Calisthenics conjures up old-school images of press-ups, pull-ups, lunges and squats. Take that image and insert a hip-hop heavy playlist, gritty urban surroundings and a focus on unity. This is the basis of Block Workout: simple yet effective bodyweight exercises, alongside an inspiring and inclusive community.
Based in the South-west district of London, Block Workout base themselves in Brixton Street Gym. Maximising the minimal space and equipment that they can afford, their almost-gymnastic technique has spun the heads of Street Gyms across the world.
It began with Terroll Lewis, who landed himself in prison at the age of 19 after his involvement with gang culture as a teen. Within the four walls of his cell, Terroll began bodyweight training, using his bed for press-ups and his bin for push-ups. Upon release 11 months later, Terroll took his learnings back home to Brixton. A group quickly formed and it was called Block Workout, after the housing blocks that they all lived in.
A typical Block Workout sessions incorporate a lot of Calisthenics, but focuses on strengthening all the main muscle groups, burning fat and increasing flexibility. With a military bootcamp feel, (many of the members are ex-soldiers) sessions include a lot of teamwork exercises and circuits. Although not essential for Calisthenics, everyday items such as ropes, tyres and weight sleds have also been added to the gym for variety.
The impact that Block Workout has on the community can’t be underestimated. The energy between young men from urban southwest London can be hostile, but the respect built from training together, overcomes both physical and mental obstacles.
I tell a lot of youngsters that it's important to have a mindset of ‘I don't know it know it but I’ll learn how to do it’, that mindset of ‘I can’t quit’. These are valuable life skills that can transform your life, your training, your business relationships, your ventures and anything you do.” Terroll Lewis
At its core, Block Workout is a youth-led project, where many 13-26 year olds train. At first, it could seem intimidating, however they keep coming back for more. Why? Terroll says that:
“It’s because they see me as an older brother. It’s not a fitness group, it’s more like a family. People come back because they like that sense of community, and because we’re all there to get fit, get healthy and to learn new things.”