Ring Leaders: An Intro to Bodyweight Fitness
by Caleb Foust, Men’s Writer
The traditional gym workout is pretty rote by now. Come January, the cacophony of 45-lb plates hitting the gym floor can almost carry for blocks from the SERF and it is awfully tempting to join the herd of guys setting new goals for themselves, ironed out with barbells and squat racks. The time-tested approach is just fine, as evidenced by countless Olympic lifters, but often these workouts focus on raw strength in a few core areas rather than general mobility and control of the body. Both styles share the similar end goal of looking great and getting strong, but bodyweight fitness emphasizes maintaining a good weight to strength ratio so the gains you get are more applicable to everyday life. And, if being able to do a handstand or an L-sit sounds cool, it is definitely for you; at the high level, progress is delineated by physical feats of strength instead of just numbers on a chart.
You do not need a whole lot to get started, either. All you need is a little space to spread out and something to do pull ups on like a bar hanging on a doorframe. One major advantage over traditional lifting is you do not need a gym membership nor expensive equipment to do it successfully — you can be entirely kitted out for just shy of $75, which includes a set of gymnastic rings and a pull-up bar. The rings come in at more advanced stages of the progression, but can be useful in the beginning too. Both of those are the oft-recommended picks within the community, and are made of sturdy, long-lasting materials.
As far as the actual workout goes, take a look at Fitloop, which is the widely celebrated site for collaboratively-created bodyweight workouts, maintained by the wonderful /r/bodyweightfitness community on Reddit. The sequence described on Fitloop makes no presumptions about previous experience and offers streamlined, well-annotated workouts suitable for everyone ranging from the absolute beginner to the longtime pro. It sounds like an advertisement, but Fitloop is a community-run nonprofit and maintained for the good of people like you who are just looking for a different way to work out.
Though it is nearing the middle of February, it is never too late to start a New Year’s resolution. Especially as it gets warmer outside, there is nothing quite like being that weirdo suspended from rings in a busy park on a hot day. It has the inherently different, ninjalike cool factor while keeping you agile, balanced and, above all, strong. But consider yourself warned: because of the lack of fixed numerical progression — as there is with traditional weightlifting — it can take a little longer to make progress, but is ultimately just as fulfilling and worthwhile when you achieve your goals.