let your brain does the job it is supposed to do’.
When your body cannot hold you, your brain will be busy thinking of how to fix it. Relief your brain from the pains and health concerns, and let it think about the things you aim for.
For me, Calisthenics is a sport and preference.
Sports have always been my close companion that has helped me go through many stressful situations.
Now, what you choose as a workout, it is up to you to decide.
But what I can tell you is: make it a helpful companion, not a noisy, harmful one!