Marcus Bondi – Interview

To me Marcus Bondi and rope climps are „inseparably connected“! What can you tell us about the benfits of training with a rope?

Hey Paul; first of all, I love your  calisthenics-parks.com website – it’s a wonderful resource for people from all over the world to become fitter, stronger, healthier and happier; good on you, brother! And thanks so much for inviting me on to chat about calisthenics and body weight training! Awesome! OK, gang, let’s go!!!!

Yeah, rope climbing is incredible for optimising grip strength for pretty much all calisthenics exercises and tricks. Actually, rope climbing is the purest form of compound bio-mechanical upper body strength training. It’s great because it dynamically ties in all your bones, tendons, ligaments, joints and muscles, forcing every element to be as strong as the next link in the chain. Therefore, your fingers must become as strong as your forearms; your biceps and triceps and your deltoids must follow suit; so must your traps and lats, right down to your lower back and even to hip flexors and thighs. Total strength!

But new climbers should be aware that rope training is brutally unforgiving; it quickly exposes and mercilessly punishes any weak points in your upper body. Beginners will experience head-splitting tendon and joint pain (that can last for weeks) as their arms will struggle to adapt to a totally new, multi-dimensional shred.

Even at the CrossFit Games, which featured some of the most finely conditioned people on the planet, it was perturbing to see how many strong athletes dangled and fumbled like useless appendages when it came to the rope climb. Serious strength is required!

Many strong guys who can bench-press huge weight can barely get their feet off the ground when trying to climb a rope. That’s because modern machines and regular weights don’t force you to quickly grip, re-grip, hold and heave your bodyweight many times, over and over, like your life depends on it, using just one arm and hand at a time.

Naturally, the power to fling your own bodyweight with instantaneous impunity translates to a significant advantage for all combat, grappling and wrestling disciplines. That’s why you’ll see climbing ropes at Special Forces units around the world; British, Russian, US, Israeli and Australian. All Olympic gymnastics and wrestling gyms have multiple ropes as a permanent feature and serious MMA gyms have a rope set up as well. Used properly, a rope is the most respected (and daunting) apparatus in the gym…  But be warned, rope climb places immense tension and stress on your bones and joints and can be dangerous for beginners, so they need to start slow and easy. I cover all the elements in this tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDCUSve-qJ4&t=19s

Whats the history of how you got into rope climbing?

I started rope climbing at the Bondi Beach cliffs about 20 years ago with a  group of ex-Russian Special Forces guys who train like beasts! The cliffs are 8m high and the surface below is sharp jagged rocks, so ‘letting go’ is not an option! And that’s great because it means you’ll hang on with extra strong grip for that extra rep until you climb back down safely, with control! It’s a world famous climb and we get elite athletes form all over the world coming to join us for a climbing session; UFC fighters, Olympic gymnasts and wrestlers as well as circus stars and famous pole dancers!

How do you build grip strength for the climbs?

OK, time for some ‘serious talk’. Before you even look at a rope with the intention of climbing it properly, you’ll need to be able to perform 20 quick close-grip supinated chin-ups to 95% extension; no kipping, no swinging. This will ensure that your arm and shoulder muscles (and tendons) have the sheer strength to support your kinetically charged bodyweight on a swaying, non-resistant rope. I have seen too many guys with too much pride and not enough arm strength snap their humerus bone like a dry twig when tackling a (no-feet) rope climb; so train to be really good at chin ups or pull ups or both! Even better!

Once you get your 20 chin-ups on a bar, it’s time to move to Stage 2: cranking out some decent chin up numbers grabbing on to a towel. Roll a towel lengthways and fold it in half, then hang the looped end over a bar (or tree branch/stair rail) and feed the two loose ends through the loop and pull it tight. Then grab each end of the towel as tight and hard as you can imagine. Now bend your knees and hips so your thighs are parallel to the ground and hang in a full-extension position.  Now, pull yourself up as high as you can go! Higher! Pull up so your chin is way above your hand position – this is NOT a ‘chin up’ or ‘pull up’; it’s a chest-up! Pull your chest up to the level that your hands are gripping the towel. Keep your knees/thighs in a fixed position throughout. Build up until you can blast out 20 reps easily. It won’t be easy. But it will be worth it.

How many meters rope you climb roughly during the week!?

Great question! About 400m per week – !

Do you have an all time favorite workout routine which you would recommend?

YES! My ‘Total Body Smasher’; it goes like this:

Put on 30 kg vest (or about 40% of your bodyweight)

  1. Start stopwatch
  2. 20 x Chin ups (full range, dead hang)
  3. 20 x Squats (to below right angle of knees)
  4. 20 x Dips (to below right angle of elbows)
  5. Rules: You can come off the bar or rest, but you must complete 20 full reps.

My best time is 1:51 seconds. It’s a great workout as it totally smashes you in a very short time!

I also love One Arm Pull Ups; the KING DADDY of pull ups! I am 6’1″/176lbs and can still crank out 5 full dead hang on each arm, which is a great party trick. But, WARNING! It takes years of careful training to perfect the technique so it is safe and effective. My unique techniques, like focusing on bringing your elbow to your lat using back power have helped many guys achieve a solid One Arm Pull Up – like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGHUfi5N98g&t=34s

Youve got kids and a wife  from what i know, how do you fit your workout around family life?

Well Paul, working out actually helps me live a full and happy family life; as staying fit and healthy gives me energy to do all the things that a busy family lifestyle requires. We all love going to the beach and having fun in the sun; so it all works out well in the end. My two daughters are both very active physically, into gymnastics and many school sports and my wife, Emma, has been fantastic training buddy for over 27 years !

