When we start our training journey or even if we are currently living the health and fitness lifestyle, we need to be training with a purpose. Fitness and health is not a one size fits all type deal, everyone should be training specifically to accomplish their goals. Some of us are looking to get bigger, stronger, faster, while others are looking to lose weight or just training for longevity.
One thing we all need to be aware of is what training style works best for us. Personally I am into training for athletic performance and aesthetics, while also keeping longevity and mobility in mind. I still play sports in my free time, so even at the age of 35, I am looking to maximize my performance. I’ve always favored having the athletic lean muscular look than the big bodybuilder look or the slim and slender “runner’s body” look. My training consists of primarily calisthenics, plyometrics and a decent amount of cardio. My preferred form of cardio is long walks or bike rides. I’m not much of a jogger, but still incorporate it from time to time strictly for health and stamina purposes.
Now aside from my training, I try to do plenty of mobility work. I don’t even consider this training, because it is a non-negotiable. Mobility is what keeps us functional. Functional meaning able to do our daily tasks of walking, bending, twisting, reaching amongst other movements that contribute to longevity. Mobility is what keeps us young and able to enjoy life to its fullest. A little stretching and thoughtful movement each day can keep us moving fluidly through our golden years.
Before you make a decision on your future workout regiment familiarize yourself with a few training styles.
Aesthetics weight training: When I think of aesthetics weight training, I think of classic bodybuilder workouts. Progressive overload (Gradual increases is weight and rep range), training for hypertrophy (Muscle growth), building slow twitch muscle fibers and the look of mass and strength. Most people you see lifting weights in the gym are consciously or unconsciously moving towards achieving this look.
Powerlifting: Powerlifting focuses on pure strength. Many powerlifters compete in lifting competitions where they compete against people in their own weight class. From my understanding powerlifters are more focused on pure strength than aesthetics, so if aesthetics is what you are more concerned about, then powerlifting might not be for you. Also powerlifting is going to be the training style that comes with the most injury risk, being that you will be lifting heavy loads and pushing yourself to your limitations on a regular basis.
Endurance Training: Endurance training can come in many forms, but it centers around cardio and long distance, or long interval exercise such as jogging, cycling, rowing, swimming or your typical gym machines like the stair master, elliptical or the treadmill. The look that is produced from the endurance based cardio exercises is going to be typically slim, with little muscle mass. That is, if this is the sole method of training. Endurance training does have plenty of benefits health wise. It improves the condition of the heart, lungs and circulatory system.
Plyometrics: Different jumping, agility, explosive movements are the base of plyometrics. If you are an athlete looking to get quicker, faster, jump higher, have better balance and agility, plyometrics is a form of training you should incorporate to your training program to maximize your athleticism. Plyometrics is predominantly lower body based training, but you won’t end up with the massive legs that weight lifters get from their type one muscle fiber (Slow twitch) training. You will be training type 2 muscle fibers (Quick twitch), and this leads to having the athletic leg physique. Think of a horse’s legs or the legs of a sprinter. If you are someone who prefers the slim muscular athletic look, opposed to the muscle bound bodybuilder look, calisthenics can also be very beneficial for you aesthetically.
Plyometrics is a key component to my lower body training. It also keeps me springy, athletic and helps me get the desired look I want in my lower body. As we age it’s harder for us to keep our athleticism, so if athleticism is important to you, then sprints, jumps, agility and reflex work are things that need to be in your training package.
Mobility Strength training: Power Yoga, flow training, animal style training is what comes to mind when you combine mobility and strength training. This type of training is great for mobility and also can help you build up a level of bodyweight strength. Handstands, bodyweight holds and unique movements that help build relative strength can be mastered while training in these styles. Coordination, mobility and having fun with training will be the main benefits to all of these training styles.
Calisthenics training: Within calisthenics there are a multitude of styles. There is Street workout, which is mostly crazy acrobatic, gymnastics type movements on the bars. There is actual gymnastic ring training, which focuses on building pure relative (bodyweight) strength. There is aesthetic training, which is primarily focused on physique. Almost like bodybuilding without the weights. There are a certain segment of the calisthenics community that train specifically for sets and reps. You can find these people at your local calisthenics competitions, where they are competing to see who can do the most pull ups, push ups, muscle ups…etc. You also have people who focus on static training. Static moves are isometric type holds like handstands, planches, levers…etc. Parkour is also something similar to calisthenics. Somewhat of a daredevil sport, with an artistic movement element to it. It can be done anywhere. Scaling walls, jumping from building to building, flips and jumps. I see people practicing parkour at my local calisthenics parks from time to time.
Calisthenics is my favorite of all training styles for a number of reasons. What drew me to calisthenics are the skills that you can progress to, while being able to attain what I view as the ideal physique. The muscle up movement is what initially drew me to calisthenics. I already liked to do pull ups on a regular basis at the gym, but always wondered how people could get their body over the bar. Also seeing people do handstand push ups, human flags and other superhuman strength movements was something that motivated me to switch over to training calisthenics full time.
Personally I like to combine a number of different calisthenics training methods. Skill training for static movements as well as explosive movements on the bar, sets and reps for muscle endurance, weighted calisthenics, gymnastics rings and time under tension for hypertrophy.
There is no limit to your training regiment and you can combine as many of these training styles as you like. Focus on a training style that will help you accomplish your specific goals. If you are a young athlete, plyometrics strength training might be your go to training styles. If you are training specifically for health reasons, endurance and mobility might be what you are looking for. If you are training strictly for aesthetics, take a look at some of the athletes that train in all of these training styles and train for the look that you want to attain. The choice is yours. The important thing is that we stay active and don’t take our ability to move for granted.