Partner Calisthenics: It’s Still Bodyweight Training!

by Al Kavadlo and Danny Kavadlo on June 28, 2016

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Kavadlo Brothers Front Levers

We’ve often said that the possibilities are limitless when it comes to bodyweight training. Beyond all of the variations and combinations of calisthenics exercises that can keep one busy for a lifetime, the realm of partner bodyweight training opens up an entirely new avenue to explore. Though we recommend a solid foundation in bodyweight basics like push-ups, pull-ups and squats before attempting these moves, once you have established a baseline of strength and body awareness, you can have fun playing with these partner variants.

When performing coordinated bodyweight exercises in tandem with another human being, the proprioceptive challenges are increased, and you are forced to pay extra attention not only to your own movements, but those of your partner as well. The following exercises are all about communication and working as a team. Both parties must use their entire bodies in distinct ways to achieve success in this arena. Remember to switch roles with your partner when practicing these exercises, as each person’s role is different within each move and experiencing both sides of the equation will lead to a more well rounded training session.

So grab a friend and let’s get started! Hey hey hey – it’s still bodyweight training!

Human Flag and Human Flag Pole
This is the exercise that the Kavadlo brothers first became known for in the Dragon Door community. We appeared on the cover of Paul Wade’s Convict Conditioning 2 performing this feat which went on to become a signature exercise for us. The book also went on to become one of Dragon Door’s best-selling titles and has since been published in nearly a dozen languages. People all over the world have now seen this iconic image immortalized on that infamous cover.

German Convict Conditioning

The human flag is impressive enough when performed on a steel pole, but when it’s performed on another human being it is even more amazing!

At first glance, it’s easy to discern that the flagger has some extra work on his hands. Obviously, no one’s skin is completely taut, no matter how hard they train, so the flagger must constantly adjust his grip—and many other nuances—to the uncontrollable wavering of his partner’s skin.

The flagger must also be extremely conscious of where he places his hands. The lower hand should be placed close to the foot to maximize stability. If you put it too high, not only will you put yourself in a mechanically disadvantageous position, you may snap your partner’s shinbone!

The partner being flagged upon (the human flag pole) faces an enormous task as well. First of all, you’ve got to be as solid as a rock—both physically and in your mental focus—for someone to flag off of you. Secondly, be prepared to subtly lean away from the flagger as they lift their feet off the ground to get into position. Failure to counter the flagger’s weight will result in both of you toppling over. Extend your free arm to help strike a balance.

Reverse Human Flag and Human Flag Pole
Though still a challenging move in its own right, this “foot flag” variant can be more suited to intermediate level practitioners than the previous incarnation. Unlike the original human flag and human flag pole combination that put us Kavadlos on the map, which is harder than it looks, this variant is actually less difficult than it may appear.

Kavadlo Brothers Partner Calisthenics

Begin by having the person who will be the “pole” stand with feet together and knees partially bent. The flagger will then proceed to hold their partner’s hand(s) for stability as they step one foot up on top to their partner’s thighs. (Try to keep your feet low down on your partner’s thighs and close to the knees for a more solid foundation.) From there, the flagger will carefully slide their opposite foot behind their partner’s head (the partner can use his or her hand to help) and begin extending the body outward, while actively flexing that foot toward the partner’s neck for stability. When both people are ready, you may slowly begin to release the hands.

As with the previous variation, the person acting as the pole must lean in the opposite direction of the flagger in order to provide a counterbalance. It is important that the partner lean back from the hip and extend from the back, rather that solely at the knees, to provide the right leverage for this balance.

Partner Shoulder Stand
For those of you who feel that the previous exercises may be too advanced, the partner shoulder stand can be a slightly less intimidating place to start.

