The Ten Commandments of Calisthenics Mass: Part II

by Paul "Coach" Wade on October 22, 2013

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How to build real muscle using bodyweight methods: Part II

10comm1Part I of this article can be found here.

COMMANDMENT V: Focus on Progress—and Utilize a Training Journal!

Believe it or not, there are some folks who focus on the previous four Commandments—they exhaust their muscles, work hard, use the best exercises and put all their energy into a small number of sets—and still make very little in the way of meaningful gains. This is true even if they train year-to-year. Maybe this is you—I’m sure you know folks like this.

Why does this travesty happen?

Is it genetics? Is it the fact that they train without steroids? Is it because their balls haven’t dropped? Is it the fact that their gym doesn’t sell the latest superbolictastic high-sugar/high toxicity supps, bro?!

None of the above, Jim. To discover the true reason, read the following excerpt from the Convict Conditioning Ultimate Bodyweight Log:

If making progress in training is so simple, why do so few wannabe athletes ever achieve a good level of strength and muscle—let alone a great level?

The answer is that few trainees take advantage of the windows of opportunity their training presents to them. You see, when you work out, your body adapts to cope with the stress, but it only adapts a tiny little bit; this is especially true once you get beyond the beginner stages of training. Improvements are small—maybe you add a rep here; you improve your form there; you increase your recovery time somewhere else. Over months and years, however, these small increases eventually add up to very big increases. This is how seemingly “inhuman” athletes double and triple their strength, add inches of solid muscle, and transform themselves into superior physical beings.

Sadly, since most trainees aren’t paying attention to those tiny changes, they never build on them the way they should. These little weekly changes are actually windows of opportunity. If you could increase your strength by just 1% every week, you could more than double your strength in just two years. But most trainees never get anywhere close to doubling their strength, because they aren’t keeping track of their training accurately. They fail to recognize that 1% adaptation—the rep here, the improved form there. If you miss these little improvements, how can you build on them to make big improvements?

1% is actually a pretty small target to hit. When you rely on memory, instinct or feeling—as so many trainers do—to hit this target, it becomes very fuzzy. (Which is the last thing you want from small target, right?) Writing your progress down in a log makes this small target clear and easy to see. It makes it quantifiable. Athletes who begin writing simple log entries of their workouts find they suddenly know what they need to do to progress every single time they work out. They never miss that tiny 1%.

There you have it. In reality, the previous four Commandments are worthless unless you harness them all to make progress—week to week, month to month, year to year. It doesn’t matter how seemingly insignificant these improvements are. Over the months and years they add up. In a nutshell, the “secret” to drug-free muscle and strength gain is to become acutely aware of the tiny improvements in your performance, and build on them on a regular basis. The best way to make this happen is to keep a training journal.

10comm2Small changes in physical conditioning can add up to big changes over time—but only if you recognize them and build on them.

Anyone who is familiar with my writings knows that I am a huge believer in keeping a training log to determine progress—especially where muscle-building is the goal. It always amazes me that folks will pay hundreds of bucks on worthless supplements, but won’t take a few minutes to keep a log of their training. It’s ironic, coz a simple training log, used correctly, will do more for your physique than any over-the-counter supplement on the planet. I could write a whole article on the benefits of keeping a log…monitoring progress, contemplating feedback, mastering training science, improving workout mindfulness…the list goes on!

I put together the CC training log because a lot of athletes complained to me that most commercial logs weren’t geared towards bodyweight. The log means a lot to me, and I put a ton of advice and cool photos in there. I’m real proud of the journal for many reasons, but I’m honestly not trying to sell you anything here. You don’t have to buy this log to keep a journal…the beauty of calisthenics is that you don’t have to buy anything!

Just get your hands on a cheap notepad, or use your computer. But please, do it. Do it for old Coach!

COMMANDMENT VI: You Grow When You Rest. So Rest!

Again—the issue of rest (“training frequency” for you guys with a better vocabulary than me) immediately follows on from the previous idea of progress.

Let me ask you a simple question. If you really wanted to improve on your last workout—add that rep, tighten up your form—how would you want to approach that workout?

Would you want to be tired, weary, beat-up?

No! That’s nuts! Obviously you’d want to be as well-rested, as fresh as possible, to tear into your workout with as much energy as you could get, to break some records, increase your reps, improve your personal best!

10comm3To build mass, you must keep beating your previous performances—but it’s virtually impossible to be at your best unless you are rested. (Athletics legend Sir Roger Bannister rested for a full five days before breaking the four minute mile record!) Al Kavadlo demonstrates perfect close pushups.

It sounds like a dumb question. Of course you’d want to be as fresh, as rested as possible if you really wanted to give your all and maximize your muscle-growth stimulation, right?

Yet this is exactly the opposite of what most wannabe bodybuilders do. Being brainwashed by the muscle rags—typically by trying to copy the programs of drugged-up steroid junkies, who can get away with training like pussies and working out seven times a day—they desperately try to deplete any mental and hormonal energy they have by training more and more often. Some of these guys are training the body hard four times a week…then they wonder why they aren’t improving!

You don’t need to be Kojak to know why they aren’t improving. You don’t need a PhD in molecular myology to know why they aren’t improving. They are tired. Their muscles haven’t had a chance to rest and heal, let alone recover and increase their size and strength. I admire the willpower of folks who are constantly working out, even when they are spinning their wheels—I’ve done it too. Some of it comes down to the glamor of training; we become so seduced by the idea of the exercises, we forget that we are tearing our muscles down when we train. We have forgotten that one simple, ancient muscle-building fact—your muscles grow when you rest, not when you train.

How much rest you need for optimal performance depends on your age, your constitution, your training experience, your other activities, etc. But I can give you a few general pointers:

  • Working any muscle more than twice a week is usually a mistake if you want to gain size.
  • How often you train doesn’t matter a s***—how often you make progress is what matters.
  • Old school bodybuilders like Steve Reeves and Reg Park became huge by training—hard—only three days per week. To this day, many of the most massive powerlifters only train three days per week. The idea that you need to train every day (or several times per day) to maximize your potential is bullshit.
  • Working a muscle hard once a week—and actually making progress—is better than working it four times per week and going backwards.
  • Never train any muscle hard two days in a row.
  • Bigger muscles typically take longer to recover than smaller muscles.
  • If a muscle group is sore, don’t train it!
  • Muscular training also depletes the hormonal and energy systems. If you feel low, tired or lacking energy, add another day or two of rest into your program—even if your muscles feel good.
  • Always take at least two days off per week, for maximum muscle gain—unless you are performing very low volume workouts. Even then, three or four days off per week is probably better.
  • The ultimate arbiter of a bodybuilding program is progress—in muscle size, but also in performance. If you are working hard but your reps aren’t increasing, add another rest day.

The bottom line: to build extra muscle you must continue to improve your performance by cranking out a greater workload over a small number of sets. To do this, your muscles (and your body) need to be rested. Rest is a bigger piece of the puzzle than most athletes ever realize—as a result, they never even come close to their full potential.

COMMANDMENT VII: Quit Eating “Clean” the Whole Time!

Ah, we’re on to nutrition now, boys and girls. My views on nutrition are so far from the norm that I even get snubbed at a George Zimmerman fundraiser. I can feel panties bunching with hatred and rage even as I write this. It’s a great feeling—so let’s keep going, huh?

Read a copy of any of the muscle or fitness based rags on the newsstands, and you’d think the perfect muscle meal was chicken breast with some broccoli—and hey, don’t forget some supplements thrown in on the side. Washed down with plenty of water.

Crock. Of. S**t.

If you are trying to pack on some muscle, eating junk now and again is not only okay, it’s positively anabolic. In Convict Conditioning 2, I wrote about the prison diet, and described how some very muscular, very strong athletes maintained incredible physiques on diets that—to the mainstream fitness world—would be considered totally inadequate, on many counts. Let me tell you, if those guys could get their hands on a little junk every day, they would bite your arms off for it! They knew it fuelled the fires of growth.

One of the biggest sensations in the modern bodybuilding world is a guy who—these days, anyhow—is known as Kali Muscle. Kali is 5’10” and weighs over 250lbs—with abs. Despite his bodyweight, Kali learned his trade in San Quentin, a prison culture surrounded by calisthenics athletes, and he can still perform impressive bodyweight feats like muscle-ups and the human flag. Kali says that he really began growing when he was in jail and began filling his body with “dirty” high-carb foods like Dunkin’ Stix, Honey Buns, ramen and tuna spread. He says the effect these high calorie “junk” foods had on his skinny body was so profound, that he rejected offers of steroids during his prison years. He didn’t need them.

Kali isn’t crazy. His words are the truth. This idea—that the odd “junk” item is good for your training—is not a new one. Many of the old-time strongmen thrived on food that is considered crap today. The Saxon brothers ate cakes and drank beer as a daily staple of their diet. John Grimek used to drive around with oversized Hershey bars in his glove box, for emergencies.

10comm4I love how folks pay over the odds for quick-acting protein, like “hydrolyzed” whey powder, but they avoid quick-acting carbs like the plague. Fast energy to recover from a depleting workout is way more useful than fast protein, which is probably worse than useless.

And throw some fatty stuff in there too, willya? Quit avoiding real “muscle foods” like red meat, egg yolks, ham, cheese and sausage. I have to laugh when I see skinny guys throwing thousands of bucks of amino acids and whey shakes down their necks, in a hopeless effort to get big. What the supplement companies (and their bitches, the fitness magazines) will never tell you is a basic fact known by every endocrinologist on the planet—testosterone (remember that? The muscle-building hormone?) is synthesized from cholesterol. That’s right…without taking in enough cholesterol from high-fat foods, your body cannot create testosterone, and it cannot build muscle.

Vegans are always moaning that meat is full of pathogens and the like, but—far from killing us off—recent studies show that red meat might be what’s responsible for our species’ abnormally long life-spans. Our hungry ancestors literally adapted to slabs of meat, building super-immunity in the process.

I’m not saying you should act like a fat pig and eat junk all day (although maybe you should if you can’t gain weight). If you want to get big you should eat a balanced, regulated diet. But eating “clean” the whole time will only hurt your gains. Throw in a little “junk” every day if you expect to get swole.

Go have that burger and a Twinkie. A couple hours later, you’ll have the best workout of your life. You might even grow.

COMMANDMENT IIX: Sleep More

Since Convict Conditioning first came out, I’ve been deluged by a lot of questions about prison athletes. It’s a subject folks—especially dudes—really seem interested in. How is it that prison athletes seem to gain and maintain so much dense muscle, when guys on the outside—who are taking supplements and working out in super-equipped gyms—can rarely gain muscle at all?

I could give you lots of reasons. Routine in eating and working is one. The motivation to train hard is one more. Absence of distractions is yet another. But there’s a bigger reason. I have been asked on many occasions if there’s a natural alternative for steroids—and I always answer the same: there is, but you can’t buy it from a drugstore. It’s called sleep. During sleep, your brain essentially orders your body to produce its own performance-enhancing drugs.

Inmates sleep like kings. I’m not saying that s***’s right, but there it is. Behind bars, when it’s time for Lights Out, you go to sleep. The time is always the same in the same institution—regular as clockwork. This is, essentially, how our ancestors lived—the sun goes down (Lights Out) and the brain and nervous system switch off for a well-deserved supercharge. Many convicts get ten hours per night—often with daily naps thrown in for good measure.

On the outside, it’s totally different. Folks can control their own artificial sunlight, using bulbs, lamps, LCD TVs, laptops and phones. They can go out and drink, or party, or watch Netflix all night, if they want. As a result, the sleeping patterns of most people today—especially young people—are chaos. And they wonder why they are plagued with insomnia and sleep problems…their brains don’t have a f***in clue what’s going on! There is no routine at all, and they definitely don’t get enough sleep—the average modern American gets well under seven hours, often much less than that.

10comm5If you want to build mass and blowtorch your bodyfat like Danny Kavadlo, skip the supplements and focus on getting more sleep!

Many training writers lump “rest and sleep” together under the same category. This is a mistake. Sleep is a unique physiological condition. Ten minutes of resting does not equate to ten minutes of sleep…or twenty minutes of sleep…or an hour of sleep. Sleep does everything rest does for the body and brain, but the opposite ain’t true. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of programmed rest (see Commandment VI), but no amount of simple rest can give you what sleep is capable of. When you sleep:

  • Your brain produces Growth Hormone (GH)—dangerous, expensive and illegal on the streets, but healthy and free if you take a nap.
  • The brain generates natural melatonin—possibly the most powerful immunity and healing compound known to science. (As well as helping muscles heal, high melatonin levels may even ward off cancer. This stuff is magic!)
  • When you sleep, you brain produces Luteinizing Hormone (LH), which (in dudes) strongly stimulates the interstitial cells of your cojones to produce testosterone—the number-one bodybuilding chemical powerhouse.

And that’s just a taster of what sleep does for a bodybuilder. Sleep is the cornerstone of muscle growth—and if that doesn’t persuade you to try and get more sleep at night (daily naps are great, too), then how about this: extra sleep can make you ripped.

It’s not something most people understand, but your sleep-wake cycles even regulate your eating patterns. Back when our species was evolving, the annual fruiting season occurred during late summer—when the days were at their longest. During this time, our ancestors went crazy trying to gobble up all the carb-heavy fruit they could find, to build thick bodyfat stores to protect us from the harsh, hungry winter round the corner.

These days, most everyone (outside jails) artificially prolongs their daylight time to ridiculous lengths using the bright electric lights in their home, not to mention the flickering boob tube, video games, etc. As a result, their Paleolithic brains still think they’re stuck in late summer—all year round. So they react accordingly, continually pumping out neurotransmitters and hormones programmed to make them guzzle down all the carbs we can find. No wonder folks can’t stick to diets. Their brains are trying to make them eat to survive winter!

Get to bed early, and your internal calendar won’t be tricked into thinking it’s fruiting season—you’ll find you’re suddenly not craving carbs like a maniac. It works.

Sleep also causes your fat cells to express leptin—sometimes called the “lean hormone”. Leptin regulates bodyfat expenditure and sparks up the release of energy from your fatty tissue. Go have a nap before you read the next Commandment, Jack. You might have a six-pack when you wake up.

COMMANDMENT IX: Train the Mind Along With the Body

This is a truism. The role of the mind in training is so fundamental that many books fail to even discuss it. The bodybuilders of the classical era sure understood it however, and they understood it well. Vince Gironda—“Iron Guru” and the real “Trainer of Champions”, including first Mr Olympia, Larry Scott—was once asked what he thought was the ultimate supplement. This was his answer:

…no supplement company has come up with a pill or powder as powerful as the mind. Conversely, the mind can equal and surpass any food supplement…if that is what you want from the mind.

Those weights never did anything for me. They never whispered in my ear. They never said, “curl me. Do this four times, or that for so many weeks.” I can dictate to the weights. I can dictate to my body. OK? Do I need to say any more on that?

The Wild Physique (Column), Musclemag no. 132

10comm6The mind is your number-one weapon in building your body. No supplement ever made you struggle through that final set of pullups.

Isaac Newton taught us that an arrow will fly straight and true forever—unless external forces (like friction, gravity, etc.) drag it to a standstill. I strongly believe that the human mind is like this. It goes in the right direction just fine—until negative influences drag it down. These negative influences are destructive ideas and damaging thought-patterns. As far as bodyweight training goes, there are six major classes of these ideas which screw with our training—or make us quit altogether.

Combating and defeating these six groups of negative ideas—I call them training demons—is at the heart of successful training. The topic is too deep to discuss in a blog post, but those of you who are interested can find more in chapter 21 of Convict Conditioning 2—The Mind: Escaping the True Prison.

If you want me to go further into this topic (you want this gold for free? Damn, son!), let me know in the comments and I’ll try and cover it in a future blog.

COMMANDMENT X: Get Strong!

If you want a quick summary of this article, it’s this: strength is built quickest by training the nervous system. Mass is built quickest by training the muscles. Over the last 9 Commandments, I’ve shown you the best, most powerful strategies you can use to train your muscles.

