Raising the (Russian) Bar

We’re a huge fan of the Russian/former USSR legacy of street workouts. Those appalling bleak communist apartment blocks, lads desperate for somewhere to let off steam… and outside, sets of high bars and parallel bars (and occasional sand pit for balancing) – all set to ensure that the youth of Russia and its enclaves are fit and strong (and ready for conscription into the army, probably!).

Not to be confused with the circus-style ‘Russian bar’ which is a flexible beam supported on two guys’ shoulders on which other acrobats do back flips and stuff. Never tried one of those – probably be dreadful on it!

In these (slightly) more enlightened times, this outdoor workout legacy has been transformed into great street-workout challenges, and organised associations in every major (and minor) city and town:

…this guy, in Ukraine, obviously ‘leads the pack’ – and has the eight-pack to go with it. These guys develop fantastic abs, chests, backs and shoulders from hours spent hauling themselves around the bars, and huge arm strength too.

Vladislav, here, is said to be one of the best:

…and indeed, he gets quite a crowd of admirers, like this next guy:

I’ve been to Russia twice and Ukraine once. However, these countries have people that do what we do (like the Kalutskikhs and Steelkast in Moscow, who definitely do it better than we do!) so we have not performed there. And on my trips, you know, I never discovered these groups or we would certainly have ‘had a go’. We focus on balance and tumbling, so these guys are probably streets ahead stronger in the shoulders and chest than we are, and we’de make a pretty poor showing. This would be more our thing – held ‘strength’ moves:

If you enjoy this stuff as much as we do, you’ll want to go on YouTube and search ‘street workout’. You’ll be amazed at what you find – the ones from Odessa are particularly good. You see some very interesting twist moves, too, which seem to start like this:

You see them hanging by the jaw whilst completing some spectacular moves – and hanging by the back of the neck, too – another from Vlad here:

We’ve tried that. It hurts.

The sort of stuff we got into (acrobatic stuff that is) can be found in these, along with our gay love story. I know, sounds naff. But finding Dave was the best thing that ever happened to me, along with the larger loving group we gathered around us. It all nearly went pear shaped, as the forthcoming third part Against All Odds will reveal early next year, but, as they say ‘we all lived happily ever after’ to carry on enjoying our own brand of acrobatics, performing,  and teaching the gymnastic arts to others.

One thing we definitely have in common with these Russian and Ukraanian guys is the need to prepare for our exercise – stretching being the key, after a goood warm-up run or game:

That’s pretty good! Partner assistance always helps and, by the way, you can never start too young:

You just gotta keep at it… even though sometimes you may give people the wrong impression!:

So much more fun with a partner… always!

I’ll leave you today with one more – a nicely built boy, back on the bar and ready for action. He’s 17 yo… just look at the definition he’s built using that bar every day:

A western ‘guest artist’ at a street workout celebration.

About tonycavanagh

Born Northampton UK; school Oxford UK and Oak Ridge Tennessee, where I met my wonderful partner Dave, also from UK. Oak Ridge is our main training base for acrobatics and circus stuff, but we also established a base in Wales (UK) to serve us when we are working in Europe. Currently finishing off our 'story', after we got a publisher interested: that's the story of how we got shot at during our show (and worse was to follow) - just to prove that the risks of being an acrobat are not always the most obvious ones! Actually, waiting for the imminent arrival of the first printed copies was far scarier than anything we do in performance. And now Volume 1 is out - and effectively outing US - the really scary bit will be if anyone actually buys one and reads it...
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2 Responses to Raising the (Russian) Bar

  1. Excellent article, and great summary of evolving sport….and fun personal notes. Really enjoyed it! :-) Will look up the books to buy! :-)

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