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Monkey Gym Concepts, v.5 (special thanks to Prof. G. for his help!)

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Monkey Gym Concepts, second draft

(Thanks to all who helped me refine this; you know who you are)

What is the Monkey Gym?

The Monkey Gym ("MG") is a new way of using old technology. In fact, an MG looks much the same as gyms were 100 years ago: Roman rings, ropes, balance devices, ladder bars, grip strength 'toys', boxes, strong rubber bands, 'India clubs', benches, dumbbells, and so on. In brief, we use some of the equipment of men's gymnastics, and a few extra toys, so there are minimal set-up costs. Bands are used to provide assistance in key exercises (all women can do chin-ups in the MG!) or resistance in other multi-plane exercises. The equipment can be a simple or as complicated as individual teaching needs dictate. You can start with a single set of rings, a bench, and a shiny floor—the real value of the MG approach is the way we do things; the ‘IP’, in other words. Anyone can buy equipment.

What goes on in the Monkey Gym?

Playing in an MG is very different to 'training' in a conventional gym. By "conventional gym", we mean gyms with machines or free weights, music, mirrors, lycra, headphones, TVs, large memberships, and an impersonal atmosphere. MG class numbers are small, and students progress through Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced structured classes. There are concurrent Supervised Training Sessions, where students can practise what they have learned.

All MG exercises are "whole body" movements—and all are "core strength" movements, too. And form in each movement or hold is paramount: all exercises end when the form cannot be maintained. Exercises are either static (so isometric contractions), or slow, controlled, movements against resistance.

In the Beginner stream, we do not do 'conditioning', or try to improve how many chinups you can do in a fixed time. Instead, we show you how to do chin-ups properly, safely, and with full awareness of which muscles are doing the task, and with the understanding of how a basic movement like this can be modified to achieve various results (like making it an arm exercise or a back exercise, or both). Some exercises or positions are done just once—to awaken awareness of how to make a particular shape with the body; others are done with low numbers of repetitions, like three to five.

There is no 'Human Being Owner's Manual' of which we are aware; the MG experiential learning approach comes as close to this ideal as we can. We use an explicit coaching model: students work in pairs, and cue and correct their partner's form; then they swap roles. We have found that this significantly speeds the rate and depth of learning, and makes any class self-teaching and self-directing, in time. Students learn the system at a deep level. As teachers in the MG world, we like to say that our goal is to render ourselves unnecessary!

One unique feature of the Monkey Gym approach is that is suits men and women alike; it caters to the young and seniors with equal ease; and the skill set optimises function while enhancing joint, ligament, and tendon health. Everyone stays younger for longer.

Lastly, a key point: has anyone ever done exercise just because someone told them it was good for them? Not too many, we suspect. One of the unique aspects of the MG is that everyone looks as though they are really having fun—and without that essential ingredient, no one will put in the time that’s required to change at a deep level, nor be able to muster the motivation to make the effort required. When your clients are looking forward to their MG sessions, once or twice a week, and telling you that it’s the best time of their week, you know you are onto something—and we hear this all the time.

What makes the Monkey Gym unique from an owner's perspective?

One aspect is that there are no machines: the floor space is completely open. This means the area can be effortlessly re-purposed throughout the day for any activity, like a stretching class, or a Pilates class. This makes an MG the perfect adjunct to a Yoga or Pilates studio—and both can occupy the same space at the same time. Another unique aspect is the use of the third dimension—the MG explicitly uses the vertical space of a room, from floor to ceiling, a dimension wasted in conventional gym setups. Hanging equipment is pulled away to the walls and secured when not in use.

No equipment on the floor means that more people can work out safely in a smaller area, yet feel that they have all the space they need. The original MG is just 49 square metres, with 5.5 metre ceilings at the highest part. Using the third dimension means that ropes (for climbing) and Roman rings (the 'still' rings from men's gymnastics) can be used. Stacking boxes are used for jumping onto, over, and from. Stairs, if present, are used for a large number of drills, too.

The Experience:

Awareness of biomechanics is how all members begin, and continue, their MG experience. Foot and ankle alignment, knee tracking, spinal alignment, shoulder stabilisation, and activation of the core and gluteal muscles (the 'core' is so much more than 'TA'!), are where everyone begins, and all MG activities continue to refine this most important aspect through all levels. Students are instructed and led through the progressions and the variations. They learn how to exercise themselves, and how to attend to any problem area. Strengthening exercises are complemented by a suitable stretching exercise, for tissue realignment, to enhance recovery, and to calm the neural system.

Because the MG experience begins, and continues, with biomechanics as the first priority, the activities are suitable for elite athletes and ‘older exercise enthusiasts’ alike. Both sexes and all physical types and ages can be accommodated easily—because the other major distinction of the system is its unique ‘back- and forward-engineering capacity for all exercises, so any task can be made easier, or more difficult, quickly and easily. The net result is that attendees can stay fit for longer—and remain adaptable to all other activities, despite thinning disks or thinning hair!

The Results:

Enhanced coordination, vastly increased functional strength for both men and women, the development of lean muscle, improvements in range of movement and stability of all joints, enhanced balance, improved jumping power—all are attributes that are refined, developed, and which will carry over to all other activities. Any aspect of the physical and mental dimensions of what's needed to improve performance for any activity can be emphasised in individual setups or individual routines.

The Monkey Gym System

The MG methods and intellectual property (IP) are explicit parts of the package: all aspects of the system are taught in Beginner's, Intermediate, and Advanced classes; specialty classes (such as kettlebells, RollStretch, and Dynamic Forms) may be added to the mix, depending on the skill sets and individual interests of the teachers.

In addition to classes that progress members through the various streams and levels, there are Supervised Training Sessions: spaced though the week at convenient times; these allow students to practice their interest areas, with a teacher present to assist as required. The unexpected up-side of this approach is that you only need a small number of students to be economically viable, compared to normal gyms, and you only need to open at scheduled times. The tyranny of 06:00 to 22:00 opening hours is over, forever. Interested?

Click here to see the Monkey Gym in action on YouTube (and more!)

I will post on the new 'non-business model' a little later.

Please vigorously comment and debate this: the MG is a work in progress, and if I have anything to do with it, will stay that way!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Having read this Kit, it is exactly the words that we need to be promoting on the MG Spain website and adverts etc. It is explained and worded perfectly and concisely here, it made it so clear to me and others that have read it in explaining what we will be doing.

With this in mind, what do you think to having this as a universal text for all the MG's world wide to use one their websites? it would create a kind of uniformity and association between the studio's / businesses creating a familiar link, similar to the MG logo etc. And then from this page we add the links directly to your site (HQ), course dates, merchandise or youtube links, what ever works. Just a thought ??

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Jade and Nolan; I agree, completely, and please feel free to use it (all or part) yourself. One of the reasons I 'pinned' this topic, and the others, is in the hope that this forum becomes this kind of resource (you can link from your site to this post without having to write, or copy anything).

Yes to all the other suggestions, too.

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