Does that mean that I’m telling you to permanently steer clear of strength training, if your only goal is to get bigger? No—and here’s why.

The relationship between the nervous system and the muscular system is a bit like the relation between an electrical circuit (the nervous system) and a light bulb (the muscles). The higher you turn the wattage on the circuit, the brighter the bulb will glow. Likewise, the higher you amp up the nervous system (through improved motor unit recruitment and neural facilitation), the harder your muscles will contract and the stronger you are.

A bodybuilder primarily trains his (or her) muscles—they are constantly buying bigger light bulbs. A pure strength athlete primarily trains his (or her) nervous system—they keep their small light bulb, and simply turn up the wattage on the circuit. You can have very powerful bulbs that are only tiny, just as there exist superhumanly strong athletes with relatively small muscles.

Here’s the thing—from a certain point of view, both these athletes want the same thing; more “light”, which, in our analogy, means more work output from the muscles. Athletes who truly want maximum strength also train their muscles—they buy bigger bulbs. You see this in powerlifting, weightlifting and similar strength events; as athletes grow in strength, they also increase in mass, often competing in several higher weight classes through their careers. A strong, big athlete is always stronger than a strong, small one.

From the opposite end, bodybuilders want more “light” (more capacity for muscular work output) because it allows them to use harder exercises and lift more, to direct a greater stimulus to their muscles for greater adaptation—higher and higher levels of mass gains. Everyone understands this—the larger and larger a bodybuilder becomes, the greater the weight they have to lift to retain their gains and keep making progress.

10comm7Al Kavadlo generates full-body tension and builds coordinated strength with an elbow plank. An athlete who trains for strength and size will ironically get bigger than an athlete who only ever trains for size. Get strong!

In other words; if you wish to gain as much muscle as your genetic potential will allow, just training your muscles won’t cut it. You need to train your nervous system too—at least some of the time.

Have you ever noticed that guys who begin bodybuilding make progress and build size for 3-6 moths, then it grinds to a halt? This is why. They have literally run out of strength. How hard you can train your muscles—how much stress you can put them through—partially depends on how strong you are. If that novice then committed 3-6 months to training their nervous systems instead of their muscles and building up their pure strength, they would find they could subsequently return to their bodybuilding-style training, and they’d experience another big spurt of growth.

Classic bodybuilders all understood this relationship between size and strength. Many of them devoted 3-6 months per year working full bore to train their nervous system, to get as insanely strong as they could, unworried about their muscle size during that time. Others performed pure strength work alongside their bodybuilding, either during different sessions or mixed and matched. Successful bodybuilders today do the same—they mix “hypertrophy” (growth) work with “strength” work. They understand that just one won’t work too well without the other.

The take-home message of this? Simple. Muscular training is what builds size, but without added strength your progress only lasts so long. You’ll get better gains if you cycle (or mix in) pure bodyweight strength training—where you train your nervous system—with your bodyweight bodybuilding.

The next question is—how do you train your nervous system for pure strength, using bodyweight techniques?

That would require a completely different article. But you’re in luck, beautiful. The PCC Lead Instructor and world famous calisthenics coach Al Kavadlo has written that article for you. It’s arriving right here, hot and sizzling, in just seven days time!

Don’t say we don’t do nothin’ for ya, huh? Now go out and build some beef, dammit. If you still have questions, hit me up in the comments section, below. I never ignore a genuine question and I will give my all to help you if I can.

*** The models for most of these great photos are the awesome Al Kavadlo and Danny KavadloYou have my thanks!

***

Paul “Coach” Wade is the author of five Convict Conditioning DVD/manual programs. Click here for more information about Paul Wade, and here for more information on Convict Conditioning DVD’s and books available for purchase from the publisher.

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  • Joe

    Hi Coach,

    I am having a hard time with the Twist Hold from CC-2. The problem being that I create too much tension when both arm’s are connected via the monkey grip. Is there a perfect (subjective) way of doing this? I have followed your instructions to the letter and initially had allot of success with the Twist Hold. Also the uneven grip pull up’s are a beast, I’m getting very strong from them.

    Thanks
    Joe

    • Joe my friend! It really made my day to get a question about the spinal twist. As you know, I consider it part of the “Big Seven”.
      First thing to say is that if you are already up to the monkey grip, you are already in the top 5% of twisters….a big pat on the back is deserved, I reckon. Second–I wouldn’t worry TOO much about tension. I feel tension too. Remember these are MEANT to be ACTIVE stretches. In my philosophy, if you want to stretch a muscle to the max, you should be able to contract it to the max, also. It’s yin and yang, man, nature.
      What’s the point of being able to relax and force your body into strange positions if your muscles aren’t able to control what’s going on? Forget floppy, lax shit and build high-powered contractions to move those limbs. Hell yeah!

      • Joe

        It’s absolute beast of a move (the twist hold), maybe the notion that the internal lateral chain is worked fired me up to really commit to the hold. The combination of the leg raise series plus the flag and bridge progressions has done wonders for the whole body. Sorry to sound like a stick in the mud but any news on CC-3?

        Cheers Ace
        Joe

        • Flags, twists, leg raises and bridges?

          There’s not much I can teach you, grasshopper!!

          I’m hoping to hand CC3 into the Big Daddy John Du Cane before 2014. Sadly I’m a slow writer (slower as I get older. Al Kavadlo can write a phonebook in the time it takes me to dial a number.)

          This blog has slowed me up a couple weeks (and we’re gonna expand it and turn it into a free ebook) but certainly by spring, Joe my man. The interest and support means a lot to me, chum–thanks.

          • Joe

            Excellent stuff coach, as with the rest of the body weight community I wait in anticipation for CC-3. Also after two years of trying I can achieve the full handstand press up’s (I jump at the chance of being inverted while listening to Black Sabbath or Uncle Acid and the deadbeats).

            Thank you Coach
            Joe

          • You the man, Joe! Black Sabbath workouts will turn you into an “Iron Man”. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats workouts will give you “mind control”….

          • Joe

            That’s the money, this system/philosophy and general bad ass-ness of CC will make me a body weight “wizard”. It’s been epic communicating with you Coach. One last thing, the one leg squats are the mother of all leg workouts, I highly recommend them to everyone.

            Thank you Coach
            Joe

          • Wise words!!!

  • Carter Doud

    I was waiting to see if there would be something on this blog written about kali muscle. I was shown a video of him by a run of the mill gym rat. He somehow ignored everything kali said in the video and came away with the message “Protien shakes + gym membership = results” and I told him that he can have fun leaving bricks in the men’s room. To this day that person is the same size with a wallet significantly smaller than before.

    I think that training logs are an essential way to measure progress as well as determine what specifically helps you achieve that progress. I noticed this a while back when I was training to do a chin up with someone heavier than me on my back (just as a stunt). My training logs show a good amount of carry over towards how long I could hold a front lever for. In my opinion a training log is the second most essential item for training (After a horizontal bar of course).

    • It’s my buddy Carter! Hey man, good to hear from you again.
      The only thing wrong with this entire comment is that I could only like it ONCE. Kid, you have got this shit nailed down. Big respect from the Coach!

  • Andro

    Awesome post! Thanks a lot

    • God bless ya Andro! Thanks for the feedback!

  • StrivingMan

    Hi Paul, after reading your books it is so nice to able to actually interact with you! While I can’t quite say your books have changed my life, they certainly changed my approach to exercising in a big way. After my father passed away and life sucked in most ways, I put on a lot of weight, mostly fat. Your books changed my exercising and eating habits. At 43 I am probably in the best shape of my life, and I hope to make much more progress in the coming years.

    BUT, if there ever was a guy who has a hard time gaining muscles, I am him. If I exercise too much, I get injured. If I exercise a little less, I make no progress. I have kept a log for the last 10 months, and in some exercises I made no progress (pushups, pullups). Typically I make progress for some time, and when I move to a harder level my elbows get inflamed, and I have to take a long time off to heal. A more serious problem I have is depression. Sometimes when life seems pointless I have at least one goal to focus on – becoming stronger and fitter. But those darn elbows keep messing up my progress, and the depression comes creeping back. Any advice on how to deal with it?

    • Brother, this blog has been a real blessing for me. I have a small circle of students I train hands on, but being able to interact with other CCers from around the world, like you, has really been an incredible experience.

      I’m sorry to hear about your pop. Grief can can wreck your body–wreck it worse than a bad injury. It means a lot to me that my books have been part of the road back. I’m betting your dad wouldn’t have wanted you to be out of shape, so let’s team up and do this thing for him too.

      You are plagued by joint pain, huh? First thing to say is hey–welcome to the human race! Seriously, the first step to coping psychologically with joint issues is to realize that it’s PART OF THE GAME. I get joint pain, olympic gymnasts get joint pain, Joe Hartigen got joint pain. You are just one of the team, kid. You CAN overcome it, you CAN get better, you CAN make progress, and I CAN help you.

      Elbow pain can linger–for years! Laying off may not help. But…first things first, where is the pain? Inside or outside?

      • StrivingMan

        Thanks Paul, I really appreciate your reply. This is going to be a rather long reply, sorry for that; there are many things I want to tell you.

        Usually the elbow is aching neither on the inside nor outside, but sort of in the centre – like a vague discomfort in the whole joint. This time though, it started on the outside (tennis-elbow-like) and now has moved to the inside (golf-elbow-like).

        I’d like to tell you also about my other recent joint problems; my knees were hurting when I started my CC journey. After loosing weight and doing lots of full-range squatting, my knees are now in excellent shape! (BTW, I was never REALLY fat, I am actually a very small-boned, skinny dude that for a while had an unhealthy amount of fat). I can now do a couple of step 10 pistol squats!

        My achilles got injured while playing tennis, but after about 6 months with lots of calves training I am back to normal.

        In both of these cases the healing process involved training the affected areas quite a lot. So, I am wondering if the best route to recovery for my elbow is more rest, or in fact more (but careful) exercising. At the moment it seems even slight exercise makes it worse, at least temporarily…

        Finally, I meant also to ask you if you have any tips on how to deal with depressions. With your history, perhaps you have some wisdom to share on dealing with a life that is very far from one’s dreams and hopes…

        • Snafu

          I have that same problem with my left elbow. One of the things that helped it was the grip series in CC2. A combination of strengthening the forearm with the stretch provided by my body has pulled about 90% of the kinks out. I felt an improvement in about 2 weeks of doing hangs whenever I could. Also, do the Trifecta!

          I still have some nagging pain, but I have a manual labor job so it kinda comes with the territory.

          • A wise, wise man you are, Snafu…

        • Excellent reply! Thanks so much for the information. I really think we can improve this situation. Rather than babbling bullshit, let me try and zoom to some practical tips to try and help you…

          1. You are not alone to have the tennis/golfers thing going on. The main message is that these tendon conditions are typically self-limiting. They will go away when they want to, and quitting training will really not help.

          2. Keep doing your pushups and pullups. As long as you can stop them from causing acute pain on the day, you will be fine.

          3. Warming up well–a pump follow by a stretch of ALL worming wrist and forearm muscles will help prevent pain on the day.

          4. Tampering with range-of-motion can work wonders in offsetting acute pain. A little less here, a little less there…this aint forever, remember!

          5. Hand position relates greatly to the elbows. On pushups, spread the fingers and push through them equally. If that doesn’t help, pushups off the knuckles can also alleviate elbow pain. On pullups, a hammer grip can really help elbow pain.

          6. As Snafu says, weak forearms can lead to elbow pain. Strengthen that grip–but don’t overdo it. Hanging towel holds, fingertip pushups, and squeezing that tennis ball can go a long way to curing acute pain, not to mention keeping the elbows warm.

          7. Avoid strain. Perfect control, never lose control.

          8. For elbows, lower reps can help–5 or less. I know high reps are associated with healing (for good reason) but for elbows low reps ironically help pain. Why? Maybe because you start straining after 5 reps.

          9. Make progress, but be kind to the elbows. T-e-e-n-y steps!

          10. Moderate frequency. Work the areas sensibly–say twice per week–but give them time to rest. Always be rested before you train again. If you train push and pull on the same session twice a week, that’s 5 nights sweet rest for those elbows.

          11. Icing your elbows after training can give you a healing edge.

          12. Don’t ignore your arms/elbows on non-training days. Move em! Rotate and flex the hands, grip, circle the wrists, elbows, shoulders. Oil those joints with nutritious synoval fluid!

          13. Keep those elbows warm while training. (Many powerlifters wear their own custom elbow wraps made from old sweaters and the like. Who cares what they look like if they help you heal?)

          That’s enough to be getting on with, eh?

          I am proud of you for healing your other dings man. It just goes to show–calisthenics can heal your pain if you perform the art correctly. The same goes for your elbows.

          I am real sorry to hear that you are going through dark times. Setting goals and being KIND to yourself help, but at the end of the day no man can know what you are going through but you, so I won’t patronize you by giving you advice. Just know that I believe in you, and my thoughts are with you.

          Your friend,

          Paul

          • StrivingMan

            Thanks again Paul, this is gold!

          • Anytime I can help–you can do it. Just keep on striving…

            Oh, I forgot point 14: Elbow position. Keep em “soft”. (You’re a CCer so you’ll know what that means, kid.)

            Please keep us all posted on your progress!

        • Carter Doud

          Elbow related pain in something I’ve experienced a lot in the past. If you have hyper mobile elbows, doing certain unilateral exercises can often irritate them, especially if you’re doing a tricep exercise followed by a bicep exercise. It is very common (from my experience) for the elbow pain to move from the inner to the outer elbow. Pavel Tsatsouline’s ‘Super Joints’ explains doing normal push ups and various presses can help to strengthen the tendons in the elbow which in time may help you reduce your chances for injury. Another cause for elbow pain (usually in the ‘centre’) can be nerve entrapment. It is possible that nerves may be getting pinched from various activities (having the elbow bent for long periods of time or having your fingers grasping a strange object) and causing pain or weakness. There are a few different nerve ‘flossing’ exercises which help to free up the nerves and prevent entrapment.

          • Some nice ideas big guy. Got any video links to “nerve flossing”, Carter? I’m sure the folks here would be interested to see what you’re talking about, visually.

            (Disqus friggin hates comments with links, but lovely Rose has made me a mod, so I would make sure your post got approved, even if it disappeared at first.)

    • Hi Striving Man! I’m a nobody, btw, just another person trying to follow the coach’s program (taking a few months off to have a baby though). Anyway, I just wanted to add my two cents about your Depression. I struggle with it too, and all I can say is that your plan is very smart – and I want to encourage you to keep going with the plan you’ve laid out – it’s the best thing you can do! When your elbows hurt, focus on your legs and abs. Depression wants you to make excuses – but this kind of training program really can – mostly – kill it when you’re dedicated!

      • StrivingMan

        Thanks Rose! A great thing about the program is that it is a journey, not a quick fix. Yes, I will focus on other body parts while my elbows heal. The last time I had elbow problems my legs got a lot stronger.

  • Pushers

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for the second part of this article. Great stuff!

    I just had one really quick question surrounding rest and making sure I am getting enough. If I construct a programme of body weight training hard say on Mon, Wed and Fri – is it ok to do cardio, sprinting, other sport, etc on some of the days off? Or would that eat into my recovery to much? Should I do really nothing (sport wise) on the days off to make sure I do get enough rest?

    Thanks,

    Ed

    • Hey there again, Ed! Another good question. I know a lot of old school bodybuilding coaches used to advise AGAINST extra work if you are trying to gain mass quickly. It really depends. For me, I think (bodyweight) cardio is of value between sessions. Try it. If your reps are going up and you don’t feel tired, go for it! If you are flagging or not progressing (or even regressing), reduce the cardio gradually.

      One proviso. Sprints can exhaust the legs, specially if you are doing squats (etc) twice a week. You can get round this hurting your workouts by making the sprints PART of your leg workouts, after squats. That’s a man-maker!

      Hope that helps pal!

      • Pushers

        Super – thanks Paul. That’s kinda what I suspected. I guess I’ll have to try it and see how things go.

        Cheers man.

        • The answers are–usually–pretty intuitive. Be great if you could give us some feedback on your progress, dude. Train hard!

