ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS: 4 New Year Goals for Total Noobs

by Paul "Coach" Wade on January 7, 2014

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 My bodyweight brothers and sisters!

My bodyweight brothers and sisters!

Welcome to the world’s finest bodyweight strength blog—and welcome to 2014! I really hope this year turns out to be something really special for all of ya.

New Year means a time for new fitness and conditioning goals—at least for a lot of folks. A brand-spankin-shiny new year is a perfect time for a fresh start…and God knows, millions of people need it. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese; only 20% get regular exercise; and, horrifically, it has been estimated that less than 10% of the population can perform a full pullup. That’s only one in ten! (I think.)

Many folks are so goddam outta shape, they just have no clue how to make a start in calisthenics. So they put it off…sometimes, forever.

If that’s you—or someone you care about—then this blog is my New Year challenge for YOU. I’m often guilty of writing for experts. Why? Coz the bodyweight community is a remarkable one; it’s typified by smart, mature, knowledgeable, advanced athletes. I love you all, but this post’s not for you. It’s for the noobs.

What’s a “noob”? Well, in terms of bodyweight training:

  • If you can barely do a handful (or less) of sloppy pushups;
  • If a strict, full pullup is outta the question;
  • If a full, deep squat is impossible or feels like it’s ripping your knees apart;
  • If getting up off the couch leaves you out of breath;
  • Or if any of the above apply to you;

…then yer a noob, kid. So if you are a desperate neophyte, an interested but confused lurker, or a collapsed ex-athlete—listen up!

Four Fundamentals in Strength Calisthenics

In this post I’m going to give you FOUR basic goals to get working on. You don’t need more than that—the more goals you set, the more your willpower gets spread around ‘em, so the less likely you are to meet any of them. Research also shows that the more inconvenient New Year goals are, the less likely they are to get met. So all these exercises, and their regressions (i.e., easier versions) can be performed in a tiny space, in the comfort of your own home. You don’t need jack s*** to start today. You don’t need to buy my book. You don’t need a pullup bar. You don’t need a gym membership or new sneakers. All you need is a little courage to accept my challenge, a few minutes time, and enough space to lay down. Everybody has that much, right?

Here are the goals:

noobs_textbox1All techniques are to be executed with perfect form.

To a dedicated athlete, these four are modest goals; easy, in fact. But they are also incredibly important; the average de-conditioned American would be unable to meet these standards…amazingly, given the decline of fitness in our schools, even the average teen would struggle! So let’s get to work on these fundamentals. If these basics are beyond your reach, you stand zero hope in hell of going any further in strength or fitness. And if you really ARE new to strength training, don’t give me any of that “shouldn’t I be lifting weights?” bulls****. If you can’t do ten pushups perfectly, you got no business laying down on a bench press. Likewise, if full bodyweight squats are impossible, then perching under a loaded barbell or leg press for messy, incomplete reps is only going to wreck your knees.

Bodyweight comes first!

The Four Techniques

1. Full Squats:

Full squats generate strength in the entire lower body—quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, shins, everything. They also build mobility in two areas that badly need it, the knees and ankles, while strengthening the lower back. To put it bluntly, they are essential, whether ya like it or not.

Full squats means all the way down until the hamstrings are resting on the calves!

Full squats means all the way down until the hamstrings are resting on the calves!

You can’t do twenty full squats until you can do one full squat RIGHT. So begin by focusing on deep motion. I don’t care how weak or rusty your knees are—you can begin building motion using no weight on the knees at all. Lie on your back or shoulders, with your legs straight up, and bend your knees as fully as you can that way. (These are called shoulderstand squats.) As your mobility improves, try deep squats the right way up; use a partner or a sturdy object to help pull yourself out of the hole. Over time, use the assistance less…build to solo half-squats, and ¾ squats. Soon full squats won’t seem so tough. Once you can do your first set of 5-10 full squats, just add a perfect rep every so often. You’ll hit twenty reps real soon.

2. Full Pushups

Keep your back and legs straight and aligned—you’ll get all the benefits of planks, but without the boredom!

Keep your back and legs straight and aligned—you’ll get all the benefits of planks, but without the boredom!

Hey, ten pushups is easy right? Everyone can do that, right?

Wrong.

Most people—even coaches who should know better—do them wrong. If you do them the right way—my way—they are tough as hell. For a start, most folks rush their pushups. I want you to eliminate ALL momentum (if momentum is doing the work, your muscles aren’t, right?). I want you to take two seconds up, two seconds down, with a moment’s pause at the bottom position. Secondly, you need to go deep—go down until your sternum is a fist’s width from the floor: no less. (Use books or an object like a softball to guide you, at first.) Third, don’t bounce! When you descend so that your sternum touches your books, it should touch them as lightly as you would kiss a baby on the forehead. This technique (“kiss-the-baby”) is murder, forcing you to control your body FULLY. What else is strength, but control?

Doing pushups this way makes them brutal and incredibly productive as an exercise. If they are too hard for ya, begin doing them on an incline, or even against a wall. Once you find a pushup technique you can perform five reps in, add a rep every workout or two until you can do ten, then make things harder.

3. Leg Raises

Forget what you have probably been told about working “abs”…isolating the muscles, tensing, and performing lots of sets of teeny crunches or machine exercises. Real, functional strength—from hanging on a bar to picking up a fridge—requires not just strong abdominals, but an iron “anterior chain”—that means your hips, abs, intercostals, serratus, obliques and even the deep muscles of the quads. For strengthening your anterior chain perfectly, God gave you a gift—leg raises!

Isolation is for hermits, kid.

Isolation is for hermits, kid.

As usual, begin easy. Start with lying knee raises; build to twenty reps. Then extend the legs a little. Then you can try oneleg leg raises, with the knees locked. Pretty soon, twenty strict leg raises will be within reach, and your abs will be harder than those pathetic crunches could have ever got ‘em. Damn, you’ll be doing these suckers hanging in no time. Six-pack from Hell, here we come…

4. Straight Bridge

The straight bridge is a wonderful exercise for noobs to aspire to master. Whereas leg raises work the entire anterior chain—the muscles at the front of the bod—the straight bridge works the posterior chain. It builds the spinal erectors, reduces low back pain, bulletproofs the spine, trains the hamstrings, and helps heal bad knees. Because the arms are pushing behind the body, this type of bridge also strengthens the “lats” of the back, and the muscles around the shoulder blades—an awesome benefit for those who don’t have a pullup bar. Straight bridges also give ya triceps of steel kid—no more kickbacks necessary.

Once again, alignment is what’s up.  Athletes make the straight-body position look easy. It ain’t.

Once again, alignment is what’s up. Athletes make the straight-body position look easy. It ain’t.

Normally I wouldn’t advise beginners to perform bridges—I think the time and energy is better spent on pulling work, typically on a low horizontal bar. That said, if you don’t have access to a bar, straight bridges can be a good way to work the back muscles.

Bridging can be demanding—so start easy. Commence with short bridges (with the shoulders on the floor), then move to table bridges (straight bridges, but with the knees bent). When ten seconds of perfectly aligned form is easy, start adding seconds—build to 20 seconds, then move to something harder. If straight bridges are too easy, try them with one leg lifted off the floor. That will teach you what your hamstrings were made for.

How to Train for these Goals

How do you go about training to achieve these goals? For a start, if you are de-conditioned, you need to get an okay from a doc before you start training hard (that’s the legal s*** outta the way). When you start, start slow. This is absolutely key—never throw yourself full tilt into a new training program. Start with exercises that are about half your full ability, and add work s-l-o-w-ly—a rep here, better form there, a harder exercise somewhere else. This approach will allow your joints and soft tissues time to adapt and get stronger, preventing joint pain. (Joints adapt to stress slower than muscles.)

