Strength Rules Is Here

by Danny Kavadlo on November 24, 2015

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Danny Kavadlo Strength Rules Book Cover

First Things First

I am the luckiest guy who ever lived. When my last Dragon Door title, Diamond-Cut Abs was released one year ago, it was extremely well received. In fact, it became a #1 bestseller!

Diamond Cut Abs Bestseller

I consider it a tremendous honor that my words, programs and experiences resonated with so many. I am grateful that in the months that followed, I received a great deal of correspondence about Danny-style abdominal training. But, interestingly enough, for as many abs-related questions and comments as I received, there were even more inquiries about Danny-style strength training as it relates to the entire body. People loved the abs, but they wanted more! In fact, I had never authored a book about full-body strength training… until now!

I knew I had something unique to bring to the table and here it is… Strength Rules.

Full Disclosure

Just prior to the writing of Strength Rules, my life went through some unprecedented and unexpected changes. Things that I thought would last forever fell apart. On New Year’s Day 2015, a ten-year relationship with the woman I thought I would spend the rest of my life with ended. Fast.

Things change. I’ve never needed strength more than I have in the past year. I went from being a family man to a full time single dad. I had to be strong for myself, but even more so, for my son. It was at this time when I realized that a book about full body physical strength simply would not be enough…. My next work would have to be about mental strength, spiritual awareness and emotional fortitude as well.

Danny Kavadlo Truth

So There You Have It

Strength Rules is my most personal work to date. The project is about perseverance, endurance and overcoming obstacles. It contains over seventy-five bodyweight exercises, including Plyo-Muscle-Ups deconstructed like you’ve never seen before, not to mention my in depth take on One-Arm Push-Ups. This book is about working hard and mindful practice–making the time to train, prioritizing what matters most and not taking “No” for an answer. We cover living a healthy life, harvesting physical prowess and fostering a positive mental attitude. Strength Rules focuses on walking face-first through the fire, and coming out stronger for it. Not in spite of it, but because of it!

Danny Kavadlo Muscle-Up

Everything is fair game in these pages and I pull no punches. Be prepared not only for my unconventional take on nutrition, but also on the supplement businesses, equipment manufacturers and even the medical industry!

Danny Doc

Further, Strength Rules contains workouts, progressions, supplemental stretches and some amazing (and far out) images. It even has the long awaited return of Danny’s Dos and Don’ts! I can’t wait for you to check it out!

But Don’t Take My Word For It

In the words of Olympian, scholar and author Dan John (from the foreword):

“This book is about true strength. The old kind of strength where heroes were people, like Beowulf and Ullysses, who protected the community first. This book is about empowering yourself and others. Strength Rules by Danny Kavadlo is so good you can’t ignore it.”

Danny And Wilson

Strong to the finish.


Danny Kavadlo is one of the world’s foremost authorities on calisthenics, nutrition and personal training. He is the author of the Dragon Door titles Strength Rules, Diamond-Cut Abs and Everybody Needs Training. Danny is known for his minimalist philosophy, simple approach and motivational talents.

A true in-person experience, Danny is a Master Instructor for Dragon Door’s Progressive Calisthenics Certification. He has been featured in the NY Times, TRAIN, Men’s Fitness and is a regular contributor to Learn more about Danny at

Print Friendly


The Push-Up Lever

by Matt Schifferle on November 17, 2015

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Push Up Lever Lead

Give me a lever, and a place to lay, and I shall make crazy gains.
– Archimedes (probably)

There are a million reasons why I love calisthenics. Aside from the obvious, calisthenics has allowed me to unleash my inner mad scientist and build a variety of “devices.” It’s amazing what you can create with a little imagination and a few trips to the hardware store.

Most of my designs are home made versions of commercially available products such as suspension straps and calf blocks, but one of my favorites is a unique way to load extra resistance onto a standard push-up that I call the Push-up Lever.

PushUpLeverThe struggle to load the push-up…

She may not look like much, but that simple plank of wood solves many issues that have plagued anyone who’s tried to add resistance to a standard push-up.

In the time of 10-15 B.C. (Before Calisthenics) I used to do a lot of weighted bodyweight exercises. Most moves were pretty simple, like using a dip belt to load pull-ups, but push-ups were always a struggle for me. I’ve used weight vests, weighted backpacks, stretch bands and stacking weight plates on my back. While all of these methods did produce more resistance, that hard work came at a steep price. Loading the back or neck produced a lot of stress on the spine which felt unnatural and awkward. In some cases, like with sandbags or plates, the weight was difficult to load on my back, plus the load was always prone to shift forcing me to compromise my technique. Using items like bands or chains caused loading on sensitive pressure points like the neck or lower back.