  • Carlos Palacios

    Great article Coach. Thanks.

    And a question on the resting periods. I have been training solely body-weight for the last year three times a week. Although mass is not bulking up as quickly as I’d like, the strength is there. I just signed up for boxing (I mean, why training your body if you’re not going to use it, right?) After my first boxing training session I was a total wreck! Mainly because I hate cardio and my first class was jump rope and bouncing on a tire while jabbing at the same time. My whole body was very sore. So, should I skip my whole body weight training altogether while I get used to the cardio of boxing? It’s been a hard road to be where I ‘m now and I wouldn’t like to go back and see that my strenght is gone for the sake of boxing.

    Cheers Coach!

    • Carlos! Congrats on taking the first step on the road to being a fighter!

      Bodyweight and boxing go together like eggs and bacon, kid. Sure, boxing training is VERY demanding, but trust me–your body will adapt. It may take a month or two, but once the boxing leaves you non-wrecked, you’ll be real pissed if you have lost strength in your calisthenics exercises.

      It sounds like something’s gotta give here, Carlos. If you really want to commit time and energy to boxing for a few months, you could do worse than working just one day per week on the bodyweight. Really strip down to the basics–warm up with some sit-ups and bridges, then two sets for legs, two sets of pullups, and two sets of pushups. That’s all.

      This workout will allow you to focus on boxing whilst retaining all the muscle and power you have built. In a few months, once the boxing becomes easier, you can add in more calisthenics days. When the time comes, the boxing training will make you calisthenics even more effective.

      Keep me posted on your progress, badass!

  • taochi

    God!!!!!!
    I don’t know who he is….
    But after 20 years of reading EVERYTHING (sometimes very scientific) about strenght and muscle……..
    God!!!!!
    And making so much errors…
    God!!
    This man….he is so pragmatic…no shits….no fashion bullshits….
    I repeat
    I don’t know who he is
    But when he speaks…..the only thing comes to my mouth is: God!!! It’s so fu**ing TRUE!!
    Thank you…thank you….thank you

    • Vjeran

      The biggest animals have a completely different digestion system; we can not use the herbal protein as effectively as the meat protein, not even soy will do it (really hard to digest). We didn’t come from gorillas; both species come from a common animal. We developed as we are due to eating meat – we need it to fuel our “monster” brains. Otherwise I agree 100% – Coach is a genius!

      • Shucks Vjeran! In fact, I am 100% behind what you said. My only point about gorillas and large herbivores was to emphasize the fact that people make TOO big a deal about protein for growth. That doesn’t mean you should avoid protein foods–like I say, a burger or a slice of pizza is a true “muscle food”. But maxing out with whey and amino acids, eating up to eight times a day? No way!

    • Bless you my Italian student. Your kind words mean a LOT to me. If you are making progress, keep doing what you are doing. I NEVER try to talk anyone out of something if they enjoy it and it works for them.
      If it aint broke don’t fix it!

  • Leo

    Hey Coach,
    very nice two articles, very useful!
    I have to get up at 06:30 every day, so when is the right time to go to bed?
    How much sleep is enough for a fifteen year old?
    Is it really helpful to take naps after school or something?
    Leo

    • Danny Kavadlo

      Leo listen to the Coach. You are at an age where your body is constantly expending a tremendous amount of energy– the most energy it’s spent on growth since you were in the womb! Bottom line: you need to rest. It is generally hard to put on muscle at age fifteen, so if your goal is growth, make sure you’re eating enough. Good luck!

  • Corey Howard

    Paul Wade, these 2 articles were awesome! Great knowledge and honesty! Now I’m off to work on adding reps to my pistol squats and eat some donuts!

    • Thanks for the kind words my friend. You got the right idea, Corey! Get a bear claw for me!

  • Bob

    Another good article from paul ‘coach’ wade, wink wink (aka al & dannys alter ego)

    • David devine

      Ha, how did I not spot this before, there in everything “Paul” does

    • Dammit!

    • irrelevant_id

      I’ve been giving this topic some thought. And my conclusion is – does it matter?
      So what if this persona is a true person or a fictional character? What difference does it make if there is one author (with some other name) or a construct of a group or even a company behind this name?

      And does it matter if the references to inprisonment and prison training culture is made up or actual reality? I certainly can’t tell. It could be totally fictional. But sometimes the real world provides the strangest (and seemingly surreal) stories.

      My impression is whoever is behind has given strenght training a lot of thinking. And maybe this person was lucky in his thinking. But it appears to me that these ideas are also empirically verified. At least by that person, but actually my feeling is that they have been tested out on many more subjects.

      So in essence, what does matter to me are the methods of strength training given under this name. Because those I can try out myself. And so far they have worked for me and many other actual persons.

      • Stop talkin so much sense, my friend…the fewer people who believe in my existence, the happier I am…

  • Ivan

    In first part you said “all of these movements can be made infreasigly difticult to suit your kuscle building rep range (see Commandment V)”
    Where is that muscle building rep range in Commandement V?

    • One sharped-eyed brother! The point I was making had to do with progress (Commandment V). I don’t give a rep range, but the idea I was trying to express (probably badly) is that you have to keep making progress by making your bodyweight exercises gradually harder. I didn’t give rep ranges and didn’t intend to. (But if anyone feels “stuck” on a particular technique and is unsure of how to move forward, just hit me up and I’ll help.)

      Thanks for keepin me on the straight edge, Ivan!

  • Jack Arnow

    I was hesitant to make any comments on this article because
    I have no experience training for size. But I liked the article very much
    because it rang true to my own experience, so I decided to repeat some of
    Paul’s great ideas. Keeping a log has always helped me to see patterns in my
    training: noticing small gains and continuing, or seeing plateaus which
    encourage me to rethink current methods. I only work out when my muscles, mind,
    and body are well rested and fresh. I sleep at least 8 hours a night, and generally
    keep to routines of eating, sleeping and exercising. My mind is my strongest
    “muscle.” using it at all times, to decide what to do, and when to change what
    I do. I know the strength benefits of training my nervous system. Although I
    try to work out 6 days a week, I don’t follow this routine blindly. If my
    muscles are sore, or I’m not feeling right, I feel very proud and smart when I
    make the decision to skip a workout and rest. Although this article was not
    geared to my own main interests, still I learned much from it. I will try to
    implement some of the ideas on eating and working out less when my current slow
    steady progress comes to a halt. Experience tells me this is likely.
    Recovering from a prostate operation, I had to take a 6 week
    break. The operation was a complete success, and I’m now working back to
    pre-operation levels. I’m currently training for “the century,” muscle-ups, and
    a one-arm chin.

    • It is an honor to have feedback from a TRUE legend of progressive calisthenics–a personal hero of mine, Jack Arnow.

      Jack, I hear what you’re saying. I guess I would point out that this article is geared, not to strength, or skill, but pure muscle mass gain. Much of the time I don’t train like this, either…I’m working for other qualities such as joint health, strength, balance, etc. You are a very gracious man to say that you have learnt something from me.

      I’m glad to hear your op went well my friend. I look forward to you bustin out “The Century” when the PCC comes East Coast!!

  • Steven Sierra

    Free your mind, write about it in a future post.

    • Noted, sir! Thanks for the idea Steve, much appreciated…

  • Nico

    Hey coach, if lower reps 1-5 are best for strength and higher reps are best for mass 12-15,
    would that mean that even higher reps like 20+ would build mostly stamina?

    another totaly unrelated question about neck bridging,
    in the book you state you shouldnt begin neck bridging unless you can do full back bridges,
    can you start your neck training if you can do back bridges but still working on straigth bridges ( like I am)?

    • Believe it or not Nico, I have seen guys build mass with 20 reps! But yeah, as a GENERAL RULE your analysis of rep ranges is pretty goddam right on.

      No neck bridges unless you are veeeery happy with your regular bridging–that’s totally right. But of course you can begin training your neck before this. I advice pure bodyweight style; manual neck work. Here’s a beaut of a video from the great man James Kelly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnvhkOGwG-k

      Work with the manual stuff and by the time you are ready for neck bridges, your neck muscles, tendons and ligaments will be nice and conditioned. Sweeter than a Bay hooker’s ass!

  • Joshua

    The only essential nutrients are protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Carbohydrate is not an essential nutrient. So you can have steak, eggs, avocadoes, coconut, olive oil, leafy greens, liver, salmon, oysters, nuts, and seeds. These are the real muscle building foods. The more fat you eat the more testosterone, it is as simple as that. But when you combine fat and carbohydrate together its like a nuclear bomb, its like a trump card. You don’t want to pull that trump card too often. You have to use it wisely. When you pull that trump card you better make sure your volume is up because if it isn’t you are going to flirt with diabetes. Another trick I learned is to do 10 minutes of sprints at the end of each workout to get the blood flowing. The more blood flow the faster your recovery.

    • Josh, in that one passage you have hidden the secrets of a training diet. No kidding.

      And sprints after training are genius…

    • Ava Avane Dawn

      Hm, yet I’ve heard that doing some cardio after strength training will make the body switch gear into cardiovascular improvements rather than strength improvements. Any truth/science to this you think?

      • Joshua

        I posted the links to the studies but they are being moderated check back soon.

  • Joshua

    And don’t forget about WALKING. Walking is calisthenics as well. You can walk the entire day. Actually if you want to recover faster you should try to walk as much as you can during the day and try to at least stand. This is a test of your metabolism. If you can walk the entire day your metabolism is perfect. The better your metabolism the better your muscle growth and recovery. A great metabolism is one that allows you to burn fat, it is as simple as that. When you burn fat you don’t store it.

    • Son, you ever write a book put me on the mailing list. This bodyweight wisdom does my old heart good, thank you!

      • Joshua

        Your book inspired me to give up the weights and I never looked back. I’m going through each of the steps one by one. Now about walking, I need to let you know one very important fact. When you are on your feet make sure you do not stand in one place for too long, you really need to walk. WALKING CIRCULATES SYNOVIAL FLUID; I learned about synovial fluid from YOUR book. Our body is really meant to stay in motion. Though standing will GREATLY improve your metabolism, if you stand in one place for too long it is not good for your circulation or your knee joints. THE SECRET IS WALKING. Walking is so low intensity you can do it the entire day. Every few minutes or so just move around, have fun. You could do a few squats, just keep the fluid moving. What I do is I stay on my feet from the time a wakeup until the time I go to sleep. Experiment, if you have the time just walk for a week. I work on computers so I just place my laptop on the counter and walk around while I think. You have the knowledge to perfect this and maybe take it to places I haven’t. You will be surpised at what walking can do for you. You have been an invisible mentor to me. You’re a true calisthenics legend, its an honor to talk to you. And that book sounds like a good idea, thanks Coach.

        • 100% agree. 100%!!

          Hell, you’ve inspired me Joshua. Going for a walk as soon as I turn this here computer off!

  • Surry Curry

    Hey Coach, loved the article(s) as well as everything else on this blog so far, it’s a real gold mine of information!

    As far as gaining mass goes, I seem to be having a lot of trouble with it, so if you could help me out here, I’d really appreciate it! So here goes :

    I first found the Convict Conditioning book back in November of 2011, and I loved reading through every word of it. I took to the book, the methods, the philosophy, and the exercises like nothing else. The most I had ever worked out before was for 3 months, weightlifting, in 2009. So I’m a really skinny kid, and I’ve always been weak. Thankfully, never had any physical problems or issues, so starting out, I dabbled with random exercises in the book here and there, not really committing to a proper program. At this point I was just more interested in seeing what I could do than anything else.

    After being lazy over the winter and being a little weak after my wisdom teeth were taken out, I started the Convict Conditioning program the right way, from Step 1 in the first four exercises in March of 2012. I went through and progressed really quickly, and by the end of the summer, I had achieved Step 9 in Push Ups, Step 10 in Squats (I skipped Step 7, Uneven Squats here), Step 7 in Pull Ups (I went past Horizontal Pulls only passing the Intermediate Progression level, since it was taking so long), Step 10 in Leg Raises, Step 4 in Handstands (although I only had a 70 second hold for Step 3), & Step 9 in Bridges. Around midsummer I had also started the exercises in Convict Conditioning 2 and managed to get to One Legged Bent Calf Raises off the floor (although I had done this just aiming for the progression standard right away, not taking my time and adding 5 reps per week as I was supposed to), Step 3 on Grip, and a 10 second Clutch Flag.

    I started with the Good Behavior routine, and after about 2 months, I tried Veterano for a few weeks, but felt the load wasn’t enough, so for the most of summer, I was on the Solitary Confinement routine, but with 2-3 work sets, not 3-5. I loved the progress I had made through the steps and I felt pretty great about it too, but the one thing that had me down was that although I had definitely gained a bit of muscle, tone, and definition, it was nowhere near what I was expecting to have gained after 5 months of proper exercise on the program. I assumed that with the high amount of volume I had been doing, it was my nervous system being trained, which got me to those high reps and made me progress so quickly, and the lack of rest being the reason I wasn’t able to get any muscle mass.

    After taking a break for a month or so, I restarted when the Ultimate Bodyweight Log came out, starting again from Step 1 of all 6, in case I had done something wrong with form and whatnot, using the log this time to record my weight and my progress. I started out with the Hard Time routine, but eventually shifted to Lockdown, since I had taken a gymnastics class to learn flips and handsprings, and that was on Wednesdays. It’s been about a year since then, and I’ve been working out for 43 weeks (logs for each week) in the past year, and my progress hasn’t been anywhere near the same. Right now, I’m at Step 9 of Pushups, Step 7 of Squats, doing Jackknife Pull Ups on Mondays, and Horizontal Pulls on Thursdays, Step 10 on Leg Raises, Step 4 on Handstands (still skipped Step 3 with a 70 second hold), and Step 5 on Bridges. Took my time with the calves this time, and got up to 55 Reps per set on One Legged Bent off the floor, working on getting to a minute hold for the Clutch Flag (at 25 seconds, but haven’t been working it consistently enough), and I’m on One Arm Bar Hangs.

    Sorry about the long back story, but now here are my questions.
    1. Is there any reason you can think of that my progress is so much slower this time? Steps that I normally blazed through on the first time I tried them are taking me months to make progress on, and more often than not, I end up dropping reps more weeks than making them. (Examples being Jackknife Pull Ups and Steps 3, 4, & 5 for Bridges, and my Hangs alternate with higher numbers one week, then barely making 10-15 seconds the next week).

    2. My weight throughout this entire time period, not just the past year, has stayed in the 123-129 lbs range. I’ve tried eating healthy, but for most of the time, I was eating just plain normal. Junk food, meats, bread, rice, fruits, veggies, nuts. I get mostly everything, and I never starve myself. And when my weight was higher, it seemed to be due more to fat rather than muscle. It just doesn’t seem like I can gain any mass.

    Once again, sorry about the super long post, but I’m just so lost as to what to do for progress and mass right now. Any and all help would be greatly appreciated Coach! Oh, and I’m 21, if that helps with any of this. Thanks, hope to hear from you soon!

  • C

    Coach!

    Yet another great article 🙂

    Is the need for “junk” (or fast carbs in general, I suppose) more important when you train for mass than if you train for strength? In my limited experience, I don’t feel the need for carbs to perform optimally when I train for strength (few reps) as much as I need it when I train with high reps. Is this consistent with what you would expect? Does limiting the carbs in strength training limit my growth in strength?

    Best
    C

    • Hey C–to answer your question: DEFINITELY. The kind of dense foods I am asking you to consider (fast carbs, fatty foods) are there to refuel depleted muscle stores, add the building blocks for testosterone and provide a little protein for the desired growth. This is all to help your muscular training.

      If you are predominantly training for strength, you are essentially training the nervous system. (Al will be tackling this kinda training next week, you must check it out man!) Beyond a healthy diet (plus any extra carbs to cover the training) the nervous system really doesn’t need much else. (Some strength athletes cultivate special “nervous system” diets with minerals like phosphorus, etc., which fuel the nervous system.)

