THE CHANGING DYNAMICS OF FITNESS : WITH TONY PRAJAPATI AND SAMAN SHRESTHA
FITNESS AS A CONCEPT IS CHANGING .., MAYBE. WE’RE NOT QUITE SURE. LET’S JUST SAY IT’S EXPANDING.
For a very long time fitness has been about having massive pecs, bulging biceps, rock hard abs and mammoth quads. And for almost as long, there have been people who have voiced opposing opinions regarding this concept. These voices, however, have been effectively drowned out by the clangs of dumbbells and the rattles of protein shakers.
Popular mass media has had a major hand in it too. Whether it’s Arnie’s muscle bound pectorals, Zac Effron’s washboard abs, or Henry Cavill’s sculpted torso a visually appealing physique has been heavily glamorized. So it’s no surprise that there is a local gymnasium in every corner of the city. As a result, the idea of fitness has been closely correlated with looking good with a tight shirt on. Simply put, aesthetic appeal has pretty much downplayed the importance of having the ability to scratch your back without having to rub up against the bark of a tree. Hence, the definition of fitness and its relation in this context is slightly shaky. But we won’t go as far as to say these muscle bound specimens aren’t fit. They are fitter than most of us will ever be.
Then what is fitness? Perhaps, the definition of fitness doesn’t include mirror muscles at all. The word has been thrown in with gym slangs that we tend to merge the definition of fitness with bodybuilding. Fitness is a broad topic which incorporates several ideas, which might include aesthetics to some extent. It doesn’t really confine the idea to just building muscles and looking good. There’s strength, speed, power, endurance, stamina, and coordination left to be taken into consideration. More importantly, there is the matter of being healthy which is surprisingly, very often, overlooked.
Furthermore, being fit might mean different things to different people. To a person who used to be 10kgs overweight, hitting the adequate weight range might define fitness. Similarly, a scrawny fellow might relate gaining muscle mass to fitness. In the same way, being muscle bound and being the equivalent of three to four men wrapped into one person might help someone identify themselves with fitness. To each their own.
Despite mushrooming gymnasiums throughout the country, we believe fitness is changing courses in Nepal. At least it is diverging into different ideas. Today, being fit isn’t only confined to being able to push heavy weights but it also incorporates the idea of cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, flexibility, power, agility balance and coordination. These abilities then transcend into everyday life and doing every physical task imaginable. This notion has undertaken the form of two particular disciplines, calisthenics and CrossFit.
Calisthenics has been around since the beginning of time and it has been resurrected as a brand new phenomenon in the fitness world. Before the invention of machines, barbells, and bench presses, mankind was getting strong and ripped using nothing more for resistance than bodyweight. And that is what calisthenics is all about, body weight training. It uses the body cohesively rather than isolating smaller body parts, in essence working out the entire body. This lets practitioners of calisthenics maintain a healthier balance of body mass and body fat while dominating physical demands of the body. All you need to perform calisthenics training is your body and a pull up bar or something that serves the purpose.
CrossFit is a fitness regimen developed by Greg Glassman over several decades. Dial back to when we were contemplating the definition of fitness. Well, Glassman, CrossFit’s Founder and CEO, defined fitness as increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. He then created a program specifically designed to improve fitness and health. This workout is engineered to help you develop multiple skills and strengths at varying levels of intensity and time. All CrossFit workouts are based on functional movements, and these movements reflect the best aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and more. The whole point of CrossFit is becoming the jack of all trades.
There are people who are resorting to new modes of fitness such as the above, and there is a definite paradigm shift in the industry. Plenty of people still focus on bodybuilding and that is completely alright too. No one can really claim one form of training to be better than the other; it might depend on an individual’s goals and abilities. But it is always a good idea to incorporate different styles of training so that you aren’t only chasing the aesthetics of a good physique but reaping the benefits of a fit and healthy body.
With exactly this concept in mind, a few like minded guys opened up The Pump; it’s Nepal’s first gymnasium focused on calisthenics and CrossFit Training. We had the opportunity to talk to two of the instructors of the gym regarding their fitness journey and their favorite all- round workout routine.
“When I was in school I was into a lot of sports. After I left school I promptly got into a lot of eating. Then I started getting fat.”