As a noob, you really need to keep your programming easy and simple at first. I advise performing two exercises per session, with a day off in-between. Warm up with a gentle, ten minute walk, and perform one set of a lighter version of each exercise you are doing, also as a warm up. (For example, if you are doing incline pushups, warm up with wall pushups; if you are doing flat pushups, warm up with incline pushups. Got it?) After the warm up, perform two hard “work” sets of each exercise. Don’t go til failure, keep your form as perfect as possible, and rest between sets long enough to get most of your strength back. Such a program would look like this:

noobs_textbox2If you get sore, or stop making progress, add more rest days. If this seems easy, reduce rest days—but only if you keep making progress. If this seems like way too little, or you get fitter real fast, try the exercises all together:

noobs_textbox3Take a day off in between workouts, or more if you need to. Some will say this is not enough work. It is. Trust me, if your numbers are going up, if you are making progress weekly, you are doing better than 95% of those suckers with expensive gym memberships. More detailed programming info is included in Convict Conditioning. For motivation and to keep ya on the straight and narrow, try to write down your training sessions in a logbook, ‘kay?

I’m too fat for bodyweight workouts!

No, you aren’t. Obese would-be ninjas need bodyweight training as much or more than slimmer folks—they just need to start with easier exercises.

I’m going to tell ya a well-known “secret” now…calisthenics and weight-loss go together like love and marriage. Once your body recognizes it is regularly struggling to heft its own weight up and down, the subconscious mind kicks in and will help you shed those useless pounds. I’ve seen this happen hundreds of times, and it will work for you too if you give it a chance.

Yes, nutrition will play a role, of course. You gotta start dealing with your weight at the same time you start bodyweight training: it’s no goddam use saying; “I’ll work out when I get to such-and-such a weight”, or; “I’ll start eating right when my training gets off the ground”. Start training AND eating well right now.

The Next Step: Moving to Intermediate Level

Okay. Let’s say you have worked for a few weeks—or months—to meet these fundamental requirements. Congrats, kid! You did it. You are now stronger and more mobile than the average American! Well done.

Whazzat…? You feel better? You have added muscle, and firmed up? You are hungry for MORE? You want to know how to take the next step, and work towards becoming an intermediate bodyweight athlete?!

Now your arms, back, waist and legs are stronger, you’re qualified to begin studying at the ultimate bodyweight training college—the School of the Bar! You gotta get hanging. This article is too short to discuss bar training and techniques. Luckily, Al Kavadlo has got you covered. With John Du Cane, Al has put out the super-acclaimed Raising the Bar…the master text-book of hanging training techniques.

noob_RTB
Despite what you might think, I’m not a Dragon Door “affiliate” or any of that crap, and I don’t get paid one cent for promoting Al’s book.  It’s just too damn good not to mention. Raising the Bar includes every bar calisthenics technique under the sun—from Australian pullups and archer pullups, to muscle-ups and Korean dips, plus bonus floor training and pressing methods. Best of all, Al’s system is designed for bar athletes of all capabilities; whether you can do a hundred pullups, or if you can barely hang on to the bar, this book will get you stronger, safely.

Anyhow, I hope that gives some of you new fish some food for thought. You know somebody who needs to get started training? Be a true friend and email them a link to this post TODAY, so we can start helping them as soon as possible.

***

Got questions? Just holler at me in the comments, and I’ll do what I can to answer ya. Any experienced athletes who have advice for noobs (we are ALL ex-noobs, remember!), I’d also love to hear what you got to say, so please make a comment.

I need you all to step up this year—bodyweight is rapidly becoming the biggest movement in fitness, and I need you hidden geniuses out there to support us, and help tip it over the edge. I want lotsa ideas, questions, tips and feedback. So get typing, Jack!

***

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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  • dhairya

    HI coach, HAPPY NEW YEAR…

    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 perform­ance is of greater importance than repetition.”
    ALSO Pavel says “strength can be obtained by tensioning the muscles harder….so perform low rep exercise with high tension and max-strength”

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

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

    • Dhairya, the great man!

      Happy New Year to you too, my friend. And thanks for the wonderful Maxick quote! Maxick is little known today, but was a major influence on one of the modern gradnmasters of calisthenics–the great Charles Atlas! His system was called “Dynamic Tension”…sound familiar? Everyone these days is talking about “tension” in regards to strength, but old Charlie was into it more than half a century back. And Maxick knew the score a century ago! Nothin is new, eh?

      I love isometric tension work, where you squeeze the muscles hard. But it should be an adjunct to your regular calisthenics, not the main theme. If you are doing the hardest pushups you can do, you don’t need to “squeeze” your muscles–they will automatic generate maximum tension just to lift you up! So if you want to explore isometric style muscle-control I say go for it–but a couple of sets AFTER your regular training is all ya need!

      Let us know the results, my friend!

  • Carter Doud

    A while back, I was helping a brain cancer survivor train using calisthenics. He was always a heavier guy, which didn’t help him when it came to starting off with easy exercises. His balance wasn’t great due to his condition, so I had to find a safe way to teach him to squat properly. I started off teaching him bench squats, but his knees still went far forward in his squats, so I had to make other arrangements. I found a strong box which was slightly below knee level and told him to press his calves into the side of the box while he squatted, and sure enough he got the technique correct. He practiced these for a while and then was able to graduate to 3/4 squats. This method has been successful with many people who are new to squatting and most can progress to full squats within a week or two.

    • I should be paying you for this, Carter. Thank you, man!
      Carter is currently winning the race for the best smart, cool and useful beginners tip! Anyone else gonna step up, coz this gem is pretty hard to beat…

      • Carter Doud

        I will do as much as possible to help the PCC community. You have done an amazing job at helping the community grow and coaching anyone who has questions.

        • Shucks! The check’s in the mail, big guy!

  • Leo

    Dear Coach,
    I’ve hit the progression standard of Wall Push ups and Incline Push ups at sternum height.
    I did about 20 hip height inclines. They were tough (with perfect form), but managable.
    So I tried Knee Push ups flat on the floor for the beginner standard, with my wrists not bending to full 90 degrees (they hurt if I do). I could do ten reps, but my triceps and especially my elbows hurted so hard since that (I did knee push ups on sunday). I applied some ice and heat, compression and ibuprofen. I also circle the joint and stretch my triceps. Do you have an advice on how to speed up the heeling process (my elbows only hurts, if i extend the arms under pressure) and how to get back into training, because this exercise was obviously too hard (not for my muscles, but for my joints). Should I start bench dips instead, or find an easier push up progression?
    By the way, is your mass e-book already available?
    Thanks in advance
    Leo

    • Congrats on the progress! Injuries are a part of the game! You may be overtraining those elbows, kid. Are you talking about injury pain, or just discomfort from training? For example, a couple hours later, is the pain still there? Is it there when you wake up, two days after your workout? I’ll help ya if I can, Leo my man!
      PS. For the ebook info, see comment above!

      • Leo

        Hey Coach,
        I’m really talking injury pain. It is still there, even two days after the workout. It started hurting through the last few reps.
        I don’t think I’m overtraining my elbows, I do push ups and horizontal pulls once a week. It is the same type of pain, that I had, while experimenting with tiger bend push ups.
        Is there a way to take some stress off the triceps during push ups (and maybe put more load on the pecs)?
        I’m closing in on meeting the progression standard of horizontal pulls at chest height. Is best to start jacknife pull ups (I really want to perform pull ups), and working with the high horizontal bar, although it’s intermediate?
        Or should I continue Horizontal pulls on a lower base?
        You mentioned there will be dip progressions in CC3, should I work them together with pull ups, or better just push ups and pull ups?
        Do you think CC3 will be out soon?
        Leo

        • Carter Doud

          Depending upon your schedule, you can easily overload your elbows. If push ups and a pulling exercise are done on the same day, it can often lead to injury in the elbow depending upon the exercises. I had this problem with one arm chin ups and one arm push ups, but it can happen with other exercises. As for taking strain off the triceps, the wider you perform push ups, the more it works your chest. As for progressing to pull ups, I would suggest moving to jackknife pulls since they more closely replicate a regular pull up. As for working with dips, I would suggest working on them once you have reached a plateau with push ups.