      So no–for pure skill/strength work, your nervous system just reconfigures. It doesn’t “add” anything (like muscle-building does) so you don’t need masses of extra fuel. I think you analysis is bang on, both with my experience and the theory. Keep up the good work!

  • jpujjayi

    Coach.. another great ‘home run’ PCC blog post..!!! your writing hits home with me… and I like your inner approach ..
    … to quote … “we’re all alone in the dark”…
    that’s where,,and when,, the true learning begins….!!!

    your heart is open..you give so much to the list… commend
    you for that effort that seems effortless !!

    … rest is the best…!!

    i like the 8pm sleep time.. lets me see my favorite time of day….
    ………….FirstLight !!……………

    be well…carry on… we’re all in it together…!!

    • Anyone who quotes me back gets bonus points!

      You really are “the man” Jim!!

      • jpujjayi

        someday …there’ll be a book of your quotes.. maybe the next edition of the cc training log.!! . which is lots of fun turning the pages..seeing the pics, and reading the short and sweet tips for training.. ! it’s like the cc1, cc2, and the training log form a trilogy !!! lord of the rings..move over.. !!

  • V Kishore Vancheeshwaran

    Hi Coach,

    Finally its a blessing to be able to chat with you. I have read both CC1 and CC2 and Al Kavadlo’s books too. I have gained a lot of wisdom and I have a lot of doubts too. I will ask my doubts first then I will let you know about my progress for which I hope you will give me some tips and pointers.

    1.You said to train max twice a week the same muscle group and rest a lot. But I have heard that gymnasts train everyday. I tried to train everyday but at the cost of strength and didnt make progress. How is it possible for them to train everyday and still make progress? Is there any kind of program that even we can follow to get as strong as they are?

    2.We could train for just strength and skill or just muscle. Either a lean Gazelle like Al Kavadlo or a mean bull like Kali muscle. But gymnasts are Buzelles. How is it possible to become buzelles? PS: i dont want to become like Kali muscle but like any gymnast or better like Danny.

    3.I can see active flexibility is good. But flexible muscles are even better isnt it? Take tigers for example. Their muscles are flexible, supple, yet strong as hell. How can a human attain inhuman strength in addition to basic flexibility and stretching?

    4.Please illustrate a bit more on the mental aspects of training in another article.

    5.Before I read CC, I never knew about the master steps. But now that I know of them, I wonder, is there anything beyond the master steps? Or is it just adding reps maybe lets say around 1000 in a go that makes it tougher?

    6.Help me out as to how can I involve Dips in the CC programs. And progressions.

    7.Though I am still at horizontal pulls, I am getting stronger with each workout. But I find one thing different. Be it a horizontal bar, or a high pull up bar, for both horizontal and vertical pulls, I find it somewhat easier to do it with fingers than with my palms wrapped around the bar. Is there any weakness in me? if so how can i improve? or shall I just continue with what I am doing now?

    8.You say overtraining is bad, but Al Kavadlo says overtraining is a myth. I have heard that labourers work everyday for years and years and yet they felt sore only for the first few days, but they got used to it. Is it the same with working out? Like if the body is going to adjust to the strain and stress, why do you not advise training everyday? Even if its the same muscle group? what is the difference in body recovery with a normal person and a labourer?

    9.I was wondering. Will PCC would come to INDIA anytime in the near future. Its kinda costly for people here, including me to travel to any other country to attend it because of the country’s economy. Am I missing anything from not attending it, but yet following the big six?

    10.What are your opinions on full body workouts? Be it everyday, or alternating days..?

    11,I read and started practicing calisthenics since I read CC 4 months back. i tried to convince my friends about the benefits of strength training via calisthenics but in vain. They still think weights are the way to go. And they mock me too, it mentally hurts me. As your student, do you think I should go about trying to rally people into calisthenics and progressive calisthenics? or should i just mind my own business? I just feel they are missing out the best part of their lives… advise me.

    12.About warm up sets and work sets. Somehow scaling down 2 or 3 steps doesnt prepare my muscles for any work sets. Whatever step I am in currently, 10 or 15 x 2 serves as a good warmup for me, and my work sets go well only after that. Isnt what am doing a bit against what you advised in your book? My work sets, some days I feel like doing more than 2 maybe 4. Is it wrong or do i need to change the way i do it?

    13.Sometimes, I feel that Good Behaviour and New Blood give me proper gains, but not Veterano. I dont understand why. Can you help me out?

    14.When I started CC, I was able to do proper pushups with the req stds for the progression too. Yet I Started with Step one. If am able to do step 5, doesnt that mean my joints are already good? why start with step 1 in the first place?

    15.Coach, you advised to start with Bridges after mastering close squats and hanging knee raises or lying leg raises. And also Handstand Pushups only after mastering close pushups. But Al Kavadlo says to start with them right away in his book building from your step one till the last step not to wait it out or anything. What both of you say is kinda like ‘clashing of ideas’ and I get confused and its hindering my training. Help me out of the confusion here.

    16.You say to focus on positives but Al says to perform more negatives. Am confused. After Kneeling Pushups, you say to go to half pushups or quarter or three fourth push ups while Al in his book says, to go directly to full pushups. What do i do? What do i follow?

    17.You say to train the nervous system is to gain strength. I still dont understand it fully, can you elaborate?

    18.Can You give me some personal advice? I m in a hostel in college, though i do have friends, I am just left out of many things they do. They drink, smoke cigarettes and weed, while i refuse to do take part in it. As a result they mock me and separate me from everything, just because of my decisions and I feel bad, hurt. I just dont have anyone to appreciate what i am doing and I get depressed due to this. There is no one here who share the same ideas regarding calisthenics, and i feel lonely. Most of the times when i go to the ground to the parallel bars or the pull up bar, people look at me in a weird way (as to why not the gym, why the bars and the floor, and if i try to explain they make fun) that makes me a lot self conscious and my workouts turn out badly. Please help me coach.

    Now to the progress i have made in CC. I’d appreciate your tips and comments to make it better. I try my best, as you said, to milk out as much as i can from a step.

    Push ups: Incline Pushups, after meeting the progression stds, i just move my incline a little lower everytime. Helps in loading only a little bit everytime.

    Pull ups: Horizontal pull, started with chest height bar and met progression stds in a few weeks, now lowered it to hip height. now my back is thick and getting thicker. so are my forearms. Right now at 2×20.

    Leg raises: Lying flat leg raises. My core is strong. and i’m happy.

    Squats: Close Squats, will meet progression stds in 2 or maybe 3 workouts.

    Help me out as to where i can add in supplementary work for grip and neck and calves.

    It’ll be a long time, since i actually get to meet you. But I’ll do my best to master the master steps before i step in front of you. You are my only mentor in whom i believe completely.

    Kishore

    • Paul John Wade

      Kishore!

      Thanks so much for you kind comment–your faith in me means a lot. We must make sure it is rewarded properly, eh? So let’s answers these fantastic questions:

      1. I’m glad you asked! Remember, gymnasts don’t train to exhaust themselves, like bodybuilders do. They train for skill-strength….this requires keeping fresh, and can allow you to train everyday. The “buzelle” muscle is a by-product. Al Kavadlo has written the PERFECT post on this type of “fresh” training, and it will be posted here, next week. Please tune in and make comments!

      2. My methods are a little different from the Kavadlos, and tend to lean towards muscle-building. If you want to look like a Kavadlo, you are in luck! Can I recommend Al’s two truly groundbreaking books:

      http://www.dragondoor.com/shop-by-department/new-products/b63/
      http://www.dragondoor.com/shop-by-department/new-products/b69/

      Danny’s book is more about training others, but also has some wonderful insights on training: http://www.dragondoor.com/b72/

      3. Actually tigers get that flexible with active flexibility! They never relax when they stretch, it is always under tension. Look at a kitty cat yawn! Unless you are injured and need to stretch out scar tissue and relax the muscles, I think relaxed flexibility is worse than useless. (Tigers would agree, Kishore.)

      4.Since you asked, I’ll work on it, bud!

      5. Nope, everything can be made tougher–everything! If strength is your goal, keep getting stronger, don’t just add resp because you get to a high level of ability. Try one-arm pushups on your fingertips…

      6. Too complex to answer here, but I will give you dip progressions in CC3–I promise!

      7. Nope, this is normal. I’m the same! You can add extra bodyweight grip work if ya want, but you don’t need to.

      8. I get asked this a lot. Manual workers DO adapt to daily loads, but their work remains essentially the same through their careers. You or I could adapt to the same workout over and over, too–but that’s not the goal, is it? We seek to do harder and harder workouts over the years. That’s the difference.

      9. We would LOVE to bring PCC to India–the home of thousands of years of calisthenics wisdom! Hey, petition Dragon Door and it’ll happen! But nobody NEEDS to attend the PCC–although it really will accelerate your learning if you attend. I didn’t have the PCC, nor did Al, but we learnt the game, right?

      10. Love em! But if you are working very hard, twice a week is enough. If you aren’t giving your all yet, you can get away with 3 days.

      11. Screw everyone else and do what makes sense to you. Focus for a year on becoming awesome at pushups, pullups, bridging, handstands, leg raises, and pistols. Then one day, challenge your “strong” buddies to work out with you, and try and keep up. When you kick their asses, they may change their minds, Koresh.

      12. You aren’t going against my book, dude. I give guidelines there, but I also emphasize that everyone is different and may need different warm ups for various reasons. If what you are doing works for you, it doesn’t hurt your joints or detrimentally effect your work sets, then you have my full blessing to continue!

      13. You are resting more! Simple! Go with what works, kid.

      14. I answered this question in depth in the Super FAQ. Check it out, page 1! (The report is over 40 pages of pure text, and is free for all bodyweight enthusiasts. I wrote it for intelligent, questioning minds like yours.)

      15. If you are working with the CC system do what I say.

      16. I am not as much of a fan of negatives as many bodyweight coaches. For reasons why, check the Super FAQ again, page 38.

      17. The nervous system is what activates the muscles. But it doesn’t do it very well. Say, if you have a hundred muscle fibers, and try to contract them, you can perhaps only contract about 33. By training your nervous system you can learn to contract 90, becoming much stronger even though your muscles are the same size.

      18. It sounds like your training is going real well kid–I’m proud of you. As for the losers in your hostel–great! If you are doing something different from the rest of the world, you are doing something RIGHT. Learn to be proud of being an iconoclast, a revolutionary. Who the fuck wants to be a sheep, anyway?
      If you really want to chat about calisthenics with intelligent, like-minded folks, use the internet. How about the Dragon Door forum? http://kbforum.dragondoor.com/kettlebells-strength-conditioning-forum/

      I am very proud of you, Kishore. I believe in you. Hold your fucking head high and start being proud of yourself, too.

      Paul

      • V Kishore Vancheeshwaran

        Coach
        Thanks for clearing my head and motivating me. I will keep my head high and live my life the way I want to. I will keep up with my training too. I look forward to more posts in this blog.
        Kishore

        • Paul John Wade

          I believe in you, man! Stick with us and please keep in touch with the PCC community on this blog.
          You CAN do this!

      • Coach Wade has got it spot on as usual with #10, at my work my mates would regularly assert that I couldn’t get strong from doing calisthenics and I could only get fit. After a year and a half of training I now run 3 bootcamps attended by up to 10 people at a time. The question is no longer can I get stronger as they have seen that I am strong, they now try tell me you can’t get big from calisthenics. Ignore them and prove them wrong mate

        • Thanks for the wisdom, bud. Also, good to hear you are spreading the old school word in Oz! Keep it up, please.

          • Don’t worry mate, I’m in this for life. Feel like I’m starting to close in on the one arm pullup at the moment, though still have a lot of work to go before I can do full range of motion.

          • You beast! We need an article by Jack Arnow, undisputed master of the one-arm…

          • Yeah sounds good to me, I think getting those last few inches either end of the one arm pullup is going to be the hardest part of my training for however long it takes as well as trying to get my left arm up to the level of my right

          • If it was easy, everyone would be a pullup beast, Dave!

          • Yep, I currentely have never seen anyone peform a one arm pullup (though that will change when I do the PCC in Feb). I’ve had to put in a lot of hard work to get as close to it as I am now and suspect I’ll have to put in as much hard work to close in on it but that’s what makes it worth doing!

          • Chatted to quite a few guys coming out of the PCC. Their standards change forever. In a few years I have no doubt you’ll be working on the one-finger pullup, and see the one-arm as easily doable.

  • Marklar

    Hey Coach:

    Many thanks for another excellent piece. The principles are clear and rational. Any thoughts about a program to implement them? It seems that something like Hard Time or Lockdown would be good bets for work like this. Do you prefer a split to a full body routine for mass building? Old school guys like Reg Park preferred full body training three times a week, an approach that is still advocated by people like Chad Waterbury or Steven Low. Any chance we could hit you up for a program? Call it the cherry on top. We’re greedy, I know. But we can’t help ourselves!

    • Hey, it’s my buddy Marklar! How you doin man?

      I’ve been asked this more than once now–in fact, it looks like folks want a lot more information about mass-building than I’ve been able to squeeze into a couple blog posts. As a result, I’ve decided to combine these two posts, edit the hell out of them, and add extra material (programs, FAQ, etc) into an ebook for quicker reference and to answer everyone’s questions if I can.

      The book should be 30, 40 pages and will be available FREE from Dragon Door.

      Til then, I’d say go Golden Age rather than Silver Age–for max mass, use a three day bodypart split. Chest/shoulders/tris, Back/bis/grip, and Legs/abs/spine. Four days with a day off between over eight days is pretty Optimus Prime, kid!

      • Marklar

        Thanks Coach. I appreciate the answer and am looking forward to the new ebook (as well as CC3!). Til then, as you say, basically a push/pull/legs split – one on, one off in perpetual rotation. How many exercises per split? Two push and two pull OK? Dips and planche pushup progressions for push; pullups and horizontal rows for pull? Shrimps, bridges, and HLR should cover the lower body pretty well.

        You are a class act. I appreciate how much time you’ve devoted to answering everyone’s questions.

        • Thanks my man–it’s been a real honor having so many bodyweight athletes reach out. It’s been an amazing couple weeks and I am grateful to all of you!

          The number of exercises depends on your conditioning. Beginners should have just one or two. Intermediate and advanced, 2-3. I would also say that if MUSCLE is the goal, stick to moving work–ever time. The statics really are n/s work, plus tendons. So for an advanced man:

          Chest: Pushup chain, dips, a pushup variant
          Shoulders: HS pushups, jacknife pushups, handstand shrugs
          Tris: Close pushups, leaning extensions, partial one-arm pushups (top range)

          Back: Pullup chain, horizontal pulls, pullup variant
          Biceps: Close pullups or curl pullups, horizontal underarm pullups, top range overhand grip close pullups
          Grip: CC grip chain, fingertip pushups, eagle claws

          P-Chain: Bridges, reverse hypers, hamstring curl bridge
          Legs: Squat chain, shrimp squats, wall squats
          Abs: Pretty much leg raises get the job done. Superset em with fast sit-ups to kill your midsection.
          Calves: One-leg calf raises, feet together jumping, squatting calf raises.

          If you ever come to a PCC, the Instructor’s Manual has a shitload of bodyweight bodybuilding ideas and programs. Hope that’s food for though old pal!

          • Luke

            Hi Paul, Huge fan of your work and it’s great to be able to communicate with you on this medium. With the program above which day would you suggest to work your neck? In Convict Conditioning the solitary confinement program mentions neck work but that’s along with handstand push-ups and bridges.

          • Luke–sorry for the slow reply–so many comments are making me crossed-eyed. But I’m tryin!

            After bridges is a great time to work neck–whenever you do your bridges. Your vertebrae and spinal tendons are warm. I would advise a course of manual neck resistance for a few weeks before you get into it though. I want to see that neck wrestler-sized by next year, my man…

            PS. That cute little feller in your arms looks like a perfect candidate for one-arm handstand pushups in 2028….

          • rifat

            Coach,
            How do i determine that i am an intermediate or advanced?
            I am at level 9 in push ups,level 7 at pull ups,level 8 at bridges,level 5 at handstand push ups,completed level 10 at squats and level 9 at hanging leg raises

          • You kidding? You advanced, son!

