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Street workouts in Abu Dhabi

Can’t afford the gym? That’s no excuse for not getting fit

Can’t afford the gym? That’s no excuse for not getting fit. Caroline McEneaney gets schooled in the world of street workouts.

Street workouts are a form of physical exercise performed in parks or outdoor public facilities. Often, members will use playground equipment in schoolyards or public play areas. A growing trend, especially in places with warmer weather, street workouts are a combination of athletics, sports and calisthenics, which refers to exercises that use only your own body weight as resistance.

Hesham Kamel is a trainer for Against GravITI, a street workout team. He explains that the main benefit of street workouts is that they can be done anywhere and at any time, for free. Hesham says, ‘There are loads of advantages to street workouts. First of all, it’s great exercise – you can gain great strength and get in fantastic shape. Also, it is a sport that gives the practitioner the opportunity to be creative. It’s fun, doesn’t require a membership and you can do it anywhere.’

The most popular exercises in street workouts include chin-ups and pull-ups, where you lift your entire body weight above a bar using your arms. The difference between a chin-up and a pull-up is mainly to do with the grip that you use – for pull-ups, the hands point outwards, whereas for chin-ups, the palms are turned inwards. Other routines include sit-ups, crunches and planks, all of which work the abs.

Participants in street workouts can also be found doing dips and muscle-ups, moves that are less commonly known. Dips challenge the triceps (the backs of your arms). You hold on to the ledge of a bench from behind, with your feet stretched out in front of you, then lower and raise your body. Muscle-ups work the arms too, but add in abs and core as well. To complete a muscle-up, start by hanging between two bars or rings and proceed to lift your body from the hanging position until you are upright with your arms by your chest.

One of the draws of street workouts is the creative nature of the activity. Hashem says, ‘I am passionate about discovering people’s hidden skills and abilities. I enjoy anything that requires mental and physical challenges and street workouts offer that combination.’

As the exercise requires practitioners to use outdoor public facilities in an inventive way, it promotes innovation and adds an element of excitement to a workout. In other words, it’s not just repetition of the same movements that you might do at the gym.

While one of the advantages of street workouts is that they can be done anywhere and at any time, as the activity has grown in popularity, fans have created different teams that either practise together or compete against other teams. Hashem’s team, Against GravITI, consists of five people. They are currently preparing for their first competition, in Kuwait this summer, during which participants will demonstrate their most impressive exercises to music.

Onlookers who happen to catch these demonstrations of strength and balance are often blown away by the acrobatic nature of the impressive displays. A favourite movement of the street workout team members is the human flag, where you grip a pole and raise your body until you’re horizontal, resembling a flag flying on a pole. This display of arm, leg and core strength often causes dropped jaws from its viewers.

The full expressions of these workouts can seem impossible to some, but Hashem, who has been practising street workouts for eight years, assures hesitant participants they’re achievable. ‘Women and men of all ages and abilities can do street workouts,’ he says. ‘It just takes practice and determination.’ Brute strength helps too, surely?
For details on local street workout sessions, visit www.uaeparkour.com or join the Meetup group Street Workout/Extreme Calisthenics UAE. Various locations (056 762 8472).

By Caroline McEneaney

Time Out Abu Dhabi, 27 May 2014