          • ^ ^ ALWAYS what Carter said!

          • Sean

            Not sure how the blog feels about this kind of stuff but I received some advice from a professional physiotherapist regarding an elbow problem I had. This situation applies to myself, what you choose to do with it is your responsibility if you feel it’s similar to yours. I had some ongoing problems with elbow pain (joint pain, stiffness and muscular pain) and at the time I was doing dips, push ups and pull-ups though not always on the same day. I finally seen a professional cause i couldn’t rehab it on my own (and didn’t know about CC1 either which might have helped lol). He felt I was getting some impingement (sort of pinching but doesn’t feel the same) in the joint from overuse. He had me place a rolled up face cloth in the pit of my elbow (btw forearm and bicep) then gently press up on the back of my hand till my palm was now facing shoulder, with towel deep in elbow joint. I pressed against the back of palm in towards the shoulder (keeping pointy part of elbow pointed to the floor) and hold for a 10 count and repeat 10 times. For me when I start to get that achy, tension or pain feeling around (or in) the elbow I do this and due to the joint distraction it causes I find it helps get my elbow back into shape. Ill do it daily for a week (multiple times per day at times) and revert to easier forms of push/pull exercises to encourage recovery, provided they are pain free movements. I’ve recently cut an old floating pool noodle and now use that in place of the towel. I find the firmer material provides a greater joint distraction and seems to feel better than the cloth only. Oh and I not longer beat them up by doing all my favourite exercises on the same day. Instead I try to give them the recovery they need. Food for thought….just don’t be a pig.

          • That is one kick ass post, Sean.
            Thank you for the wise words–you don’t know how many people you will have helped writing that, but I’m sure there are many more than you’ll realize…

        • Leo my friend,

          -I wonder if you overstressed your elbows exploring the tiger bends. You CAN take pressure off the tris by keeping the elbows wide, but that in turn increases pressure on the shoulders. Try a wide grip, but only go halfway down. Build to plenty of reps to keep the blood flowing til ya elbows feel better.
          -Explore the jackknifes. If the beginner standard is doable, switch over. It’s a good idea to finish your workout with one set of horizontal pulls if you can, however, to keep your upper back strong as a bitch.
          -If your triceps are killing you doing pushups, put the dips on hold for now.
          -CC3 will be a priority once the e-book is done right. Until then, you have plenty of work to get done on the basics, kid!

          Paul

  • Pappamolla

    Hi coach!!! How about the little ebook you are writing? I’m always hungry from some of your knowledge!!! Ciao

  • Miriam

    This is great and exactly where I need to start. But am confused about what is a “short bridge” with shoulders on the floor?????? I can’t visualize.

  • Tangovera

    Wow, excellent post!!! Something actually written for me, that I can actually use. Thank-you so much, Al – you’re such an excellent teacher!!!

    • I have said it before, and I’ll say it again–Al is the FINEST calisthenics instructor on the face of the planet!

  • Karen Lee

    Excellent article. Even people we’ve loaned your book to don’t always get that your system is for any level (advanced and newbie). This well written article is concise enough to not lose the ones who don’t yet realize they’re interested (haha) and will be shared. It’s exciting to see people light up when they realize the value of this system. Thanks, sir!

    • Karen, that comment means a HUGE amount to me…it’s what I was aiming for!

      Bless ya for making my day, kid!

  • Mauricio

    Coach Wade, you don’t know me, but I’m your student! I have been following your instructions given on Convict Conditioning 1 and 2 for one year now and it has been worth every drop of sweat. Despite of being training already before starting the books, I did it just like you said, from step 1, taking my time on each. Just for example, I still am not on step 10 of pushups, but I already can do one rep of one arm pushup. I never thought I would be able to do this one day. Your book changed my life! Thank you very much.

  • Alexi

    Coach Wade, I got both your CC1 & 2 books, and they have been instrumental in actually getting me off my butt to actually workout. I’ve only just been on it slightly under 3 months, and I’ve gone from being completely unfit to being able knock out 2 pull-ups, and that’s only on stage 1 of the first 4 movements. Thanks for putting all you know out for the world to use.
    If you could kindly share your thoughts on a question I have about progression standards that be awesome. In your books you make constant reference to 2 concepts, “leaving strength in the bank” and “banking in strength by milking all the progressions for all they’re worth”.
    Based on what you wrote, I take that to mean progress to the next step / exercise can only be made when I can completely hit the progression standards without hitting failure on any of the sets. That’ll really milk each exercise for all they’re worth, and in doing so, keep banking in strength so that the beginners’ standard for the next progression shouldn’t be a huge obstacle.
    Am I taking the right approach, or is it me being too pedantic?

  • Pingback: ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS: 4 New Year Goals for Total Noobs By PCC Founder, Paul Wade()

  • This is AWESOME, thanks Paul Wade — going to make this *REQUIRED READING* for most if not all my current clients. 🙂 Convict Conditioning and Progressive Calisthenics really are effective for everyone. I’ve gained so much from it, and hope that everyone else will too… especially now that you’ve laid out exactly where and how to start. Fantastic!!

    • Hey, it’s the First Lady of progressive calisthenics! The (pretty) face of bodyweight!

      Bless ya for the kind words young un, but I’m only holdin the fort here until your book gets written and on the shelves…

  • hapworth

    Hey Coach!

    Question for ya about the ol Shoulderstand Squat… And apologies if you’ve answered this already as it’s popped up on the DD forum a few times… They are TOUGH. But not in the legs (I do feel them there) but on my back! Trying to keep it straight and all that. I usually have to quit due to discomfort there and in my shoulders and neck… And yes I know I shouldn’t feel it there but once the back gives, evening goes with it! A few posters even said the shoulderstand is an advanced yoga move! I know my back isn’t the strongest but I feel like this discomfort is holding me back. Would I lose much if I skip just this step or any ideas on making it work?

    Secondly, Knee Tucks… Similar problem. I’ve gotten to the point where most of the burn seems to be in my quads since I don’t rest the legs between reps… But the lower back… Geez! Here toy suggest one lying on your back. Is this a good example of a step 0.5?

    Thanks so much Coach! Love the article! No excuses left!
    -hapworth

    • hapworth

      toy = you… Sorry typing on my phone!

      • Leo

        You should work on short bridge holds to strenghten your spine and practicing your shoulderstand every day, then you can attempt shoulderstands squats again. You should’t skip this important step.

        • I will send you the money in the mail.

          You’re getting it, kid. 😉

      • Get off your goddam phone and do a superset of shoulderstand squats on knee tucks! Right now!

  • paul

    Hi Coach,

    I got through the progression standard for step 3 of the bridge, the angled bridge three months ago, but I can’t do a single repetition of the next step, the head bridge. I don’t think its a matter of strength; perhaps it’s poor flexibility that’s holding me back. What should I do?
    Thanks,

    Paul

    • First things first, not to panic. With a name like “Paul” you have an incredible destiny ahead of you, and are sure to be goddam AWESOME at all calisthenics and related pursuits.

      I would guess that your trouble is an inability to push up into a full bridge hold to begin your set. I say this coz if you CAN push all the way up once, then a few head bridges (which are easier than getting into the full bridge hold) shouldn’t pose ya a problem!

      If so, the solution is to make your initial push into a full bridge hold easier. One way to do this is to start from half way up. The safest trick for this is to roll back over something, like a basketball (see “half bridges”), THEN try and push up. The extra height will make getting into the bridge easier, so with some finagling, you should find this works.

      Hope this helps, namesake-bud. If there’s another problem, holler back and we’ll see if we can hack it together.

