The Monkey Man Workout

1336342_22583242

Last February, I spent a month living with monkeys. During my time in the jungle, I developed a particular condition. Besides serving as a virtual mosquito buffet, I came down with a raging case of what I now call monkey envy.

Monkey envy, in its simplest terms is this: I wanted to be able to climb like a monkey so freaking bad! These little creatures would scale impossible trees in seconds, launch themselves from the canopy and land effortlessly thirty feet below, and hang leisurely by their tails, taunting me with their awesomeness.

I watched these monkeys in awe for hours, never growing tired of their interactions and treetop acrobatics, amazed by the strength and coordination contained in their tiny fifteen pound bodies.

It made sense to me why monkeys would be so incredibly strong–they live outdoors and climb trees all day long. And so I wondered whether or not I too could develop that kind of lean power simply be replicating the movements and exercises of my monkey role models. After all, our DNA is 99.9 % identical.

So, in a moment of primate to primate inspiration, I took to the trees and began learning and experimenting with different techniques and climbing methods; balancing, swinging, hanging, generally embracing my primal roots and developing an entirely new kind of functional strength and coordination.

In my struggle against monkey envy, I’ve come to a realization. As the old saying goes, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. So while I may never grow the prehensile tail I see in my dreams, I have put together a training method that just may prove to be the most effective and downright fun workout for building lean functional strength… I call it The Monkey Man Workout.


The Monkey Man Workout

Many people struggle with getting in shape, gaining muscle, or losing extra pounds that hang around like the obnoxious mosquitos that buzzed in and out of my eardrums in the jungle. People eat well, go to the gym every day, yet still struggle to achieve the body they’ve always wanted. People search constantly for the newest “weight loss solution” or “diet cure” that really only fuel the problem by overcomplicating things and confusing people. In reality, achieving optimum fitness and real strength is simple and comes down to one essential insight: In order to get fit, ripped, or lose weight, we must perform the most effective exercises for achieving our desired goal.

Contrary to what gyms and fitness companies want you to believe, all truly effective exercises have one thing in common: body weight manipulation. You do not need anything more than your own physical body to get in the best shape of your life. Machines build muscles in isolation, working muscle groups in unnatural and nonfunctional ways while bodyweight exercises work your entire body, developing muscles in functional congruency with one another. If there is one thing you should take away from this article it’s this: stop wasting your time with leg extension machines and lat pulldown bars and start achieving true strength and the body of your dreams through real world exercises like running, jumping….and climbing.

We Are Big Monkeys: Tree Climbing 101

First off I want to stress that climbing trees can be a very dangerous activity, especially if you are new at it, so please be careful.

The process of climbing trees is really quite simple but there are a few things to know before you start jumping from limb to limb like a spider monkey.

1. Climb With Your Legs

Your legs are ten times stronger than your arms. You will tire much faster if you rely too heavily on your arms, and you will climb slower and much less efficiently. Use your arms to pull you up when foot holds are not available, but as a general rule: focus on climbing with your legs.

This said, if your main goal is increasing your upper body strength, add in some climbing where you rely almost exclusively on your arms. Focus on pull-ups, dips, and leg raises as you maneuver yourself through the canopy.

2. Have at Least Two Holds

When climbing, always have two hand or foot holds at a time. That way if something does happen and you lose your balance, you can transfer your weight and stop yourself from eating bark ;)

3. Gain Functional Strength

Tree climbing is a very physically demanding exercise. In order to rediscover your inner ape you may want to add in other functional strength training exercises to speed up the process and ease the transition.

Here are a few functional exercises that will help you climb trees faster and more effectively: Pull-ups, Push-ups, Squats, Lunges, Burpees, Inchworms, bear crawls… Really any body weight exercises.

These exercises are great if you don’t have access to a tree or if weather doesn’t permit monkey business, but if climbing an actual tree is an option, I recommend you go for it and learn from experimentation.

4. Experiment

While there are specific climbing techniques that I will cover in future posts and videos, the key to learning to effectively climb trees is experimentation. Practice swinging hand over hand, hanging and lifting your legs up to the branch, balancing, performing pull-ups and dips, jumping from the ground and pulling yourself up… There are infinite possibilities.

5. Be Present

To climb trees safely and effectively you will need to give the activity 100% of your attention. While you are swinging like Tarzan 25 feet off the ground, you don’t want to be thinking about what’s for dinner or how you have to get your car washed. Direct your entire attention to the present moment. Focus on the feel of the bark, the air on your skin, your breath. Concentrate fully on each movement.


Final Thoughts

Before I started working out like King Kong, I would struggle to complete a mere five pull-ups. Today, I can bust out 30 with ease. I’ve also gained ten pounds of lean muscle to my typically geek-skinny frame. This is without a doubt the most effective workout for building lean muscle and shedding pounds that I have ever done.

However, that isn’t why I recommend it.

Too often, people think of exercise as a punishment, as a chore to be completed but rarely enjoyed. One of my main goals with Wild Movement is to help people break free from this “exercise sucks” mindset and develop a passion and a love for movement.