Weight vests seemed to be an ideal solution, but they were expensive and hard to adjust. Even adjustable weight vests required opening numerous pockets and removing small weights. It just wasn’t worth the hassle so I seldom adjusted the load. Despite my effort, I always felt most methods didn’t work very well. I wanted some serious resistance and a plate on the back or a chain around the neck only brought marginal difficulty.

I figured there had to be a better way, so I started to meditate on the ways progressive calisthenics makes push-ups harder. One of the classic methods is to do push-ups on the knees and then make the lever of the body longer by doing them on the toes. So I asked myself, is it possible to further extend the lever of the body out beyond the toes?

That question was the inspiration the Push-up Lever.

What is a Push-up Lever?

The Push-up Lever is the world’s first complete push-up amplification device. Unlike methods that simply load more resistance on pushing muscles, the push-up lever amplifies all of the technical requirements of the push-up. This includes not only the muscles in the arms and chest, but also improving the strength in the core, hips, and legs. It also requires greater scapular control and even more tension in the feet. Many people claim they are sore in their abs and hips the next day after trying it for the first time.

The beauty of the lever is it doesn’t place any excess weight or pressure on your spine, but instead places it on your hips, which can handle the load in a much safer way and with far more control. It’s also something you can easily adjust by sliding where your hips are on the lever. The more you extend the lever out beyond your toe,s the more difficult it makes your push-up.

The further you slide the board up your hips the easier the move becomes!

The further you slide the board up your hips the easier the move becomes!

Not only is the lever easier to use and adjust, but it can challenge even the strongest athletes. This is because it makes the traditional push-up more difficult in 2 ways. It makes the lever of your body longer so you have to work against more resistance. It also makes your whole body lift against gravity. So not only are you working with a mechanical disadvantage but you’re also lifting more of your own body weight.

The Lever forces you to lift your entire body directly against gravity, not just your upper torso.

The Lever forces you to lift your entire body directly against gravity, not just your upper torso.

You can use any long slender object as a push-up lever. Pipes, barbells and even small trees can suffice, but I much prefer a 2 x 4 or a 2×6 plank of wood. Make sure any board you use is straight and not warped. Also look out for splinters. You may wish to sand it down and varnish it for a nice finished look.

How do you use a push-up lever?

Using the push-up lever requires a slightly different technique than a standard push-=up. Since the board rests on your hips, you need to slightly elevate your hips so they are the same height as your shoulders throughout the full range of motion. It can take a little bit of practice to use this type of push-up, however I find it to be natural and very useful.

Push Up Comparison

Also, be sure you have the strength to do your push-ups from the floor up. If you struggle to maintain control of your push up while “kissing the baby” with your chest to the floor, you may want to work on the lower range of your push-up for a few weeks before giving the push-up lever a try.

To use a push-up lever, simply lay down as you would in a push-up position and place the board against your hips at the appropriate length. Wrap your feet around the board so you’re “hugging” it with your thighs and the back of your knees. Some people prefer to use a flat foot against the board but I’ve always found more control through dorsi-flexing my feet and pressing my toes straight into the board.

Push-Up Lever Up and Down

Place your hands in the position you would normally do a push-up with and make your entire body tight, especially your quads, hips, and core. From there, simply do a push-up while pressing your hips up against the board and holding it tight with your legs. The first few times you do this you might feel like you’re sticking your butt up in the air, but I promise you’ll quickly become used to the new position.

Beware of the pressure from the lever pushing your hips down causing your back to sag.

If you’re using the lever at the half point of the board you should have a gap between your upper back and the lever as you push upwards. If the board is touching against your upper back you’ll need to lift your hips up even more to prevent the pressure of the lever going to your spine.

Notice the end of the board against my upper back and the gap between the board and my hips and knees. This places the pressure against my shoulders and causes pressure along the spine.

Notice the end of the board against my upper back and the gap between the board and my hips and knees. This places the pressure against my shoulders and causes pressure along the spine.

Here the gap between the board and the upper back is seen while my hips and legs are locked into the lever.

Here the gap between the board and the upper back is seen while my hips and legs are locked into the lever.

As you lower yourself down to the floor you want to “lead with your chest” so your hips stay at the same height of your shoulders through the full range of motion. Ideally, both your chest and hips should arrive at the ground at the same time and then lift up at the same rate of speed.

Once you have the technique down you can use the push-up lever for any push-up variation you normally use. Wide push-ups, close push-ups, alternating push-ups, medicine ball push-ups, etc.

Want even more resistance?

The classic push-up lever will offer a substantial amount of resistance and challenge to your classic push-ups. If you’re of the masochistic type and want even more resistance you can use the lever to safely add actual weight through the power of leverage.