  • Fantasticly simple and doable for anyone I think.
    We have come full circle it seems where we where so programmed over the last 4-5 decades by the main stream or pop culture or status quo or what ever one might call it to buy that gym membership ad let machines do the work.
    Look at how well that is working ehh?…as per some stats you share above.
    I’m 57 and have kept super fit after my sports life with the type of exercises you teach.
    Plus my cardio which for me is my bicycle except that I’m in Canada and it’s a little tough to cycle when we have minus 7000 degrees or whatever today is, not to mention 2 wheels on ice is not a great combination…..lol
    Having said that though I’m going to focus on better techniques and follow these combinations since I have a good friend who is 50 lbs over weight and has asked me to guide him through some of what I do to stay lean.
    Learning never stops and I thank you for sharing your wisdom in this.

    • You are looking to be in some incredible shape, Nicholas–awesome work my friend. Yer a testament to bodyweight!

      Kudos on coaching your buddy in calisthenics (always the right choice) and try not to get injured on that bike of yours, eh?

      Paul

      • Thanks brother for responding and leading.

        • You have my thanks for spreading the word to the next generation!
          Best of luck to your boy, send him to the PCC community too!

  • Asatar Bair

    Another classic article, Coach! Keep ’em coming. This is inspiring, whatever level you’re at.

    • I really appreciate the support, Asatar, my man!

      I’ll try an keep em coming, if you are kind enough to read em!!

  • Alexi

    Thanks Coach, that actually does help, and it sets the concept of progress into perspective.

    I guess I’ll still be on step 1 for quite a while more… I’ve been able to hit the progression standards for 2 of the first 4 movements, but have been reluctant to move up because I am still feeling progress on some movements like the push-up (i.e. later on-set of fatigue).

    Also, while I might be preaching to the choir, I’m beyond impressed with what you have written in your books (i.e. the concept of control as you mention, going slow, mastering form before going balls-to-the-wall on movements, rests). I tried some circumventing approaches to CC when I first started (hitting more than I could without control or good form, going to failure). No matter what I tried, at the end, the most effective approach to CC was as you laid it out, focusing on control, form, slow & steady progress, lots of rest.

    No matter how many people may doubt your history, one thing is definite: you definitely know what you’re talking about. There’s no way you could have written what you did unless you knew exactly what you were going on about, and have the experience to back it up!

    • Old school knowledge, my friend. Didn’t invent it, just passing it on. Thank you for such kind words. You are a great man Alexi, please stick around!

  • Mr Boudahas

    Thank you coach , don’t stop writing please it’s so good to read you.
    Little question ,what is best ? squat with shoes or barefoot ?
    i noticed that it is much harder without shoes for me.
    Thank you very much coach !

    • Carter Doud

      It is usually best to do them in bare feet or thin shoes like converse. Squatting with thick shoes is just like trying to operate machinery with winter gloves, you loose contact with what you’re actually doing. You may find barefoot squats more difficult if you aren’t accustom to walking barefoot.

    • Again, what Carter said. Heels make squats easier if you got shitty ankle mobility (they don’t need to bend as much). But you SHOULD do your best to progress to barefoot!

  • Pappamolla

    Yeah coach! Write, write, write books! 😀

  • villafan

    Thanks coach, this is great, I wanted to design a newbie bodyweight program for my wife but you have saved me the trouble! She will be performing pistol squats by this time next year ha ha! Big thanks and respect, Steve

    • That’s awesome news! Her vertical leap will be super-powered in no time! Great work my man!
      (Maybe we can have ya design a bodyweight routine for the Villa, and they won’t have to spend the season depending on Guzan saving their asses!)

      • villafan

        Just read your comments about the Villa Coach, made me smile! You might be right, i will call Randy Lerner and see about implementing pistol squat and one arm push up training instead of dribbling round cones. We still won’t score but willl at least frighten the opposition to death ha ha!

        • Ha ha! Just messin my man!

          When CC3 comes out, I’ll mail a copy to Villa Park…

  • Marius Mare

    Hey Coach

    Just want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me so far. Two months ago I was an unmotivated, lazy and week teenager. Then IT happened: I got both of your books. Something just clicked inside me ( I think it was all your inspirational messages in the books ) and I started your program. I’m only on step two on all four of the four initial exercises of the big six and I am loving it! I’m following all your advice on starting slow and muscular control. And the results are unbelievable! I have gained do much strength its not even funny. And all my muscles are starting to pop up out of nowhere, especially my forearms, which was extremely small and frail. So thank you so much for all your work. It made a huge difference in my life and I just know that it will change the life of everyone who uses your program.

    I just want you to promise me something. In CC2 you mentioned that there is a section of survival athletics. Please I am begging you, I would give my front teeth and left kidney to get my hands on that section, so please: dont stop writing the Convict Conditiong books. I know CC3 is coming out and Im gonna get it as soon as it’s out, but please: make sure that you get around to CC4 survival athletics. If you could do that for me, I will make a shrine of you in my room and worship it day and night ( its a joke 🙂 ).

    Once again, thank you for sharing all this life changing info. You are awesome!

    • No my man–YOU are awesome! Thanks so much for taking the time to write me here…it really means more than you know! It’s an honor to have helped a great young dude like you.

      In will keep on with CC3, just for you, kid. CC4…we’ll see. Please keep with us Marius–the PCC will keep those muscles poppin!

  • Sean

    Hey Paul,

    Just like to say thank you for the recent revision above. I truly believe this community is something special and transcends mere body weight exercises and is creating an important fellowship. Can’t call ourselves a community if were are not being vigilant and respectful to both current and potential future members. I would stand beside you and say I have been guilty myself of such offences (you can take the boy off the street but you can’t take the street out of the boy lol) and have had to make amends.The quality of your character has shined this day. Let’s continue to encourage the growth of this community by keeping it about principals and not personalities so it continues to be inclusionary of all that want or more importantly, who need it…nuff said eh?

    Article wise, it’s another gem. One I plan to use with someone who’s getting back to exercise after a year and a half layoff in recovery from a surgery. Myself with push ups back in the day I would use a set of stairs and start high for incline. As I got stronger I would move down the stairs to decrease the incline until of course I made it to the floor. Maybe this might be helpful to someone.

    As mentioned by others, I too am VERY eagerly awaiting the new pdf or book? Oh by the way what’s your address so we know where to send the hit??? ;-)…ya right…..

    • You are a great man, Sean–thank you for your words. Pure class!
      And I am LOVING the stairs tip…a lot of folks don’t realize how many uses stairs can have in progressive calisthenics. Folks, take heed of this dude!
      PS. Address: The Cock Inn, 69 Munchen Street, French Lick, Indiana

      • Sean

        LMAO…nice…I think I lived there once but vaguely remember what happened…

        • Did living conditions leave a bad taste in your mouth?

          • Sean

            Ha, so many responses but none that should be seen in print here till i get to know ya’ll better, therefore I tap lol.

            On a different note I came across a site that you can enter your email to be notified when the new CC3 is out. I tried pasting the link in this post to show you but this site don’t seem to like that and deleted my earlier attempt cause I don’t see it here. If I spell it out it started with convict-conditioning dot com back slash convict-conditioning – 3 (lets see if that works). If you could confirm or deny? Thanks again in advance.

            PS How’s the weather in London, bloke?…. 😉

          • Not in London, my man! Gonna forward this to our superhero girl Rose and ask her to answer you. I know jack about this kinda stuff but will help if I can.

          • Rose Garland Widell

            Hi Paul and Sean – Hi Paul and Sean – I’ll look into that site and let you guys know as soon as I learn anything!

          • Rose Widell

            Ok, this is what I found out. “The quickest and safest way to hear about the release of Convict Conditioning 3 would be by subscribing to the Dragon Door newsletter. It appears that the convict-conditioning site is encouraging you to do exactly that, when it comes down to it.” I hope that answers your question!

