CALISTHENICS: 20/16, 20 Exercise Tactics and 16 Programming Approaches to Keep the Dream Alive (Part One)

by Paul "Coach" Wade on January 5, 2016

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Al Kavadlo Hanging Leg Raise

My beloved bodyweight brothers and sisters!

2016 is here, and that means I get to quit that set of pushups, blow the dust off my old laptop (my computer, not my junk) and write an article for the folks who really matter—you guys! Jeez, have I missed ya! How you been? Good? Staying out of trouble? …Why not?

I know the drill. Every time New Year rolls around, dudes and dudettes promise themselves one of two things: they either promise that THIS is the year that they’ll start working out; or—if they already work out—THIS is the year they’re gonna make those big-ass changes they really yearn for.

Well, I’m not gonna help you with any of that. Sorry. (But if you do want to make this year the year you begin bodyweight, I wrote an article for you here, or if you want to make this the year of the big transformation, read this.)

Don’t get the wrong idea. I still love ya, baby. But this year I want to try and help you with a third kind of promise. It’s not as big a leap as starting out, or as sexy as a transformation, but it’s possibly the most important thing you can do if you want to really get anywhere with calisthenics.

What am I talking about? Keeping at it.

It’s sad but true, but just keeping working out—week-in—week-out—is something that a HUGE number of potentially legendary athletes really struggle with. They might have great genetics, massive pain tolerance, and a perfect program, but most folks seem to just suck at not quitting.

So what’s the solution? In reality, athletes quit bodyweight training not because they are injured, and not because they don’t get results. Consistency in training is a mental game. The late, great Vince Gironda once said that most athletes should train hard on a program for three weeks, then take a week off (!) and begin a totally new program, repeating this every single month. Vince understood that although an athlete’s BODY can absorb repetitive training almost indefinitely, the MIND gets easily stressed or bored with a given method of training very quickly.

Now, I don’t believe you need to lose a quarter of your training time every month, but Vince had a point. Variety—freshness, freedom, novelty—is the best possible solution for the kind of mental stress or staleness that makes folks layoff or quit their training. So that’s exactly what this blog post is gonna focus on. I’m gonna add to your training toolbox here, kid—in Part One of this post, I’m going to give you TWENTY fresh ideas—techniques, challenges, tips and tools—to throw into your training to shake sh** up when you start to get bored. In Part Two, I’m gonna give you SIXTEEN programming approaches—sometimes complete templates, sometimes more focused concepts to help you explore rep ranges, frequency, and so on.

Twenty/sixteen…2016…see what I did there?

Let’s hit it, gorgeous!


#1. GO CAVEMAN

Remember when you were a kid, and bodyweight training was natural—and fun? You ran, climbed trees, played games. And you didn’t even know you were doing calisthenics, right? Let’s learn a lesson from this. If you are starting to feel stale, trapped and bored with the old straight sets of the same movement-families, how about shaking things up and going “caveman”?

What I mean by “go caveman” is simple; look at your regular strength exercises, and try to see what functional movement patterns lurk underneath those joint movements. For example: in the real world, nobody needs to do a perfect one-arm chin. But they may need to use their arms in a similar way, by climbing. Nobody does a perfect one-leg squat, but you do need to sprint. And so on.

2treeclimbing

Here’s a list of some “caveman” calisthenics:

  • Climbing: Use a climbing wall, a tree, or natural terrain. Develops the pulling muscles of the back and arms, finger strength, coordination and mobility.
  • Running: Use sets of sprints, or better still hit a natural terrain with inclines, declines and stuff to duck under and jump over. Turning on the speed or hitting those hills will strengthen every lower body muscle, from toes to hips.
  • Quadrupedal movement: Get on the floor and crawl; run; roll—just use all four limbs. There are dozens of movements to try here, and they all build excellent arm and should strength, while ironing up that midsection.

3Crawlinggroup

  • Swimming: The above three activities will give anyone a total-body workout—you want to add an X-factor, go for swimming. Awesome for the joints, great stamina, and bulletproofs and heals sore shoulders. Hell yes, it’s bodyweight!

How should you use this list? Here’s a good way. When your regular training gets too stale—too heavy, stressful, or monotonous—take a month off your regular calisthenics work, and spend 4-6 sessions a week doing nothing but these four types of caveman “play”. Don’t try to be too systematic about it—just put the time in, and make it fun. In four weeks, you will have retained all your strength, but added extra balance, coordination and new skills, while refreshing your joints. Plus, you’ll have lit a fire, and be raring to get back to the regular movements.

These are just the basics—you can get much more sophisticated in your caveman work, which has a long history in physical culture. The PCC Instructor’s Manual has an in-depth chapter on “Natural Movement Patterning”. If you want to get more into this side of things, you could do worse than research the philosophy of the modern master of natural body-movement, Erwan Le Corre. Erwan is a training genius, and long-time friend of the PCC—check out my interview with him here.

 

#2. EXPLORE HAND-BALANCING

This concept comes in the “something different” category.

If there is an “art within an art” in calisthenics, then it’s gotta be hand-balancing. Back in the first half of the 20th century, hand-balancing ability was seen as a sine qua non of a strength athlete. Weightlifters and bodybuilders (like Doug Hepburn and John Grimek) did their thing with bars and weights, but they worked hard at hand-balancing too. If you couldn’t hold a handstand, then you were a goddamn pussy!

4Onearmelbowlever

Hand-balancing involves an entire catalog of techniques involving bodyweight inversion via strength and balance. It’s a discipline, almost a system, of itself. It’s not just holding a handstand. It involves all kinds of free handstands, tiger bends, various floor levers, hand-walking styles and techniques, partner tricks, and the crucial transition between hold sequences. It also includes preliminary drills such as the crow stand.

I spent many years obsessed with the art of hand-balancing: particularly the technique of kicking up into a handstand from a one-arm elbow lever. For a long time that technique, to me, was a “one-arm handstand”—and I thought I was the only person in the world who could do it. I later learned that countless others could: and better!

A long time after my experience with that technique, when I began teaching bodyweight to more newbies, I eliminated almost all hand-balancing from my system (although you still see the crow stand in there, a little throwback). Why? Because I discovered that handstands were more effective for strength-building when you took the balance element out. I stand by that principle, but it still doesn’t lessen the awesome respect I have for hand-balancing.

In addition, hand-balancing is exciting. Fun, in a way many “safer” calisthenics skills aren’t. If you’re looking to insert something new and powerful into your training, hand-balancing may be the way to go.

For decades, the greatest resource for the old-school hand-balancing philosophy and training was the iconic York course #1 and #2. These beauties used to be available on the old Sandowplus website, however sadly this is no longer the case. Luckily, full copies have been preserved on David Gentle’s site:

York Hand-Balancing Course No. 1

York Hand-Balancing Course No. 2

Even if you aren’t interested in pursuing the training, these old courses make for a great read. David is doing the world of physical culture a HUGE service by preserving lots of invaluable old texts like this alive (and FREE) in his online library. If you read the courses (and if you do Facebook) please go and like his page on Facebook to let him know you’re supporting the great work he’s doing.

 

#3. GO MOBILE

Sometimes when we want to call Time Out on our strength training, it’s not due to staleness or boredom. One big reason is joint pain. Calisthenics is the safest form of training for your joints and soft tissues, but even so sometimes you’ll get aches and pains. It makes you paranoid.

Provided you aren’t carrying an acute injury—which needs to heal—the solution is usually to check your form. If that doesn’t get the job done, reducing frequency and volume probably will.

That said, there are times you will feel the need to take a brief layoff from hardcore, ball-busting strength movements. If you are doing it to save your joints, the best strategy is to devote 3-6 weeks to pure mobility training.