            Build up to this volume slowly though–monitor your results, but remember that more is not ALWAYS better. If you can get results with less exercises (advanced or not), that’s what you should do until progress slows up. Those extra exercises aren’t going anywhere.

          • Rifat

            Thanks coach!
            You made me happy! 🙂
            Turns out i am advanced in the exercises but i am only 154 lbs at 5’10″….i need some more mass. So um going to start slowly with the advanced routine,slowly adding exercise and eat more. Am i thinking right coach?

          • Not a bad start, Rifat! But there will be more answers/programs in the upcoming e-book on calisthenics mass I’ll be putting out with Dragon Door. Keep your eyes out for it, it will be based on these blog posts but with plenty of new material. (It’ll be free, too, as our thanks to all you great Dragon Door fans.)

          • Rifat

            Waiting for that eagerly ^_^

  • Pau

    Thank you so much! I have adapted my current program to this. It feels good to train this way too. I just have a question, because I have been devouring both your work and Pavel Tsatsouline’s. I respect both of you a lot, and I am trying to understand how your advice and Pavel’s for building mass fast fit together. You say very few sets with high reps, Pavel says that to become a bear you must do low reps but many, many sets with short rests in between. Does that basically amount to the same type of work? A little bit confused 🙂

    • Pau, I really appreciate the comment and question–thank you.

      I have never tried to hide the fact that I am a fan of Pavel’s. I was in awe of his work and ideas when he was with Dragon Door, and just because he has left Dragon Door, that hasn’t changed. This is especially true when it comes to his approach to pure strength training–like many, I feel that his Naked Warrior is an-all time classic.

      But when it comes to building muscle, we have almost completely opposing philosophies. There aint no way round this and there’s no point in me trying to sugar coat it..

      Which one of us is right? Try both methods and make your mind up!

      • Pau

        Haha, thank you for the very honest answer. For the time being I prefer your method, I do need to put some muscle, though following Convict Conditioning for several months I already have managed to go up from 57kg to 60kg, I hope this method will be even more powerful.

        • CC was always designed to be prison-style–a blend of mass and strength. That said, 7 pounds of beef in a few months is pretty goddam impressive. You are doing something very right, kid!

  • villafan

    Love your stuff Coach, the stuff on nutrition is fantastic and makes we smile when I think of the kids at my local gym who expend more energy mixing up their chemical filled protein shake than on the rest of the whole workout combined. Anyway, if you would be so kind as to share some wisdom I would be forever in your debt. I am currently doing 4 bodyweight workouts per week focussing always on full body, usually with all over body circuits similair to Al Kavadlo’s 5 x5 workout for 5 sets. Since I am trying to achieve gains for strength and size, should I mix this up with alternate days of max reps with bigger rest periods between exercises? Also, an tips for shedding that last ring of stubborn belly fat, it just will not go despite a tough, heart pounding routine. Oh, and I do enjoy my junk alongside the ‘clean’ foods. All these cross fitters and their paleo diet crap irritates me! I am 37, 5ft 8inches and about 78kilos. Thanks brother, you have inspired my training over the last year or so along with Al and Danny. Steve

    • Dude, it sounds like you are pretty densely muscled as it is! Great work. I also agree with your comments…say no more, eh?

      As for meddling about with Al’s program–I won’t do that, out of respect for the Lead Instructor. What I WOULD say is that Al is publishing a strength-based blog next week…your best best would be to ask him. He’s a mine of knowledge on muscle-building, and he can tell you how to tinker with his own routine better than I ever could.

      Thanks for the kind feedback though. It’s great to have you as part of the PCC party, kid!

  • Fascinating–hm. Always giving us more ideas, Carter! I appreciate you posting these.

  • A R

    Hello Coach. I just wanted to say thank you very, very much for all the tips and wisdom you continually share. I’ve benefitted from CC a lot and many of my friends have also ditched the weights and started CC. Thank you.
    I have a couple of requests. Firstly can you describe the technique of the Prison Pushup with the hip twist please? I’m on step 9, and I don’t think I’ll be able to do a strict step 10 pushup anytime soon. I’ve not found a written description of the hip twist OAP anywhere online.
    Secondly, Can you tone the language down please? Your eloquent pen has no need for profanities.
    Thanks for your time.

    • taochi

      Profanities??? ahaahaha
      Mr Wade, DON’T CHANGE ANYTHING, i love your direct language

      • Mark Hermann

        Dido on that !

      • Thanks, you bastard!

        • taochi

          Yeah!!!!!!!!!!!
          Hungry for you next ebook……..and articles……….and book……..

          • Gonna do my best to have the e-book done in a few weeks, just for you bud!!

    • AR,

      hey–step 9 is amazing! Never forget that some of the Master Steps, are intended to be for world elites of bodyweight–the 00.01% club! nobody would get depressed if they couldn’t bench a thousand pounds, right?

      As for the technique, actually there’s a shoulder TWIST and a hip BEND. With the feet together, the hips press out to the side of the body–horizontally–to the side of your pressing arm, bending the body-line and maintaining equilibrium. If you want a video, there are plenty on the net. Minimal hip bend IS possible with enough arm and shoulder strength, as our legendary Lead Instructor proves right here: (1m.01s) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlRCAJbwjMs

      As for the cussing–if my language offends you (or anybody), then I genuinely apologize for it. It’s not my intention, it’s just how I speak. I have a proofer here who censors or covers anything that we formally put out for Dragon Door, but when it comes to blog comments, I write em alone and if some salty language slips out, please forgive your old pal Paul, eh?

      • A R

        Thanks Paul.
        No need to apologise.
        Can you share some thoughts/tips on the way increase in strength without bulking up please? With the goal being something like Bruce Lee’s physique.
        We appreciate you taking time out to reply to us all.

        • My pleasure buddy, and I’m so glad you asked me that! A number of folks have been real interested in this topic–kinda the reverse of this blog post, eh? Being the great man he is, our iconic Lead Instructor Al Kavadlo has made a gesture to the PCC community by writing that exact article–getting strong without getting big!

          It’ll be up next Tuesday and, like all Al’s writings, it is NOT TO BE MISSED by bodyweight athletes, whatever their goals are.

          I may also throw my two cents in, and write up Ten Commandments of Strength Without Mass as an appendix for the upcoming e-book. But Al’s work will be the prime resource.

          • A R

            That would be excellent Coach. I’m looking forward to see what you and Al have to say.
            I’m sorry to keep pestering you, but I have one final question (for now 🙂 ). Following CC and performing the Trifecta seems to have the entire body and the main joints covered, but I seem to have missed your instructions on how to keep the knees strong, supple and pain free as one ages. Can you give some pointers on that please, or better yet, write something detailed on it (unless you already have done so).
            Much appreciated Coach. Thank for your time.

  • Sam

    Greetings from (starting to be a bit cold for outside calisthenics) Finland to all like-minded folks in here! I have been listening to James Browns’s one particular song for couple of weeks now because I really FEEL GOOD when I read this blog and it’s a priviledge to be part of all this, so thanks to you ALL. Only bad thing is that my English is not the best but hopefully you all at least understand something about what I am trying to say and ask. Now to the questions, these are to the mastermind, hope you still got time to answer Paul.

    1, Cadence 2-1-2?

    Do you recommend the Mentzer styled cadence for this kind of training or would you say that the kind of cadence seen in most of Al’s lessons would be good? Or as for an example, the kind of pumping cadence that the great Hannibal for king uses?

    2, Total exercises per workout

    Paul, I know that even your blind friend was able to read and get these things but im still going to ask because I didn’t get this about the number of exercises: “Beginners should have just one or two. Intermediate and advanced, 2-3.”. Are those numbers for exercises per muscle group or all exercises per workout? For example if I would do chest, shoulders & tris today and I would pretend to be advanced, would it be 2-3 exercises for all muscle groups so that total number of exercises would be something in between 6-9? Or would it be 2-3 exercises all muscle groups together per session?

    That’s all, hope you still have the time to answer Paul, like Marklar said, we are just a little greedy. But that cadence question is messing my head too much, so if you can at least answer to that so that I can get out of this freaking office and get some REAL work done.

    • Sam, my bud from Finland! It’s great to hear from you man, and thanks for the comment–your English is better than mine, bro! Let’s see if I can help.

      1. Cadence! Yes–slow, controlled cadence is best for building beef–remember, you are looking to overload the muscles, right? Momentum takes stress off the muscles. (Yes, Mentzer was onto something…however, going slow is not so important as removing momentum.) That said, more advanced guys can use more momentum towards the end of the set–but only when you can’t manage the strict stuff at all.That’s classic bodybuilding cheating, and it works.

      2. Per muscle group/movement type. That said, certainly for beginners and intermediates it’s best to mix and match–if you do three exercises for chest first, you’ll have little left for shoulders and tris, etc. So for the average muscle-builder you are better off focusing on one BIG exercise per muscle group, e.g.:

      CHEST: Pushup chain (2 work sets)
      DELTS: HSPUs (2 work sets)
      TRIS: Leaning extensions (1 work set)

      Then when this is done, mix in some finishers–dips, incline pushups, etc. Maybe one work set after a light warm up.

      Right, that’s enough to get going with. Great questions. Now Sam, get your ass outta that office and go build some inches!!

  • Mark my man! Jeez, it sure sounds like you have made some progress in strength…great work. You ARE a true CCer and have big respect from the Coach!

    Like I say in my last Commandment, the amount of mass you can build in a bodybuilding phase depends on the level of strength you have. So it looks like–if you need a change and want to bulk up–it’s time to switch to a mass-building phase.

    If so, follow these Commandments in a 3-day cycle over a three month period and watch the muscles sprout. Like I said in another comment, I’ll be putting together a full ebook with extra programs and tips to help you guys.

    Thanks for the update, big man!

    • Mark Hermann

      Thanks coach. You have tons of respect going my my way. Your training philosophy is a golden standard for me and has opened my eyes to see how truly weak I really am. I can’t wait to read your ebook. And I absolutely can’t wait for your 3rd CC installment. I can tell by looking at your profile picture that your forearms are giant. I haven’t got there yet but I am working uneven bar hang. I’ve just now been thinking of making it harder by thickening up the towel I use until I can reach the goal time and bump up the width until its practically impossible to grip the towel then just hang from one arm and then drop set to the thickened uneven bar hang. My shoulder girdle seems to be my very weak link. My shoulder inevitably sags almost completely by the end of my second set. So I have been consolidating bar hang shrugs low volume as well as pushup shrugs. Horizontal pull shrugs and dip shrugs. Easy until your principles of form and cadence are being applied. I love experimenting. Thanks coach for the badass inspiration!

      • Really interesting comment, Mark–clearly you have the body wisdom thing going. That’s half the battle, seriously. The mind always is, right?

        Thanks for the comments on the forearms–in fact, my forearms are bigger now in my fifties than they ever were in my thirties or twenties. So much for older dudes not being able to add mass! As long as you look after your hormonal profile–by avoiding steroids and certain medicines–building muscle in your fifties is much, much easier than building strength.

        • Mark Hermann

          What does your grip training day look like? What methods do you use to maintain and grow your forearms?

          • I read years back that the key to superhuman forearms was to unlock the power of every single digit. I vary my training, but once the forearms are red-hot, I do a lot of one-finger hangs and pullups, using a small padded hook over my bar. (You can find these online, but I made mine.) The key is to work through all the fingers if you can, rather than just focusing on the strongest two. Fingertip pushups and thumb pushups, too. I am getting stronger the whole time. Joe always told me that the grip was the last thing to go, but I feel like I’m just starting out!

          • Mark Hermann

            Fuck yeah! That’s all I Have to say. Fuck age right? It’s a mental hurdle.

          • In calisthenics, far more than people realize. FAR more. The current thinking on age and strength-performance has been completely skewed by the presence of performance-enhancing drugs. True, kick-ass strength in the fifties and sixties is not a problem. Many of the old-time strongmen could perform their acts in their EIGHTIES.

            Drug-free athletes of the modern era should forget the bullshit fed to them by the modern, steroid-fueled sporting world, and readjust their attitudes to the old school, SUPERIOR standards.

          • Mark Hermann

            It really is ironic how our modern world is denaturing our species for the past century. We were far stronger and healthier before the agricultural and science revolutions pushed artificial health practices on the population and deemed these things as good for you without major scientific research to back up the claims. The closer we live like our ancestors the better. Recent research proves this to be true. I love progressive calisthenics because it really shines as being perfectly natural way to reap the best physical health a human can possibly attain. Also mentally I do believe in its use to escape the stress from feeling contained out of your control. Love it! Learn how to be all natural in body mind and spirit.

  • Surry Curry

    Thanks Coach! I’ll be sure to follow all of your guidelines, and I’ll let you know how things progress from here on out! Really appreciate the help!

    • Pleasure is mine, homeboy! Go do it.

  • Ava Avane Dawn

    Thanks, will check these out.

  • Leo

    Hey Coach,
    do you mean by jacknife push ups pike push ups (the easier hspu variation),
    or hindu/divebomber push ups? Are Pike Push ups a useful preparation for hspu?
    If yes, when is the time to start them, close push ups?
    Do you know when the hspu dvd will come out?

    • Yo buddy! Nope, by jackknifes I mean this:

      Yeah, pike pushups are a great prep for the handstand pushup…another of life’s gorgeous, tasty progressions. When do you start ’em? If you are good at close pushups and your midsection is strong, you should be ready to go with decline work! But follow this progression to prep your shoulder girdle:

      -Close pushups
      -Decline pushups
      -Pike pushups
      -Low base (knee height) jackknife pushups
      -Jackknife (hip/upper thigh height) pushups

      Hope that answers ya question, kid. I don’t know about the DVD Leo–sorry!

      • Leo

        So jacknife push ups are pike push ups with the feet elevated?

        • Essentially, yeah. In a classic jackknife the torso and legs should form a right angle in the top position, with the legs horizontal. Those are the keys, Leo.

      • Leo

        So jacknife push ups are essentially pike push ups with the feet elevated?

  • MrBoudahas

    I never miss an opportunity to thank you for this knowledge mister Paul wade.

    • I never miss an opportunity to be grateful for such a kind comment. Thanks, Mr Boudahas!

  • Aaqib

    Coach Wade, two brilliant pieces. 🙂
    Young gun here, 20 years old, 5’10”, 185 lbs, approx 13% body fat. Close to being a bull. (:

    Next, my questions.
    1. What’s your height, weight and physical condition as of now, Coach? What are your training priorities in your age? What were your priorities when you were around my age?

    2. I got up to doing 30 Stand to Stand Bridges, but it just slightly increased my muscle tone and had little carryover to other bodyweight feats requiring low back strength. You are a bull too, I think, and you know us bulls stop at nothing. (: I kept bridge holds for mobility, stopped doing stand to stands, and started doing sandbag swings. It had a high carryover to my handstands and planches. What did I do wrong, coach? What bridge variation with what rep range can I use to build unreal back of the body strength?

    3. I’m pretty tall for my country, but I’m a slow grower(still growing). What advice will you give me to keep my spine and body healthy and supple enough to support or accelerate that growth?
    Thanks in advance,
    you might remember me, I’m the only guy from Bangladesh around here.
    Long, happy rest of the life to you coach 🙂
    – Aaqib

    • Hey there,young gun! Great to hear from you Aaqib, buddy. You ARE on the road to bullhood–please keep it up, man! As to those there questions of your

      1. 6’1″ and in pretty good shape for an old bastard. When I was your age I knew pretty much jack shit about training, so you got a head start on me! My training has been similar for years now; my focus these days is on hand balancing and grip strength; plenty of pushups and pullup variations, and one-leg squats to keep those legs strong. Leg raises and bridges too! They put my full workout in the PCC Manual.

      2. If you are looking for bridging to increase tension, try gecko bridge pushups–one arm, one leg. If a stronger (e.g., bodyweight feats) spine is what you are looking for, explore back lever progressions, too.