          • Sean

            Hi Rose,
            Wondering if you could fill me in on the rules of this blog site. I try responding to other posters and it seems if I mention any other web resource it gets moderated. What does that mean when your posting is waiting to be moderated? I have an idea but it never seems to show up. Just want to clarify so I don’t violate what’s going on here, thanks.

          • Hi Sean,

            Rules? Pshaw, this isn’t kindergarten. 😉

            If something’s held in moderation it’s almost always because it includes a link in it, and I haven’t had time to view the link yet.

            I work for Dragon Door who runs this site and publishes books by many of the exceptionally fine fellows who write on this site. As an artist in a former life, although I read every single comment, I personally am very anti-censorship except in a few cases. I don’t publish any comments that are or can be seen as discriminatory in any way – race, gender, sexuality, anti-little green men from outer space, etc.

            I also don’t publish spam, or self-interest comments, where someone is trying to steal the glory from the author by leading them to their own site and products (I think that’s incredibly rude). Other than that, I’ve never censored anything. Now, I’m not the final law on censorship, I’m just a worker bee – but so far, I’ve always done what I think is right… which is almost nothing!

            So, if it’s held for moderation, just understand that the link hasn’t been reviewed yet. Spammers are very tricky these days. Ok? 🙂 Hope that helps!

          • Sean

            LOL Darn those lying Canadian papers! I read an internet article of an email interview you gave (supposedly i guess, but praising your stuff) that said you moved from San Francisco to London, England. My bad, Ok I’ll stop asking..probably getting weird now… 😉 Thanks for checking on that site.

            On a different note, any thoughts or plans on an APP version or your bodyweight log book? Count me in if so.

          • Son, I’m way too dumb to make that techno shit work!

  • kyuulnagi

    Dear coach, Happy New Year~
    I have a few questions about plank.
    RKC blog or Easy strength suggests to practice doing plank before doing push-ups to build stability(alignment). However,it seems that your calisthenic training program does not include plank. (Books, DVDs, and this article). Do you think it’s unnecessary?
    Personally, I’m a student of your system, but I’m confused because of many different information from different systems (plank, breathing, high-tension technique, FFT, NW, etc…) I prefer something simple. However at the same time, my expectations are high.
    There are many great things for me just to get out of there.
    What would be your suggestion?
    Also, if I decided to start doing RKC plank for some reasons(alignment,stability,tension), how should I incorporate it into the current CC program? I’m curious.
    Looking forward to your reply.
    Thanks.
    ( * English is not my native language. Sorry if I wrote the uncomfortable English.)

    • Alexi

      I recall Paul mentioning somewhere (I think it was in one of the advanced techniques section) that the plank helps in building strength and stability as it is a very demanding static move. I also recall Paul saying that he’s a big fan of static moves.
      I’ve used static moves in my own training before. Typically 2 sets as a warm up, at least 1 set between workout sets and as a finisher to my workouts. I found that they’re a really good approach to drain your body and strengthen your entire body endurance for holding tension for long periods (like holding your body tension during a push up or pull up series) , but I didn’t notice it adding any more stability to my workout. though you’ll find that you’ll be able to tense your body harder and hold the tension longer, you’ll find that your workouts will be more demanding and you’ll reached your limits faster and earlier.

      • We need to get ya into the ranks of the PCC kid–all great ideas!

        • Alexi

          Not happening unless you guys bring the PCC to Singapore. Would love to see Al in action.

          • write to Dragon Door and we CAN make it happen! We would KILL to take the PCC to Singapore, Alexi…

      • kyuulnagi

        I personally think it’s too early for me.
        I think I should keep things simple listening to what the coach tells me.
        Thank you for your nice and specific explanation:)

    • Hey buddy–thanks for the question, and rest assured that your English is better than mine!

      Yeah, starting training can be pretty confusing. Honestly, I’m not an RKC so I aint qualified to discuss their plank. But if you are doing CC, you don’t need to perform the plank at all–your alignment muscles get worked just fine doing pushups. If your midsection needs specific work, I’d skip the plank and hit the area DIRECTLY with leg raises.

      The PCC manual does include the plank, with full progressions leading up to the elbow lever. But beginners don’t need the plank. Thanks for ya question–I sure hope I answered it okay!

      • kyuulnagi

        Finally, the ambiguous question has gotten clear for me.:)
        I love how simple it is.
        I’ll follow your advices from now on.
        Thank you coach. things got really simple and easy hearing your advices.:)

        • I have been called “simple” many times my man! Thanks for the comment and please stick around!

  • Spike, buddy! First up, well done for absorbing my former reply real well!

    If you aint feeling the wide stuff, my advice would be to SKIP isolation and move to dips as fast as ya can. (You don’t mention whether you can feel the SIDE pushups I think I recommended?) I disagree about close pushups working the pecs well.

    How do you move to dips? Begin with bench dips and slowly progress to regular dips, then bar dips. Bar dips will build up any pecs. Look at Al Kavadlo’s pecs; he’s lightly muscled, but his pecs are very big for his frame. Why? His focus on the muscle-ups, which contain a bar dip at the top.

    Commit on year to this kinda work, building to bar dips. At the end , your pecs will be fearson. I promise ya Spike! Keep me posted on your progress!

    • Spike

      Thanks for replying, Coach!

      Just some follow up questions, if you don’t mind answering:

      – I can feel the one-arm side pushups working my chest (the outer pecs near the shoulder rather than the inner pecs towards the midline), but the intensity isn’t quite as much as I’d get from pushups for tricpes (my chest is never sore as my arms would after pushups), that’s why I’ve been looking for further suggestions that target the chest more.

      – As for the dips, I assume that your “regular dips” refer to the parallel bars dips, while the “bar dips” means the muscle-ups?

      – As a complete beginner, it would be nice if you can suggest how should I progress through the stages? I’ve been following CC New Blood which means I work out only 2 days per week (pushup/leg raise and squats/pull-ups on separate days). Should I only do the dips only on the pushup days or both days? What rep range should I be looking at? I assume it should be around 6-12 or more? Any “hidden steps” that I should take advantage of before leaping from bench dips to the regular dips?

      – Since I wouldn’t have access to the gym for the most part, do you have any suggestion on how I can “improvise” a parallel bar dip? (I’ve been brainstorming about this…, chair dips sounds dangerous from what I’ve read online…)

      – Any further tips or resources that I can learn about the dips would be nice!

      Again many thanks for spending your time guiding newbies like us! I will keep you posted but that’s going to take a while though….

      • Leo

        Yes, regular dips are done on parallel bars, but the “bar dip” is the same thing just on top of a single bar. It is only the top part of the muscle up. Dip progressions will be covered in Convict Conditioning 3 I think, but I can give you some dip progressions, that I would do:
        Start with Bench dips, with your legs bent.
        Then do them with straight legs.
        Over time you can put your feet onto an elevated surface, which means less assistance from your legs.
        Eventually you can do them without the help of your legs and on parallel bars (the regular dips)
        Then do them on a straight bar.

        When you dip, your arms shouldn’t bend more then ninety degrees and you shouldn’t stay totally upright while doing them, this can lead to shoulder injuries.

        You can check out Al Kavadlo’s Youtube Channel, he’s got some videos about dips. His book “Raising the Bar” also has a whole chapter about dips

      • Leo

        After you mastered bench dips with your feet elevated you should try regular dips, but maybe going only halfway down.
        The Pull up progression from CC and the dip progression have a lot in common.

        You can try parallel dips between two stable tables or perhaps between a window sill and a table.
        The best option would be to buy parallel bars you can attach to a solid wall. (I got mine from Amazon, from “bad company)).

        If you want to target your chest more on dips, you can lean forward, while doing them.

      • Spike! Shit, I missed your response in all the commotion–my bad, man. To answer your questions:

        -You said what I would’ve said–how hard you make this is up to you. If you experiment there are a number of tougheners.

