Being watched in the gym is a newcomer’s nightmare. Just the thought of everyone looking at them is enough to make them do a complete 180 and head out the door.
Of course it’s reasonable to think people who’ve been into exercise for years and are in the gym with purpose are going to drop everything, just to watch the newbie screw everything up and lift tiny weights!
I’m not making light of the amount of courage required in order to take the plunge and join a gym for the first time, just reinforcing the truth that nobody really cares about much more than their own workout – especially those who are experienced.
The reality is: The only way you’re going to get a knowledgeable and experienced person watching you in the gym, is in the form of personal training/coaching. So many people wrongly see ‘personal training’ as the guy with the clipboard, going round with the overweight beginner, showing them exercises he himself has never done, while not being able to explain why he’s even getting his client to do it in the first place.
Thankfully, personal training, and as I prefer to coin it, ‘coaching’, isn’t anything of the sort – providing you’re working with the right person. (READ THIS: THE PERSONAL TRAINER TEST – HOW DOES YOURS FARE?)
Even the best appreciate opportunity to learn from others. I honestly believe good coaches see themselves as work in progress and know that they too, need their fair share of tuition.
Find those who can do, or have done, what you’re aspiring to do and learn from them.
No matter how much reading and theorising you’ve done, there’s just no replacing doing it. Success leaves clues. Usually it’s not even the big details that need addressing. Take the muscle up, almost all of you know in order to do a muscle up you must combine a pull up and a dip. But how many people have the strength and knowledge of the movement, but cannot actually do one?
Someone more proficient than you are could see your attempts and instantly spot the small link in the chain that’s missing. And some simple cueing could be all you need.
I am a newly qualified personal trainer and have an intermediate level of strength, particularly in calisthenics. I’ve helped plenty of people improve their pull ups, get muscle ups, improve handstands, get their first push up or dip and more – yet I’m still as addicted to reading, asking questions, picking brains, trialling theories I’ve not heard of and challenging what we’ve accepted as normal as I was when I first stepped on a treadmill many a year ago.
Recently I attended a few small group workshops with Lee Wade Turner, who is a huge name in the bodyweight scene. He’s famed for his endurance sets and strength feats on YouTube; combining muscle ups with pull ups and dips, all without letting go of the bar.
And the beauty of these workshops is the scaling of the moves for different abilities. There were men. There were women. There were those that could muscle up for reps. There were those that could barely pull up. It didn’t matter. We were all seeking one thing……….
To better ourselves.
Lee has an extremely high level of athleticism when it comes to calisthenics. He’s also merciless when it comes to the lower level stuff.
“Nice work guys. 3 rounds down, only another 5 to go!”
Meanwhile everyone is in agony after having done 3 rounds of 10 deep dips, 5 L-sit pull ups on rings and 10 hanging leg raises with minimal rest. The beauty of this isn’t just the mere fact we’re made to explore the realms outside of our comfort zone……
The real beauty lies in Lee’s observations of how you do moves and your overall conditioning in general.
Things I learned:
- My endurance is poor; Lee said my holds are strong but I fatigue very quickly. I knew this but it was nice having it confirmed by the endurance master.
- The value of a very thorough warm up. This sounds obvious but it can easily get lost. We spent a significant portion of time warming up – especially the shoulders. With the shoulder issues I’ve had in the past, this was a god send.
- You can always do with a bit more scapula retraction on the front lever; you’re probably more protracted than you think – and than you should be.
- My breathing isn’t optimal, especially on static holds. I’ve got a bad habit of holding my breath.
- Holding as close to a false grip as possible on bar muscle ups really helps with the ‘awkward’ transition – you want your wrists as flexed over the bar as your forearm and wrist strength allows.
- If you’re new to levers (particularly front & back) really exaggerate the tucking; tuck your chin right in to your chest. Make the tightest ball you can with your body.
There were even more gems than those listed but we’ll cap it there for today. If you were to go to a similar style of workshop or even have few sessions with a good coach/trainer, you will have your own bullet list of eye-openers. What’s relevant to me might not be at all relevant to you.
Don’t be afraid of investing in yourself in the form of coaching. If you have any fitness questions or would like help with calisthenics and bodyweight progressions, shoot me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.