5Germanhang

“Mobility” is different from “flexibility”—which, frankly, I have no use for outside of a rehab context. Mobility involves the use of strength to increase a joint’s range-of-motion. Working on mobility movements every day (or maybe 6 days per week) will not only refresh your joints and increase your range-of-motion; done properly it will increase your neural efficiency and your ability to use your bodyweight when you return to the hard stuff.

Mobility work should feel natural—and, done right, it should complement and mirror other bodyweight training to a remarkable degree. All bodyweight aficionados who want to master mobility should go right to the source: Stretching Your Boundaries by Al Kavadlo.

That book is an incredible, next-level view on bodyweight mobility! I’m not saying this to sell you another Dragon Door book—just the opposite, that book has cost me money. When it came out, I was lining up to produce a book on mobility; but once I read Stretching Your Boundaries, I realized, genuinely, that it was the last word: simple, elegant, perfect. Better than anything I could write on the subject.

Thinking of quitting because of sore joints? Get this book, absorb it, and take five weeks using it every day. It’ll revolutionize you. Then get back in the War, soldier.

 

#4. PUT AN INCH ON YOUR PIPES

Oh yeah—now we’re talkin’, kid.

Sometimes when your training is in a slump, you need to back off. Sometimes, you need to change things. But sometimes, what you REALLY need is to double down, and work harder—really kick yourself in the ass. The best way to do this is set a challenge you really want to meet. Putting an inch on your guns in a month? Sounds good to me!

Here’s how we’re gonna do it.

6Al

Pick two triceps exercises, and two biceps exercises. The first biceps/triceps exercise should be TOUGH—five reps should be a struggle. The second should be a “FEEL” exercise—that you can control well, to burn the hell out of your muscles. You should be able to get about 10-15 reps on these.

Good choices for “tough” triceps work: handstand pushup variations, one-arm pushup variations, etc. For tough biceps work, stick with asymmetrical vertical pullups. Find progressions that match your own strength level.

Good choices for “feel” triceps work: incline French presses on a low bar, tiger bend pushups, close grip pushups. For biceps, some kind of horizontal pull, with your palms supinated (facing you).

Your arms workout will be the same for the next two months:

  1. TOUGH TRICEPS EXERCISE: Warm up, then: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
  2. TOUGH BICEPS EXERCISE: Warm up, then: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
  3. FEEL TRICEPS EXERCISE: 4 sets of 8-15
  4. FEEL BICEPS EXERCISE: 4 sets of 8-15
  5. Horizontal bar hang: 1 x minute
  • Take about a minute’s rest between tough sets; 20 seconds on the feel exercises.
  • Perform the tough exercises as straight sets; do the feel exercises superset (i.e., a triceps set, then a biceps set, etc).
  • As you get stronger, you may need to switch to harder exercises to keep the rep range right. That’s cool.
  • Forget torso work—you’ll get plenty of it with the arm pushing and pulling.
  • Train lower body just once a week: a few hard sets of squats, light bridges superset with lying leg raises, and possibly some calf work and mobility.

How often do you do this workout?

-Week 1, do it twice.

-Week 2, do it three times.

-Week 3, do it four times.

-Week 4 do it twice.

Then—on the final day of week four—perform the workout three times in a single day, with at least two hour’s rest between sessions. I know this sounds nuts, but the stress it puts on your arms is unbelievable. Eat plenty.

Don’t blame me if your t-shirts don’t fit this Spring, stud.

 

#5. LORD OF THE RINGS

Sometimes the key to kick-starting your training involves a new tool. Now—generally speaking, dude—I am a bodyweight purist. To me, the bulk of your training should involve the floor, a horizontal bar, and maybe a wall and a basketball. Run to the hills if someone says you NEED something more than this to assist your bodyweight training, because, 9 times out of 10, that item will actually water down your training and make it worse.

There are times, though, when sprinkling in a new bit of kit is the spark plug you need to set your training alight. In these cases, using new gear might be acceptable. One example might be parallel bars. I’m not a big fan of them, but hell—a lot of advanced athletes swear by them. Another example of an ancient bodyweight tool—and one I mentioned in Convict Conditioning—are hanging rings.

Rings Of Power Example

Hanging rings are fairly affordable now. They are available on the internet, they’re easily and rapidly adjustable, and can be slung from plenty of different locations. You can do pressing exercises (pushups, dips), pulling work (pullups, horizontal pullups, levers), hanging leg raise stuff, and assistance squat work (assisted squats, one-leg squats), etc.

Best of all, you can use progressions on these beauties: the higher the rings, the less the angle of your body and the easier the pushups are. Likewise for pulls. Can’t do a ring pullup? Sling the rings low enough to reach while sitting, with your legs extended. Then try a seated pullup, keeping your heels on the floor as a pivot.

I could give you dozens of progressions, but there just ain’t the space here. Want to know the best place to start? Get Gillette’s now-classic Rings of Power. The best part of the book? It stars our very own PCC wonder girl, Adrienne Harvey!


#6. BODYWEIGHT ISOMETRICS: “THE LITTLE 3”

Training getting boring because the exercises ain’t challenging enough? You stud! Now that’s what I love to hear!

I’m a big fan of an up-down-up-down lifestyle. And I don’t just mean in the bedroom, you dirty birds. I mean that, for muscle and functional strength, I love exercises with nice ranges of motion where you lift, pull or push yourself up and down for reps. Plenty of reps!

For those of you getting bored with the up-down-up-down stuff, throw some isometrics into your game. Now, as a known bodyweight zealot, I’m often asked my option on isometrics. Isometrics just means “same length”, and refers to exercises where you don’t move. The first basic kind is where you just tense your muscles, unloaded—bar pulls are an example. The second kind is where you load your muscles with a proportion of your body’s weight, and try like hell not to fall over—an elbow lever is an example. As for whether I dig isometrics? Well, I like the first kind…but I LOVE the second kind!

For the second kind of isometrics, you are typically (though not universally) looking at a group of exercises called levers. Levers involve supporting the body extended non-vertically from a limited fulcrum point. (Phew.) Levers not only require total-body strength to keep aligned; they also demand impressive trunk and limb strength, balance, coordination, and intense concentration. Levers are great!

You bodyweight strength princes and princesses looking to explore isometric levers should start with the “Little 3”. The Little 3 are basic levers which work the entire body, front, back and side:

L-sit

L-hold. This is a midsection classic! Just push down through the floor (or bars, in the photo) and lift your locked legs off the ground. A killer for the abs, hips and thighs; but the pressing motion also works the lats, triceps and pecs. This one can feel impossible at first—the abs just aren’t accustomed to pulling the pelvis up so high—but with diligence it will become easy as pie.

Elbow lever. Another trick too cool for school. Just lean forward on your palms and tilt your straight body off the floor. More balance than strength, but it does work the shoulders, chest and arms, as well as the entire back of the body, which has to tense to stay aligned. If you have any weak spots or shitty muscular coordination—forget it.

clutch flag

Clutch flag. The front and back of the body is done a deal—howabout the sides? Hug that bar and lift! Another really neat trick that builds strength in the hard-to-reach lateral chain of muscles.

Don’t tell me these are too goddam tough. You should know the drill by now—NOTHING is too tough for us, Kojak! We just use progressions to get there. Can’t perform an elbow lever? Do a plank. Do a lever from a table, with your feet dangling off the ground. Can’t do an L-hold? Do it off a chair with the knees bent. Straighten them over time. As you get stronger, return to the floor and try again with bent knees. No clutch flag? Again, bend those knees until you can extend just ONE leg. You’ll get there. A benefit of levers compared with most up-and-down work is that you can perform them more frequently; sometimes every day. Explore. Experiment.