Why do I climb trees, run barefoot, and swim in the ocean?

Because I love to. Because it makes me feel happy, alive and confident. Because it clears my head, gives me more energy, and makes me more alert. I may never slip through a tangle of jungle as freely, easily and masterfully as my monkey mentors, but that’s OK. I do it because it’s fun. And now that I think of it, that’s probably why the monkeys do it too.

So, here is my question to you: Why do you move?

Leave your answers in the comment section below.

Go have fun, be safe, and realize the health, freedom and vitality that is innately yours as a human being…monkey style.

To your health and happiness,

Logan

23 Comments on “The Monkey Man Workout

  1. Logan, this is so thoughtful, innovative and interesting! Well done! Most importantly, it is so logical. :) I didn’t know you had a blog. I will try to visit more often.

    All the best,

    Victoria Beck

    • Thanks for the kind words Victoria :)

      You can subscribe for automatic updates if you like.

      Hope all is well,

      Logan

  2. good stuff. i am curious how long you have been on this journey toward becoming a monkey man?

    • I’ve been climbing trees for only about six months, regularly for the last three months or so.

      Thanks for the comment,

      Logan

      • i have found people who take up rock climbing tend to lose weight while gaining strength.
        i am impressed by your weight gain despite focusing on tree climbing. i find it interesting that is how your body adapted to the stimulus. i would have guessed little to no weight gain considering the demands of what you are doing. although an increase in bodyweight would be detrimental for tree climbing, that is how your body adapted. you obviously had big sterngth gains too.

        • Many people would definitely lose weight. As a distance runner for many years, I was very skinny prior to taking up tree climbing so I was able to pack on some lean muscle mass.

          Just like any other exercise, tree climbing will shape your body to best meet the needs of that particular exercise. For some people this means losing weight, for some it means gaining weight.

          However, regardless of your physical condition, tree climbing will hugely improve your strength. And, the beauty about this is that this kind of strength is highly functional. Unlike the the “fake” muscles built by machines, tree climbing builds incredibly useful muscles. Muscles that serve a purpose outside the gym.

          Cheers,

          Logan

  3. Pingback: Are You Vitally Alive? | Wild Movement

  4. Love the post! It’s essentially the same end result in a different manner that I came to about a year ago…. If we built strength and endurance and got in shape as a kid on the playground, (climbing “monkeybars”, firemen poles, etc) why not do the same now? whether it’s trees or playground equipment, the end result is close to the same. So if anyone reads this and is trapped in the urban jungle, all is not lost. : )

  5. Pingback: 3 Steps to Lion Proof Abs | Wild Movement

  6. im twelve, and pretty enthusiastic about parkour, free running, climbing etc..
    its fun to do stuff nobody thinks you can do. wall running hint: when you run up or along a wall start with your knees bent and straighten them a little with every step. for me its easier to keep my strides long

  7. hawaii has excellent brambles to swing around in, careful you can end up going in a circle by an accident and think u’ll never get out.  ther r big mudholes around too, deep ones.

  8. Pingback: 3 Ways to Embrace Immaturity and Flourish | Wild Movement

  9. I to climb treews and agree it is very good exercise plus you do lose weight and gain muscle the only difference is I get paid to do what I love.

  10. Hi Logan! Just found you through Illuminated Mind via Colin Wright… and boy am I glad I did! I’ve been rock climbing regularly for the past few months and was just thinking last night how fun it is to get exercise in a less monotonous way. Climbing outdoors is always better but being in the city it’s not always possible. At least the routes at the climbing gym are always changing and depending on the route setter, you never know what you’re going to get. 

    The next time I go on an outdoor climbing trip I’m definitely going to climb some trees!

    Also, for new climbers (of trees or walls) don’t be discouraged when you start – keep at it and you’ll start to see improvements. It’s amazing how your body naturally adapts by  developing muscle and gaining knowledge from repeating challenging movements. 

    Cheers,

    Edwina

  11. This monkey man workout is quite risky for the beginners. You
    should know how to do the proper technique on doing this kind of workout to
    prevent accidents.

  12. Pingback: Fun Workout Videos

  13. Hey Logan I experienced similar “monkey envy” after seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes. My question to you is not how you got up, but how do you get down effectively?

  14. Hello, I want to tell you that I felt good to see that someone else climbing trees for exercise.
    Years ago, while studying for gym teacher, had to study the evolution of man, types of exercises and human anatomy.
    Then gather everything I learned and realized that the best way to train would be doing what they did our evolutionary ancestors. So I started to climb trees and walk on four legs (hands and feet), as do the monkeys.
    Today I keep practicing, I climb trees in different ways such as exercise, and then walked on four legs.
    Not if it’s the best way to train, but it is the way I enjoy coaching more
    I have thought to film some of the things I do to leave some record of this. That kind of postures improve certain muscles, and methodology to practice them.

    I do not speak very good English. I’m from Argentina, my name is Matias. Use the google translator … so if something is not understood … sorry

    A hairless monkey hug, see you!

  15. Pingback: Monkey Spider Exercise Weight Loss Workout | Best Weight Loss Coaching

Leave a Reply