Virginia is for Calisthenics Lovers

by Danny Kavadlo on August 4, 2015

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Danny Kavadlo Double Flag Virginia PCC

I’m a lover. I love life. I love music. I love food. I love intensity…

And I love calisthenics!

Four days ago, my brother and PCC Lead Instructor Al Kavadlo and I embarked on a journey, leaving our homes in New York City. We cruised down the New Jersey Turnpike and made our way Southbound through the Harbor Tunnel Throughway, down the Capital Beltway. We were bound for Alexandria, Virginia to instruct the city’s historic second Progressive Calisthenics Certification. Good times!

I love traveling.

I love traveling.

As is always the case at PCC, fitness trainers, martial artists and calisthenics enthusiasts from many backgrounds and walks of life made the voyage to both test their mettle and share the love at this amazing workshop.

In fact, one enthusiast traveled over 12,000 kilometers to be part of this miraculous weekend! It was worth the trip. Not only did he achieve his first ever one-arm pull-up (a Master Step from Convict Conditioning) and full press flag, Kareem Naseeb brought some new moves to the table, including this “no hands” bar hang.

I love witnessing new feats of strength.

I love witnessing new feats of strength.

Other PR’s included a first ever stand-to-stand bridge (another Master Step!), eleven clutch flags, numerous L-sits, press flags and one-arm push-ups! Sometimes calisthenics practitioners who have never attended PCC cannot understand how so many earth-shattering firsts can possibly be achieved in one single weekend, what with so many tutorials, training manuals and online resources out there. Well, allow me to break it down for you: There is no substitute for an in person experience. The caliber of the one-on-one coaching, the virtue of observation and the voice of experience simply cannot be duplicated by anything you’ll find in a book or online.

I love world class coaching!

I love world class coaching!

And don’t get me started on the power, presence and solidarity of the group! Even beyond the training itself, the adrenaline and energy of so many of us joining forces simply cannot be replicated. When we’re all together, something magical happens!

I love the energy!

I love the energy!

There is something to be said about the purity of calisthenics. We are not bogged down by fault-finding dogma, hypercritical conventions or gratuitous fitness equipment. We use our bodies, our experiences and our ascertainment of the world around us. In fact, one of the most wondrous characteristics of bodyweight strength training is the creativity involved. We turn whatever environment we’re in into our own personal training space. Whether that means using a scaffold, a bench, or just the floor beneath us as workout gear, we do it! The calisthenics athlete is original, empowered, honest and true. We use what we got … even each other!

I love the freedom to improvise.

I love the freedom to improvise.

As is always the case at PCC, when you put so many like-minded individuals together under one roof, the bonds that are formed transcend time. Even though the life-changing weekend comes to a close, the friendships last forever. In fact, that’s one of my favorite things about PCC: the connections–both personal and professional–that we get to establish. It blows my mind each and every time I get to relate to so many with whom I have so much in common. We are the freaks and geeks of fitness! Are you one of us?

I love making new friends!

I love making new friends!

We have upcoming Progressive Calisthenics Certifications in Holland, California, Guatemala and Norway! I hope to see you there.

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 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 Bodybuilding.com. Learn more about Danny at www.DannyTheTrainer.com

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The Dragon Pistol Squat

by Al Kavadlo on July 28, 2015

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Al Kavadlo Dragon Pistol Lead

The first time I ever tried to do a one-legged pistol squat, I failed miserably. Even though I thought I had strong legs from years of weight training, my initial attempt at this calisthenics staple resulted in me falling on my behind. After several weeks of dedicated practice, however, I was able to nail the pistol squat and eventually build up to performing it for reps.

Later on, I discovered an exercise known as the shrimp squat, which finds the non-squatting leg held behind the body, rather than in front, as it is with the pistol. Once again, my first attempt at this new one-legged squat variation was unsuccessful. This time, however, I was able to get the hang of my newfound lower-body calisthenics challenge within a few training sessions. The strength and stability I’d built from pistols had a good amount of carryover to learning this new skill.

As I got more comfortable with the shrimp squat, I began finding new ways to make single leg squats more challenging. By holding both hands behind my back, I discovered I could change the leverage and add a significant amount of resistance without relying on external weights. I was also starting to practice a technique that would later go on to be dubbed the “jumbo shrimp”, which involves increasing the range of motion of a standard shrimp squat by standing on an elevated surface so that the back leg can drop down lower than when standing on the ground.

Raised Shrimp Squat "Jumbo Shrimp" at Encinitas PCC workshop

Legs Get To Work
One of the most common misconceptions about bodyweight strength training is that it can only be progressed so far. After a certain point, many people would argue that the only way to increase the difficulty of an exercise is to add weight. This is especially true when it comes to leg training. Even folks who have come around to the idea that a muscular and highly functional upper-body can be built with calisthenics alone often have a hard time conceiving that the same is true for their lower half.

Though different people define strength differently, there are plenty of bodyweight squat variations to keep your workouts fun and challenging for a lifetime. If standard pistol squats and shrimp squats are no longer difficult for you, don’t start thinking you need to join a gym. Instead, consider giving the dragon pistol squat a shot.