Begin on your back, with both arms in the air above your shoulders. Lift your feet with your knees bent to around 90 degrees, then have your partner stand below you and grab the tops of your shins. From there, they will lower their upper traps/shoulders into your hands and begin shifting their weight forward off of their feet. Keeping your elbows locked, press away from your chest like you are locking out a push-up as your partner shifts their weight entirely into your hands. The person on top should aim to get their hips in the air above their shoulders, eventually lifting themselves into a full inversion, supported only on the knees and hands of the other person.

Partner Shoulder Stand

Biceps Curl Front Lever
This is the feat that we can be seen performing on the cover of our new ebook Street Workout. While the standard front lever is already a difficult bodyweight challenge in its own right, performing it while hanging from the arm of another human being can pose an additional challenge.

First and foremost, the person acting as the base must keep a solid footing. From there, bend at the biceps of the arm to be levered upon until your forearm is parallel to the ground. Be prepared to keep complete body tension all over, particularly in this arm, as it will be supporting the entire weight of your partner.

At this point, the person performing the front lever needs to grip said forearm with all the strength he or she can muster. A mixed grip (overhand/underhand combo) is recommended to combat the elasticity of the skin. As is the case with the aforementioned Human Flag and Human Flag Pole, a bar is much more rigid than the epidermis. Now both partners need to maintain tension in the arms, abs, legs, glutes and shoulders as the party performing the front lever moves into position, keeping their arms locked out at the elbow and body parallel to the ground, while maintaining a straight line from shoulders to hips to feet.

It’s very common for people to inadvertently fold at the hips when attempting the front lever. Do your best to avoid this pitfall by looking at your toes to make sure you are maintaining a straight line from shoulders to heels. Smiles and scowls optional.

Street Workout eBook

These exercises are just the tip of the iceberg. Watch the video below for more!

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PCC New York: A Very Special Homecoming

by Danny Kavadlo on June 21, 2016

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Kavadlo Family

Every single Progressive Calisthenics Certification is unique and I’m grateful to have played a part at these amazing experiences. As I write this, we’ve certified over 500 trainers all over the world. Australia, Germany, Holland and California are just a few of the marvelous places that this PCC journey has taken us (and to which PCC is returning!) But like Dorothy Gale noted in the 1939 classic motion picture The Wizard of Oz: “There’s no place like home.”

You see, my brother and PCC lead instructor, Al Kavadlo are from the streets of New York. We were born and bred here. So was the Street Workout movement. It’s a very special homecoming as both our biological family and our progressive calisthenics family have their roots in this concrete jungle where dreams are made.

2.UNIVERSITY

The bodyweight beasts who showed up to lay it all on the line this weekend were every bit as impressive as this city itself! Calisthenics freaks from around the world made their way to the downtown streets of Manhattan, venturing from all over the United States, and even from as far as India and South Africa.

Emotions ran high all weekend as many spectacular feats of human achievement were demonstrated. We were witness to mighty muscle-ups, spell binding human flags and rapid fire pistol squats. It’s truly amazing every time we get to join forces with like-minded people of your caliber. Together, we always bring out the best in each other.

3.MUSCLEUP

Progressive Calisthenics is the great equalizer. No matter where you came from, or what your skill level is, you can find challenges, learn lessons and gain strength. We are not about competing with each other; we are about being the best versions of ourselves.

4.FLAG

Along that note, we do not just improve physically when we train and play together. Nor do we simply gain education when we learn from each other. We also establish deep, impassioned connections during this shared experience. Beyond the realm of fitness and knowledge is a human interaction, which is arguably the most fantastical component of all. We love getting to know you!

There is no substitute for an in-person experience.

There is no substitute for an in-person experience.

As is always the case at PCC, an incredibly impressive group of women were in attendance. Anyone under the often-perpetrated misconception that bodyweight training is a boys’ club seriously needs to re-evaluate their position. Half the instructor team and a third of the attendees were empowered females. Like I said, Progressive Calisthenics is indeed the great equalizer!

The strong women of PCC.

The strong women of PCC.