The Little 3 are wonderful basic holds which are interesting, productive, fun to learn and impressive to non-trainees. They also work real well together; you can learn all three together much quicker than if you learn them separately, as much of the lever patterns carry-over. What are you waiting for? Go master them. When you’ve achieved all three I’ll show you how to level up in your isometrics work to “goddam!” status. (You guessed it. There’s a “Big 3.”)

 

#7. EXPLOITING EXPLOSIVES

In Convict Conditioning, I advised all my bodyweight students to perform the bulk of their movements slowly and under control. Why? Because if momentum is moving the weight, then your muscles aren’t. Slower movements not only build peak strength, they also fatigue the muscle cells more rapidly, for max size gains.

But—and, like that Kardashian chick, it’s a BIG but—there are exceptions to the rule. Those of you paying attention will have noticed that in every exercise chapter of that book, I also included an explosive exercise, to be performed at high speed, with maximum power.

Box jump

Spending some time training this way is useful for a number of reasons. Firstly—it makes you fast and explosive. That should be enough! But it also makes you agile, increases coordination, builds up joint resistance, and “primes” the nervous system for greater strength gains down the road. Bodyweight explosives are also interesting—a challenge, and real fun to perform. This makes knowledge of PROPER explosives training a real useful tool for that toolbox on a rainy day. Although why you’d need your toolbox more on a rainy day, I got no idea. Maybe the roof is leaking? Whatever.

So how do you go about explosives? Here’s a good way to start: add one solid power movement to each of your sessions. Apart from that, follow these simple rules:

  • Always use explosives at the beginning of your session, when you’re freshest. Trying to jump on tired muscles can lead to accidents. Also, proper explosives rev up your nervous system and help with later, slower sets.
  • Warm up well before any explosives.
  • Beginners should avoid exotic stuff and work mainly on a power diet of jumps and explosive pushups.
  • Limit reps on explosive work. You’re looking for stimulation, not exhaustion. Once the crispness and spring is gone, you is done.
  • Start slow and be progressive. One clap pushups become two claps, become behind-the-back claps, and so on.

Explosives are pretty cool. Looksee.

Over time you should begin to move from simple power work—the jumps and explosive pushups—to more sophisticated movements like kip-ups, muscle-ups, and flips. What’s that you’re saying? Paulie, there’s no way I could ever do ninja stuff like a backflip! Well, you’re wrong, knucklehead. You just need to start slow and—like all bodyweight—use the right progressions. And because I love the hell out of you all, I wrote those progressions down for ya in minute detail in Convict Conditioning 3: AKA Explosive Calisthenics.

Please check it out—it’s my personal favorite-ever book that I wrote, apart from all them other books.

 

#8. JOIN THE CIRCUITS

A couple years back I had a middle-aged athlete write and say he was laying off his training for six weeks coz he’d broken his wrist. I asked him: Too much jerking off? He responded, correctly, by telling me that there was no such thing as “too much”.

I always advise folks to keep training through injuries where they can. But what do you do with a busted wrist? No pullups. No pushups. No bridges. Damn. At least you can jerk off with Mr Lefty and pretend it’s a foreign chick.

What I advised this guy to do while his wrist was healing was to focus on leg work. Let’s face it—calisthenics athletes often get “chicken legs” bull thrown at them. Working a little extra on those legs can’t hurt at all. My student followed the routine I wrote for him, and in six weeks put an inch on his thighs, a quarter inch on his calves, and massively increased his definition in his lower body. Plus, he actually improved his stamina and cardiovascular capacity during his “layoff”.

Lunge

This was the program I gave him: to be performed with two days off between workouts.

Warm-up: mobility exercises/light squats-5 mins

  1. One-Leg Squat: 5 sets x max reps (per leg)
  2. Straight bridges (performed off forearms, not palms): 3 sets x max reps
  3. Vertical leaps: 5 sets of 2
  4. Sprints (100—200 feet): 5 sets x max effort
  5. Leg circuits: pick 5 exercises and perform each for ten reps. 3-5 circuits

Exercises for leg circuits (pick five at random each session):

  • Bodyweight squats
  • Hindu squats
  • Sissy squats
  • Half-squat with calf raise (two second hold at top)
  • Tuck jumps
  • Side kicks
  • Side-to-side squats
  • Alternating high steps (on a bench)
  • Alternating lunges
  • High kicks
  • 180 degree spin jumps
  • Wide stance squats

 

#9. BODYWEIGHT ISOMETRICS: “THE BIG 3”

What’s that? You’ve already mastered the Little 3 levers I gave you in tip #6?! But that was only three tips back! How did you…?

Ah, never mind. I trust ya.

When you’re at the point where the Little 3 are easy—you can hit them for a few seconds any time of the day, and they feel more like warm-ups than real “work”—you’re ready to move up to the big boy stuff: the “Big 3”. The Big 3 are the most impressive and valuable levers in calisthenics—the front lever, the back lever, and the side lever (more commonly known as the press flag):

Front Lever

The front lever. On an overhead bar, pull your knees up over your chest, and extend them until the body and arms are straight. Simple as hell, difficult as f***. If you are getting bored with leg raises as an ultimate front-of-body builder, this needs to be the next step. Try it and find out why.

Back Lever

The back lever. Opposite of the front lever. Grab an overhead bar, and spin your legs through your arms, straightening your bod to razor-like perfection. All muscles have to work to maintain position, particularly the spine and upper-back. A legendary exercise for building mobility and strength in the shoulders.

Flag

The press flag. Grab a vertical bar as in the photo, and jump/swing your legs out to the side, then hold. What? You can’t do it? Only one in a hundred thousand people can, because you need the kind of shoulder, arm and side strength (lats, obliques, serratus, hips) that you normally only find on folks who have turned green after getting pissed off.

As you have probably figured out by now—you read my stuff, so I KNOW you are intelligent, as well as good-looking—working your way up to these levers is about increasing leverage. Start with the body as squashed, as compact as possible, and “unfurl” to become as straight as possible, as in the photos. Begin the front and back levers hanging with your knees tucked in; extend them over time. Eventually, you’ll be able to extend just one leg. Then two legs, bent at the knees. Then you’re there. The principles are similar for press flags—a full progression system (including clutch flag progressions) are included in Convict Conditioning 2.

 

#10. SPICY SPICY GRIP

Productive training is all about those damn basics—the bodyweight squats, pushups, pullups, bridges and so on. Everyone who wants to become a calisthenics master needs to learn to love these bastards, but there’s no doubt about it—if you are performing them day in, day out, they can start to get pretty boring.

At times like this—when your training is going well, you’re adding reps and strength, but you’re getting a bit bored—ya gotta add some variety. Training can be like food: throwing a dash of spice into a bland meal can revolutionize a dish. Why not pepper some grip specialization into your training to shake things up and add variety? Often this kind of little trick is enough to keep you training through the grey times.

Al Bar Hangs

Grip work is best at the end of a session, so you don’t screw up your other upper-body work. Other than that rule—you can make this stuff up! I talk progressions and workouts in Convict Conditioning 2, but you don’t need that to get started. Keep it fun and challenging.

Howabout:

  • Timed hangs: Hang from the bar. How long can you manage? Add a second every session, and soon you’ll have grip stamina that would beat the hell out of a powerlifter or bodybuilder.
  • Towel work: Hanging from a bar is tough for most people. Try it from a towel! Loop a big towel over a bar and hang on for dear life. Unlike most hanging, towel work requires giant thumb power to complete the chain. Try it with one hand and you’ll see.
  • Fingertip pushups: So many styles—so many progressions to choose from. If the floor is impossible, go for a wall or an incline. If the floor is easy, howabout an asymmetrical position? One-handed? What about using individual fingers, or thumbs? If it was good enough for Bruce, it’s good enough for you.
  • Finger holds: In the barbell world, grip monsters love one-finger deadlifts and pulls to unleash the full potential of each digit. The bodyweight version is even better—digital hangs. Can you hang from a horizontal bar with just your index and inner fingers on both hands? Just the index? Pinkies and middle fingers? For huge tendon power, better get testing.

