The following is a guest post by Al and Danny Kavadlo adapted from the book STREET WORKOUT by the Kavadlo Bros, and is published with permission from Dragon Door Publishing.
Around the turn of the millennium, calisthenics crews convened in New York City and trained on construction sites and scaffolding, as well as in parks, playgrounds and other public pull-up stations. As more and more people identified with the new breed and moved further away from the gym, the culture grew. New groups emerged, including teams, meet-ups, boot camps and pull-up jams. We’ve personally witnessed the legendary Tompkins Square Park in New York City go from a little known gym alternative far from the common path (early 2000’s), to being a global destination, enticing tourists from all over the planet to visit and get their reps in.
Ironically, while calisthenics is as ancient as humankind itself, a revolution of this magnitude could only exist in our current age of modern communication. While the planet has not changed in regard to its physical mass, there’s no denying that the world is getting smaller (figuratively not literally). The internet and its many resources such as YouTube, Instagram and Facebook have all played a huge role in spreading the word. Now a kid in a small village in the Far East can learn pull-ups from a tutorial shot in New York City’s East Village!
Yes, outdoor calisthenics has been around as long as humanity itself. But what’s happening right now is on another level.
Over the years, the Street Workout phenomenon has spread all over these great States and across the ocean. Street Workout is now all over the planet. Europe has some of the fiercest calisthenics beasts we’ve seen. Asia, South America and Australia also boast some of the best. There are organized Street Workout competitions all over the world attended by thousands of fans, followers, friends and practitioners.
Our community comes from different backgrounds and origins, assorted borders and parts of the world. We are united for a common cause: a love of fitness, form and function, a passion for self-improvement and a need to inspire others. Young and old, male and female, black and white, gay and straight: we are all represented.
While still far from the mainstream, one need look no further than a local park or the internet to see that the popularity of Street Workout grows every single day. In fact, there is a whole new generation of fitness freaks who have never even been to a gym. All they know is Street Workout! We are the past, the present and the future. The posse’s getting bigger.
Working out, like life, should be fun, adventurous, primal and pure. No training style embodies these elements quite like Street Workout does. Give us a traffic light and we’ll show you pull-ups, hand balancing, hanging knee raises and bar levers! We don’t need anything fancy. To the Street Workout enthusiast, a well-equipped gym consists of two things: you and your environment. You can train in a park, off a ledge or from the side of a truck. We celebrate improvisation and anything is fair game!
Street Workout movements signify the perfect marriage of strength, flexibility and balance, as all of those elements are necessary. Furthermore, there is an additional proprioceptive demand to many of these exercises, as they confuse the nervous system and challenge us to work on our spatial awareness within this world. Street Workout builds real world, universal strength.
What follows are some of the quintessential moves that define the genre. Though some of these exercises may be familiar to the masses and others far out, they are all relevant in the calisthenics kingdom:
Assume a plank position on your palms with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Keeping your heels together and your body straight, lower yourself down until your chest is just above the floor, pause for a moment and then press yourself back up. Keep your elbows relatively close to your body; do not flare them out to the sides. Be sure to maintain a straight line from your heels to the back of your head.
Grasp an overhead bar with your palms facing away from your body. Brace your trunk and avoid shrugging your shoulders as you bend your arms and pull your chest toward the bar. Do not allow your knees to bend and avoid using your hips to create momentum. Lower yourself back down with control and repeat. No swinging!
From a standing position, reach one leg into the air with your knee straight, then squat down as low as possible on your standing leg. Pause briefly at the bottom, then tense your abs and stand back up to the top position. In addition to the strength component, this can be a big stretch for your hips and hamstrings. Start by holding onto a sturdy object for support and use your arms for assistance if necessary.
Grip the bar slightly narrower than you would for a pull-up, then lean back and pull the bar down your body as low as possible. At the top of your pull, reach your chest over the bar and extend your arms. When starting out, we encourage you to use momentum and be explosive. It may take a lot of practice to get a feel for the timing. For this reason, it is not unusual for one arm to go over first for beginners.
Grasp a vertical pole with your hands a bit wider than shoulder width. Press with your bottom arm while pulling with your top arm in order to lift your body off the ground and suspend it sideways while parallel to the ground. You can make this move less difficult by bending your legs to shorten the length of your body.
There is no doubt that if you performed only the above exercises and nothing more, you’d have a lifetime of spectacular progress, growing stronger and more powerful every day. But make no mistake: they are just the tip of the iceberg. Check out our newest ebook STREET WORKOUT for by far the most comprehensive compilation of urban calisthenics exercises and progressions ever assembled!
Bio: Al and Danny Kavadlo are internationally acclaimed fitness trainers and world-famous calisthenics masters. Their new book STREET WORKOUT is the definitive text on the subject.