      3. I LOVE this question. In the old days, there was an entire subsection on calisthenics for height. It was seen as important as muscle growth–and why the hell not? In fact experiences has shown that height can be maintained and even increased by a couple of inches (or more) over time. The keys are:

      -Don’t compress your spine. Avoid regular heavy squats, deadlifts, leg presses, etc. If you run or jump, don’t overdo it.
      -Use good posture daily. Keep your spine elongated (imagine your head is pulled up by a cable) and your chest subtly up and out.
      -Training the discs keep them healthy and regenerating–bridging every week!
      -Decompress the spine after bridging with forward bends.
      -Don’t avoid dairy!

      For more information on this topic, I totally recommend the old manual “Yoga for the Athlete” by Harvey Day–if you can find a copy. There is a chapter on calisthenics for height. Does this work? Most guys lose an inch or so as they get older. I’m the same height I was when I was 21. Bridging.

      Big respect and blessings to you and all the bodyweight athletes in Bangladesh!

      • Aaqib

        Thanks Coach 🙂 That’s some scary, badass training you’ve got going on.
        Gecko bridging, back lever, consistent bridging, don’t avoid dairy. Noted.
        The manual is almost 40 years old. Sorry to plague you again coach, but could you only tell me the name of the poses Harvey day recommended for height? My last significant growth spurt was due to yoga. 🙂
        I inspire more and more people everyday to get strong with cals, and many have borrowed my copies of CC and CC2. See, your blessings count big time! 😀

        • You’re welcome big man–thanks for the kind comments! I read that book years back and was real impressed by it…sadly, like many books it has passed thru my hands as I’ve been to different places. That said, there were:

          1. Standing postures: emphasizing height and upwards stretch
          2. Back bends for health/growth of the spine/discs
          3. Forward bends to stretch out/decompress the discs
          4. Decompression twists

          There may have been others. Harvey Day was a true genius in fitness. Unknown today, sadly.

          A yoga expert like Al Kavadlo would be able to give you more names/ideas regarding the postures. Hit him up on Tuesday on this blog…he’s a great guy and a real master when it comes to mobility.

          Sorry I can’t be more specific!

          • Aaqib

            You’re welcome 🙂 The standing poses are new to me. The last 3, surprisingly, reflect the CC2 trifecta. o_O
            It makes me sad too. Yoga masters such as this should be well-respected.
            Thank you, Coach. Got it, Ask Al about Yoga.

            It’s okay, Coach, you gave me your best and I appreciate it. 🙂

          • Not to give anything away, but all you guys looking to master the secrets of bodyweight style mobility/yoga, may be in luck pretty soon. Keep checking back with Dragon Door–something real exciting coming your way, that’s all I can say kids, so please don’t ask any more!

  • Gabor

    Hi Coach!

    I’m a truely minimalist person who rather choose the simple and functional things, solutions than the complicated and functional ones. I discovered the beauty of exercising only just little more than two and half years ago (now I’m 28) thanks for your cc system. I was really a beginner in this field, since then I’ve got almost the good behaviour level. Is it a good approach to stick at the master 6 and not trying anything else, because I like to stay at functional and simplest things and I feel I can never get bored on these? My development has been continuous yet (the jackknife pullup is 3×17 but the horizontal one is the same if I count only the almost perfect reps) and I really hope it will stay continuous. I’m very skinny 180 cm 59 kg but I just do workouts and appreciate the small results. So sticking at the master 6?
    thanks for your answer.

    Gabor

    • Gabor! Great to hear from you my friend. First up, it is a great honor to me that CC began your training career, and the fact that you have made contstant progress over a year and a half is just wonderful. Well done–most guys in the gym stall after three months. I’m serious.

      Your question is of great interest to me, because–the more I learn about training–the more of a minimalist I become myself. Training is very much an individual thing, Gabor. It’s not really individual because of our physiology, but because of psychology. IF what you are doing is working, and you aren’t sick of it, you DON’T gotta change it. The Big Six is an AMAZING training curriculum.

      That said, there will probably come a time when you get bored. When that happens, it’s okay to change things. It doesn’t even matter if changing things makes your training progress slower…I always say it’s better to train with crummy workouts than not at all.

      Hope that helps! Paul

      • Gabor

        Thank you Paul for your answer that I really appreciate. It strengthened me in training on the Big Six to one time getting to master steps of them.

        • You can do it, Gabor. You have many years of getting super-strong ahead of you–you will NOT regret the journey.

  • Gabor

    I’ve made a mistake, I haven’t been working out for two and half years but one and a half. I’m a very patient guy but in that case my progress would be too slow.

  • What power!

    Who needs dumbbells, eh? Love it, respect to the man!

    • Mark Hermann

      Awesome that’s badass to see. How would you judge his approach to doing the OAHSPU?

      • Mark, I would also like to see him going from the top, not as a shot at his form but because I’m convinced it would actually make the movement EASIER for him, super-strong though he already is.

        Starting with the negative really jacks up the nervous system in advance of a tough attempt. A pullup is a great bodyweight example. Powerlifters understand this–beginning at the bottom is ALWAYS harder. You gotta stretch the spring to compress the spring!

  • BigDan

    Hey Coach,

    It’s Big Dan here. The stickfighting martial artist. We conversed on several occasions via e-mail (I was the one who made the comment about eating a meal withing 2hours and 38 minutes after your workout shtick). Anyway, I just wanted to say that CC is still very much part of my life as an athlete and as a martial artist. I cannot comment enough on how strong and agile it made me (at 45!). Oh and yeah…packing on some beef also (my girlfriend thanks you). I am a bodyweight athlete for life and that is thanks to you. I sincerely mean that. I’ve actually converted some fellow martial artists to CC to help them in training.

    I am still doing Good Behavior and am on level 5 1/2 on most exercises (with the exception of shoulders – level 3) The reason I say half is because I am making the hidden steps as much a part of the CC curriculum for all my workouts (example – every workout, I bring the hands closer by an inch on push ups eventually morphing it to step 6). If you recall in one of the e-mails, I spoke about isometrics and ending a workout session with them. I’ve come to realize that my reserves were so taxed that I would be sore for days which cut in to my recovery time because Iso’s can be so intense. I haven’t let go of isometrics altogether but rather perform a very quick 5 minute session on non-workout days – tense certain body parts for 7 seconds. The results have been amazing as my strength has gone up and I am able to perform my reps with better form on my workout days. Just 2 days of quick but intense iso’s are doing the trick for me so far.

    I also remember your recommendation of the book “Naked Warrior” by Pavel and have since bought it. I use GTG type exercises on my off days as well and it works like a charm.

    Question for you, Coach: although I’ve become more agile, any tips or tricks I could use for more speed work? I understand this is part of CC3 if I recall but could you help a stickfighting martial artist out? Just a hint? Pleeeeeease?

    All kidding aside, I cannot thank you enough for bringing CC to light. It has helped me in every which way as an athlete. I consider you a mentor.

    Thanks again, Coach!

    By the way, is the e-mail still a good way to get in touch with you for questions or is this the best place?

    BigDan

    • Big Dan, my main man! Hey, long time since we’ve talked, how you been? Of course I remember ya, it’s great to hear from you again. Yep, you can still contact me through my email. Like I always say, I WILL answer everyone who emails me, but it may take time. Writing these blogs has put me way behind, so apologies to anyone who gets a late reply. I will get there in the end!

      Thanks so much for all your kind comments here, my friend. It honestly means so much to me that you have devoted your training career to bodyweight methods–and it means even more that you are spreading the word and recruiting others. If everyone here just recruited ONE friend to the calisthenics cause, and they recruited a friend….we could convert the world.

      I’m glad you got The Naked Warrior–it should be on everyone’s shelf, bodybuilder or not. You progress sounds very inspiring, and I’m sure the isometrics have played a role in that. Isometrics teach the body to “brace”, which is the old word for “high-tension training” which is all the rage these days. (I’m gonna mention it in the mass-building ebook we put out.)

      As for speed tips–I can’t give this stuff away until CC3 comes out! But I can do one better. When the book gets published, email me and I’ll send you a free review copy–be great to have an opinion from a martial artist such as yourself!

      It’s an honor to mentor you, kid. Go do some pushups.

      Paul

      • BigDan

        Wow! I would be honored and am very much looking forward to reading CC3. I have a feeling I won’t be able to put it down.

        In the meantime, take care coach.

        BigDan

  • Thanks Karma–I really appreciate that you enjoyed the DVDs. John and I put a lot of work into em!

    I don’t have any copies of the logbook, Karma, but I know Dragon Door send out review copies to professionals like yourself. Email support@dragondoor.com and they’ll pass any requests onto the boss.

    Again–thanks a million for your support!

  • Leo

    Hey Paul,
    I´m not sure wether to stretch the legs out at the end, or keep them bent the whole time on step 2 and 3 of leg raises in cc. Which is more productive?
    Leo

    • Always look at the leverage, Leo my man. When the legs are the weight you’re liftin, then straightening them increases their length as levers making the exercise tougher. A tougher exercise is more productive, so: straighter legs = more productive leg raises!

  • Julie C

    Hi Coach! I just wanted to say thanks for your great posts. I have written on here before and everyone always answers all my questions, which I appreciate!

    I am in a little bit of a different boat than most on this site. I am a mother of four and pregnant with my fifth. I am doing a mixture of training from your original book “Convict Conditioning” and trying to incorporate kettlebells through Pavel’s book “Enter The Kettlebell”.

    This question is totally off the subject, but I want to be able to master all six power moves in your book. Do you know of any woman who has done so? Also, do you know of or could suggest a writer/site/blog etc that has info for bodyweight training for us preggo ladies out there. I don’t want a water downed silly woman site, which seems to be the trend. I appreciate your no-nonsense straight forward approach and would like that kind of site/info for training while I am pregnant. Thanks for your time!

    • Julie!

      Wow, it’s so great to have another mother-to-be as part of our PCC community! Welcome to the both of ya!

      Sadly, training pregnant ladies is definitely NOT my area of expertise. I’m more used to working with stinky, hairy, tattooed goombahs. But if you are looking for wisdom from a fellow female who kicks ass and takes names with kettlebells and bodyweight, then there is only one serious choice! http://www.giryagirl.com/

      That said, I do know this–females respond just as well to strength calisthenics as men. There are several reasons for this. Some of it has to do with the fact that calisthenics is about proportional strength, and men are generally lighter than their ball-laden counterparts. Some of it has to do with the natural joint mobility females enjoy (and which increases during pregnancy). A lot of it is due to simple aesthetics; women are more drawn to body movement (think dance, gymnastics) than big, ugly, rusty weights.

      As for the Master Steps, there are numerous female contenders. I often talk about the achievements of old time male athletes, but I’m guilty of neglecting the women of the field, who were just as amazing–or more. Lillian Leitzel (born 1890s) was an acrobat at Barnum’s circus who could bust out nearly thirty one-arm pullups. The 19th Century Welsh strongwoman Vulcana could allegedly perform a one-arm handstand pushup. (At age 13 she also wrestled down and captured a runaway stallion!) So yes–a woman CAN get there.

      YOU can get there!

      • Julie C

        Thanks Coach!!! I will definitely look up the site. Once I get to master all big six you’ll definitely be hearing from me. 🙂

  • Sean

    Hi Coach,
    Big admirer of your stuff, reading it is like a breath of fresh air. Love this site and keep close tabs on it. I hope I don’t commit forum suicide by asking this here, since this is about bodyweight, but I am curious of your thoughts on using a weighted vest in terms of scaling bodyweight exercises? Now I know there is more than enough hard work to be done just following the CC plan without it, but the thought did cross my mind with all this talk of adding mass using bodyweight as another possible acceptable way of doing it. In a way it would allow one to quantify their progress by the increments of weighted bars they add as they go while attempting to master a technique. Also I thought it seemed synergistic since you wear it like its your own bodyweight anyhow( Not much diff if you were equally overweight in the beginning instead right?). Of course you’d have to be cautious since the tendons won’t be as used to the added weight in the beginning. Maybe the only acceptable piece of equipment that might get an “iron implement” pass with hard core bodyweight fanatics (tongue in cheek)? Long story short, I got one myself and plan to use it with the CC philosophy to add a further challenge after I feel i’ve “mastered” some of the techniques without it to create an endless way of challenging myself with this program. I imagine tho this flys in the face of what this all stands for, which is its not necessary to have gimmicks to build strength. Which I don’t disagree with either and have experienced since I started the bodyweight journey. When I was injured all I could do was upper bodyweight exercises like rows, dips, and push ups etc. When I returned to the gym I felt stronger using the weights than I had pre injury, having not touched a single weight the entire time, and suddenly couldn’t find a valid reason to continue to go to the gym when I got stronger with out it. This experience plus discovering your material helped me to shift my priorities to bodyweight as my foundation. Keep up the great effort, thanks in advance….

    Sean

    • Sean! Hey man, great to have you here. Don’t ever feel bad about asking questions, they are all good!

      …But you already know my answer, right?

      You don’t need a vest. In fact, far from helping athletes, weighted vests hold them back. Instead of moving from an exercise they can perform–to a tougher step–vest-users just sling on the vest and stay with the same exercise, never blossoming or increasing their skill-base by exploring newer, more difficult techniques. Vests also screw up your form–maybe only slightly, but they do.

      That said–many other trainers will disagree. If your heart says play with the vest do it–you might have some fun. But do you NEED it? Nah!

      I’m glad you are moving into bodyweight–and stronger than ever, post-injury. What can I say cept I’m proud of ya, Sean!

      • Sean

        Thanks Coach,

        It’s a rare thing that someone who has created something so popular and show such respect to those that appreciate it. Creates a very welcoming fellowship and I feel it a privilege to be a recognized part of it by you thank you.

        Yes I did anticipate your response (but I thought I’d be smart and try anyways 😉 but your point was well made. Further to the matter I also recently spoke with a 25 yr combat veteran friend, who trained greenies for combat, say essentially the same thing; master the basics first then look at augmentation later. But….

        If you could forgive me for expressing my last view on this point for the purposes of learning. I guess i was thinking that if one chooses a harder progression for the disadvantaged leverage to increase difficulty then a vest would negate the need for such would it not? Meaning if mass is the goal and not skill development. Isn’t a lot of the difficulty when you switch to a harder progression in the beginning mostly due the neurological learning of the skill. So that in the beginning if mass is what you were trying to achieve (using a particular skill) wouldn’t it have to take a back seat till the neuro patterns were established? For example it seemed to me that until I could do more than a few pull ups in a row I didn’t see much change physically (establishing the groove). Now that I can do a few sets I can see the physical changes (groove established, adding mass). That may be very simplistic but its just how it seems to me. Why wouldn’t it make sense to continue to milk the same skill just with added external weight, neuro patterns already established, for the purposes of adding mass? If I was to guess is it because there can always be an intermediate skill option that can be performed that would accomplish the same goal without the use of external items as you may of mentioned?

        Regardless this isn’t a rant against any method here by no means nor do I represent any such interests in the making of said items. I’m also aware no one is saying I can’t do what floats my boat. Just a curious mind that is trying to learn more on the subject and I promise my last. I’m all for what this site represents and willing to follow the already plentiful sage advice I have received. I fear I may have belaboured the point already. Great articles here and I too am eagerly awaiting the ebook and CC 3. I’m expecting my mind to be severely bitch slapped after reading them. In fellowship…

        Sean

        • Sean–a great, great point eloquently and intelligently made.

          I certainly see what you are saying. To me, a vest is a waste. It’s just more efficient to develop neurological skill and mass TOGETHER if you can. Remember, the tenth commandment is to get strong–the better your neurological capacity, the more you can stress out those muscles!

          …but your point is excellently made. We may just hafta agree to disagree, before you outsmart old Paul!

  • Simeon Reigle

    Coach,
    Just wanted to thank you for another great article.
    I would really be interested in more info about training for some mass but aslo developing skill. Keep up the good work.
    Future Pheonix

    • Simeon. my friend! Thanks for the feedback–I’ll be packing more mass-building tips, programs and info into the upcoming Dragon Door ebook. Keep a look out for it (sign up for Dragon Door announcements), coz that sucker will be coming atcha for FREE, as a thanks to the PCC community!

      • Lee

        Hi Coach!