Yes, we made many profound ties this weekend and built amazing friendships. We even brought PCC back home to New York City. But this weekend was especially wonderful for me for another reason: Sunday was Father’s Day. If you’ve read my first Dragon Door publication Everybody Needs Training, then you know that it was the birth of my son Wilson that inspired me to become a personal trainer in the first place. His existence gave me the desire to do some good for the world. Prior to this weekend, Wilson had seen me train (and trained alongside me) too many times to count, but he had never witnessed a Progressive Calisthenics Certification… until now!

Having both my father and son attend my seminar on Father’s Day was a very special experience.

Having both my father and son attend my seminar on Father’s Day was a very special experience.

My own parents made an appearance as well. Three generations of Kavadlos under one roof! It was an incredible feeling that they finally got to see what exactly Al and I do. There was also something else that made Father’s Day extra memorable in the PCC community: This was the first certification to have a father and son team in attendance. Together they shared the splendor. What a weekend!

Representing Team DiGrazia: The first father and son combo to tackle the PCC together.

Representing Team DiGrazia: The first father and son combo to tackle the PCC together.

It is indeed a family affair. In fact, everyone in attendance is now part of the global family of PCC. Welcome, my brothers and sisters! You are one of us! So spread the joy, preach the word and share your love of calisthenics. The posse’s gettin’ bigger.

9.GROUP

Keep the dream alive,
-DK

****

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. Most recently, he co-authored Street Workout with his brother, Al Kavadlo. 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 Bodybuilding.com. Learn more about Danny at www.DannyTheTrainer.com

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STREET WORKOUT is Here!

June 14, 2016

Life is mysterious. Small acts blaze up into wild firestorms. The glimmer of a slight desire transforms into an incandescent passion that seems to light the world. A single thought triggers a raging torrent of ideas. A casual encounter leads to the deepest of bonds. The force of creation sparks new patterns of beauty and […]

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Shifting Focus and Setting New Goals When Injury Strikes

May 31, 2016

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What Do I Know?

May 24, 2016

What do any of us know? I, for example, am nothing more than a product of my own reason and common sense. I pair perception with experience. I observe, report and conclude, all the while, trying my hardest to do the best I can within my capacities. But do I actually know anything? Given my […]

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Coaching and Using Powerful Push-up Elbow Positions

May 17, 2016

I’m pretty sure there hasn’t been a PCC or SCC workshop where the following question hasn’t come up: “Where do I put my elbows during the push-up?” Or if it isn’t asked, there’s always more than a handful of people who need some coaching on elbow placement with the push-up. Al’s answer is a real […]

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Progressive Calisthenics In The City Of Angels

May 10, 2016

I’m picking up good vibrations. After two immensely successful events in Encinitas and Mountain View, CA last year, the Progressive Calisthenics Certification made its return to the Golden State this past weekend. This time, manifest destiny brought us to the county of Los Angeles. I’ve been California dreaming of this for a long time! The […]

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Strength from Down Under – Aussie Pull-ups & Beyond

May 3, 2016

“We all came here for the pull-ups!” I love to see faces light up when Al or Danny say these words at the start of the PCC pull-up module. But before even getting into full pull-ups, we begin by practicing some lead-up steps, including the bodyweight row, aka the Australian pull-up. Often dismissed by advanced […]

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The Centerline Principle of Strength & Power

April 26, 2016

I first learned about the magic of the centerline principle in martial arts. Everything from powerful kicks to dodging punches involved moving in relation to the center of my body as well as the center of my opponent. As it turns out, the centerline is not only the key to powerful kicks but also developing […]

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Training Through Injuries (AKA: That Time My Friend Sat On My Thumb)

April 19, 2016

Yup. My friend sat on my thumb. We’ve all been injured at some point, and most of us are familiar with how it can derail our training. In response to the sprain I suffered, I had to decrease the size of my training repertoire and remove everything that required an opposable thumb. Those who’ve had […]

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