Mothers have this tendency to believe their sons don’t eat nearly enough, and that was the case with Tony. Realizing the accumulating fat around his midriff, Tony started going to the gym. And not just any gym, he started working out at Nepal Byayam Mandir at Jyatha. That’s where the hardcore bodybuilders start out, often with terrible form and unnecessarily loud grunts. That drew even more attention to Tony when all he did at the gym were pull- ups, pushups and variations of other body weight exercises.
“Then I went to Sydney. I joined a gym there but I still wasn’t into fitness. I hit the treadmill and did some bodyweight exercises. I didn’t know how to use the equipment and I wasn’t all that excited about it. I did sprints and pull-ups and did more sprints and pull-ups. That was pretty much all I did until the receptionist at the gym offered to help me train.”
Soon after, thanks to some guidance from his friend, Tony gained some perspective into fitness and received proper guidance to really get into calisthenics. He started by setting goals for him to achieve, starting off with the muscle up. The muscle-up is a skill that is essentially a pull-up followed by a dip. It is used to take yourself from below a sets of rings or bar to above a set of rings or bar. Because the gym didn’t provide the right equipments to work on this move, Tony started hitting the monkey bars outdoors.
He began learning more moves that tested and challenged his abilities, turning his interest into passion.
“I did that for 3 years. Then I came to Nepal.”
The local gyms didn’t really fit Tony’s requirements; mostly because he didn’t have the right equipments (pull up bars with proper headroom) and partly because people at the gym still looked at him funny. Luckily, The Pump at Jhamsikhel was starting up.
“I found out there was a calisthenics gym opening up and that’s when I decided to get into it as a profession. I wasn’t doing anything else and I loved what I was doing in terms of calisthenics and exercises.
Once I joined The Pump I started seeing more improvement. You need a challenge or a push from someone and I got it there. I started leaning out. I spent 4 to 5 hours a day and then I trained clients.”
Looking to further strengthen his skills and abilities, his interests spread to crossfit. He learned to combine these two disciplines into his regimen and client training.
“I went back to Sydney again, and I stared lifting weights. I was surprised at how much I could lift and that gave me enough confidence to get into crossfit.”
Crossfit is challenging, it is demanding on the body and mind; it’s high repetitions performed with high intensity. You should be able to break through the mental barrier. There is a balance between cardio, gymnastics and weights.
Tony has helped implement the combination of crossfit and calisthenics at The Pump, and it has been gaining a lot of popularity. But it isn’t for everyone.
“You don’t see immediate results, and in some ways it’s more difficult than working out at the gym. But once you really get into it the results and transformation are amazing.”
“My brother used to workout at a gym, I was still a kid back then and it wasn’t standard workouts either. We wanted to get butterfies on our stomachs; we didn’t refer to it as abs. He used a towel to pull my body up while I stayed in the sit-up position, and we did it till I couldn’t laugh or speak without getting severe abdominal cramps.”
Despite the rather humble beginnings, Saman did develop his butterflies, and then some. But it wasn’t because of the unorthodox workout techniques either. His rock hard abs and shredded body is mostly attributable to the sport of rock climbing.
Rock climbing is a physically demanding activity, it effectively pushes ones strength, power and bring aerobic and anaerobic “fitness levels to new heights.
“There was a job vacancy announcement at Astrek Climbing Wall. It was fresh off a renovation and required an attendee and maintenance guy. I was in college and I wanted to work after classes. I had climbed a few times before, but this is probably where my obsession with climbing really started.”
In just three short years, Saman has made himself noticed in the industry. He has enrolled himself in several competitions, one of the most recent being the IFSC (International Federation of Sports Climbing) Bouldering World Cup 2016 which took place in India. Although he is comparatively new to the sport, he is showing exceptional potential.
“I fell in love with rock climbing, completely. The feeling I get when hard rock touches my fingers is exhilarating. I’ve been obsessed ever since. But I joined The Pump because it was the only institution dedicated to calisthenics; I wasn’t really looking to lift weights. I wanted to refine my skills so I could be a better climber.”
Apart from climbing, Saman is a calisthenics trainer at The Pump. His training regimens for his clients revolve around body weight training. Because the progress is slow it is easy for people to quit mid way. Some people just get into it because their friends are doing it and quickly lose focus. However, popularity of this type of fitness is growing slowly, but surely.