        Any update on this ebook?

        Thanks,

        Lee

  • xgeryx

    Hi Coach, Thank you this is weill-rounded, very informative article. I’ve got both CC1 & CC2 books.Currently I’m nursing a shoulder injury, but definitely plan to get back to them cals, easing my way back in on wall push-ups. After reading this 2 part article and the “Building Strength Without Mass” something just clicked and switched on that imaginary light bulb above my head. If I start connecting the dots it’s clear that CC progressions are well designed to give both the mass building and strength building period in my training depending on which one is needed exactly at the current stage. The best thing about it that it comes naturally. For instance you have the pull-ups progression. You will have to complete 2 x 10 perfect close pull-ups to take the next step in uneven pull-ups. You see what I mean? You will build strength (lower reps) to get to the next step while you’ll also be working on previous steps or the current step (higher rep numbers) which in turn will build mass too. Now it’s just a matter of a training log to measure progress.

    • You got it, Gery!

      One of the beauties of CC-style training (I discuss this in the SUPER FAQ) is the natural, unforced cycling you get. You begin any movement-type with higher reps to learn good form, co-ordination, and to condition the joints. The lower reps come later. Even within a given technique (say, pullups), you are cycling…you begin with the beginner standard, lower reps, which build strength, tendon integrity and neural efficiency. Over time you add reps, and with this comes more and more muscle, when the body is hormonally prepared for it. Eventually, reps get high enough to even test the energy systems, building stamina and circulatory fitness in some cases.

      This is not my idea, of course; it’s how many of the old-time calisthenics masters trained–for reasons you point out.

      Great comment Gery–please stick around!

      Paul

      • xgeryx

        Hey Coach, Thanks for your time and the thorough reply. You bet I will stick around. Just work my way back in to calisthenics. Greetings from Hungary!

  • κάλλος+σθένος

    Lol, Stallone’s one arm pushups in Rocky are flawless compared to this.

  • Nico

    Hey Al,
    dont really understand the critics. I’m allways impressed by your chest devellopment.
    but in you article: “i’m not a gymnast” you state that they do excersices as a warmup that you consider hard but gymnasts allways apear bulky to me. is the isea that you should be fairly small maybe a purely psychological thing?

    Nico

  • Jufa

    Hello Coach,

    I have a problem that is really bothering me. I don’t know if there’s something I didn’t understand or managed to miss in CC, or maybe its my genetics..

    Here’s the problem: Pushups won’t develop my chest no matter what I do. I am about 6’3″ tall and weight around 190 pounds. I met the beginner standard for step 10 (one-arm pushup) couple months ago but my chest is still … how to say.. underdeveloped. I feel pushups working my arms and anterior deltoids but I never feel them working my chest.

    I’ve always had flat chest and I really want to make it bigger. I also tried to do dips twice a week, two sets of 8 reps to tire out my arms, followed by pushups, to make my chest work more instead of my arms (as someone suggested). No luck. I have never even felt any kind of stretch in my pecs when doing pushups, like some people say they feel.

    I’ve dropped down back to step 5 and I am really trying to hone my technique to activate pecs during pushups. I’ve asked different people to check out my technique but they haven’t found any major errors. Everyone suggested different hand positions or weights, but I don’t wanna touch weights…

    Are my front deltoids and arms stealing the workload from my chest, since they seem to be getting bigger while pecs remain the same? I’ve tried many different hand positions and pushup variations without luck.

    I don’t know what to do.

    Help me.

    Please.

    • Jufa! My man!

      No pecs, no sex, right? But don’t worry, I can put ya back on the path. Follow my advice and you’ll have armor plates instead of two aspirins in no time.

      First up, your problem is fairly uncommon. Most tall guys have longer than average arms. These act as longer levers, forcing more load onto their origin point, the pecs. This is why tall bodybuilders–like Arnold and Ferrigno–tend to have better pecs than shorter guys, like Larry Scott and Lee Priest.

      That said, I have worked with tall men who have had your problem–not many, but certainly one or two. You have pretty much realized why this problem has occurred; your front shoulders and triceps are taking all the load in your pressing exercises. Once this imbalance occurs, you get stuck in a vicious cycle: the more pressing (pushup, dips, etc) you do, the stronger your shoulders and arms get, and the more of the work they do, and so on.

      How do you solve this? TEN ways:

      1. You need to build up your neurological and circulatory/mind-muscle links to your pecs. This is essential for them to grow. To do this, you need to isolate your pectorals (otherwise the shoulders and tris will take over. The best exercises:

      -Towel flyes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8n1RnAM29hU build up range of motion, form and reps over time.

      -Wide pushups. I mean WIDE! I don’t care how short the range is, it aint a contest.

      -Depth pushups–between two chairs, focusing on the bottom half only.

      -One-arm side pushups: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9jn9fbJmGE

      2. Specialize. Pick one or two of these isolation exercises (the ones you FEEL most) and work them twice per week. Cut back on the regular presses to allow the chest to catch up.

      3. Build volume. You need those reps to build the nervous connections and circulatory capacity in your chest–without those, no muscle will grow. Work up (over weeks and months!) to five sets of 25 reps on each two exercises.

      4. Perfect form always–cheat and the stronger delts and tris will take over!

      5. Mind-muscle connection–“listen” to your exercises and learn to FEEL the pecs working. When your pecs get sore the next day, squeeze them–learn to love the feeling! I want a direct line from your pecs to your SOUL, okay?

      6. Pre-exhaust. Whenever you DO do your regular pushups, use only two work sets, and perform them IMMEDIATELY after a pec isolation exercise (for 6-10 reps). This will ensure that pushups give your pecs MORE work than the shoulders and tris.

      7.Effort, kid! Specialize like this for 3-6 months–give it your all! Those pecs will sprout, I promise.

      8. Dip. You are correct that the downward motion of dips really work the pecs hard–better, even than pushups, which favor the arms and shoulders. Look at Al Kavadlo–despite his low bodyweight, he has remarkably thick, standout chest muscles. Why? The muscle-ups he does, which are a form of advanced dipping. (He is the “Monarch of Muscle-Ups, after all.) Once you quit the specialization, drop the pushups (or scale em back) and begin working on dipping progressions, using all your newfound mind-muscle connection to zone the load right onto those pecs.

      9. Breathe! The pecs are attached to the ribcage. Not only will breathing correctly fill your muscles with oxygen, a deep breath before a positive will enhance your pecs pushing power–by 10% or more. (Bench pressers all understand this. Research their method and apply it to bodyweight.) Not to mention that deep breathing expands the ribcage, making that chest look even bigger! All the old timers devoted hours in their schedule to deep breathing, for this very reason.

      10. Believe. There are a gazillion stories of bodybuilders turning their shittiest bodypart into their best one. Next year your pecs will be bustin outta your shirt, brother!!

      Paul

  • Paul John Wade

    Wouldn’t know the names my brother, and I wouldn’t want to misrepresent the great man’s work!

    Thanks for spreading the word, Aaqib!!

  • Dude! Sorry for the late reply. Disqus can randomly put comments in the “pending” box and we were slow moderating this–my bad!

    -Glad you are getting it on the reggo! That’s my boy…
    -You CAN combine them…as I say, there is benefit in volume. But keep an eye on progress. Don’t overtrain or start dreading training.
    -Cut the volume and intensity. DO NOT go back!
    -Yep, that’s pre-exhaust brother. Post-exhaust is also good for size (the isolation exercise after the compound exercise) but not in your case.
    -Breathe in during the neg–full breath at the top–exhale forcibly during the positive. Take more breaths at the top or bottom where required. Oxygen is your friend while pumping up!

    Hope this helps, big fella! Please let me know your amazing results…

  • taochi

    Hi coach, i have a question
    I use a very simple but effective method to progress in pistol and one arm push up: using the power rack, start at higher levels and lowering progressively (like naked warrior/pavel tsatsouline). It’s very simple, you learn the specific technique and i’m improving very fast!
    For the pull ups, i’m at the close pull ups, and i’m trying to find a way similar to pistol and one arm pushups, to start immediately with one arm pullups, and find a way to progress. I don’t know, for example: one arm jacknife with two feet elevated, then one feet……i don’t know…. Give me some ideas coach

    • Sounds like you are building depth over time. This is something I also mentioned in CC, and in the modern era can be traced back to one of the strongest mothers who ever lived–Paul Anderson.

      In jails athletes often used stacks of books as markers of depth–on one-arm pushups get your chest down to a stack of books, then remove a book, etc. Use objects for one-leg squats…your bunk, then a low coffee table maybe with books on it…etc. Don’t forget to warm up well if you are trying this though. Lots of blood in those joints to protect em!

      For one-arm pullups, howabout:

      -Jackknife
      -One-leg jackknife
      -Easy assisted one-arm (assisting with two extra fingers over the bar)
      -Assisted one-arm (holding side of the rack)

      Remember also that a proper one-arm is typically angled, side-on to the bar. Don’t neglect this during early stages or your bod will be confused later on. Hope this helps!

      • taochi

        Yes coach, i love this simple method, because i don’t like the concept “assisted”, it is difficult to manage, measure and determine progression of the force you put on the arm/leg that assist.
        So, two leg jacknife, one leg jacknife….and then…
        The concept in this case (one arm pull) is to add progressively WEIGHT, but after one leg jacknife what could i do?
        Always…thanks so much coach

        • The hand assists! First two fingers, then one hand on the side strut of the pullup apparatus….

  • JohnS

    Hi Coach! I’m new to your blog. I found it while searching for
    solutions to muscle/strength gaining without being part of the hype
    around gyms. I’m a university state employee, so of course I shouldn’t
    even try to afford a gym membership anyway. 🙂 I was reading your posts,
    and I want to say most of what you write really intrigues me. I was so
    nervous after reading and being involved with many forums and posts
    from others trying to tell me it would be a waste of my time engaging in
    Calisthenics. They argue it’s all good warm-ups but to gain some
    muscle and become stronger you need to hit the gym, period. I’m not too
    Knowledged of body mechanics, except for how to use certain motions in
    martial arts. I got involved with that after a few run-ins with
    people. I decided I needed to gain some muscle and strength if the
    training was to pay off, but again could not and really don’t want to
    have to join a gym. So blessed be I when I found your blog! So far I’m
    loving what I read. Now I guess wheat I need to do is actually try
    some things out. I’m not completely new to this, I have just SOME
    experience, but my question to you Sir is if I wanted to start kinda
    anew, since I’m prone to always injure my shoulder/cuff/tendon in my
    arm, what’s the best way going about that?

    I know this
    is a long post, and I’m so sorry. I want to make sure I start again
    properly without re-injuring myself. I have a tendency to either pull
    or bruise or slightly tear my muscles in my let arm and shoulder when I
    do pullups and push ups. Yea, I’m a nerd even at fitness, HA! One in
    every group I suppose. Any advice you are willing to offer would be
    wonderful. I understand you are busy however, and I completely respect
    that. If you do get this, then thank you very much for your time!! God
    Bless!

    John.

    • John! welcome to the PCC community, kid! Great to have you here. You sure came to the right place…

      You can begin bodyweight with a shoulder injury–in fact, if you start right the movements will help heal your shoulder. A lot of guys constantly reinjure their shoulders with pullups and pushups. Why? coz the exercises are too hard for them. They are straining.

      I recommend that you commit FOUR MONTHS to working on progressions which lead up to pullups and pushups. For pullups:

      -Vertical pulls
      -Australian pullups (high then low bar)
      -Jackknife pullups
      -One-leg jackknife pullups

      For pushups:

      -Wall pushups
      -Incline pushups
      -Kneeling pushups
      -Half pushups

      Take it slow, and work the exercises twice a week–religiously. Maintain plenty of mobility in your shoulders with gentle circles, then teacups and Egyptians when your shoulders strengthen.

      Too easy? Great! You can spend the rest of your time over the four months working your legs and abs really hard, as well as throwing in some double-tough martial arts work!

      You can do this John, no worries. Hit me up with any more questions.

      Paul

  • dhairya

    HI Paul Wade,
    After practicing your trifecta as in convict conditioning 2, I am still having some problems…
    First is that I don’t feel any stretch in the back while doing L-sit, so my back remains a little tight after the bridges and second is that My groin flexibility is very poor, I am barley able to sit on chairs with knees together. Main problem is that I am poorly able to sit in the squats position in the Indian toilets… But I am able to do squats. Do you have any solution…?
    Thanks in advance..

    • Dhairya, great to hear from ya pal! You don’t need a huge stretch after bridges buddy. If your back is tight, you can walk it off. (Also, if your groin muscles were tight, your legs would be pulling together, not apart.)

      If you can barely do squats, the solution is…do more squats!

      When you can do more squats, the patterning becomes easier. So do them harder–bring the feet closer.

      And if that don’t work you can always crap standing up.

      • Dhairya

        Thank you,Paul…
        THIS is the place where I lack mobility……!
        > I cant specify the area but somewhere between the legs, something makes me unable to join “bent” knees even if my feet touching together.
        > [Imagine–I do hanging knee raises – my feet touch but my knees remain wide apart…on the topmost phase]
        >even if i sit to do a close squat my feet would be together but not the knees.?
        THIS is the place where I lack mobility..!
        Thank you for your support ,Thank You.

        • Muscles pull, my dude. That means that your tightness aint in the groin but the outer thigh. This is often the hips, or the IT band. The IT band can get tight when you’ve been injured in the knee, when you run, walk, stand or even sit too much.

          Try these killer stretches every other day for 4 weeks: http://www.knee-pain-explained.com/iliotibial-band-stretches.html

          They will help!

          • dhairya

            Thank you Paul very very much for your support..
            Yes I sit too much… for reading, I am in 12th std and these are last 6 months for hard study Before I get admission in the medical.. Still I get 30 minutes each day to practice hard calisthenics..!

  • grimmjow jaggerjaques

    hi , i have a question.
    with the pullups stage 2 horizontal pulls. the doorway which i put my bar on is too narrow for overhand grip. is underhand grip horizontal pulls ok?

    thanks

    • It is, grimm–but prepare for some pretty huge biceps over the next few months…

      Finish with some one-arm overarm horizontal hangs my friend, just to keep the overarm muscles beefed, okay?

  • Leo

    Hey Coach,
    I’m at horizontal pull ups and they work well.
    My Back and biceps are strong enough to handle it, not so my forearms and grip.
    What should I do to strenghten it, because you mentioned, I shouldn’t bother with specific grip work. So maybe eagle claws?
    Also, any ideas on how to build big jaw muscles?
    Leo

    • Leo, as for the horizontal pullups–keep doing them. Just them, alone. If your grip is failing, that means your grip is the weak link. Therefore, for you, horizontal pulls are already a grip exercise! So why add more? Just increase those numbers, kid. Trust me, grip stamina is built VERY easily. Do NOT do what bodybuilders do and work your back/biceps beyond grip failure (using supersets, wrist straps, etc) as that will only make your weak link (your grip) more pronounced.

      As for big jaw muscles, Jack Dempsey (the Manassa Mauler!) used to chew wood! (He spat it out, of course….and hey, I’m not advising you try this!) combined with plenty of wrestler’s bridges, this regime made him un-knockoutable…

  • Ruben

    A couple questions Coach Wade

    1) You mentioned that 12-15 reps is a good range for building muscle. But when your doing “low skill” movements like push ups and squats your rep range can go above 40. Are you still building muscle and causing hypertrophy with reps over 40?

    2) Also I’m planning to do 2 work sets per exercise. How long should I rest in between my 2 work sets in order keep the chemical energy levels low.

    • Ruben, my man!

      1-Unlikely. That’s endurance, kid. If you want muscle just use tougher progressions that will drop yer reps into the right range. Exercises can be hard–like one-arm pushups–and still fairly low skill, remember. To me, “high skill” involves a lot of extra balance, extra coordination. A one-arm elbow lever requires much more skill than a one-arm pushup, but the one-arm pushup is harder.

