How do you continue your normal gym routine while in lockdown or during social isolation?
We caught up with our best buddy Darren Onyejekwe to get the low down on bodyweight training, his positive mental attitude and the motivation to start using your body like a gym. We find out how to stay strong and get stronger while at home. If you’re struggling to keep a routine or unsure how to practise without equipment, to start all you need is a Yogi Bare Mat, Darren’s fave is the Paws Extreme Grip Mat.
Yo D, how did you get so swole and flexy?! Tell us a bit about your fitness journey?
Ha Ha! I don’t think I’ve ever described myself like that but I kind of like it. In short, I used to be a typical boy who played football any chance he could get but it seemed that as I got a bit older my knees didn’t seem to like it so I decided to switch things up. I was attracted to calisthenics, seeing these guys and girls online perform cool movements and holds with their bodies, I was like “that looks sick! I want to be able to do it too”. I just started practicing at home, I bought a few books and watched a load of YouTube videos. Fast forward several years, I now coach bodyweight training and do my best to promote the benefits via my online platforms (mainly Instagram and YouTube).
How did you feel when you first started bodyweight training?
Humble. In order to get strong I had to stripe everything back and focus on the fundamentals. It seems very unsexy at the beginning but it’s necessary to build a solid foundation which will pay dividends in the future.
So what on earth is bodyweight training and what are the benefits?
Lots of things fall under the bodyweight training umbrella including: Calisthenics, gymnastic strength training, HIIT, functional fitness these are all types of bodyweight training. In each of these training styles you’re pretty much just using your bodyweight to work out, with a few exceptions. The great thing about bodyweight training is that it can be performed anywhere: on holiday, in a hotel room, in the park, at home. Literally anywhere, anytime. It really brings things back to basics, I imagine this is how the gladiators and Spartans trained.
Can you really build muscle without weights in the gym?
The short answer is YES! Obviously you’re not going to look like a bodybuilder but if you want a lean muscle mass and an athletic look, bodyweight training has got you!
What is your daily fitness routine like?
My fitness routine varies from day to day. As well as bodyweight training, I like to train Jiu Jitsu, go for runs and work on my mobility. Every day will include one or two of those areas. The one thing that I do without fail everyday is to have a little stretch on the side of my bed when I first wake up. I often sleep awkward so it feels good to show the body some love first thing to gently ease it into the day.
Has training had an impact on your mental health?
100% training is my time for personal headspace, to detach from the world and to focus on me being present in my own time. If I feel a little down or overwhelmed, I can guarantee that after a training session or bodyweight training, I feel much better. It doesn’t mean that it solves all your problems but it gives you a chance to gain some headspace, which then allows you to approach the challenges with a clear mind. It’s difficult to solve problems when you’re worked up emotionally.
You have PMA tattooed on you, tell us what keeps you motivated?
PMA stands for Positive Mental Attitude. It was my Dad’s saying when he was battling cancer for over 10 years, he showed us all that a positive mindset is just as powerful, if not more powerful than a strong physical body. He fought cancer until the very end and he did it with a big BIG smile on his face. I have PMA tattooed on me as a visual reminder that no matter how bad things seem it’s going to be ok, we just need to be positive and carry on the best we can.
What would you say to someone trying to start bodyweight but doesn’t know where to start?
Follow my instagram account obviously (@bodyweight_d) - haha only joking! On a serious note, I would say to start slow and approach it with no ego. Bodyweight training can often look easy but when you try it for yourself you soon realise it’s pretty damn tough. Find some good resources/profiles on YouTube or Instagram, people that actually explain how to perform the exercises. Start with the real basics, build a solid foundation and ‘push' on from there.
What are your top 3 power moves?
Power moves?! Hmmm. Muscle up, back lever and my bad boy dance moves (a two step with a little twist).
And finally .. what is the weirdest thought you’ve had when training at home?
I wonder if other people make animal noises whilst training?!
You can keep up to date with Darren here:
YouTube: Darren Onyejekwe