Wellness & Fitness

From skinny to chiselled body in three months

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George Ndambuki, a Callisthenics fitness enthusiast, poses for a photo during his routine exercise on April 14, 2023, at Kenyatta University Main Campus along Thika Road. PHOTO | WILFRED NYANGARESI | NMG

You do self-improvement for yourself, not for external validation.

No one understands this better than George Ndambuki, seated a leg apart from me. It is a cold morning in Nairobi and he is in a puffy black jacket which is concealing his callisthenics gains.

But when topless, Mr Ndambuki’s ‘six-pack’, is visible. His body fat range is enviably between 10 to 14 percent. His biceps show off with oomph with enough pounds of muscle flesh forming a plateau chest.

Three months ago, Mr Ndambuki was nothing close to what he looks like now. He was a small-bodied man, had sunken cheekbones, had lost 15 kilos, and was depressed.

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George Ndambuki, a Callisthenics fitness enthusiast, performs the Parallette pushup exercise on April 14, 2023, at Kenyatta University Main Campus along Thika Road. PHOTO | WILFRED NYANGARESI | NMG

“I realised working out was one of the ways to give me focus to deal with the life challenges,” he says.

He started doing callisthenics, a type of workout that uses your body weight with little or no equipment. When doing them, you use your body weight as resistance to build strength, flexibility, and endurance, involving movements that use large muscle groups, such as push-ups.

It is a type of workout that can be done anywhere, making it a popular choice for many people who want to stay fit and active without having to hit the gym.

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George Ndambuki, a Callisthenics fitness enthusiast, performs the Achar pushup exercise on April 14, 2023, at Kenyatta University Main Campus along Thika Road. PHOTO | WILFRED NYANGARESI | NMG

Calisthenics is said to be much harder than traditional fitness exercises such as weight lifting, cross fit, circuits, mobility training, and HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training).

“When I started exercising it was to free up my mind, I didn’t care about looking good. But as I kept going, I built strength. It lives within, it feeds on the pain and I think I am now able to embrace emotional and physical pain,” he says.

His callisthenics regime is vigorous.

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George Ndambuki, a Callisthenics fitness enthusiast, performs the Back clap pushup exercise on April 14, 2023, at Kenyatta University Main Campus along Thika Road. PHOTO | WILFRED NYANGARESI | NMG

Read: Simple 30-minute exercise routines to help you achieve your 2023 fitness goals

A hanging pull-up bar set on a wall always awaits Mr Ndambuki to do 100 pull-ups as he begins his day. There is a five-second resting interval between the sets.

On some days, he combines the pull-ups with variations of 380 push-ups.

“I will then take a cold shower no matter how cold the weather is [which he says is relaxing] and then I take my breakfast. Mine is always a whole meal which in many cases will be my leftovers,” he says.

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George Ndambuki, a Callisthenics fitness enthusiast, performs the Jump squats exercise on April 14, 2023, at Kenyatta University Main Campus along Thika Road. PHOTO | WILFRED NYANGARESI | NMG

Research has shown that cold or ice baths reduce inflammation and improve recovery by changing the way blood and other fluids flow through your body.

When you immerse in cold water, your blood vessels constrict and dilate when you get out. This process helps flush away metabolic waste post-workout.

But the morning routine is just to jumpstart Mr Ndambuki's body. He is an evening person.

“I exercise six days a week with Sunday being my rest day. Monday I do arms, Tuesday chest, Wednesday shoulders and back, Thursday legs, Friday core {abdominal area}, then on Saturday full body. I do a total of 10 exercises a day. Each exercise consists of two sets of 18 reps (repetition). In addition to the morning pull-ups, I do 30 squats and a similar number of calf raises,” he says.

His arm exercises include alternating push-ups, diamond push-ups, scissors push-ups, reverse push-ups, tiger bend push-ups, and triceps dips.

Chest exercises include different variations of push-ups; Hindu, in and out, archer, reverse, box, spiderman, and explosives.

Another range of push-ups form part of Mr Ndambuki’s shoulder and back exercise and this may be pike, Tysons, chest raises, floor Y raises, inchworms or crawl pull-ups, side reverse snow angels or swimmers chest raises with pulls.

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George Ndambuki, a Callisthenics fitness enthusiast, performs the skipping rope exercise on April 14, 2023, at Kenyatta University Main Campus along Thika Road. PHOTO | WILFRED NYANGARESI | NMG

As for his enviable abdominal area, he does long arm crunches, sit-up twists, Russian twists, side oblique crunches, V-ups, clapping crunches, legs in and out flutter kicks, crunch kicks, planks, mountain climbers, and bicycle crunches.

To fuel and restore his energy glucose levels, Mr Ndambuki does three whole meals a day and has incorporated high-protein smoothies.

“I am a hard weight gainer, so my secret has been to take two glasses of blended smoothies daily consisting of boiled pumpkin, oats, groundnuts, avocados, bananas, milk, and honey. A glass in the morning and another in the evening after the workout,” he says.

For a gym rat, it would take a lot of convincing to believe that Mr Ndambuki’s magnificent transformation within the three months has not been aided by the use of supplements.

“For me, it's consistency, the will to do it even when I am not in the mood. I have nothing against supplements, but I’m sceptical about anything that is packaged, refined, and shelved. I feel they are too artificial. If I can get the nutrients directly from whole meals why do I then need supplements which are also costly?”

Read: Aerobic exercise: Benefits of walking as a workout option

For snacks, the teetotaller prefers groundnuts, bananas, and lots of water that help keep him full most of the time.

The exercises have transformed his body so that he easily passes for a 20-year-old.

“I run a stationery shop selling architectural materials. I set up the business in February 2022 but in September things were not working out. I was at my lowest, with no money to manage the business and then I contracted chicken pox, the situation took a toll on me mentally. To keep my mind preoccupied in January this year, I turned to exercise, something I must say I hated doing,” says the 28-year-old architect and entrepreneur.

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George Ndambuki, a Callisthenics fitness enthusiast, performs the pullup exercise on April 14, 2023, at Kenyatta University Main Campus along Thika Road. PHOTO | WILFRED NYANGARESI | NMG

His apartment front yard became a ground for personal growth and what was meant to drench his sorrows instead rewarded him with a chiselled body and mental tenacity. Now it has become an addiction.

“These exercises are the ultimate level of human strength and it’s what I seek to achieve, to be able to be in control and sync with my body weight and mind,” he says.

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