A little grip work is fun and very beneficial for strength—one or two exercises per session is enough, as long as you balance out the holds with fingertip pushup sets. Think you’re a real champ? Pick an exercise from each of the four categories above, and perform all four in circuit fashion, as hard as you can. Do five circuits and I promise you, you’ll know what your forearms are for tomorrow morning.

 

#11. EQUILIBRIUM TRAINING

Now this one is real interesting. Just throwing it out there, to see what you all think. It may intrigue ya—you may have no interest. That’s cool, too.

You train for strength, right? And speed. And maybe endurance. But who out there is seriously training their vestibular and proprioceptive systems? In other words, who is training for balance?

Equilibrium, or balance, is a crucial aspect of health and fitness. In fact, one of the more reliable indicators of biological age is the simple one-leg test—if you can stand on one leg with your eyes closed for more than twenty seconds, you’re doing okay. Check this here chart to discover your “Balance Age”.

Balance is essential in all athleticism. But I know hardly any athletes who train for it. If you are interested in this approach, it might prove to give you some supplementary work that’ll bring some fun into your workouts.

Ideas:

  • One-leg balances for time
  • Asymmetrical yoga positions (on one leg or otherwise)
  • Side planks with one arm and leg extended
  • Headstands
  • Handstands
  • Spinning and standing on one leg
  • Walking along a solid line (i.e., a brick wall—a series of posts, etc.)
  • Slacklining (cool with the kids, I hear—thanks, Adrienne!)

 

#12. WAY OF THE DRAGON

Sometimes the best way to renew our training is to search for a different vibe. We might be doing similar stuff to what we were doing before, but if the package feels different—we won’t get bored. It’s a win-win.

1 arm straddle handstand

A great way to insert some glamour into your bodyweight training to explore the way martial artists approach the subject. Practitioners of the oriental fighting systems—kung fu, karate, tae kwon do—these guys have centuries of thought and practice behind what they do, and they are inevitably crazy about bodyweight. Just check out tapes of modern Shaolin training to see how seriously these monks take calisthenics.

If the western, scientific, linear, American double-progression-style of bodyweight training is losing some of it’s meaning for you, think about exploring the way bodyweight is performed in traditional martial arts. These arts involve tons of training in ten areas:

  1. Katas (movement forms): body control, coordination, conditioning, power striking, etc.
  2. Pushes and pulls: various pushups, pullups, etc.
  3. Leg exercises: horse stance, low stepping forms
  4. Sensitivity drills: chi sau, striking/blocking drills
  5. Animal drills: eagle claw, monkey, tiger, etc.
  6. Agility: rolls, flips, tricks, tumbling
  7. Extreme mobility work: “teacup” training, joint work, box splits, etc.
  8. Balance techniques: plum blossom poles, asymmetrical tai chi movements, etc.
  9. Breathing exercises: chi gung, iron shirt work, etc.
  10. Meditation

All of this is bodyweight work. All of it is useful, and it might just suit you. One of my favorite martial arts bodyweight manuals is the old classic Dynamic Strength by Harry Wong. Check it if you can!

 

#13. ROPE-A-DOPE

Another super old-school bodyweight tool! Rope training is vouched for by everyone from the military to sixties Batman. I’m not talking about those piss poor ropes in modern gyms—you know, the ones they lay across the floor so you can play ribbon with ‘em. I’m taking about ropes you actually CLIMB, bitch!

Get a thick length of climbing rope (it has to be thick as you can get, for grip—narrow rope is no good) and secure it to a high girder or branch (20 foot is about perfect). Then climb that sucker. Ropes build incredible pulling strength and arm size, but they also work the torso and midsection more than most people realize. One of my personal heroes in calisthenics, Harvey Day, said that rope climbing was THE toughest abdominal exercise. He was right.

rope climb

Be ready for a challenge, and—as ever—you can make this shit progressive.

-Climb up and down with legs and both arms

-Climb up with legs and both arms/climb down using only arms

-Climb up and down using only arms

-Climb up with the legs in a L-hold

Experts begin their climbs seated on the floor—in an L-hold! This means the legs cannot help with the climb at all. By the time you can do this, your biceps will look like goddamn steel softballs. There are other progressions from there—mostly built around speed (time yourself for distance or reps) and volume (how many climbs can you make?).


#14. SURVIVE THE CENTURY

I said earlier that a challenge is as good as a rest when it comes to keeping your ass training. Now, if you’re REALLY looking for a challenge, why not try the coolest calisthenics gauntlet in the whole damn world: The Century.

I know the vast majority of you reading this will be aware of The Century. For those who aren’t, it’s a bodyweight strength test over four different exercises performed back-to-back for a hundred-rep total (hence the name). Check it:

 

Men  Women
40 Squats 40 Squats
30 Push-ups 30 Knee Push-ups
20 Hanging Knee Raises 20 Hanging Knee Raises
10 Pull-ups 10 Australian Pull-ups

 

Want to see what a perfect Century looks like? Check these videos from Al Kavadlo and Adrienne Harvey.

Working towards The Century isn’t just a motivating challenge: it’s a killer program in itself. The entire body is worked; form on the basics is tightened up; and because the exercises are performed with no rest, you wind up with a killer cardio workout, too.

The Century is designed as the final PCC test, to be performed after three grueling days of bodyweight training. If you’re headed to a PCC—now that’s a challenge to motivate ya!—check out this awesome article on The Century by Adrienne Harvey.

 

#15. I DON’T WANT NO DISSENSION! JUST…DYNAMIC TENSION

About twenty years ago if you’d talked to anyone in fitness about building up your body with calisthenics, they woulda immediately shot back with one name—Charles Atlas.

Atlas—real name Angelo Siciliano—was a legend in the physique world for developing the bodyweight-only system known as Dynamic Tension. Anyone my age who bought a comic book EVER remembers the ads vividly—the scrawny dude getting sand kicked in his face (in front of his gal! Not cool!) only to go into hiding and use Atlas’ secret techniques. A little while later, he would return to the beach, jacked up, find the bully, and rip off his head and s*** down his neck. Then he f***ed the bully’s mom, while she was still grieving. Probably at the funeral. Actually, yeah. At the funeral. That’s how I remember the ads, anyway.

Comic

Atlas fused basic calisthenics training drills with isometric tension techniques to create his system—a system which, all in has, has to be one of the most successful training programs the world has ever seen, any way you want to slice it. If you’re devoted to bodyweight—maybe working through Convict Conditioning or a similar system—and you’re looking to explore something a bit different for a while, why not go old school and give it a try?

I know a lot of folks have attacked Atlas’s methods over the years. So what? Here’s the reality: no training system is perfect, and virtually no athlete goes their entire career using just one system, anyway. So if you give Dynamic Tension a try and find out it’s not for you, that’s cool. I’m betting you’ll learn a thing or two along the way. And that’s what it’s all about.

One proviso though. If I see you at the beach, please don’t kick sand in my face. I bruise real easy.

 

#16. PAIN WEEK

Here’s a fun little number to shake yourself out of a funk. When a body part needs specialization, the sensible way to train that area is to up the intensity and volume a little, allowing plenty of time for rest and recovery.

Feel like screwing with “sensible”? Try “pain week”, which was a common bodybuilding tactic in gyms in the seventies and eighties. (You don’t hear about it much now, which is why I thought you might want to know this stuff.) When your training is getting tedious, pick a body part that’s lagging for you—let’s say, chest, for example. Now, instead of slightly increasing frequency and volume, we are gonna jack them up massively, by working this area every day, for five days straight.