      2-Really interesting question. This plan is a good idea, by the way. I like to rest long enough to let the energy levels build up some again before hitting it–a few minutes, or before you start to get cold. Other calisthenics guys I’ve worked with do what you say, and reduce rest times to just moments. (In the sixties they used to call this “racing the pump”.) The latter method certainly works for muscle gain, but I think longer rests are better because they allow for better performance, which builds strength.

      Good luck and let me know your results, kid.

  • dhairya

    HI Coach Paul, I am here again! with problem of prison diet…
    My work has started and I experience many uneasiness whit my diet schedule.
    I can eat three times – morning 7 am, noon at 1 pm and evening at 8 pm. Here i have problem with my last meal as I cant take it before 6 pm. My stomach feels full at the time of sleeping and cant enjoy night with empty stomach as it have many benefits like detox and fat loss over the night period. So how to enjoy those benefits?
    Are there any Basic Guide lines about diet which I can follow at any time and enjoy benefits which I enjoy in your “prison” diet ie. Detox and Fat loss.!

    • Great to hear from ya, my dude. As you know, I’m not a huge fan of going to sleep on a full stomach. But your body will adapt to this schedule you have. Eating at 1pm means your gut has a full 7 hours to detox and empty.

      It can work, kid. You don’t gotta be slavish to the Prison Diet–the whole point of it is to show you that you can achieve great strength even with a crummy diet! So don;t fret. Train hard and enjoy that evening meal. Sounds like you earn it, brother.

  • Nathan

    I’m not gonna skip the compliments… Dude. This post made my day. I was starting to get super discouraged about my calisthenics workout (it’s starting to stalemate) and i saw this post right in the nick’ o’ time before i was about to lose it and just give up. I actually saw an article mentioning you a few weeks back, but never went to this website (bad mistake!). So thanks man, this is just awesome (you can tell i’m speechless eh?). And if you’d be so kind as to help me out, it’d mean all more the world to me bro! So, a little bio of my own… About six months ago i came to the realization i needed to work out. I liked the idea of weights, but they weren’t for me, i felt too textbook and mainstream you could say. Well, i found the world of calisthenics rather interesting and decided to give it a shot. Upon starting a push-up program, i found, to my great discouragement, that i couldn’t do. One. Freaking. Push-up. From miserable that day on i trained hard 3 days a week to improve. I was gonna master the push-up. Well, six months and 20 lbs lighter (started out 180 lbs.- i’m 6’2″ btw) i can thankfully say i can drop and give 20 anywhere i am. Things like this forum really inspire me to not stop, or get discouraged, and keep on pushing and pulling my way to the top! No matter how hard it gets or how i feel about myself. This was the motivation i needed to push on. But, my question to you is…

    My calisthenics workout has ground to a halt. I just realized the other day, i had been doing the same amount of sets and reps for over a month.. about freaked me out. I workout mon/wed/fri and i start off with 3 sets of 8 chin ups each, followed by 3 sets of 6 pull ups each (i rest a minute between sets, and 2 minutes between exercises- same rest cocept for push ups). Then, i do 3 sets of 10 reps each of close grip push ups, followed by 3 sets of 10 reps each for wide push ups (using an iron gym- what are your thoughts on that- i personally use it cuz it seems to tighten my chest more) then lastly i use (you might hate this) 3 sets, 10 reps each of normal width using the Perfect Push-up… Your thoughts on that too? haha. Here’s my real question though- what the heck do i do now?? Should i start doing (like you said) 2 sets of let’s say… 15 push ups, instead of 3 sets of 10? I wanna be the “bull”. i’m 6’2″ and 160 lbs (btw i’m 16) so i have the body to become one. Should i focus on less sets of more reps? Sorry for the long post man, i just dont know what to do now, i’ve hit a plateau! i wanna keep going forward but as of now, i’ve hit the dead end. Thanks again man!!!!

    • Nathan! Great to have you here with us, my friend!

      First up, you dropped 20lbs and mastered the pushup…YOU THE MAN! Got stale, huh?

      Time for a change. I recommend six days per week training–low volume. Pick six of your favorite exercises (the “Big Six” is a great start!) and hit them hard, one exercise a day. That’s all.

      The reduced frequency will amp up your energy levels and motivation and you cannot fail to improve radically. Trust me. One warm up set, a little mobility, than BANG, short and sharp for two sets. Don’t let reps go too high–maybe ten reps on the first set, eight on the second. Get beyond that, and you can move to harder exercises, okay?

      The first half of the work sets should be strict as hell, but you get some wiggle room on the second half. Increase by at least one rep each time you train. More, if you can do it clean. After your two work sets, do one more set for a “variant” exercise which works the same bodypart. (So, if you are doing close pushups on pushup day, try divebombers, or pushups between chairs…get it?)

      Eat well, sleep well, and give this program 3 months–no more.

      Hit me up if you need help…or better yet, your massive progress!

  • vkv

    Hey Coach!!
    1.About commandment X. You say building strength and muscle side by side is beneficial. I understand. I just dont understand one thing though. You say 12-15 or sets of 20 is nice for building muscle and 40 or 50 is for endurance. But then what do you mean by high reps if 40 is not high enough when compared to 20?
    2.Another thing is, if i can improve my strength by improving my skill, then how can i improve my muscle size if i have to keep to basic exercises? I mean how can i make things harder? Is there any sort of principle or technique that i can do or use to make basic exercises harder? Lets take dips for example. Normal dips then i can progress to russian dips. This is done for strength. If i wanted muscle I can do high reps for two sets for dips. Then how do i make normal dips harder?
    3.I need your opinion on this one. You surely must have heard about batman. I’m a great fan of him. I was wondering, as far as the comics state, batman made himself to reach physical limits of a human. In the sense, he was very atheletic, strong, and also muscular (though not that big buffed like hulk, just decently like the spartans or the greek god statues). How should a person train to reach physical limits and perfection? Give me some pointers.
    Thanking you in advance
    vkv

  • Dahvid

    Hi Paul,

    I’m having trouble with the whole sets and reps thing. I’m relatively new to the whole “working out” thing and I just want to know how to learn about how many set/reps I should do each time I work out and how I can adjust them when I need to.

    Thanks

    • dhairya

      HI coach, I have problem for the same topic:-

      I have read your gr8 books, and these few days i was reading a book about MAXALDING(muscle control). I was by great Maxsick.
      The book states some of the following sentences…
      “… that strength in its essence is a condition of consciousness and that all exercises are mere means.” Also “do just as much exercise as you feel you can conveniently manage at each par­ticular bout, never forcing or straining the muscles, but just coaxing them into supple­ness and control.”
      “Perform each exercise slowly and carefully, as soon as you feel that the muscles you are employing have been thoroughly exercised, but not fatigued, completely relax them.”
      “Aim always for perfection in the performing of each exercise, for correct perform­ ance is of greater importance than repetition.”

      Now again the question arise in my mind Coach- How much to do?

      But intuitively I feel that to do any exercise(from cc) I perform them for slow pace and low reps (with focus and control) until I can progress to the next progression and perform next exercise with little ease..

      By the way How to perform exercises for gaining strength..?OR how to gain strength? A silly question though 😉
      THANKS,

  • Wilfred

    Hi coach!

    I train mwf every week and then rest on thursday then train again on friday then saturday depends on my schedule. Sunday is always a rest day. My workout is composed of training for the front lever,5 sets of failure(5-7 reps) and decreasing width of the grips (until my hands are together) on pull-ups, 3 sets of failure(5-8 reps) on dips on a horizontal bar, then 10 reps 5 sets dips on 2 bars parallel to each other then 10 reps 3 sets on pushups (again decreasing from “crucifix” pushup up to narrow pushups) then i train my core every other day.

    So I do like 4-5 sets of failure for the swinging part of the lever yet (i still can’t hold it) but i can only do 3-5 swings each set. I watched a video on youtube that said pullups is one of the exercises for lever so that’s why there’s pullups after the training for lever. But the reps hasn’t improved from day one.

    I also do the dips to train my triceps for the muscle-up. So that makes the pull-up an exercise for the lever AND muscle-up.

    I have been doing this routine for more than a month now and i got the swinging part of the lever (which i’m proud of) but again, my problem is the reps on my pull-ups. So my questions are:

    1.) What can i do to add more reps on my pull-ups?(should i rest more? or add more sets?)
    2.) What are your tips for the lever training and muscle-up training?
    3.) Is there something wrong with my routine? (It lasts 2hrs.30 mins- 3 hrs. But one time i reached 4 hours. i think it’s too long) If there is, can you revise it?

    i am a Filipino, 17y.o, 5″7,73 kgs. I’m actually satisfied with how big i am right now (because i was fat at firs and i shaped up lifting weights) so i’m more into increasing my strength to do those advanced moves(lever, handstand etc.) other calisthenic athletes do. My aim is to achieve those moves one by one.

    Sorry for the long read. Hope I didn’t confuse you or something. and I hope you reply!

    and btw your blog is very helpful!
    Wish you luck! and God Bless!

  • Jimi

    Hi coach, warm greetings from Malaysia. Realizing that I was too skinny, I decided to start working out 4 days ago, in which the first day I had already experienced triceps/shoulder soreness. My friends told me to just ignore it and keep on doing push/pull ups/dips, and today I woke up I could barely move my body. How long should I rest before I can start again? And can you suggest a mild regime to ease my muscle so that it won’t be sore like the one I’m feeling today? Thanks in advance, coach.

  • Shade

    Hi couch. I have question – what do you think about things like peanut butter, olive oil or nuts? These things have lots of healthy calories. If I want to take more calories – is it good idea to add nuts and olive oil to my food? I want to increase my caloric income and I am not able to eat lot to reach a lot of calories but nuts are good short cut to reach my goal – gain weight. Or am I wrong? (sorry for my english)

  • Erin

    Hey, Coach! I have some questions regarding motivation and workout techniques.

    I’ll start you off with some background. I’m female, 5’4 and 100 lbs. even. I am a level 5 competitive gymnast. About a year ago, I started to feel unsatisfied with myself. There was something I wanted so desperately to change– yet I had no idea what it was. I tried so hard to figure out what it was and finally realized that it was my strength. Now, I am one of those people who scorn the thought of being weak. Weakness is something I would never want to be able to call myself. But I just wasn’t up to conditioning standards at gymnastics. If I can’t do ten pullup pullovers, that’s weak. I’m weak. So I decided I would start doing extra conditioning at home and attempt to start eating healthy. First off, I will say the eating healthy part was a total disaster because it ended up leading me to eating disorders and fatigue. It probably put me in an even worse position than I was originally in. The workouts didn’t work either. I slacked on it, didn’t take it too seriously. I never knew what exercises to do. I couldn’t assess my strengths and weaknesses and I focused on all the wrong things. It was inevitable that I would eventually quit. Recently, I have decided to get back into it and made a pledge to follow through with it. Calisthenics is something I think I’d greatly enjoy, and it would help me out in gymnastics. But I just don’t know how to do it.

    I have quite a few questions to ask.

    First off, do you know of any good ways to motivate myself to continue working out? I am easily brought down and I need to keep it up if I want to ever be able to do calisthenics.

    Second, I know that you said it’s okay to eat junk sometimes, but things don’t work well when I allow myself to eat junk. If I don’t give myself a limit, I will overeat. It happens often; I eat more than I should just because I want to, not because I’m hungry. I don’t feel very inspired to work out after just eating a ton, so it just doesn’t work. What are some methods I can use to stop myself from overeating?

    Third, my gymnastics schedule is really busy. Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday I have gymnastics from 5:00-8:30pm. I want to workout three times a week, each day focusing on different muscles. Thursday is a definite. But for the others, I’m not sure. On the weekends, I switch between my mom’s and dad’s house and my mom’s house is really crowded, so I am reluctant to add weekends. Do you think it would be fine to workout after gymnastics? I’m not really sure because I don’t know if I’ll be too tired or not.

    Lastly, do you know any good exercises I can do if I don’t have a pullup bar?

    Thank you so much for your time, and I’m sorry for the length of this message. Please reply soon, thanks! 🙂 -Erin

  • BodyweightReallyIsBetter

    Hey Coach, thanks for a very informative article.

    I’m not gonna lie….I’m not doing the journal. For me, I see the results and that’s sufficient record keeping for me. Also, I kept journals when I worked out in a gym for years. Journals now remind me of all the time I wasted in a gym doing weights lol

    Same for the food. I still have some body fat to lose. Once I get down to a fat percentage I’m proud of, I’ll cheat more then. I’ve always ate healthy, so I don’t crave junk or anything, so no big deal for me.

    All that aside, the Part 2 series, along with Part 1, are priceless pieces of information.

    These last few months, which is when I started bodyweight training, have been amazing.

    I’m 42 now, and wish I started bodyweight training earlier, BUT better late than never!

    Thanks again Coach!

  • Tom

    Hey Coach

    Is there any update on when Convict Conditioning 3 will be available? 🙂

  • Adam Shafik

    Hey Coach,
    Thanks for the great article. I was wondering, won’t it be better for me to mainly train strength and not size if I want to eventually master exercises like muscle ups, human flags, and front levers? I’m 6 foot 2 and 180 lbs, so Im not that light. I think if I gain weight and still doggedly pursue those goals it might be too much for my elbows to handle.

  • Mike

    Hey coach, I’ve been following convict conditioning 1 and 2 for the past year and I can honestly say I’ll never train any other way. Just one question, in my training I like to focus on one muscle group to build at a time. Right now, its shoulders. Do you think you can build muscle if you train handstand pushups every second day while adding more reps over time with perfect form. Thanks

  • Geoffrey Levens, L.Ac.

    Only problem with the “convict diet” is that though you may well get big muscles you will very likely die young of heart disease, diabetes, or cancer. There is no need for that sacrifice. If you eat clean and healthy i.e. all real food and no junk (do yer dang research) you can have muscle and be strong (it is the training effort and skill that grows them and NOT the diet) and live a long and healthy life.

    • Vasily

      you don’t need to eat only junk food. and you don’t need to eat all the time. in small amounts everything may be useful (and with right attitude)

  • John

    Greetings Coach! My name is John, and I have a couple questions I hope you can answer.

    1.) When you say low sets, high reps, this completely depends on the skill level of the athlete right? I think what would help me understand what you’re saying is an example of a workout. In the first article, you mentioned the 8 exercises that are compound, and useful.That being said, would it be combined as following?

    Set 1 –
    Push ups – 20
    Pull ups – 10
    Dips – 15
    Squats – 20

    And set two is the exact same, then as you get stronger you make the exercises harder? What number of sets do YOU recommend?

    2.) About two years ago I was training for the Army Ranger program. I had seen a very, very muscular man giving us his sample workout which was 20 Wide, 20 Regular, and 10 Diamond for a total of 50 Pushups. Then we did 10 sets of that for a total of 500 Push Ups. Is this effective, or useless?

    3.) Do you rotate between Legs and Upper body, so Monday upper, Tuesday lower then repeat throughout the week?

    4.) What is the big six?

    5.) and finally, is a caloric surplus needed for this?

  • Teguh

    Coach Wade, it’s been more than a year since your reply. And now i’m 5’10 and weigh 170 pounds. But the most amazing accomplishment for me is being able to do one arm pullups for the first time. And your advice was right Coach, it’s not worth it to chase physical perfection for another person. From now on i’m doing it only for my benefit. Many thanks for your help in my training and my mindset. I really hope someday i can meet you in person and shake your hand.

    Thanks

    Teguh

  • Luis Zubieta (student)

    Hey coach, this summer I’m going to a summer camp as a counselor for two months. Following that is football season and I wanna build as much muscle as possible during those to months. My question is:
    If I’m going to work out in the mornings should I do workouts for one specific muscle like monday biceps, Tuesday chest, etc.? Or should I do workouts that involve more muscles but works them less?
    Thank you

  • phill

    Hey coach! Do you have a system I can buy? I am following the bar brothers system, but it is an every day workout, rest once a week routine and I am always fatigued and burned out. Now I am starting to get weaker, just can’t go on. Do you have a three day workout per week system?

  • Emmanuel

    Good article except for the mention of Kali. That guy is clearly on steroids.

  • Luc Ribble

    Hey i was wonder how long of rests between sets do you advise?

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