UB BarbarianZ teaches students how to exercise in a new way

Club uses street equipment to work out


Elijah Tyson didn’t realize park equipment could be transformed into workout equipment – until he came across a group of individuals doing just that at a park in his hometown on Long Island.

Tyson didn’t realize how much of an impact this encounter would have on his life.

Tyson, a junior business major with a minor in nutrition, established UB BarbarianZ, a street workout-inspired club, in November of 2015. BarbarianZ provides not only an insane workout experience, but also uses street workout values to encourage members to reach their full potential in other aspects of life. About 30 members show up on a consistent basis.

Street workout is a rising urban bodybuilding phenomenon. It uses calisthenics in combination with various pieces of outdoor equipment found at parks, such as bars and poles. It recently rose to popularity via videos posted on social media of individuals performing gravity-defying moves.

Calisthenics distinguishes itself from the average fitness routine because participants use only their body weight as resistance opposed to conventional gym equipment, like weights and machines.

Examples of street workout exercises include pull-ups, dips, push-ups, squats and more advanced moves such as the muscle-up, front lever and human flag.

Tyson credits street workout culture as an aid that got him through adversities in his life.

“Street workout creates a hardcore but positive environment that advocates community involvement,” Tyson said. “It really pushes you to go beyond your limits and encourages you to be the best version of yourself.”

This positivity is what inspired him to bring the movement to UB.

If one were to step into a BarbarianZ session, he or she might be surprised to see the extent to which members help out, encourage and motivate one another. No one is left out of workouts and the setting creates a good atmosphere for social interaction and stress relief.

The word “can’t” is banned from the room.

Before workouts commence, members of the club gather around Tyson as he recites parts of what he calls the “BarbarianZ Scripture.” These are verses he created that promote self-motivation, success and the positivity-crucial values of the club that he hopes members take with them after the workout ends.

Tyson, a certified personal trainer, organizes the workouts and oversees members to ensure both safety and an optimal workout experience. Since he acknowledges that not everyone is able to participate at the same level of intensity, members are split into beginner and intermediate groups.

Tyson believes that personalized goals are important.

“Start at your own level build from that,” he said.

Mastering a variation takes patience, determination and persistence – even for someone who works out regularly.

It took Tyson himself months to conquer more advanced moves such as the Australian pull-up and the typewriter pull-up. Attesting to the rigor of the workout, he is still working on mastering the human flag – a move where one hoists their body horizontally on a vertical pole, resembling a flag.

“New members should expect a mindset that’s different from anything they’ve experienced at other fitness clubs,” Tyson said. “While weightlifting tends to promote egotistical values, BarbarianZ is dedicated to motivating and encouraging one another and creating a positive group mentality.”

While street workouts are stereotyped as a masculine activity due to their aggressive nature, BarbarianZ said about half of its members are female.

Women enjoy the workouts because they build lean muscle and increase overall mobility and flexibility. Males tend to enjoy the strength training aspect and the overall intensity of the workouts.

Dan Wright, a junior political science and history major, calls BarbarianZ a learning experience as he uses the exercises he learns from Tyson to incorporate into his own lifting routine. Additionally, he appreciates the environment it creates.

“It is an intense workout while having fun with your friends,” Wright said.

New members are always encouraged. However, Tyson does warn that they may be taken aback by the unique mindset that the club promotes.

Tyson used the values he learned from street workout culture throughout the grueling process of gaining club recognition through the Student Association, which took him eight months.

Dozens of times throughout this process, Tyson’s concept was turned down. But he said through persistence, determination and the support of individuals who believed in Tyson’s vision, UB BarbarianZ finally gained recognition from SA in November 2015.

As a newly recognized, or “temporary,” club, there are certain requirements that have to be fulfilled each semester before clubs can become permanent. Because of the timing of his club’s acceptance, Tyson was given the option to postpone his club’s recognition until the next semester to make fulfilling this obligation easier.

However, he declined that offer and finished all the requirements for the club in the last three weeks of the semester – something that normally takes clubs the full 15 weeks.

“Hard work, motivation and persistence – values that are embodied in the calisthenics movement – are what made this club gain recognition and start off successful,” Tyson said.

Stephanie Krempa, a junior exercise and nutritional sciences major, was glad to see the club finally gain recognition. She, like many others, appreciates BarbarianZ because of the unique and intense workout experience.

“There is always a variation which keeps me from getting bored,” Krempa said.

She said she loves the unique nature of the workouts because she can do them anywhere and “not just at the gym or with expensive equipment.” She also highly encourages other students to give BarbarianZ a try.

“There are all different levels of people who show up each Thursday. Who knows, you might make some new, cool, fit friends along the way,” Krempa said.

New members can expect to participate in variations that are challenging, yet attainable due to the personalized nature of the workouts. Though BarbarianZ sessions are fun and social, it is not unheard of for participants to feel its effects for up to a week after or to sport callused hands – a testament to just how intense they can be.

The club started out with less than 10 individuals. However, the eye-catching workouts grabbed the attention of many individuals at Alumni Arena who then joined.

Tyson’s future plans for BarbarianZ include getting a calisthenics bar outside on campus, organizing a large-scale fitness expo at UB, gaining more widespread recognition throughout the student population. Their overall goal is to get more people onto the knowledge and values of street workout.

UB BarbarianZ meets on Thursday’s at 7:30 p.m. in Alumni Arena.

Brittany Herbert is a contributing writer and can be reached at features@ubspectrum.com