By Mike Simone Men's Fitness
“The gym is cool for people who do it, but you can train outside, and for free." That's the logic that got Edward Checo, founder of Barstarzz, staging human flags on everything from neighborhood jungle gyms to street posts in New York City's Times Square. “I don’t believe in training biceps this way and triceps that way—all of my stuff is full body. It teaches the body to work together rather than separately,” he explains.
Calisthenics is the foundation of Barstarzz, a group of fitness enthusiasts whose mission is to inspire others to get training outdoors, with whatever is available. But Checo emphasizes that creativity, fun and the social aspect are key. “I’d call it more 'freestyle calisthenics,' or 'creative calisthenics.'" He initially got into the practice when he caught some videos of people doing crazy outdoor calisthenics on YouTube. “I was fairly good at pull-ups and [my friends and I] were interested in what was going on. We looked at it as a new challenge.”
Some believe the gym is the ultimate place for a workout, but Checo prefers being in an open environment. “As far as training outside... you can train for free. When it’s warm out, you get vitamin D from the sun. You don’t get all the sweat in the air at the gym. It’s much more hygienic being outside." He adds, “When you’re outdoors, you’re meeting people and everyone is happy, whereas the gym environment is more extreme and a lot more intense.”
And the movement is rapidly expanding since he founded Barstarrz in 2009. “It’s being turned into a sport,” he said. “I was flown to Latvia to compete in a world championship where they flew in 11 other countries and had a tournament with 20-something participants.”
Regardless of competition, having fun while getting fit is the ultimate goal. “It’s what I do for fun. You don’t have to train for five days, but depending on my schedule, sometimes I train for 45 minutes, sometimes I can stay there for two-and-a-half hours,” he says. “It’s not just working out. I go to the park to hang out with my friends. So while we’re talking and playing around we’ll hit some sets.”
But that doesn't mean he slacks when he trains others. “I always keep track by how many push-ups, pull-ups they can do or how long they can last during the cardio session. Then by seeing how well they are progressing, I show them new moves. You can tell how people are moving their body weight if they are progressing or not.” Checo backs this training philosophy by sharing that he lost 30 pounds over the course of a year with Barstarrz.