        -Yeah: but only the last, pressing portion of the muscle-up.

        -Dude, you can program dips like pushups. After bench dips, raising your legs is a fundamental step.

        -Depends on the chairs. Metal railings that form a right-angle also work surprisingly well.

        -Al Kavadlo’s site has some wonderful dip progressions and tips. Check it!

        I expect to be hearing from ya, Pecs!!!

  • Hapworth, my man! Great questions–let’ see if I can do em justice!

    If you REALLY fear an injury–and you’re not just being a pussy–skip this step altogether, and begin supported deep squats, if you can. Be REALLY focus on mobility, okay–make em deep!
    Funny, I HAVE seen convicts hanging this way! My advice to build strong shins is simpler. Squat deep. Deep squats force powerful engagement from the tibialis…more than most folks realize. By the time you can perform ten full close squats, your shins will be as strong as you’ll ever need em.

    Balanced…? Great question! Answer’s gonna have to be vague though. Basically, if you are working your calves HARD, you should also be working you shins HARD in the same program. The good news is if you are doing deep squats to the limit of you ability, you are already working those shins hard. Don’t forget to do your ankle rolling, though!

    Hope that helps buddy!

  • Great article as always Coach, and one that I find quite interesting for me as my bootcamps at work are now starting to get quite a varied mixture of abilities attending.

    On that note my bootcampers always get shocked at how little equipment we have to take to the park, with the other bootcamp at work we have to take all sorts of different weights, kettlebells etc in order for different levels to all be able to train. At my calisthenics class we just take a couple of balls for pushups and usually some gymnastics rings

    • Sounds good to me. I bet many folks reading this envy the athletes who get to train with ya, David!

  • Carter Doud

    The elbow lever is another great way to build the chest. The only problem with it is that it is more of a skill based exercise. When you are strong enough you could also try what I refer to as a low planche. It is similar to an elbow lever, however you cannot balance yourself on your elbows, the elbows must be kept parallel to the torso and remain bent at about 90 degrees.(similar to the bottom position of a push up). The idea of this is to statically work the pecs in a levered position. It needs to be done on a raised surface such as a table or bar for proper ground clearance. This exercise isn’t something to build a routine around like push ups or dips since its not as progressive. Its an alternate exercise to be combined with push ups or dips.

    • Spike

      Thanks for the interesting suggestion Carter! Although I have to admit it looks way beyond my level right now but I’ll definitely give it a go when I’m strong enough!

  • Mattias

    Dear Coach,

    Very nice inspiring article. I still feel like a beginner but I am no longer a noob. I have been following your CC program for almost a year and a half and I am very much still thrilled with working with it. And I have again and again been surprised by the healing effects of calisthenics. I’ve suffered somewhat from a slight arthritis in my right big toe joint. There was never a problem when performing workouts. But the situation never improved. But now when I worked through the sqauts progression and particularly since I’ve worked the uneven squats for some time the situation has improved a lot. The pain is gone and the movement is back. Wonderful!

    I have a question concerning the uneven squats which I don’t find the answer to in the books, forums (or the Super FAQ). I have problems performing a FULL range squat. The range I mean is from standing down to back side of thigh completely pressed against calf. However in the book you don’t actually seems to advise a FULL range. You write that the back of the leg should only tough the corresponding calf. In my case that’s somewhere around 3/4 movement – given that touching means that back of leg touches top of calf. I.e. there is considerably space between the butt and the heels in the lowest position.

    I have developed quite a love-hate relationship with this exercise (it is soo hard but also rewarding) after nearly a year working on it and it would feel fulfilling to get it right before moving on.

  • Matt Schifferle

    Sorry to be tardy to the party Paul, Just got to a computer today.

    Just wanted to say thanks again for the articles on packing on muscle. Been loosening up the diet a bit (not that it was all that tight to begin with) and been going with a bit more volume and I’m bigger than ever but still lean.

    Also, I was wondering what your ideas were on the whole mind-muscle connection deal. I’ve been experimenting with it a lot lately and it’s been quite interesting, especialy with applying it to calisthenics. Since my focus on generating more tension has grown I’ve found much more challenge from even moves like you suggested in this article. Been doing calisthenics for 6 years now and the standard push up still continues to challenge me.

    • The Fit Rebel! That great man is back!

      Hey, glad you have put on some extra beef, kid. I heard you were one of the biggest (if not the biggest) PCC athletes. Great work!

      In your email, you sum up the attitude of a Master. Few weights-obsessed athletes realize the HUGE levels of tension you can generate while purely standing still; muscle-splitting levels of corked up power. Once you begin applying these to the basic moves, the power levels you are playing with are suddenly huge.

      I’m not a muscle control, Maxick-style guy, but I was always impressed with martial artists and yoga guys who could control every single muscle. Way more impressive, to me, than just lifting something heavy:


      One thing I will say Matt is that in my experience isometric tension style exercises, if practiced assiduously, generate nervous power really, really fast. Just a few seconds (ten is perfect) of hardcore tensing of the muscles each workout brings frighteningly quick results.
      It’s cool to see that you are experimenting with these ancient methods–sounds really interesting. Any chance we could twist your arm and have you blog on it for us…?

      • Matt Schifferle

        Of course, I’m working on an article right now in fact that I’ve really been pouring a lot into it. Been testing things like the static holds on some of my clients and they are loving it. I’ve also got a 3 step set up before every exercise I’m doing that’s helping a lot.

        I’ll get it finished and send it out in about a week. Thanks again for all the time you put into this community Coach. Makes a HUGE difference!

        • Thanks my friend. Brother, it has really changed my life being able to talk to young athletes and coaches like you!

          I CANNOT WAIT to read the article, Matt–and you bet I will be trying out your techniques. You have a phenomenal calisthenics brain.

      • Nico

        He coach,
        Ive read an article written by eugen sandow who stated that he could send more blood to any given muscle thus speeding up recovery.
        what are your thoughts on this?

        Nico

        • I totally buy it. I KNOW you can send blood to an area of the body just using the mind…every time I think about Kelly LeBrock, blood definitely gets sent to a certain area.

          Seriously, it can be done. At my age, after many injuries, I realize how important circulation is for healing, and I can increase circulation in an area just by concentrating. You don’t need this skill, of course–a heat pack is even better, Nico. Wonderful question, thanks man!

  • Greg

    Hi Coach Wade (and others who are willing to offer their 2 cents):

    Mattias’ question below in part answers mine, but I’d like to ask anyway. It involves “full squats.”

    Currently, I am able to squat to slightly past parallel with the top of my hamstring just kissing my calf. This is roughly a 3/4 squat, or something just shy of one. Doing this, I can meet the basic requirements laid out in the newbie program (and I am definitely a newb fitness- and calisthenics-wise – I’m not a couch-potato due to being on a dance troupe and some strength training, but I’m overweight and could be much stronger than I currently am). When I try to do a butt-to-grass squat, though, I invariably fall backwards; I can’t get into that position. I can roughly get into something close to butt-to-grass after some wiggling while holding onto a solid pole in front of me, where I feel some tightness toward the bottom of my sit bones and a lot of pressure at the front of my insteps, where my foot meets my shin. It’s uncomfortable, and I’m a little sore in those spots after it (no sharp pain, so I doubt I’m doing damage), but I can do it. If I try to do assisted full butt-to-grass squats with the pole in front of me, I can also meet the basic requirements laid out in your article, and it’s in fact a little easier since I’m using the pole. I feel burn and am tired after 3×20 3/4 unassisted squats, but I’m not as tired when I do the assisted butt-to-grass ones, in part because in using the pole in front of me for balance, I invariably also use it to get back up so my upper body is helping the the squat.

    So, given all that: where should I put my focus in the squat portion of the routine above? Go for deeper unassisted squats? Work on mobility by hanging out in the deep squat position for a couple a minutes? Something else?