You have passed 50 now, is age really just a number or do you experience moments where it affects your training?

“Age” is a great thing if you strategically use the experiences that you collect through time to usefully benefit your life. “Life experience” actually helps one’s training, as you can rely on patience, practice and perseverance to achieve your health and fitness goals. The extra knowledge that comes with experience also helps as you don’t fall for any gimmicks or fads. The only thing that has changed for me in 40 years of training is that nowadays, I think I like to have more sleep after a big workout as I feel it really helps build and fortify muscle and strength. Otherwise, it’s ‘business as usual’; BRING IT ON! 😉

In a recent interview you mentioned you have never injured yourself through bodyweight training. Any advice to the people out there how to keep themselves safe from injury?

OK – Very important stuff! Avoiding injury will ensure a long, constructive and beneficial fitness lifestyle. So, earn to ‘LISTEN’ to your body, avoid pain! Back off if you feel pain in your joints or tendons. Don’t ‘ego rep’ or lift. Rest a lot.Don’t train when fatigued or tired or if you feel you have totally exhausted your muscles; fatigue will fuse you to rely on joint sand bones instead of muscle power and that’s when accidents happen. Listen up friends, I have seen it many times, at the end of the big day or workout or training session, someone says “I’ll give it one more shot!” And that’s when the accident or injury happens. So, please, listen to your body and back off so you can build on your training to train harder another day!

For a guy your age you are pretty ripped, do you follow any special diet?

I eat clean and lean! I drink lots of water! I eat mostly fruit and vegetables, with 1 serve each of chicken/fish/red meat once a week. I eat carrots every day. Find the vegetables you like and eat many of them. Don’t over-complicate your food; simple is best. Eat a cucumber, eat an apple…. I don’t drink alcohol, never really liked the taste and it actually dehydrates your muscle fibres and steals power and energy from your body; I don’t like the sound of that !! !

Tell us about the special atmosphere of working out at the legendary Bondi Beach!?

Bondi Beach is world famous and everyone from every country who visits Australia comes to hang out on the sand by the ocean cliffs! As your readers know, there is a great outdoor bar-gym at North Bondi. It’s wonderful location to do a big workout, some muscle ups and levers and then have a swim in the ocean, then enjoy the views on the beach while eating a mango or pineapple. Pure organic natural fun!

Youre part of the Bondi Beach Bar Brutes, what are these guys like?

The Bondi Beach Bar Brutes have been gong for about 5 years. We are a free community calisthenics exercise group that meets on the first Sunday of every month at the North Bondi Outdoor Gym and everyone is welcome! Even though we have regular competitions in Pull Ups, Muscle Ups and Weighted Chin Ups, BBBB is not about ‘muscle dudes’; we have dedicated members of every age, gender, ethnicity and hair colour; we have 93 year-old guys doing push ups and pregnant ladies doing pull ups and kids doing handstands. We have hundreds of fit people doing all sorts of crazy/awesome feats of balance, acroyoga and strength and fun; and every now and then I’ll do some weighted chin ups with an acrobatic girl (or two https://www.instagram.com/p/BMfepi3gML-/?taken-by=marcusbondibeach ) hanging on to me for fun… BUT, it’s not only girls; my last ‘human-weighted chin up’ clip was using a guy! American Nina Warrior superstar Travis Brewer came to Bondi Beach; so I did a set of chin ups with him…. https://www.instagram.com/p/BNNVEtTgyhM/ and he’s not a ‘light’ as some girls… I really had to try hard with him! He’s a great sport! All sorts of amazing people join in and the No1 priority is having ‘fun in the sun’. All we ask is that people bring a happy attitude and the rest is pure fitness  joy!

Thanks for talking to me! Any last words…

Hey Paul! Thank you! I look forward to training with you in Europe or when you come to Bondi Beach! It will be, like, totally awesome man!  ! !

About: Marcus Bondi

Age: 50

Bodyweight: 80kg

Height: 187cm

Lives: Bondi Beach Sydney Australia

Top strength/endurance records:

* Official Guinness World Record: 5m Rope Climb/60 seconds time limit (27.8m)

* Official Guinness World Record: Weighted Chin Ups 100lbs/60 sec time limit 16 reps. Full dead hang reps.

* Official Guinness World Record: Weighted Chin Ups 40lbs / 60 sec time limit 28 reps. Full dead hang reps.

* Australian Record: One Rep Max Weighted Chin Up 91kg.

Favourite exercise and why: Chin up! It’s a great compound exercise that recruits many muscles and gives you an efficient, satisfying workout! If there’s no bar available, I love push ups; anywhere, anytime!

Favourite food and why: Fresh fruit and veggies; carrots, cucumbers, greens, apples, bananas, mangoes, coconuts; you can eat lots, get awesome nutritional content and you’ll always feel lean and clean afterwards!

Which gym do you train at? My two favourite gyms are the North Bondi Beach Outdoor Gym – ocean air and amazing natural environment & Fitness First Platinum Bondi Junction; great city skyline views and I can do the family shopping afterwards!

What is your Instagram name? @marcusbondibeach – features amazing and kooky strength fun from the awesome team of fit guys and girls at Bondi Beach!

What is your website/Twitter name? www.marcusbondi.com @marcusbondi

Current training goals: Stay fit, healthy and injury-free, so I can enjoy a fun life with my wife an daughters and I’m also training up to break my current Rope Climb world record – as a few Olympic gymnasts and military special forces teams have had a crack at it and come pretty close! So I have to hold on to my title!!!

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Paul Böhme
About Paul Böhme
Co-Founder of Calisthenics-Parks and chief of editorial staff.

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