For most of my adult life, growing up in Chennai and the initial few years in Canada, I remained physical unfit. South Asians in general do not prioritize fitness as much as other endeavors (like academic success) which may explain why they tend to have less favorable body composition and exhibit increased risk for heart disease. And sitting in front of the computer for a large part of the day just does not help. I had bad posture, and was not using all of the body muscles to their full efficiency.

Fitness industry is a sham

I started by lifting weights in the gym (my apartment had one), however it was such an unexciting experience … which naturally lead me to calisthenics. I think the whole fitness industry is overrated, and avoid it like plague.

Strength vs Hypertrophy

My goal is to develop functional strength—the strength one gains from resistance training should translate to everyday physical activities that we take for granted. Hypertrophy (beyond the necessary level to achieve the desired strength) however is an anti-goal; I find it fatuous to carry all that extra muscle around and ravenously eating more to maintain it.

When strength, not hypertrophy, is the goal you maintain a lean physique. Pictured: Kohei Uchimura (who, incidentally, eats one meal a day)

As a result of doing calisthenics I noticed normal activities like walking and standing becoming “more efficient,” in that my posture has dramatically improved owing to the direct translation of intent, and eventual habituation, to keep the correct body alignment (which is what one means by “correct form”) throughout any movement.

Getting Started

For someone sedentary like me I’m glad that I began with a program that focuses on higher reps at a lower intensity: Convict Conditioning (which does exactly that).

Higher reps at a lower intensity, especially in the beginning, is important to avoid unnecessary injuries:

One of the major problems with modern forms of strength and resistance training is the damage they do to the joints. The joints of the body are supported by delicate soft tissuestendons, fascia, ligaments and bursaewhich are simply not evolved to take the pounding of heavy weight-training. Weak areas include the wrists, elbows, knees, lower back, hips, the rhomboid-complex, spine, and neck. The shoulders are particularly susceptible to damage from bodybuilding motions. Youll be lucky to find anybody who has been lifting weights for a year or more who hasnt developed some kind of chronic joint pain in one of these areas.

Nowadays I practice a technique known as greasing the groove (GtG), which allows me to practice on a daily basis.

I do plan on taking formal gymnastic practice, although where I live gymnastic centers tend to cater exclusively to children.

See also

  • Overcoming Gravity - The “exercise Bible” of calisthenics movements.

  • Stability, Sport and Performance Movement: This little known book by Joanne Elphinston introduces the concept of functional force management (FFM) which I find to be quite helpful in experientially understanding the role of body alignment in calisthenics.