    Thanks in advance for your great program and inspiration, Coach! Your program really eliminates all the excuses I had to get stronger!

    • Seen this situation many, many times my friend. Don’t waste your time trying to fix it by getting stronger. Mobility–particularly ankle, but also hip mobility can play a role.

      The “tightness” you are feeling is nothing to worry about. It is simply your anterior tibialis–yer shin muscle, to me–pulling like a motherfucker, trying to pull your insteps up. Why is it trying so hard? Coz your ankles aren’t mobile enough.
      There is only one solution to this mobility situation–REPS, home boy!

      Start your squats by warming up well. Work into low positions using the pole, and try to hold it without falling over. Once you can hold the bottom position for 30 seconds without the pole, you’re their, aren’t ya? It may take a couple months, but you won’t ever regret it as it’ll make you a true squatter and cure any foot and ankle problems.

      After you have done your “holds” during squatting practice, feel free to move on to the 3/4 work you describe above, to build those muscles, during the rest of your squatting workout. It might also help mobility to begin training your ankles more often–squats three times a week are a good idea. Alternatively, you can squat HARD once or twice a week and just do the “holds” three or four times per week. (It’ll only take 3-5 minutes, and shouldn’t eat into your recovery.) This is just until your bottom position corrects itself.

      Please hit me up here and let me know how you progress with this Greg. Your problem is a common one and I promise you it can be fixed pretty soon!

  • Dhairya

    HI PAULIE, I am here again
    I have discovered a new thing…..I cant explain theoretically…But this is the only way i can explain…
    Do some pushups or squats. Then take rest a little.
    NOW DO THEM SECOND TIME,
    BUT rest all the muscles not being used and also those being used (ie. triceps and pecs for pushups and all legs muscles for squats) up to certain limit.
    YOU will too find that the exercise becomes 5x difficult.

    HOW and WHEN to use them in regular training? Does it increase strength??…
    AND THANK YOU for inspiring us.

    • Wow, what an intriguing post…not sure what you mean about this, though. Mebbe an article or video is in order, to show us what you mean? (If you wanted to do this, you could post a link here, and I’d make sure it go through moderation.)

      • Leo

        I think he means doing one set of an exercise BRACING all the muscles.
        Then doing a second set of the same exercise WITHOUT bracing the muscles.

      • dhairya

        DID YOU TRIED THE SECOND WAY PAULIE..?

        I mean that when you do pushups(or any exercise) RELAXXXX all-ALL THE MUSCLES… while doing the PUSHUPS ( at the time of doing any exercise).

        lift your body using only the triceps and and chest.

        suddenly the triceps will get much load then doing the normal way.. THEY WILL CRY IF YOU KEEP DOING THIS WAY…

        (I would love to share this e-book I read partially “Philosophy, Science and Practice of MAXALDING” by Juan Antonio Martínez Rojas. You may get it free from net)

        • That’s a radical method! What an interesting tip, thanks!

  • Leo

    Hey Coach,
    I find it easiest to do my push ups and bridges on my fists.
    It hurts my wrists, when I do them on flat palms.
    Is it ok to continue doing them on the knuckles in the long term (progressing in the push up chain, bridges and hspu’s)?
    Is handbalancing on the knuckles possible?
    Or should I strenghten my wrists to do push ups with flat palms?
    If yes, how?
    I also really want to do fingertip push ups.
    Is it okay to start wall fingertip push ups if one is a beginner like me?
    I’m not doing grip work though, pull ups are enough work for my forearms.
    Leo

    • It is possible to hand balance on the knuckles, but it is less than optimal.To gain strength in the wrists, you should probably begin with wall push ups to ease into applying force through them in a bent position. Doing push ups on your knuckles is a step in the right direction for wrist stability and strength. As for finger tip push ups, you can slowly build up to them using wall push ups and incline push ups, but I would avoid doing them on the floor until you find that your wrists have become slightly stronger.

      • Leo

        Thanks!
        Can I continue doing knee push ups on the knuckles, but also doing flat palm wall push ups, or just the wall push ups?

        • Sure, but put some effort into wrist circling, pulling work, and making the transition to palms.

    • Yo Leo–again, what Carter said!

      I’m not knocking knuckle pushups or bridges. The trouble is, advanced work is virtually impossible on the knuckles. Stand-to-stands or one-arm pushups? Basic pushups and bridges will work, but you will be at a serious disadvantage on the knucks when you reach these higher levels.

      Honestly if you are badly injured or over 60 and have osteo-arthritis in your wrists from years of jacking off, then maybe there’s a case for long-term knuckle pushups. But being a teen as you are, you should really be spending your time figuring out why your forearms are so weak and getting them STRONGER, Leo! There’s a lot of talk about movement and mobility these days, but in truth, effort, time, and STRENGTH cure 9 out of 10 apparent joint problems, which are generally caused by being a weak-ass modern dude.

      It’s in your hands, man.

  • BarHawks

    Hey Coach Paul Wade, I just had a quick question for calisthenics. I did calisthenics for a good solid 4 1/2 months and stopped because I was brain washed by people saying that I will not make any progress doing calisthenics, although I made great progress. I am back at it again after reading convict conditioning and it has motivated me to get back into it full time now. 100% no weights! I am pretty much at intermediate level and I want to know what I can do to pack on more size! i want to bulk up just a little bit more and then just keep a nice physique like a gymnast! do you have any advice?? and also when i do you workouts stated in the book should i just pick a few and do it on that given day and switch it up with other work outs the next day or should I do them all? what workout do i pick and do i move onto the next step once i finished all the 3 steps in the challenge?! I need your help please I want to get to the advanced stage and make some great progress.

    Thanks again,
    Trever

  • I get so excited by this kind of stuff, even though I am now at a high-beginner/intermediate level with bodyweight exercise, because it is exactly what worked for me when I had health problems and suffered from fatigue a few years ago. Pushing myself balls to the wall just made things worse, but doing a few pushups against a railing is where I started and it took off from there.

    Anybody can do it – modify things to make them easier at first, then make progress slow and steady. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been, or how many times you’ve tried and failed.

    • You get it, Duff. I could not sum up the essence of beginner training better than you did, period.

      Stick around, kid. We need more insights from ya please, dude. Great comment.

  • BarHawks

    Thanks Coach, I will keep you posted on result and shoot you a message if I have any questions!
    Trever

    • I’m here for you my friend. Hit me up!

  • BarHawks

    Anyone have any idea’s on how to stretch out shoulder’s/ strengthened them more so I can start knocking out handstands. I get a pain in my left shoulder whenever I try to do bridges or handstands.

    Thanks
    Trever

    • Could be several things going on here kid–but if it’s a shoulder stretch you want, the twist in the Trifecta is impossible to beat for shoulder health.

  • tesche

    Hey Coach,

    first of all I wanted to thank you for the awesome
    books (CC1/CC2) and for the really interesting articles on this blog. I
    started following the CC1 approach, supplemented with the trifecta and
    calf raises as well as grip and fingertip pushups, since one year now
    and it looks like I’m still struggling with the simplest exercises. I’m
    27 years old, 5 3/4 feet and 160lbs (thus actually quite good in shape)
    but the pushup progression took me nearly over one year to finish the
    first level and I wonder if this can be because of doing them to slow or
    tensing the muscles to much during the exercise? It’s not like I’m not
    seeing any strength gains and changes in my physique, but I’m just
    curious when I hear people saying that they do it since 2-3 months and
    are already at level 5. I face similar problems with all other
    exercises. Still stuck on level 1 with the shoulder stand squats and
    level 2 of leg raises and can barley do 3*20-25 vertical pull ups. Which
    is somehow irritating as I’m able to do 5 good repetitions of a full
    pullup. But I guess this is what you meant with milking each level and
    putting bank in the strength. After reading this blog I wonder if I
    should restart everything with this programs posted here or continue
    with new blood V2.0 form the super FAQ? How do I differentiate if I’m
    making the exercise to hard and thus not reaching the progression
    standard?

