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No-Frills Fitness

UB student’s club helps members be their best selves—inside and out

UB BarbarianZ founder Elijah Tyson has achieved his physique using a minimalist approach.

UB BarbarianZ founder Elijah Tyson has achieved his physique using a minimalist approach.

By David J. Hill

“Everything we use, you can find outdoors.”
Elijah Tyson, UB BarbarianZ founder

You don’t need to spend $30 a month for a gym membership, or set up a Bowflex in your spare room. All it takes to get fit is the equipment you can find at almost any outdoor park. And the encouragement of your peers.

That’s the philosophy behind a new fitness club, called UB BarbarianZ, created by student Elijah Tyson. The club’s workouts feature a style of exercise known as bodyweight fitness, which emphasizes calisthenics—used in combination with bars, poles and other typical equipment you might find outside—over traditional free weights. “These workouts are versatile,” says Tyson, who will be a senior this fall majoring in business with a minor in nutrition. “Everything we use, you can find outdoors.”

Tyson turned to bodyweight fitness as a freshman. He had been using free weights, but didn’t like the wear and tear on his body, so he began integrating calisthenics into his regimen. A typical Tyson workout is split into two portions: full body—which includes pullups, diamond pushups, squats, a Russian twist and jumping lunges—and what’s called front-lever strength-progression exercises, such as leg lifts, side plank raises, back extensions and planks. “Every day I’m trying to do new things with my body,” he says.

A certified personal trainer, Tyson formed the club last fall, taking inspiration from the urban bodyweight fitness groups that proliferate in his hometown of Copiague, N.Y., on Long Island—not just in terms of the workout, but also the ethos surrounding it. “All these street fitness crews promote self-improvement values and community involvement,” he says. “That was the culture I wanted to create with my club.”

So he developed a set of eight guiding principles, or laws—the “BarbarianZ Scripture”—that club members must abide by. Each law is designed to complement the workout and a real-life situation. Examples include “No shortcuts to success” and “Bye, haters.” As Tyson explains, his club does not tolerate discriminators of any kind. “We kick them out,” he says.

Each workout begins with Tyson reciting one of the laws and explaining how it will correlate to that session. At the end, he says a few words about how the law applies to a real-world situation.

That capital Z at the end of the club’s name refers to what Tyson calls the “Law of Z.” “It’s the last letter in the alphabet, and every letter before that represents an obstacle or challenge you will go through in life when you’re trying to accomplish something big,” he explains. “When you get to Z, you’ve done it.”

While the workouts can seem intimidating at first, club members are there to help. “Every exercise we do is acclimated to a person’s fitness goals,” says Tyson, whose postgraduation plans include opening his own gym and starting a nonprofit for youth. “We’re not going to make you feel like you’re not good enough.”