Enter The Dragon Pistol
Like the traditional pistol squat, the dragon pistol requires serious strength, balance and mobility – and in a very unique way. The dragon pistol can be surprisingly taxing on your inner thighs as well as your deep glute and hip muscles. And of course, all the other muscles that you work in a standard pistol will get hit as well.

As we each have our unique strengths and weakness, some people may find this move a lot harder than a normal pistol, while others may not experience a huge disparity. Regardless, I suggest building a solid foundation in standard pistol squats before beginning to work on this variation.

Convict Conditioning Vol 2 Twist

Other than that, I recommend you spend some time working on your hip mobility by practicing twist holds, which you may recall seeing in Coach Wade’s Convict Conditioning Vol 2. Once you’re able to do a standard pistol and a full twist hold, you shouldn’t be too far from the dragon pistol.

 

Elevation Training
Though standing on a bench or other elevated surface when performing a shrimp squat can increase the difficulty of the exercise by increasing the range of motion, practicing the dragon pistol while elevated can actually be a very helpful regression. By allowing your non-squatting leg to drop below the bench, you can decrease the amount of mobility required to perform the exercise. (This same technique of standing on an elevated surface can be very useful when someone is learning to do a standard pistol squat as well.)

Dragon Pistol Raised Regression

Toe the Line
If you’ve spent some time working on pistol squats, you’ve probably at some point experienced a cramp in your non-squatting leg as you fought to keep it in the air. This is common when learning the dragon pistol, too, only the cramping may take place in your hip and/or inner thigh instead of your quads. To minimize this issue, many people find holding the toe of their squatting leg to be helpful, particularly in the bottom position.

The dragon pistol also has quite a bit in common with the shrimp squat, as both moves begin with the non-squatting leg behind the body, rather than in front. As such, you may find that holding your toe behind your back at the top of a dragon pistol (similar to how you would in a shrimp squat) will allow you to control your leg as you gradually extend it into the bottom position (which more closely resembles a pistol squat, only with the extended leg threaded behind the squatting leg). Note that your hand will reach across to the opposite toe for this variation, whereas in a shrimp squat it is more common to hold the toe on the same side. So if you’re going for a dragon pistol on your left leg, you would hold your right toe with your left hand.

Al Kavadlo Dragon Pistol How To

When practicing these progressions, I recommend keeping your training volume low. Warm up with a few easier moves (basic squats, split squats, maybe a few pistols and shrimps) then get into practicing your dragon pistol progressions (elevated, holding your toe, etc). When starting out, stick to just one or two reps at a time – a total of 10 reps per side in one training session is probably plenty. If you go slowly and focus on staying in complete control of your movement, you won’t need to do a whole lot of volume.

I’ve only recently begun experimenting with this move, so don’t take my guidance as the final word. I’m sure I will learn a lot more as I go. Feel free to share your experience with the dragon pistol squat in the comments below.

***

Al Kavadlo is the lead instructor for Dragon Door’s Progressive Calisthenics Certification. Recognized worldwide for his amazing bodyweight feats of strength as well as his unique coaching style, Al is the author of five books, including Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics and Pushing The Limits! Total Body Strength With No Equipment. Read more about Al on his website:www.AlKavadlo.com.

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“Replek” Training for the PCC

July 21, 2015

As I prepared to attend the recent PCC Workshop in New York City, I began using a system inspired by the Swedish running technique known as “Fartlek Training”, a form of interval training where you let the terrain and your mood direct the speed and intensity of your running. The name “Fartlek” translates to “Speed […]

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If after reading the headline, you expect me to give you advice on how you can get rid of your significant other, I am sorry to disappoint you. As husband to a beautiful wife and father of two sweet kids, I am simply not qualified to give you advice on that. I am however qualified […]

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PCC in the UK

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After the first ever Progressive Calisthenics Certification Workshop in the UK (Newcastle England), Al, Danny, and I agreed that while every PCC workshop has been fantastic—including the very first one in St. Paul, MN just a little over 2 years ago—it seems like each and every one continues to improve. By now, the news about […]

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I once attended a very high level Taekwon-Do seminar taught by an Olympian ranked 3rd in the world. I was looking forward to learning a lot of advanced techniques–yet here we were, all of us black belts, simply learning how to stand still. The instructor spent the rest of the day drilling us on how […]

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Simplicity and the Pragmatic Practice of Calisthenics

June 16, 2015

It is 6 o’clock in the evening. I’ve just come home from work. I slip out of my shoes and take off my backpack. I quickly get into the kitchen, pour myself a glass of water and drink it. I head to my bedroom to change into a pair of comfortable shorts and a simple […]

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I ♥ NYC PCC

June 9, 2015

Last weekend, the Progressive Calisthenics Certification made its return to New York City with a sold out crowd of over 40 calisthenics enthusiasts from all over the United States as well as the rest of the world. Attendees hailed from Norway, Sweden, Spain, Guatemala, Australia, Austria, Singapore, England, Canada, and of course, my hometown, the […]

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A Karate Approach to Calisthenics

June 2, 2015

Like many of my generation, I grew up watching movies like The Karate Kid, Kickboxer, Enter the Dragon, Drunken Master, and Rocky. The larger-than-life characters from these films wowed us with their fighting skills and never-give-up attitudes. A common theme they all share is that the main character is an underdog who must train hard […]

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