Close Push Ups

Utilizing pain week is simple. Pick five exercises, and perform five DAMN HARD sets of each exercise, each on a different day. That’s all you do—nothing else that week. Take the weekend off as a well-deserved rest, and go back to your regular workouts on Monday. (Trust me, you’ll be grateful about it.)

For chest, Pain Week might look like this:

MON:  Pushups between chairs: 5 x max

TUE:    Parallel bar dips: 5 x max

WED:   Clap pushups: 5 x max

THU:    Muscle-ups: 5 x max

FRI:     One-arm tripod pushups: 5 x max

SAT:     OFF

SUN:    OFF

Monday’s workout should be tough, but otherwise fine. On Tuesday you should be a little sore, which will make things extra tough. Wednesday, your pectorals will feel deep-fried and scream during every rep of every set. Strangely, by the time Friday rolls around, your pecs will feel as if they’re starting to adapt—but you’ll still be glad to put the madness behind you.

The best part of Pain Week is that it actually seems to work. Using this method, you actually CAN noticeably improve a lagging body part in a real short span of time. Don’t believe me? Try it.

 

#17. THE “PERFECT 10”

I can’t take credit for this one. This is from a buddy of mine and former tactical firearms officer Mike Barnard. When he read about my “Big 6” exercises—squats, pushups, pullups, leg raises, bridges and inversions—Mike wrote me and told me about his list: the “Perfect 10”.

Mike’s theory was that a perfect athlete—with control, strength, stamina—would be able to achieve these ten bodyweight feats:

  1. Pistol squat: 25 reps per leg. Hip, knee and ankle strength, mobility and endurance.
  1. Pushup: 100 reps. Vertical pressing strength and stamina.
  1. Pull-up: 50 reps. Pulling strength and stamina.
  1. Muscle-up: 10 reps. Horizontal bar dominance; explosive pulling and pushing strength.
  1. Elbow lever: 1 minute hold. Balance-strength-stamina.
  1. Human Flag: 5 seconds. Huge lateral chain power.
  1. Front lever: 10 seconds. Total-body strength plus anterior chain.
  1. Back lever: 10 seconds. Total-body strength plus posterior chain.
  1. L-hold: 20 seconds. Contractile hip and abdominal power.
  1. Free handstand: 30 seconds: Shoulder and arm strength, plus ultimate inverse balance.

So—how do you stack up on this “perfect” list?

Mike was in the process of working towards all these feat when we last spoke—and he already had a WARNING: this list is only for athletes who are already real badasses, or those with big, BIG ambitions to get there.

But maybe you fit that category? If not you, then who?

 

#18. MUSCLE CONTROL 

This one also comes under the “something different” category.

Back in the day—let’s call it a century, or roundabout—one of the popular disciples of strength was muscle control. Like a hybrid between yoga and Dynamic Tension (which hadn’t been invented), muscle control was the art of maximally contracting and relaxing all the muscles of the body, rhythmically and separately.

Before you think: what’s so hard about that shit? Stop and consider it for a second. Yep, maybe—inspired by Arnold—you can tense your pecs in time to the beat. But can you really control each row of your abs separately? Can you pull one shoulder-blade up while the other one goes down?

For a really great example of this art, google British athlete Tony Holland.

Most of you older guys will be nodding your heads; you will have heard all about muscle control. Before you younger guys laugh too hard, remember that Bruce Lee was influenced by muscle control methods; you can see it in his warm-up sequences. That shoulder mobility comes from Western muscle control training, not kung fu. In fact, muscle control not only increases coordination, neural recruitment, circulation and mobility, it also helps ease joint pain. It’s a helluva workout.

Bruce Lee

Muscle control theory was pioneered by a strongman who went by the stage name “Maxick” (changed from the more vomit-y “Max Sick”). In fact, for many years, muscle control was called Maxalding. Maxick used his training methods on himself. The legendary Eugen Sandow said that Maxick had achieved a level of physical conditioning that, in his opinion, could never ever be bettered.

Sick wrote in depth about his ideas and techniques, and he had a huge number of followers during his lifetime. Luckily his works are all now public domain and you can enjoy them for free. The full library can be found here.

 

#19. TRY PARKOUR

If the semi-static pushes and pulls of bodyweight bodybuilding or strength training are getting you down, you need to get in touch with what your body was made for in the first place. Move!

I’ve been aware of the ideas behind parkour since before most of you were born. (Yeah—I’m THAT ancient.) But it’s nothing new. What is?

One of the biggest thrills (and surprises) I’ve had over the last decade or so is seeing this new wave of Hérbertisme training, parkour, become mainstream. You see kids getting off their asses and Xboxes and doing it in the park, in the street—everywhere. You don’t need to buy anything to get into it, and your imagination and effort is what unlocks your ability; not any drugs, money, equipment. God, it’s cool—it’s just the kind of thing the world of physical culture needs. And the talent some of these young athletes possess blows me away time after time.

I wish this stuff had been better known when I was a kid: I woulda eaten it up with a spoon. I have actually built some parkour drills into my explosives training, over the past few years, and loved it. I’ll never be great, but I continue to surprise folks with my agility.

So don’t think you are too old for this stuff. If you want to start, begin slow and master the basic drills. Over time, you’ll be able to link some moves and freestyle.

 

#20. BAR-ONLY TRAINING

Here’s a tip to shake up your training straight from Joe Hartigen. I recall one occasion when someone I knew a little bit who worked out pretty hard asked Joe how to improve his upper-body mass and strength with a quick turnaround. I think he was expecting a sets and reps answer, but he didn’t get one. Joe was real concise. He said something along the lines of: only use the bar when you train. Nothing else. That was it.

Al Kavaldo Muscle Up

In fact, if you are looking for upper-body gains, this weird advice is actually gold. If you’re only working on the bar, all your exercises are hanging. That’s a grip and core workout every damn rep; not to mention circulation, as your blood is pumping hard the whole time. You’ll be doing plenty of pullups for your lats and biceps. Goodbye floor work for your trunk—hello leg raises and front and back levers which work the torso like nothing else. Pretty good for the whole body, actually. Standard pushups are fairly easy—if you want to press using the bar, you’ll need horizontal bar dips and muscle-ups, which are Nth-Level pec and triceps builders.

Joe gave no rules, but if you’re serious about this I’d think about doing nothing but a bar workout, every other day for no more than twelve weeks. I’d alternate between pulling days and pushing/levers/abs (although there’s gonna be a ton of carry-over).

If you’re interested in this idea and want some more technical instruction, the finest manual of bar calisthenics is by my pal Al Kavadlo. Check out Raising the Bar.

If this works for you—hey, remember Coach taught you this great tip right? If it’s a total failure, remember—this old crap wasn’t my goddamn idea.

——–

There you go—straight from me to you, twenty training ideas to keep you interested, invested, and in the calisthenics game for the rest of the year. At least! In Part Two of this article we’ll look at programming tips and tricks to help you even further out of any slump you might find yourself in. Big thanks go out to Al, Danny and Grace for letting me use their awesome photos, and more thanks too to the lovely Adrienne for all her help with this post.

Now, I don’t get on the net much—yes, that statement dates me for the elderly bastard I am, but so be it. I’m just not that type of guy. The biggest pleasure I get from posting here is that it gives me the chance to speak to all you cool bodyweight athletes and soon-to-be athletes from all over the world. So please, please—I’m gonna be checking this page for the next two weeks. I would LOVE to hear from all of ya: old friends and new friends alike. If you have any questions, I would really get a kick out of trying to help you, and I answer all comments. I don’t care if you’re completely new, or a “lurker”: don’t be shy. There are no stupid questions. So shoot me a line, studs and studettes!

