3 years ago I decided to stop bodybuilding. I had become addicted to looking at the mirror, the scales and the number on the side of the weights I was picking up. It was affecting my mind too much when I was on holiday and away from a gym that contained any heavier weights aside the stack of maximum 10kg dumbbells for Pilate’s classes. I’ll never forget turning down the chance of a lifetime to stay an extra couple of weeks for an extreme salary on a beautiful paradise island for a rich client wanting some kite surfing lessons. I had already been there two weeks and felt that I had lost all my hard work I’d put in over the last 5 years, in reality all I needed was a pump on and I would look practically the same as I did the day I left the UK. I turned that opportunity down because of the entrapment of a weighted workout lifestyle; the truth was I just wanted to get home to my local gym.
I took a functional performance diploma 4 years ago after leaving university and finishing my personal training qualifications, and with that came a new understanding that every person comes with a manual; just like anything man made, it comes with instructions on all the things it can do and how they can be done. It was time to start turning the pages of my own manual in terms of movement. I had become particularly inflexible with the bodybuilding workout. It was a very laborious routine with lots of isolated exercises to sculpt my body into a specific vision I had made for how I wanted to look. It was time to stop wanting to look a certain way and start wanting to do certain things. Although I was picking up heavier things, I could no longer leap and bound and climb to the extent I could when I was younger. No matter what anyone tells you, humans are an animal, just like any other living thing on this planet; we are here to survive, which means hunting and staying fitter than the thing trying to catch you. In this day and age, the hunting part of eating has been eradicated. All it takes is a phone call, the touch of a screen and the food can be delivered to your front door. Not only is this the reason there are so many fat people around (as they don’t have to burn energy to fill up on energy) but it means we don’t realise that movement is medicine. We’ve replaced climbing, running, jumping, diving, all things nimble with monotonous picking up and putting down. There are many ways to train for a fit body and many ways to do that without a weight, it’s just about the passion you have doing it. The more passion, the fitter. My passions include many board sports, skate-wake-snow-surf-indo-kite boarding among many other extreme adrenaline filled sports. Three years ago though, being London bound, street workout filled my goals and ambitions list.
Most days a week I go down to my local park not only to train my clients but also to practice street workout. I move around so much during a day (cycling and skateboarding) that when I get to the bars I practice movements rather than just do repetitions of push ups pull ups squats etc (Which of course conditioning of these is definitely necessary but usually is post movement exhaustion). See my Instagram @roohamer or my Facebook roohamerfitness to see some of the things I like to do with the bars in my park e.g. muscle up 360s, handstands, bar transfers, spins, lever holds, and jumping 60’’ onto straight bars, flips, L-sits and many more.
Street workout is usually referred to as “Calisthenics", the reason being it is mostly bodyweight movements (although you can add weighted resistance with vests or another person) but many other sports are also calisthenics so now more people are referring to it as “Street Workout" as when people don’t have a nice bar set up in their local park they use bike racks, scaffolding, lamp posts, the ground, or any object they can find that fits the type of movement they are practicing; parkour capoeira and many other disciplines are done in conjunction with the bar workout. There is generally a great atmosphere down any park I have been to where people are involving themselves in this way of staying fit. Even most gangster types you’d usually cross the road for at night you see down at your bars are happy to help you on how you do your first muscle up. A local street workout gym in Brixton “Block workout” was opened by some previous gang members that are among some of the nicest and talented people in London. The sport is genuinely changing the attitude of many young and bored youngsters and filling them with ambition and pride. Previous youths who could fill the arms of an XL t-shirt now have a 10 pack to accompany it. All the movements you can do in the park can incorporate your abdominals if you know how. Sitting in a leg raise machine working on your quads does not.
I first saw street workout on YouTube, there was a guy doing a ‘planche’ in his local park, I set that as my one year goal and am still working towards it three years on, not that much closer to getting it. The planche is a press up position with your feet off the ground, it’s crazy and denies the laws of physics; anyone you see doing this should receive a pat on the back afterwards. The planche is something that cannot be done with any natural genetics or strengths from anything other than specific strengthening for the hold. I have set this as my 5 year goal as to do it right I need to strengthen up other areas to make it perfect. It keeps me motivated to practice and excited to improve myself. These days I don’t want to look a certain way or have a particular body in mind, I just acquire goals and once I complete a goal my body has adjusted itself in order to be able to perform that movement or maintain that hold. What I look like as a result of achieving my goal is how I want to look, which is what I say to most of my female clients who ask me not to bulk their legs out/lose fat in one specific place or who have a particular celebrity they want to look like. Girls, set movement goals instead of body goals and your body will just be another improved bonus on top of completing another page in your own manual, it lessens stress on your mind and the pressures of magazines and social media on body requirements.
Street workout is generally split into two disciplines, holds and tricks. Personally I like a mixture of the both and can appreciate anything involving risk or mountains of handwork. The good thing is, on the whole, most people involved in street workout are accepting of anyone who turns up to the bars, but the ones who are just working on repetitions and holds are sometimes a little grumpy to those who get a lot of credit for pulling flips and 360s as this requires more guts than hard work. Personally, anyone who speaks like this gets a bad mark in my book. One of the reasons for leaving the gym was to get away from any sort of competition or comparative analysis of what another person can do and what you can do. I like a positive environment to practice in, I have no time for those who judge others in a bad light or try to give others gip for doing something they enjoy. The beauty of street workout for me is that there is no set training or a list of usual things to do, I so often invent new random movements and test my body to see how it performs to raise potential.
For me, I think calisthenics is becoming the new cross fit, and so it should, anything that gets people to put the weights down they don’t need is a good thing. I like the idea of cross fit as it got rid of isolated movement and incorporated all exercises compound in order to fatigue. Good, and hopefully increases the pages used from your body manual, but it can be too competitive and form is inevitably ignored when you’re trying to do more than the toned up woman on your right smashing out more than you. Why would anyone consider putting a heavy weight on their back to squat if they can’t do a one legged squat or squat jump to a higher ledge, or equally a heavy lat pull down when they can’t do a pull up without bending out their lower back and kipping their knees up. I have been practicing solidly for three years now without weight and I still don’t need weights to help me with my work outs. Until my form is so perfect that I don’t have anything to challenge me anymore I won’t need to go back to the gym.
Sometimes the winter can be rough outside but I like the elements and someone once told me that 'there’s no such thing as bad weather, you’re just in the wrong clothing’. Rain is not an excuse for not training; you can practice for street workout literally in bed. I can’t give away any secret training tips or things to practice as that’s for business. I’m a personal trainer so anyone who’s bored of the gym lifestyle, the bad smells, the same soundtrack, the dingy light and the same guys walking around grunting and pretending like you don’t exist because you can’t bench 100kg then give your local parks a go or give me a call!