This is done through adding weight pegs on one end of the lever with a small carabiner to suspend it off of a set of suspension straps or gymnastics rings.


In this position, you’ll use the lever backwards as the weight is suspended above and forward of your body. You’ll use the pivot point very close to your feet but still keep the load of the lever on your hips.

Be aware that it won’t take much weight to significantly load your push-ups. Most of the guys I’ve introduced this set up two will use no more than 10 to 15 pounds of weight. I’ve had powerlifters max out through as little as 40 pounds!

These chains only weigh about 12 pounds but they feel like a 225# bench press!

These chains only weigh about 12 pounds but they feel like a 225# bench press!

Using the lever in this way is the same as before where you will place yourself underneath and tighten your legs around the lever and push yourself up off the floor while driving your hips into the board.

While the push-up lever can be a great addition to your push-up program, it’s in no way a substitute for good old fashioned progressive calisthenics. When I first discovered it I made the mistake of using the lever for most of my workouts while neglecting the progressive steps towards the one arm push-up. Even though the lever helped me grow much stronger, I still had to fight to rebuild some of the muscle control and coordination I had lost from neglecting the advanced push-up techniques. Ultimately, the push-up lever is just one more tool for your toolbox. It can help you get stronger, but you still have to do the work.


Matt Schifferle a.k.a. The Fit Rebel made a switch to calisthenics training 5 years ago in an effort to rehab his weight lifting injuries. Since then he’s been on a personal quest to discover and teach the immense benefits of advanced body weight training. You can find some of his unique bodyweight training methods at and on his YouTube channel: RedDeltaProject.

Print Friendly


The SCC is Here!

November 10, 2015

Since the launch of the Progressive Calisthenics Certification (PCC) nearly 3 years ago, my brother Danny and I have had the amazing opportunity to teach calisthenics to fitness professionals and enthusiasts all over the world. The reaction to the PCC has been tremendously positive. Those who attend get better at moving their bodies, but many […]

Print Friendly
Read the full article →

Side Crow and Crooks Pose

November 3, 2015

The world of hand balancing encompasses much more than just the traditional handstand. Moves like the side crow and crooks pose are excellent additions to your Progressive Calisthenics routine. These hand balancing skills cultivate synergy in the body between the upper and lower extremities and help foster improved body awareness. Although they may seem like […]

Print Friendly
Read the full article →

99 Reps

October 27, 2015

“There’s an epidemic.  99 reps…” Dragon Door founder John Du Cane uttered this ominous phrase during the PCC workshop I attended. In order to pass the PCC, you must complete the Century Test, which requires 100 reps. Yet there is a 99 rep curse.  One rep shy of the goal. There were multiple such instances […]

Print Friendly
Read the full article →

Unlock the Power of Your Mind for Greater Bodyweight Strength

October 20, 2015

When I was growing up I had a fantasy of being strong, quick and agile. Basically, I wanted to be a ninja. As a scrawny and weak kid I was anything but. Years later as I entered into adulthood I realized that this was something I could actually go about changing, and thus, my long […]

Print Friendly
Read the full article →

The Smith Machine and Push-Ups: The Calisthenics Odd Couple

October 13, 2015

There are very few objects that come to mind when thinking about “calisthenics equipment” other than the floor, a bar, and maybe some chalk. Bodyweight culture prides itself on minimal equipment, unrestricted movement, and the ability to exercise anywhere. The Smith Machine represents absolutely none of that. When most bodyweight enthusiasts think of a piece […]

Print Friendly
Read the full article →

Technology Meets Minimalism in Silicon Valley

October 6, 2015

For the first time since its inception, the Progressive Calisthenics Certification (PCC) touched down in the Bay Area, specifically Silicon Valley, California. The land of technological innovation and gadgets was introduced to primitive movement patterns and raw strength development, through the use of nothing more than one’s own bodyweight! Hosted at the Bay Area’s premier […]

Print Friendly
Read the full article →

The Hidden Powers of Short Bridges and Shoulder Stand Squats

September 29, 2015

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been conducting a little experiment. Due to an intense work schedule, combined with not getting enough sleep, I found myself in a condition that was not optimal for intense workouts. So, I decided to revisit a few of the early steps of Coach Wade’s “Big Six.” In Convict Conditioning, […]

Print Friendly
Read the full article →

PCC Chicago: My Kinda Town

September 22, 2015

My hands are sore from clapping so hard. This isn’t the first time this has happened. The skin is swollen. The bones ache. My palms are red. Let me backtrack a little… My brother Al Kavadlo and I have the best job out of anyone I know. We get to travel and meet calisthenics aficionados […]

Print Friendly
Read the full article →