 

***

Paul “Coach” Wade is the author of Convict Conditioning, Convict Conditioning Volume 2, the Convict Conditioning Ultimate Bodyweight Training Log, and five Convict Conditioning DVD and manual programs. Click here for more information about the Convict Conditioning DVDs and books available for purchase from Dragon Door Publications.

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  • Steve Long

    Dear Paul,

    I know you’ve probably heard this many times but convict conditioning was life changing- as somebody who has exercised all my life it was as if my mind was read when you wrote it- I can fully relate albeit without the experience you had whilst inside. I appreciate the time and effort you spent writing it.

    If you didn’t mind I’d like to ask you about you learnt to listen to your body- I’m very motivated and find that I can train hard without much aching having done years of competitive swimming daily.

    Where I struggle sometimes is recognising whether to keep working hard with the possibility that this may affect the next session. I wondered if you could share any additional insight in this.

    I know in the book you talked about body wisdom and only doing a few sets for power but I find dieting difficult and like to be able to burn off a lot of food by really working hard.

    Thanks in advance,

    With regards

    Steve

    • Yo Steve! What an awesome comment!!

      You want the good news or the bad news? The GOOD news is I had a blast reading your lovely words. The BAD news is you will probably hate my answer!

      How hard is too hard? This is simple math. If your next session is progressive–are you improving times, adding reps, getting stronger?–then the previous session is not causing you any problems. Go for it! If you are struggling to stay awake or make improvements on any session, then the previous session may be to blame.

      That said: the real issue with disruptive sessions like this is not working too HARD. Athletes rarely ever work too HARD. They work too often, or too much. So the real solution if your sessions are degrading is not to stop working as hard as you are, but to add another rest day in and see what happens.

      The next part of my answer is one you may hate, Stevey boy! Calisthenics is useful for fat loss for metabolic and subconscious reasons. It adds muscles and makes you burn more fat thru the day. But if you are telling me you want to lose fat but want to do it thru calisthenics instead of nutrition, I have to be real with you and tell you that calisthenics suck for this. Most exercise sucks for fat loss.

      Nutrition is where it’s at. Any overweight person who cuts back just a little on grub can easily shed a pound in a couple days without even noticing it. But to use exercise, you would probably need to do FIVE HOURS of pushups to burn a single pound of fat. Not to mention, that five hours would make you so ravenous, you’d probably eat more than enough to put that pound back on to compensate!

      I’m not telling you what to do bro, but I would never advise anyone to perform calisthenics to lose weight. Perform calisthenics to get strong and add muscle, then just cut back a bit at the table.

      Thanks for your kind word and great questions!

      Paul

      • Steve Long

        Thank you so much Paul for such an informative and insightful answer and taking the time to write back, true class. I’m sure so many people have reaped the benefits of convict conditioning as I have.

        Certainly food for thought! Such valuable advice- I will without question be putting this to use.

        All the very best

        Steve

        • What a gent you are, Steve! Hit me up with any other questions and PLEASE keep me posted on your results with the training!

          You got this!

          • Steve Long

            Cheers Paul- the master steps I can’t do yet are the one-armed handstand pressup (a few inches off), one armed pull-up (not really happening) & stand to stand bridge (miles away)At 6″4, 215lb I think smarter training and cutting food out can and will help with all of those.

          • Your achievement is INCREDIBLE–you are a big, big guy in calisthenics terms. To do what you do at that height, at that weight, is nothing short of stellar, bro.

            Remember when you are struggling away that all those “huge” looking male gymnasts are typically 60-70 lbs lighter than you!

  • It’s like a WHOLE NEW BOOK!!!!! Going to get out my iPad and grab a cup of coffee for this one! Thanks a ton for all the info, Coach!! (And thanks for including me in some of the photos too)

    • Lovely Adrienne, you do so much for me and this blog, then sit back and take zero credit! Thank you SO much for making this look pretty, keeping it aligned with the marketing, loaning photos…and on and on.

      You’re the BEST, and me and the entire PCC community love you for it!

      • Thanks for the recognition 🙂 its nice to be in a position to help 🙂

        • If we had 3 more of you, PCC could rule the damn world.

          More than it already is!

  • Joe

    Hey coach,
    A killer post, I am going to do more
    tree climbing and explosive bodyweight work because it’s kick ass awesome stuff as ever coach.

    Your Student
    Joe

    • Hey Joe! Izzat DJ Joe?

      Thanks for the kind words my friend, it means a lot to me. Let’s make this the year we keep on keepin on, in new and exciting ways.

      I’m with ya!

      • Joe

        Certainly is sir, like Adrienne said the article could be a another book. I am including your advice into my training.

        Your student
        Joe

        • What no YouTube music links bro?

          • Joe

            Of course apologies for that here goes:

            This should be cool
            Joe

          • MY FAVORITE YET!!!!

            You never let me down, my man!

          • Joe

            Ah thanks coach I’m back doing diesel 20 soon damn cold knocked me on my rump recently.

            Hope your good
            Your student
            Joe

          • Good man–keep building that beef and keep me posted. Aint no virus can keep your ass down!

            Thank for dropping by, speak soon. P

          • Joe

            Cheers coach,

            Another awesome convict conditioning year ahead.

            Your student
            Joe

  • Kasper

    Hey Coach,
    Thanks for all your books and articles! Since 2009 when CC came out I took up your challenge to stay on the bodyweight path. Now I am on all master steps except HSPU (and the OAC is not perfect yet) and working both the explosives and Big Three before the strength work as well as Grip and Calf work after. 40 years old and stronger than ever 💪😃
    Great article! Like the #4 (looks like a compo at the methods in Diesel 20 and Bodyweight Revolution articles). One issue I have with programming is unilateral exercises in fx. the Hartigan Method. Do you recommend to do both sides of fx. OAPU in one set and then 1 min. rest or do left side then 1 min. rest and then right etc.? I have used the second options to be fresh for the other side, but then the total rest will be longer compared to fx. HSPU … Same goes for OAC vs. FL pull-up. Maybe it’s nerdy (well, it is but anyway), my structured brain would like to do the same for different push and pull movements.
    Thanks again!!
    BR Kasper

    • Hey, this Kasper kid really knows his shit! Great question!

      Either method works, since you are resting the other side while training its opposite. I’d go for the latter though–max rest for max strength. That said, having scoped your achievements you know what you are capable of so I say go for it.

      Congrats on everything–at 40 you are still a baby in calisthenics terms and I hope to hear much more from you in the future. Thanks for the post!

      • Kasper

        Thanks for the reply!!
        Will go for it and will definitely keep training hard. Looking forward to part two..

        • Real interested to know your thoughts when it hits, K. Thanks again for the feedback, it’s appreciated hugely my friend!

  • Halil Mutlu

    Can i say fuarkkk?:DDD This is a damnn great article.Cant wait to do the crazy arm workout:DDAlso was getting a bored with diesel 20 so thanks for reminding what’s waiting for me in the end of it.These articles are gold mann goldddd.Cant wait for the part 2.

    • It’s my main man Hailil!!

      So great to hear from you man, feels like it’s been an age. I hope your training is going well, looking good and ripped in your photo my friend!

      • Halil Mutlu

        It’s going well mann:DD You have a long-ass e-mail from me check it out:DD

        • Thanks so much man! I will check it but the reply might be late as I’m working hard on Part Two–but I value your emails more than you know, and I WILL get back to ya!

          • Halil Mutlu

            It’s okay for me coach.Even if i have to wait for some time it will be a win-win situation for me since you will be able to write a better reply to my e-mail after finishing with the part 2 which i fu**in look forward to:DD Btw right back atcha what you said coachh.I value your emails much more than you imagine:DD

          • As I value yours good buddy! Thanks so much, just made my day!

