During a period in which the Beatles broke up, Steve Jobs founded Apple and the world mourned for a dead Elvis, another cataclysmic event occurred that would change the health and fitness industry forever and destroy everything that is good and proper about being a man. It wasn't as much a single event, but more a movement that was first exposed in 1977 and has been intensifying ever since. Like a tropical storm forming from humble beginnings, it has grown in stature and 39 years later mankind is being battered senseless by Hurricane Arnold.
Arnold Schwarznegger is a bodybuilding icon. A legend in his chosen endeavor but by his own admission, the physique for which he became famous was chemically enhanced. In my opinion his rise in popularity may have been one of the single most detrimental things to ever happen to manhood.
Arnold's explosion changed action figures, superheros and movie stars, and in turn, society changed its perception of what a man should look like. Fast forward nearly 3 decades and your average Joe is taking whatever he can to become more like G.I. Joe.
It's been estimated that 1 million Britons may be using steroids regularly and drug workers have revealed needle exchanges are doing more business with pumped up testosterone junkies than their Class A indulging counterparts. Male dysmorphia, a condition where men never believe themselves to be big enough or muscular enough, is a pandemic. It even got it's own name; Bigorexia! Go to any gym in the western world and you'll find them. All jacked up with bodies too big for their heads, guzzling shakes and pills from advanced Tupperware containers designed by fellow bros that managed to get an engineering degree in-between bi's, tri's and calf workouts. Over recent years, we have seen the rise of the super-male. Except there is nothing super about him.
Fortunately though, every hurricane eventually runs out of energy and dies. Life can go back to normal, but first we must navigate our way back by remembering what it was like before the destruction. In the world of health, fitness and manliness, this looks entirely like Calisthenics. This Greek word simply means beauty and strength. Many modern day bodybuilders would believe themselves to be the embodiment of this but ancient man saw it differently. Muscle was good, but only if it did something useful. Calisthenics is a physical form of training focused on mastering ones own bodyweight. A combination of gymnastics and strength training progressed not by adding more iron plates but by defying gravity and exploring the limits of our own bodies.
There was once a time when the most desirable and sought after males in any community were those with athletic prowess that enabled them to provide and protect. They had physical abilities that meant they excelled in their environment. Their strength to weight ratio made them nimble but immensely powerful. They were agile and adaptable. They had a plethora of movement options at their disposal and bravery came not because of how big their vastus medialis obliquus was, but because they had belief in their own abilities. Training to enhance these abilities won wars and saved lives. And, it was all possible without a knee extension machine!
Today calisthenics offers everyone a solution to the jacked-up non-functional physiques we see all around us. I understand that looking good is part of the world we live in and men want to train for this reason. That's cool, but release yourself from the dogma that you must lift barbells and dumbbells to look good. It's simply not true.
Look at any seasoned calisthenics athlete and you'll see a balanced, sculpted physique adorned with functional muscle. You'll also find a community of like-minded people whose purpose is to have fun, learn to do cool things and build physical longevity. Calisthenics is a journey that will exercise your brain. Like any muscle, the one housed in your cranium responds when stimulated. Learning new and challenging movements will keep you mentally sharp. Bodyweight training will also positively change your mindset. Calisthenics confronts you with things that feel impossible. Overcoming them, however, will change your wider perception of what you can and can't achieve. You will literally redefine your own impossible.
Maybe there is only a few of us who want to break away from the army of men sat on machines in supported positions pumping plates of iron. Strong in the gym and looking like they mean business, but their hours of training is directed purely at an aesthetic outcome that they will never achieve. They are chasing something that they will never realize, something akin to a physical mirage. They will never be happy with how they look. Like a hurricane in their own lives they may cause carnage along the way negatively impacting their own physical and mental health and their relationships with others.
At the School of Calisthenics we're part of a tribe that intends to rebuild from the ground up. Following the devastation left by hurricane Arnold we want to restore and re-educate the male population guiding the lost sheep back to real manliness using a form of training that positively and holistically shapes and develops us. The enlightened will become quietly confident that even though our serratus anterior may not be perfectly symmetrical, we're in possession of the same physical skills that have delivered mankind through millions of years of trials and tribulations. In the 21st century that might mean we maintain more physical function into old age, that dementia is delayed or prevented, that we're happy in our own bodies and peaceful because should the world descend into chaos the bodybuilders will get eaten first.
So take a look at your body and what it can do. Are you continuing the physical evolution that has brought us so far or has hurricane Arnold blown you off the course that has defined human history and true manliness? If it's the latter you can rediscover some of your physical potential at the School of Calisthenics by joining us and downloading our free Beginners Guide to Calisthenics at www.schoolofcalisthenics.com