Parkour and calisthenics-based workouts in Al Quoz
Among the growing number of urban fitness centres mushrooming among the warehouses of Al Quoz, the newly opened Gravity Calisthenics Gym is aiming to offer something different. Founded by 24-year-old Emirati, Yousuf Al Gurg, a former Al Wasl Football Club player and mountaineer, Gravity is solely dedicated to calisthenics (exercise without machines) and parkour (free running).
The gym is a little tricky to find, but the potted plants hanging off thick sticks of bamboo outside the entrance make it visible from the service road. Inside, the 7,500 square foot gym has an industrial look and feel. It’s well-lit and bright, with a host of free weights, rigs and boxes for members to jump and run off. Gravity is the antithesis of big franchise gyms. There are no rows of treadmills, cross trainers or complicated-looking weights machines. It is a pared down yet stylish playground for those who want to improve their body strength and develop the techniques of parkour.
Gravity runs a selection of classes that help build up strength and technique for newcomers as well as sessions for the more advanced. On our visit, we took the ‘Streetfit’ class, which is suitable for novices, as it focuses on the flow of the movement and teaches participants to understand how to use the body’s momentum. We start the class with some running warm-ups and a set of fun exercises named after animals – such as the ‘monkey crawl’ on all fours and a backwards ‘duck walk’, which involves walking backwards in a low squatting position.
Our trainer, Megan Joy, takes us through the basic exercises such as shoulder rolls into standing position, which she makes look effortless, but once you get on the floor and try it yourself, it’s deceptively difficult. Al Gurg also teaches classes at Gravity and he shows us how to ‘skin the cat’, a move that we last did when we were about eight years old in the playground – hanging off the railings and rolling back with legs crossed above our head – but attempting it again a few decades on, that swing doesn’t come so easily. In fact, it doesn’t come at all. So we move onto the monkey bars to do some core strength building and pull-ups.
Gravity Calisthenics Gym was opened in May. ‘I came across calisthenics about a year and a half ago, through Instagram,’ says Al Gurg. ‘I wanted to practise but we didn’t really have the right facilities. Then around a year ago, there was a workshop in Dubai held by Kenneth Gallarzo, founder of the World Calisthenics Organisation, so I met with him and I’ve been working with him on setting up this venture ever since.’
The gym has four in-house trainers and a yoga specialist, and despite being new, the classes already have a friendly, inclusive feel to them – everyone knows each other’s names, and members encourage and support each other through the drills and genuinely appear to be enjoying the session.
Al Gurg says a machine-free workout can be more beneficial than standard weight training. ‘Even if you can barely do a push- or pull-up, with a progressive method you’ll be able to build strength then move on,’ he says. ‘If you just do regular weight training or bodybuilding then you focus on isolating a muscle group. With calisthenics, you’re never just working out one muscle group; your whole body is working out all together and you develop strong joints as well as muscles.’
The initial feedback from members of Al Gurg’s new gym has been positive, and he’s happy with the response. Classes are getting booked up days in advance and there are plans to host events and tournaments at the gym. For now, Gravity may be defying the fitness norm. Dhs399 per month (basic membership excluding classes), Dhs699 (unlimited membership including parkour or calisthenics classes), Dhs50 (non-member day pass), Dhs80 per class. Ramadan hours: Sun-Thu 7am-11am, 5pm-1am; Fri 8pm-11pm (ladies only). Regular hours: Sat-Sun and Tue-Thu 7am-9pm; Mon 7pm-10pm; Fri 8am-noon (ladies only). Gravity Calisthenics Gym, Al Quoz 4, www.facebook.com/gravitycalisthenicsgym (04 321 6006).
Two more parkour workouts to try
Against GraviTi Join this group in body weight training and parkour classes that take place across Dubai. www.againstgraviti.com (055 600 7687).
Movement Parkour Dubai The company runs private classes at 24 Fitness in Al Quoz that focus on improving flexibility and increasing strength and momentum for free running. The group also puts on performances. www.facebook.com/movement parkourdubai (052 930 8709).