          • Halil Mutlu

            :DDD

      • Halil Mutlu

        Btw happy new years mann:DD

        • Right back atcha my friend!

          • Halil Mutlu

            Thanks mann:DD

  • Amihay Efergan

    Hi Coach! Great to hear from you.

    I must admit that you really surprised me with that great post!

    Anyway, I’m doing th CC “from the ground up” and started this year with the ambition to start all over again from the basics. I have a strong base but it feels great to see that even the easiest progressions have huge values.

    My question is: Can I combine the great fun of quality training (or practicing, if you wish) and focusing on perfection with some of the goals you mentioned? I mean, I’d love to start your adding-an-inch-to-my-arm but still want to have my progress on other movements.

    Thank you.

    Ami (from Israel)

    • Ami! Hey, so great to hear from another bodyweight brother from Israel. Thanks for your comment!

      To answer your question–I would advise ALL students to spend six months following CC progressions as strictly as they can. If you don’t have six months of solid conditioning (joints, balance, body wisdom) under your belt, throwing in a load of crazy shit might definitely cause problems.

      But if you’ve been training consistently for six months…a year…two years…go for it! Add stuff in!

      The point of most of the above tips is: to keep you training. To add something fresh and interesting, to challenge your body, to ramp up motivation.

      Sure, if you keep changing your changing around all the time, your results will suffer. But most of the above tips are meant to be short term “training vacations”–diversions for a month, two months, three months. They are not meant to be forever.

      To sum up: If you’ve been doing CC for six months or more and want to try something new, I say go for it! Give yourself a limited period to achieve a goal and you’ll have fun and learn stuff. Then later, go back to CC by-the-book for a rest! Please let me know how you get on?

      • Amihay Efergan

        Thank you coach!

        I’ll take your advice. I’ll continue to work hard and strictly on CC and when it’ll feel like I need a “side dish” I’ll take one of your ideas.

        Thanks again. Hope to take the PCC at the end of the year.

        Best,

        Ami.

        • A future PCC?! Why didn’t you say, my friend?!!

          I hope it happens–please keep me up to date with your training, Ami.

          • Amihay Efergan

            Be sure I’ll do that!

  • Mike

    Hey coach, love all your stuff, religiously seem to follow only the big six as they’re all an all round good athlete needs in my opinion, just a bit of help though i can do sets of 20 close squats easily and always seem to hit the progression standard yet I always struggle with uneven squats even if I use something smaller than the basketball, I love this step so thats why I really want to learn to do it, thanks for all your help introducing me to the ultimate form of training 🙂

  • BrunoBU

    Wow Coach !!! Super article ! Like Adrienne says : its like a whole new book. Thank you very much Coach ! I have all your books CC I, II, III + C-Mass and I read them one after another again & again !!! Your Books should be mandatory in school and physical education classes ! Anyway, I love your writing and can’t have enough of it, you’r the best Coach !!!
    French-Canadian from Montréal Qc Canada .
    Bruno U.

    • Bruno! No man, YOU are the best!

      Awesome to have feedback from a tough French-Canadian. God bless you for buying the books, I appreciate it more than you know. Big thanks for your kind words and huge respect going out to the calisthenics community in Canada! Stick around!

  • Hey Coach,

    Swimming? Muscling in on my action, eh! More the merrier I say.

    It’s been a productive year for me. I’m not too advanced in my exercises but enjoy them a lot. It’s the long haul I’m looking at so this article resonates with me. Then again I like all your articles Coach – I know you write them just for me.

    A year ago I started counting again because you told me to – I did it for old coach – so I can tell you I ended the year on 56,985 reps. Most of that was good old simple basic exercises – incline push ups, free squats, variations of pulling exercises – I used the Diesel 20 model to get me used to doing higher rep sets – (never did more than 5 in a set for 20 years!) Boy did I curse you a few times Coach, out in the park doing 15’s thinking my head would burst. Something happened though – I noticed that I was feeling a lot better & that it was the rest days that were knocking me about. Coach, I’ve found that daily high reps is great for being happy. Too much of course & I pay the piper, but not enough & the specter of old injuries reminds me I should have concentrated on this stuff more earlier. But hey – adventure called & I couldn’t say no.

    I’m still doing my 2 x 5 of dips & pull ups, but now it’s as well as a few hundred easier movements. This year I did 55 dips in a day. I also did 131 pull ups in sets of 5 singles. Occasionally I can get my 505* squats done & last week I did over a thousand reps – 525 squats, 202 incline push ups, 303 other pulls & a ten second neck bridge hold at bedtime. I swam 1800 metres too in a quarry that morning too.

    *I’ve got into the mindset of sets of 101. When you do that last rep it’s a reminder that it was a chosen number. More can be done, sometimes that extra rep is enough to make me start another 101. This years ambition (as well as the PCC) is to turn a lot of these incline push ups into flat push ups. My pull ups need improving – & progress is being made, but there is more to be done.

    I row a boat, paddle a board, cycle occasionally, run a tiny amount. Sometimes I carry the bike for the hell of it. A lot of what you’ve suggested above is what I do – except for the fast moving stuff. I rarely move fast & don’t enjoy it when I do. I’m a few pounds heavier than a year ago but more solid – still tipping the scales around 230lbs. I swapped from bicycle crunches to leg raises & of course keep the neck bridges going.

    I managed to track down my old judo coach after 15 years of searching & 22 years since I last saw him. I thanked him for the good start. When I was seven I’d complained to him that the wrestlers bridges hurt my head. “You’re not doing enough of them then,” he said. It was good to tell him that it had taken 32 years to finally get used to them. We laughed a lot.

    Coach, I haven’t really got any questions because I’m a big headed chump, but I hope you’re in good health enjoying your exercises. There’s a lot of us out here who owe you a lot of thanks.

    And CMASS is my favourite book of all time. It just is.

    • Dan! God bless ya for your post, I loved every bit of it!

      But you should have saved your energy coz I read your site anyhow! I really adored the story of how you tracked down your old coach. It really made me smile. I’ve cheered you on rep after rep after rep, and avoided looking when you dived into cold water.

      And guess what? YOU’RE RIGHT! I DO write these articles for you Dan, just for you. God know’s why though, I shouldn’t waste my energy on smokers. And don’t bullshit me, I know a smoker when I see one!!

      Seriously, bless you for your kind words my friend, they mean a huge amount to me. I hope your Century training for the London PCC is kicking ass.

      • Dammit, that’s two of you now! I’ll take any test – I can inflate triathlon marker buoys whilst treading water & still they reckon I’m on tobacco.

        And it was 80 minutes for the Century wasn’t it coach? You know how I love my slow movements.

        • Dan we are prepared to alter the timing to accommodate your greatness, but unfortunately John says “no” to you toking on a cigar during the pullups. I tried to talk him round but apparently it’s a health and safety issue…

          • I’m laughing so hard here. But mortified too! Bless you coach. I’m off to do some wrestlers bridges.

    • Matt Schifferle

      Well done Dan! That’s a crap-ton of hard work right there!
      I love your idea of ending with one extra rep to remind yourself that it’s a chosen number. It reminded me of a buddy of mine who always insisted on stopping a set on an odd number for the same reason. I can tell your inner strength is putting a lot more purpose behind your training than most other people’s. Keep up the great work!

  • Dan

    🙂 love it. This list is going right in my library for when i need a boost. 🙂

    • Dan

      P.S for your publisher, If this was expanded into another short book like C-Mass it would be brilliant, It could be called, “Crazy Workouts for you ****** who got locked up just so you can train like Coach”. 🙂

      • That’s real kind of you to say Dan–but hey, we’re all about the free content here. We gotta show love to you bodyweight brothers and sisters!

    • Thanks Dan! That’s why I wrote it, thanks for reading!