    Trifecta is working well and is a wonder in itself,
    the twist progression as well as the bridge progression cures all of my
    back pain/instability and this is just worth everything.

    For this alone, you have earned all of my gratitude.

    Greetings from Sweden
    Thomas

  • Mattias

    Alright! Thanks for the answer and encouragement!

    FYI – I’ve spent this much time on this excercise because I was one of those persons that could do lots of close sqauts quite easily but couldn’t do any reps of any more advanced ones. Balance and strength was my problem.

    So I made up and progressed through a handful of mini-steps until I finally could take on the uneven squats like you’ve explained in the book. I took inspiration of your teachings and particularly the later steps in the series for these steps.

    The steps I used were as follows:
    1. 2×20 (each side) of half uneven squat with the ‘support’ leg stretched out in front of me but heel resting on the ground.
    2. 2×20 (each side) of assisted uneven squat with the support leg on the ground.
    3. 2×20 (each side) of (unassisted) uneven squats with support leg on the ground.
    4. 2×20 (each side) of assisted uneven squat (with the support leg on a basketball and pushing off a soccer ball with my hand).
    5. uneven squats (text book)

    I’m currently at step 5 approaching 2×20 (each leg) with the ROM I’ve tried to describe in the previous post. For the other steps (1-4) I actually used a greater ROM actually…

    Once again thanks for support Coach!

    • Owsky

      Cool. That’s very similar to some modifications I made to bridge the gap between close and uneven squats. I also used knee squats and Bulgarian split squats to get there.

    • I love it! We will have you in the PCC at this rate, my friend. Wonderful mini steps!

  • Sean

    Thank you sir good to know…

  • Leslie

    Hi Paul! I guess I’m what would be considered a noob-new to strict calisthenics training but I’ve been physically active for quite some time: I need to improve my upper body strength but I can stand to push my core training. I want to train for upper body strength for Pole Fitness (I take a Handbalancing class in addition weekly to Pole classes) and I believe Calisthenics will help with that in a huge way. I don’t however know where to start. How should I split my workouts? Can I do pushups and leg raise work on the same day (upper body/abs) or do them separately? Also, should I abandon traditional weight training for upper body strength (dumbbells, machines, etc)? Should I no longer use the assisted pull up machine? And can a Roman Chair be used for any of the leg raise exercises (the only thing close to a hanging bar in my gym is raising the smith machine bar to its highest rung and I don’t know if that’s entirely safe to hang off of :/)

    PS: I started the Pushup series via your book (which I just purchased and love) and I notice with the wall push ups as I progress in reps I have a pain in the back of my elbow and I have to pause for a few seconds. Will that go away with more practice?

    Thanks. PLEASE BRING A CALISTHENICS WORKSHOP TO CHICAGO!!!

    • Hey Leslie! Great to have ya on board. CC gives lots of programs, but (just between you and me) how you program doesn’t matter nearly as much as just getting started. The pole classes are also an awesome step–calisthenics has a long history of “vertical bars” before they appeared in strip clubs!

      You CAN use a Roman chair for sit-ups, but you are better off working up to leg raises on a sturdy bar. Honestly, if your gym doesn’t have a hanging bar, leave–that’s the most fundamental item a gym can have! Save the money and buy a bar for your doorway, or just find an overhead bar in a (safe) park, and train there.

      As for the elbow pain–difficult to say. But yeah, often aches and pains are due to training imbalances or other transient shit. Modify your training technique by all means if it helps (palm position, elbow angle, depth, speed, etc.) but NEVER QUIT!

      We’re with ya, kiddo!

  • Slightly_Puzzled

    Hello, Coach,

    Mind if I ask a question? I’ve been training for awhile, mainly focusing on burpees lately. Generally, I do 150-200 per day, each one with some variant of push-ups.

    Thing is, last week I had surgery (donated a kidney), and I’m off exercise for awhile. There’s going to be some detraining, that’s just the way it is.

    Any advice as to how I can minimize detraining, and then get back to where I was as quickly as safely possible?

    Thanks.

    • Wow, that’s a serious question, huh? Sorry for the late reply–if you get this I hope the recovery has gone well.

      My answer? Isometrics. Google Maxalding–and do it.

      Oh, and you are a friggin hero, by the way. Hats off, my friend.

      • Owsky

        Maxalding seems super complicated, at least to me, but I tried something similar to fix a shoulder problem, and it worked wonders.

        Along with joint circling, which Coach advises, I tried various “dynamic tension”-type exercises which I picked up from the old-school Alois P Swoboda. If you google him you can find more info.

      • Slightly_Puzzled

        Thanks for the suggestion. Yeah, the recovery’s gone pretty well, and I appreciate the good wishes.

  • William

    Coach Wade,

    It’s good to see that you’re still posting articles to the blog!

    CC question: Is it better to do 5 sets of 3 pull ups and end up with 15 reps total, or just do two high-intensity sets and end up with about 13 reps? I’ve been doing the latter based on CC, and I’ve been told I might see more results from the former. What do you think?

    William

    • William! Sorry for the late reply my man.

      The answer depends slightly on your goals. For muscle and strength, I would ALWAYS say two high sets where you hit it hard are better than diluting effort over more sets. Every time!

      That said–experiment. You might prefer the former!

  • Oscar Gaytan

    Hey Coach wade my workout plan consists of working two big six workouts and one should shotgun muscle workout. I’ve been working with this routine for almost 3 months and have gotten significantly stronger, started with 3 pull ups now I can do 15. I was wondering should I stick to this game plan or would you recommend slowing down and just working on one of the big six workouts a day?

    • Oscar! Great to hear from you dude. If I were you I would move shit around just a LITTLE after three months…even if your workout is giving up the goods, you aint gonna do it if you get bored, eh?

      No need to “slow down”, just mix things around…a new variant here, change the order there, or explore a slightly different rep range or set of training days. Got it?

      Congrats on improving your pullups by 500%. Wow!

    • Oscar! Great to hear from you dude. If I were you I would move shit around just a LITTLE after three months…even if your workout is giving up the goods, you aint gonna do it if you get bored, eh?

      No need to “slow down”, just mix things around…a new variant here, change the order there, or explore a slightly different rep range or set of training days. Got it?

      Congrats on improving your pullups by 500%. Wow!

  • karinagw

    You couldn’t find a better poster child for a noob if you sent out talent scouts….an older very overweight noob, at that. But, I’ve made the decision to make changes that need to be made for my sanity. I remember from the days of my youth when I was on both the swim team and the track team that I really liked calisthenics. Your site seems to answer my needs about easing back into things.

    My two issues are these:

    1) I can do wall push-ups and flat push-ups but I can’t do inclines (I think I’m afraid of falling and smacking my face into the table). Since they are, nominally, easier than flat push-ups, can I ignore them? And, yes, I can do them properly…just need to build the reps.

    2) Sit-ups are an issue not for the upness and downness, per se (although, down is easier). But, it’s that my balance stinks…always has even when I was young and limber (I do have a slight inner ear issue which probably contributes). I find myself, not holding a chair, but touching it to keep a sense of not falling over sideways. Since I’m not using it to push off of or to help me down, can I keep doing it that way?

    Thanks for doing this and not talking down to those just trying to get it together.

  • Daniel

    Hi paul, greetings from the u.k.
    This blog is by far the best for noobs!
    I naturally store fat, and by performing
    These exercises I have shed 20lbs off my
    Frame in less than 2 weeks 🙂

    I can’t thank you enough sir 🙂

    Daniel.

  • john

    Hey coach Wade
    After completing these goals can I do your diesel 20??

  • “Six-pack from Hell, here we come…”– lol:)

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