Physical fitness was never a priority for me growing up in the metropolitan Chennai. South Asians in general do not prioritize fitness as much as other endeavors (like academic success) which may explain why they tend to have less favorable body composition and exhibit increased risk for heart disease. I had bad posture, and was not using all of the body muscles to their full efficiency.
I started by lifting weights in the gym (my apartment had one). However once this orthodox part of the Occidental culture soon revealed its insipid nature, it naturally lead me to the world of calisthenics. I think the whole fitness industry is overrated, and the general population should avoid it like plague.
I realized that my actual goal is to develop functional strength—the strength one gains from resistance training should translate to everyday physical activities that we take for granted—otherwise, what’s the point? Hypertrophy (beyond the necessary level to achieve the desired strength) however is an anti-goal; It is fatuous to carry all that extra muscle around and then ravenously eat more to maintain it.
When strength, not hypertrophy, is the goal you maintain a lean physique. Like Kohei Uchimura - who, incidentally, eats one meal a day.
As a result of doing calisthenics I noticed that “normal” activities like walking, standing, carrying, etc. became more efficient, in that my posture had dramatically improved owing to the direct translation of intent, and eventual habituation, to maintain the correct body alignment, against gravity, (which is what one means by “correct form”) throughout any movement.
Nowadays I tend practice a technique known as greasing the groove enabling practice (with calisthenics and kettlebells; cf. Pavel Tsatsouline) on a daily basis. Sometimes I’ll cease practicing it entirely for a few days. From time to time when the mood strikes me I partake in intensive activities like an hour or two of gardening, cycling or a long walk.
- Overcoming Gravity - The “exercise Bible” of calisthenics movements.
- Stability, Sport and Performance Movement: This little known book by Joanne Elphinston introduces the concept of functional force management (FFM) which I find to be quite helpful in experientially understanding the role of body alignment in calisthenics.
- Convict Conditioning: focuses on higher reps at a lower intensity: (which helps avoid unnecessary injuries).