The benefits of calisthenics

Those of you who jog for exercise know the benefits of 30 to 60 minutes of jogging. You know your heart will benefit, you'll have good strong legs, and increased breathing capacity. But, what you won't get from that jogging workout is calisthenics, or floor work.

Calisthenics are defined as exercise patterns done for strength and gracefulness. It can also mean doing your sweating on the floor. When you use your own body weight for lifting during a calisthenics movement, you increase muscle strength as well as a muscular endurance.

The push up is a classic example of a calisthenics movement. If you want increased arm muscle strength from the full floor push up, do your movement slower, increase your range (further up and closer to the ground), and hold your position at different intervals. How about an increase in abdominal muscle strength? Do a sitback, or reverse situp, and hold half way extending your arms out to the sides.

It takes time to learn to do calisthenics properly. Most of you concentrate on burning fat with fast, hard, sweaty running. But, consider the benefits of 15 minutes of body building, or muscle strength movements. If you would like to add to your workout, be sure you start with minimal weight, especially if it is extended weight such as a full push up versus on the knees. Don't let your lower back arch to compensate for hold movements during a reverse sit up. Don't concentrate on calisthenics advancement if you are pregnant, have a heart problem (muscle strength exercises sometimes tend to raise blood pressure), or if you have a history of arthritis. And it is important to breathe properly during the exertion part of your calisthenics.

Do calisthenics with a little muscle endurance mixed in. For example; do side leg lifts slowly for 10 repetitions and quickly for 10 more. You will notice an increase in the length of time you can hold that leg up without stress.

Alignment of the body and correct technique is of major importance when you do your floor work. When you fatigue a muscle, the body will delegate the whole affair to a lesser group of muscles that should not even be working. Then you have a misbalanced body that can pull out of alignment and cause injury. Logic tells you not to continue when those major muscle groups give out. If you maintain trunk and pelvic stability during your calisthenics, you will reduce your chances of back flex, pelvic tilt and other injurious movements.

Try to balance the use of muscle groups during floor work. Spend as much time on the quadriceps as you do on the hamstrings. In fact, the hamstrings should get just a bit more of a workout because the quadriceps is a stronger and larger muscle group.

It's not easy to put together a good calisthenics program on your own. Take a fitness class for awhile to learn the correct methods and types of moves needed to increase your muscular strength. Or spend some time with a weight trainer to learn muscle groups and the reasons to strengthen them.

• Jerry Vance is the owner of Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat. She offers classes through the Carson City Recreation and Aquatics Center and is a fitness instructor for the Carson City Senior Citizens Center.


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