Sunday, February 6, 2011

Body weight training - with expert trainer Dennis Frisch, Pt I

Dennis Frisch is a lovely person. On top of that he moves very well, is very strong, moves with grace between walking on his hands to moving through z-health mobility drills, to shinnying up a rope. Throwing kettlebells and pulling deadlifts is also in the repertoire. But what inspires me about Dennis? Besides the fact that he's super nice and coaches with ease? I'm 5.6. Dennis shows me that even someone my size (relatively speaking) can be great.

I've encountered Dennis at various fitness workshops, certs over the past few years, and i'm always impressed by the quality he brings to the occasion and how inspiring just his goofing around is at breaks: he'll be leaping between pull up bars or hand balancing or grabbing a barbell, just moving moving moving. During a z session in denmark, eric cobb asked him to strike the pose: take up a z I phase drill in lunge position. It was text book.  I'd also learned he's helped gals master the one arm push up - more on that in part 2. Indeed, my sense is that Dennis has been moving increasingly into bodyweight work not just as a workout but as a way of life. Bodyweight work is something i've been wanting to understand more lately, too. So thought you might enjoy connecting with the expert about why bodyweight.

Dennis, what built the body you have?

Well, a combination of bodyweight training and weight training. I have done both extensively for the past 10 years. I have focused more or less on one or the other from time to time. As I have progressed through my training I have found that I can rely more or less exclusively on bodyweight stuff combined with band work. I lift kettlebells, dumbbells and barbells from time to time, mostly to work on technique or check up on strength levels.

Where would you suggest someone begin who may already have some experience of working out with weights or some sport, but where to begin thinking about bodyweight work? what do you mean by this concept?

That depends entirely on their definition of bodyweight work an what their goals is more specifically. I like to think of bodyweight training as fundamental movement skills, meaning being able to climb over something, support my bodyweight on my hands, push myself of the ground, roll/tumble.

Most people would do well to familiarize themselves with basic variations of push ups, squats, hand stands, crawling, dips, rolls etc. When you are comfortable with these skills, bearing in mind that it may take several years, you can slowly progress to exercises like muscle ups, walking on you hands, hand stand push ups, jumping etc. Exploring activities like gymnastics, parkour, wrestling and other martial arts will also quickly expose you to these exercises.
Why has bodyweight become such a key part of your practice?

Since I was a kid I've loved climbing, tumbling and the like so I've always had a talent for things like pullups and push ups. When I joined the army I was exposed to these exercises as part of the training and being good at them sort of motivated me to do them even more, so I climbed ropes and the like for the fun of it.

These days it is simply very convenient to always be able to train, since I have a family including two small kids, studies and a business to run. Being able to train on a few square feet without equipment makes it easier to get the training sessions into an otherwise busy schedule. From the logic that a good training session done is better than a perfect one not done, I would of course do better with access to a well equipped gym every session.

To sum it up: I like how it feels and it is a very convenient way for me to stay in shape.

Depending on the previous experience of trainee my suggestion is to find a skill that one finds fascinating/enjoyable and begin from there. Do you think hand stands are cool? Great, now look up resources on how to get there.

Try this one on for size: Start at a level you find doable but challenging. It might be a hand stand supported against a wall, or a pike pushup Like this. Practice this as often as you can and enjoy. Slowly you will be able to go towards more advanced variations. I believe it to be important to practice with the intent of owning/mastering the skill, thus not rushing towards it's completion, rather taking the time to polish each level. For me that is probably the hardest part. In the end it saves you tons of trouble, even if it requires practicing patience.

What's your own background in this kind of work, Dennis - do you have any formal gymnastics or parkour training?

I dont have a gymnastics background outside of two courses at the Institute of sports and exercise science. I have participated in some parkour courses and have the mobility/bodyweight training courses from Steve Maxwell and Scott Sonnon. So I am not completely self taught.

That's really cool, Dennis. What's a typical day for you, training wise?

Typical day!

Since I have my hands full with school, work and family these days I tend to fit some movement in where I can.

At the office we have a pullup rack, floor space and a load of bands, so I usually take short movement breaks, where I do some rolls, practice my hand stands and work on muscle ups. Outside the office there is a patch of grass 50m long, so on a really good day I will do a 20 minute sprint/agility session before the work starts.

I have had reasonable success with getting up before my family wakes up, getting a good session in. I like working out early, especially outside. Right now the challenge is that my oldest son will wake up if I get out of bed and will want to come along, which doesn't really work out that well.

Ideally I would love to train some sort of gymnastics and/or martial arts every day, preferably under the supervision of a coach or even just with a regular group or partner, but these days my priorities are family and school. My perspective on training is a lot more long term than just the next 6 months. I've found that I am a lot more satisfied with my training if I visualize myself training as 60+ man, being able to wrestle, run, climb and play with my two grown sons. That means to me that the most important thing is to keep moving, avoiding serious injury and keep refining and learning skills. To build on that is a newly engraining habit of training/practicing every day.

Thanks Dennis

Next post, we'll check in with a sample bodyweight program from Dennis. If you want to connect with Dennis, here's some pointers

See you in part 2 for program ideas.

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