Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Bartendaz

I was the kid in school who couldn't do a single pull-up as part of the Presidential Fitness Test. I'd just kind of hang there like a limp noodle until my grip gave out. Even five years ago, I couldn't do a pull-up if my life depended on it.

But over the past few years, I've been slowly chipping away at 'em. Four years ago, I started working on negatives and assisted chin-ups. Three years ago, I worked my way up to ten strict pull-ups. Two years ago, I managed to (sort of) hang with Tony Horton's crazy pull-up routines. And last year, I figured out how to kip properly, and started practicing weighted dead-hang pull-ups. I was beginning to feel pretty good about my pull-up skills.

And then I learned about the Bartendaz.

These guys have elevated pull-ups to an art form.

According to the official Bartendaz website, the group's founder, Hassan Yasin, was "practicing his own unique fitness drills at a park in Harlem" ten years ago when a group formed around him, fascinated by his showy b-boy-influenced bodyweight resistance moves and gymnastics skills.
Within a few weeks, the number of followers was in the dozens. And within 5 years, the Bartendaz method was being instructed in over 40 New York City Public Schools. The most remarkable result of the program was not the increase in muscular strength and capacity but the dramatic turnaround in the lives of the students. In finding gratification and peer validation in fitness, many of the students chose to veer away from vice and delinquency and reshape their lives. 

With its hip-hop and street influences, the Bartendaz program is incredibly appealing for those of us middle-aged squares who still harbor fever dreams of breakdancing. But it's especially so for urban youth.
Dozens of New York City schools have adopted Bartendaz moves into their physical education programs through grass-roots networking, Yasin said. He believes the exercises resonate among students who have been otherwise tough to reach.
The Brooklyn Academy High School for at-risk students incorporated the program into its curriculum to motivate students to become more involved in physical education, said principal Elaine Lindsey. But the kids love it so much, she said, that it became "a tool to motivate the students to actually come to school."

Given the sorry state of physical education funding in U.S. public schools, I'm all for anything that'll get kids excited about exercise and fitness (both in and out of school). Plus, these guys are mind-blowingly good.

I'm not saying that the Bartendaz would've inspired me to practice pull-ups when I was in fourth grade -- I was probably too busy nerding out to Go-Bots at the time -- but they're definitely motivating me to keep working on my pull-up skills today.