Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Calisthenics making a comeback

Calisthenics — making a comeback!

By Tanise Edwards, M.D.

Jumping jacks. Crunches. Lunges and squats. Do these exercise basics take you right back to P.E. class?

Your gym teacher was on to something.

Old-school calisthenics are still a great way to get a fitness routine essential: a strength-building workout. And, there's no special equipment needed. You simply use your own weight to work your muscles. Of course, that makes them a good — portable — option for frequent travelers, too.

A retro revival
Calisthenics are certainly classics. But, today, you could even call them trendy. They appear to be making a comeback in the fitness world.

One sign: the popularity of boot camp programs. The American College of Sports Medicine has these military-inspired workouts on its list of hottest trends for 2012.

High-paced boot camp workouts usually combine calisthenics with kicks, sprints and other moves. So, you get a cardio and strength workout in one.

Back to basics
Maybe you're thinking you're not quite up for full-out boot camp. That's OK. You don't have to jump in that vigorously to benefit from simple strength-building exercises.

Check the chart below to see four classics — and the muscle groups they can improve.

But, drop ... and get your doctor's OK first. For safety's sake, it's always best to talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level. That's especially true if you have been inactive — or have injuries, health concerns or a bone or joint condition.

Exercise Region Muscle groups
Lunges Lower body
Buttock (gluteal)
Thigh — front (quadriceps) and back (hamstrings)
Squats Lower body
Buttock (gluteal)
Thigh — front (quadriceps) and back (hamstring)
Push-ups Upper body
Chest (pectoral)
Shoulder (deltoid)
Arm — back (triceps)
Crunches Middle body (core)
A trainer's tip: Start with a short warm-up for your muscles. For example, walk or march in place for five minutes.