Old-fashioned exercise with a latter-day twist

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Bodywork, April 1999

Push. Pull. Explode. Repeat.
Old-fashioned exercise with a latter-day twist

Dynamic calisthenics essentially takes classic moves — squats, lunges, push-ups — and modifies them to prep your joints, boost reaction time, and improve your balance. The idea is to introduce instability into the equation, which mimics what you experience on the playing field. Replace your strength regimen by taking up the following workout three days a week for a month. Be sure to leave at least one day of rest between sessions. The program shouldn't affect your aerobic regimen; indeed, it assumes a solid base of strength and endurance. Start each session with a ten-minute cardiovascular warm-up. Stair sprints are a particularly good option to prep for these exercises.

Squat Thrust
Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, do the following in one fluid motion: Squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground, place your palms alongside your toes, and kick your feet straight back so that you're holding a straight-armed push-up. Do one push-up, hop back into the starting squat, and stand. Try 20 repetitions in the first week, adding ten more in each of the following weeks.

Lunge Jump
Lunge with your left leg forward, bent 90 degrees at the knee, and your right knee almost touching the ground behind you. Now jump up and switch legs in the air, landing with your right foot forward and your left foot back. Shoot for ten the first week, 15 in the second and third weeks, and 20 in the final week.

Knee Up
Jump off your left leg, drive your right knee toward the ceiling, and then switch in midair, driving your left knee up and landing on your right foot. Repeat, jumping off your right foot. In the first week, perfect six reps. Ratchet up to ten in the second week, 16 in the third, and 30 in the last.

Balance Squat
Standing in front of a chair, place the arch of your right foot on the edge of the seat for balance, and lower yourself very slowly on your left leg until that knee is bent at almost a 90-degree angle. Rise just as slowly, and be sure not to lock your knee. Try 25 per leg the first week and add five each subsequent week. Then, during the last two weeks, add some air to your final five reps: Hop off the ground a few inches when you've gotten to the point where you're almost standing.

Pli‰ Squat
Stand with your toes splayed and your feet set slightly wider than your shoulders. Squat directly over your heels, and then perform an abbreviated calf raise, lifting your heels off the ground. Hold the pose for an instant and then lower your feet flat. Do 25 the first week and add five reps each subsequent week.

Lunge Lift
Starting in the aforementioned lunge position, lift your back leg off the ground a few inches by contracting your gluteus maximus. It's tough. Balance for a beat, and then lower the leg. Ten reps per side should be plenty the first week. Add ten more each week.

Twist Crunch
Lie on your back with your fingers locked behind your head and your legs bent, feet resting on the floor. Perform a crunch, aiming your right elbow at your left knee and simultaneously extending your right leg in front of you, holding it a few inches off the ground. Return your right leg while lowering your torso. Repeat on the opposite side. Do three sets of 15 in the first week; each week after that, add five reps to each set.

Lie on your stomach in the manner of the pose's namesake. Lift your arms and legs a few inches off the ground, contracting your back muscles. Hold the tension for a few seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat ten times, adding a few more each week.

Use the standard, straight-backed military push-up form, but change hand positions with each set: wider than your shoulders, directly beneath your shoulders, and then together with your thumbs and index fingers forming a diamond. The first week, count out 20 in the first position, 15 in the second, and ten in the third. In the subsequent weeks increase each of those figures by ten, and add this dynamic feature: explode off the floor a few inches with the last two reps in each hand position.

Grasp the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart, and slowly raise yourself as high as you can. Stop at the bottom of each stroke, but don't lock your arms. Grunt out one set to failure throughout the program. Then, if you still can, pat yourself on the back.

Hanging Tough
The key trait of a good home pull-up bar — aside from sturdiness and comfort — is that you should be able to install it without violating the terms of your lease. The Door Gym, from Creative Fitness (800-318-9917; www.eoncity.com /fitness), meets all of these criteria for about $40. A clever design lets you pop it in and out of any standard-size doorway (assuming it's trimmed with molding) without ever touching a drill, screwdriver, or hammer. It has multiple hand positions and foam padding. And though it tends to shake a bit during those last few, quivering reps, the tremors are a helpful reminder not to cheat on form.

© 1999, Outside Magazine

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