In 2017, a 15-year old boy competed at the Street Workout Freestyle World Championship in Moscow, Russia and remarkably became the fifth place out of 36.
Vitalii Melnik, born in the Ukraine in 2002, has been a passionate Calisthenics athlete for eight years straight now. This exceptional talent has been to many competitions all around the world and fascinates over 167 thousand people on Instagram. But how did he find his passion at such a young age and what does he do to be so successful?
Like many kids, Vitalii has tried out common sports in his childhood, for example football or volleyball, but only free running was action-packed enough for him. In 2011, he met a guy through this sport, who was part of the local street workout team. He quickly recognized the potential in Vitalii and insisted that he should join the team. The boy, however, hesitated until he saw some athletes perform at the opening of a local public calisthenics training ground in 2012. Enthusiastic about the athletes, he has since come to that place to train and make friends. Nonetheless, he was too shy to approach the Street Workout Team himself. As a friend finally introduced him, the group came up with a small sporting challenge as a joke, which the then 10-year-old mastered easily..
This was the start of his career as a calisthenics athlete.
Watch the full 60min Interview:
At that moment, however, it never occurred to him to attend international competitions as a professional athlete. In the following years he acquired the knowledge and skills through YouTube tutorials, constant trying and repetition. The team members weren’t like training partner to him, but he saw them as an interest sharing community and motivation. While some athletes take celebrities as role models, the artistic Vitalii is inspired by music, videography and the influences of friends. When he started out in sports, calisthenics consisted only of the category of statics, which defines long holds of strength demanding exercises, such as Planche or Front Lever. Especially in the winter time, when frost and snow make it impossible to train outside, the young athlete was able to build up his strength through powerlifting. In 2015, a change took place that made dynamics, a swinging freestyle performances, part of the sport. Although he initially disliked the change in his beloved sport, he quickly realized that he would have to adapt to it, otherwise he would not be able to keep up with the athletes or participate in major competitions. Nowadays, he even says that variety makes the sport more interesting and the training process easier, so that dynamics are indispensable. To date, he has won gold in competitions such as the Pull & Push Championship 2017 in Paris and a Street Workout Competition 2020 in Paris. At FIBO 2019 he finished third in the World of Barheroes competition, behind the top athletes Engku Mohd Ikhwan and Daniels Laizans.
Currently Vitalii is a GORNATION pro athlete.
Advice from a professional athlete
Through years of experience, Vitalii has built up a two-hour workout routine, which he does every other day. It consists of one hour of competition combinations at first, followed by 30 minutes of statics exercises. Finally, he concentrates on a specific element. He does not follow a specific nutrition plan, as he does not intend to have a defined body, but to improve his performance and strength. According to Melnik, this requires less focus on a healthy diet. For those who are working on mastering an element like Full Planche, he explains his personal approach: He fills the last 30 minutes of a training session with specific exercises and basics, in order to build up strength for that particular element. For example for Full Planche, one should first work on the Straddle Planche and perform exercises such as Planche-Press or Planche-Push-ups, so that strength and stamina improve. Once you feel confident enough, you can then move on to the Full Planche.
The key here is continuity and one hundred percent commitment.
At the same time Vitalii warns against concentrating on one element only and losing a certain power like Pull-Up-Strength for other elements.
For calisthenics athletes who are struggling with calluses on their hands, he recommends careful handling of dynamics exercises so that the hands can get used to the physical strain. If there is still a lot of dead skin, it would help to cut it off with each training session.
Training can be difficult, especially on days when you have not slept well or have not eaten much, when you are in a bad mood or simply lack motivation. Vitalii also has such days and he fights them best with his favorite music. Furthermore, failure of exercises can be frustrating. But especially in such moments, he reminds himself that failure is normal even as a professional athlete and negative thoughts and giving up will never lead to success.
With a height of 168cm (5'51 feet), the Ukrainian is genetically advantaged in calisthenics and for him it was easy to become physically stronger. But sport is about much more than genetics. According to Vitalii these would only make up 30%, while the remaining 70% would be hard work. If an athlete with passion is not willing to work extra hard, he will not be successful.
PASSION WITHOUT HARD WORK IS USELESS
Some competitors and celebrities in calisthenics with a much larger body size have found it difficult to achieve the same performance, especially in statics. They needed much longer than smaller athletes to train an element and achieve their goals. However, they did not give up or use their genetics as an excuse. On the other side, he said that if you don't have the ambition and you realize -
"if it genetically doesn't fit to calisthenics, then don't do it, if it doesn't make you happy."
The man behind the beast
In addition to his career as an athlete, the now 18-year-old is a student at a university for cinema art and film. On his Instagram profile he publishes the combination of both of his passions and lives out his life as a content creator without listening to the opinions of others or wanting to comply their expectations.. He dislikes the fact that people judge him based on his online range and social media presence without paying attention to his human qualities. He is sure that even if social media no longer existed, he would want to continue both of his passions and represent them publicly in other ways.
The spelling of his name often causes confusion and uncertainty on many pages on the Internet. When asked why his name has so many different spellings, such as Vitaliy Melnik, Vitalii Melnyk or Vitalii Melnyk, he replied that the Ukrainian version of his name is spelled with a Y. However, years ago, he chose his name to be with an I, so Vitalii Melnik.
The two best calisthenics events Vitalii has ever been to are Ultimate Battles 2 + 3, as well as World of Barheroes, where especially the last one was a very tough competition.
The top 3 most inspiring calisthenics athletes from Vitalii's point of view are first of all Victor Allendes due to his great strength in the category statics. Second he named Daniels Laizans, who combines art with sport through his unique performances. The third is Viktor Kamenov, who has had a great influence on the sport through his performances in Ultimate Battles and is a great motivation for all athletes.
In his free time, he prefers to eat burgers rather than pizza and prefers to spend his holidays in the mountains. When asked if he is more of a dog and cat person, he replied that he prefers dogs, although he has a cat as a pet.