This routine focuses on utilizing the entire body in the workout. The aim is to maintain form and perform these exercises at maximum intensity. It isn’t going to be easy but it is definitely effective. Perform each workout for the designated repetitions for three sets each. If you can’t do the required number of reps, take breaks or do as many as you can and move onto the next workout. Rest only when you really need to. Use a weight that you can lift comfortably for the required reps.
KETTLEBELL TWO ARM SWING: 40 REPS
(Make sure you perform this movement with proper form to ensure you don’t encounter any injuries)
1) Stand behind kettlebell with feet slightly wider apart than shoulder width. Bend over at hip with knees bent and back straight.
2) Lift kettlebell off of floor and pull forearms against inner thighs while keeping hips and knees bent with low back taut.
3) Drive hips forward, torso upright, and knees straight so kettlebell is pushed forward and upward. Allow kettlebell to swing back down.
4) As kettlebell approaches lower position, fold at hips while bending knees. Forearms make contact with inner thighs permitting kettlebell to swing back under hips.
5) Immediately repeat movement and continue to swing kettlebell. That completes one repetition
BARBELL THRUSTERS: 30 REPETITIONS
1) Clean barbell from floor with overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder width.
2) Position bar on front of shoulders with elbows pointing slightly forward and torso tight. Position feet slightly wider than shoulder width, pointing outward slightly.
3) Descend until knees and hips are fully bent or until thighs are just past parallel to floor.
4) Raise body upward by extending knees and hips. Accelerate when nearing top of squat, drive barbell up off shoulders, pull head back, and throw weight overhead by extending arms upward.
5) Pull head forward at lockout overhead. Immediately lower weight by bending arms.
6) As weight descends, bend legs, pull head back, and catch barbell in front of shoulders as knees are bending at approximately 90°.
7) Repeat in quick succession
BARBELL DEADLIFT: 20 REPETITIONS
1) With feet flat beneath bar, squat down and grasp bar with shoulder width or slightly wider overhand or mixed grip.
2) Lift bar by extending hips and knees to full extension. Pull shoulders back at top of lift if rounded.
3) Return and repeat
PULL-UPS: 10 REPETITIONS
1) Step up and grasp bar with overhand wide grip.
2) Pull body up until chin is above bar.
3) Lower body until arms and shoulders are fully extended.
TOES TO BAR: 5 REPETITIONS
1) Grasp and hang from high bar
2) Raise legs by flexing hips until fully flexed. Continue to raise feet toward bar by flexing waist.
3) Return until waist and hips are extended downward.
This routine incorporate the basic calisthenics workouts which are perfectly suited for beginners as well as people who work out regularly. These are all body weight exercises, but these can be very effective if performed at full extension with correct form. If it gets too easy for you you can increase the number of repetitions or sets as per your requirements.
Your primary focus should be completing these workouts in the minimum time period. As you get better, you can try and complete the workouts quicker. Maintain maximum intensity. There are easier versions of some of the workouts if things get too difficult.
SQUATS 20 REPETITIONS
- Stand with arms extended forward.
- Squat down by bending hips back while allowing knees to bend forward, keeping back straight and knees pointed same direction as feet.
- Descend until thighs are just past parallel to floor.
- Squat up by extending knees and hips until legs are straight.
- Return and repeat
TRICEP DIPS 15 REPETITIONS
- Mount shoulder width dip bar, arms straight with shoulders above hands.
- Keep hips straight.
- Lower body until slight stretch is felt in shoulders.
- Push body up until arms are straight.
(YOU CAN PERFORM THIS SAME MOVEMENT ON THE FLOOR WITH THE SUPPORT OF A CHAIR OR SOMETHING SIMILAR.)
PUSHUPS 10 REPETITIONS
- Lie prone on floor with hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Raise body up off floor by extending arms with body straight.
- Keeping body straight, lower body to floor by bending arms. Push body up until arms are extended.
PUSHUPS ON TRX (ADVANCED):
You can up the ante by propping your feet up on the trx suspension straps. This challenges your stability and engages your core, making this simple exercise that much more difficult.
PUSHUPS ON KNEES:
If normal pushups are too difficult, you can tone the difficulty down by doing pushups on your knees.
PULL-UPS 5 REPETITIONS
1) Step up and grasp bar with overhand wide grip.
2) Pull body up until chin is above bar.
3) Lower body until arms and shoulders are fully extended.
4) Repeat (If the pull-ups are too difficult to perform, you can build up to it by getting a partner to help with assisted pull-ups or do it with the help of TRX straps)