  • Sheath

    Hey coach,

    Great article!!! I’m one of the “lurkers” making sure to get my weekly dose of bodyweight info from this blog. It’s always just the right thing to keep me motivated.

    In looking at “#4 Put an Inch on Your Pipes” & “#8 Joint the Circuits”, I was kinda getting the feel that it could be done for any other muscle group applying the same principles. Pickomg a Tough and a Feel exercise. Then working them as described. So chest and upper back or mid-section and low back. Does it always have to be paired? or can it be just a single body part like traps (Tough: handstand pushups variations, Feel: inverted shrugs, Hold: handstand)? If a single body part is different, how would you recommend structuring that?

    I’m guess I’m looking at how to combine C-Mass tactics to this concept.

    Thanks as always.

    • Sheath! Goddam, it’s great to hear from ya! My first lurker…you just done made my day. Thanks for reaching out!

      As for your question–you got it on the money! ALL of the training ideas you read can be boiled down to principles, and applied to other stuff. Personally, I’m a big fan of the kind of antagonistic supersets you mentioned: pairing up opposite bodyparts. But sure, you can go solo. You just get through the workout quicker. Another option for you real tough guys is to stick with one TOUGH exercise and superset TWO “feel” exercises for the same bodypart. (e.g., inverted shrugs paired with neck bridges). Be wary of volume if you are gonna do this, though.

      Great, great question, Sheath. I hope you stick around, I’d love to hear more from ya!

  • Eric Buratty

    This was fire, Coach.

    I liked that you’ve referenced some old school training approaches that have been around longer than many folks would imagine.

    With the HULK-levels of actionable training wisdom here, I know many fitness practitioners and instructors are in for a huge wake-up call in 2016.
    Can’t wait to see what you have in store for part two!

    –Eric

    • It’s my main man, Eric! Hey, thanks so much for the kind message. And hell yes–we are gonna be shaking things up in 2016!

      With your help, my friend!!

  • Nick297

    Hello there.

    It’s always an awesome experience to read articles from the Coach: they’re always informative, entertaining and fun.

    Love the rope stuff especially. I can tell from my experience that as a biceps exercise rope climbing is second to nothing.

    Got a question for Mr. Wade here: do you plan to write a new book? If you do, what is it going to be about? Thanks.

    Respectfully,

    Nick

    • Yo Nick! Hey, sorry for the late reply–better late than never! I wasn’t ignoring you–as if I’d ignore a stud like you–my eyes are just getting old. I must’ve missed it!

      Thanks for the feedback on the rope climbing. A hundred years back, the most muscular arms in the world belonged to a Scots strongman called William Bankier. He didn’t do curls at all–he just climbed backwards up a rope slung at a 45 degree incline. So trust your instincts–they’re RIGHT!

      New book? No, I don’t think so. There are SO many great writers on bodyweight now, not to mention the amazing stuff the Kavadlos are putting out, I reckon (apart from the odd article like this) that I might hang up my old pen. I don’t wanna be one of those old writers who just writes the same stuff over…and over…and over!

      Thanks for reaching out Nick, and–once more–apologies for the late ass reply!

  • Big THANK YOU Coach for this fabulously entertaining and educational read! It’s an honor to be included in some of the photos, too! I love representin for da PCC brand! 2016 is off to a super rad start!

    • With another member of the Kavadlo army behind the PCC, how can we fail? Thanks so much for the use of your shots–that one-armed handstand image of you is now my favorite of all time!

      I love it!!

  • B.K.Smith

    I think your work is really good. But what I do not undetstand is why you feel that you must cotinuosly curse my GOD. I bought your book C-Mass and 6 or 7 pages in you did the same thing I returned it for a refund and tore up your Convict Conditioning book. I guess I should know by now that you have no respect for GOD and that I should have no respect for you. I will miss the gift GOD has given you, but I cannot deal with your words…… B.K.

    • BK–thank you so much for your comment. First up, it hurts me if I alienate readers by my bad language–I really mean that. I admit to being an imperfect man, but please don’t let my boorish attitude steer you away from training in calisthenics! Remember 1 Corinthians 9:27.

      Second, I have never cursed god. My use of the phrase “goddamn” refers to the notion of a thing or idea damned by god, not the idea of god being damned.

  • Aleks Salkin

    The prodigal son has returned! Great to see another article from you, Paul. It’s one of those little pleasures I always look forward to, and every once in a while I (well, *WE*) get lucky.

    Great insight here, and I’ve taken a lot of notes on stuff I want to try already. Also, for what it’s worth, I legitimately laughed out loud at this: “A little while later, he would return to the beach, jacked up, find the bully, and rip off his head and s*** down his neck. Then he f***ed the bully’s mom, while she was still grieving. Probably at the funeral. Actually, yeah. At the funeral.”

    Keep up the good work, and looking forward to part 2.

    From Jerusalem, with much respect.

    • It’s the Hebrew Hammer!!

      Hey Aleks, SO great to hear from you my friend–I had been wondering how you were over there in Jerusalem. Still spreading the good word about strength training? I hope so, and I hope your dreams are coming true.

      Right back atcha buddy, with even bigger respect!

      • Aleks Salkin

        I’ve been great, thanks! And yes, naturally. Not a day goes by when I don’t try to help Jerusalemites (and Tel Avivians, for that matter) how to crush weakness all the live-long day. Thanks for the kind words. I’ve been keeping an eye on the blog but I’ve known how busy you are with the SCC manual and other projects I didn’t want to bog you down with any emails, so it’s good to see you back on here so I can (figuratively) kill two birds with one stone.

        Looking forward to hearing back, and naturally I’m looking forward to seeing everything else you’ve been up to. Any other super secret projects in the works? It’s okay, you can tell me – I’ll keep a secret!

        • Aleks, that’s great news that the good work is progressing! It does me good to hear that the mission is going well. I’m proud of ya–keep it up!

          You are always welcome to email me–you know me, I may take an age to get back, but I get there in the end. No secret projects here–apart from the odd article, my writing career is done. Time for the old dog to step aside for the young lions, like you!

          The SCC manual is done, and the first SCC was a mind-blowing success. I wish you coulda been there!

          • Aleks Salkin

            Thanks, Coach! Always appreciate your support and kind words.

            I’ll keep that in mind. I have little doubt that eventually all the questions, insights, and perspectives I thought to write to you about will come flooding back, and you can be sure you’ll get an email to hear about it 🙂

            Step aside if you must – Hell, you’ve earned the break – just so long as you don’t ride off into the sunset for good and hang up your spurs. The calisthenics world would be poorer without you! As long as you come back and wow us with an article from time to time, I’ll be very grateful.

            I’d love to attend an SCC one day. Hell, I’d love to attend a PCC! At the moment it’s not in the budget, but it *is* in the cards for some point in the future. Believe that!

          • I believe it!!

            It’d be a dream for us to come to Israel one day. If we do, I’ll score you a free ticket big man!

  • martymonster

    Hi Coach,
    Whoa! Talk bout coincidence. I decided late last year to set clutch flags as my training goal for 2016. Plus I also started to add ring work into my weekends after reading Rings of Power.
    Looking forward to 2016. So close to a one arm pushup its scary. Hope to start nailing them this year.
    Loving it as always.

    • It’s the man hisself–Martymonster!

      Hey, glad you are zoning in on that one-arm pushup: if anyone can take it on and strangle it, it’s you. We must have a telepathic thing going on, coz you seem to be two steps ahead of old coach! I love it–GREAT to hear from you my friend and keep up the great work.

      And please let me know when you reach that one-armer…

      • martymonster

        Shall do. I’m working on short stance one arm pushups and getting 3sets of 12. I’m going to drive it to the 2×15 or better stage before switching up to a full length and low angle one arm pushup.

        • I am loving the sound of your training, big guy…very proud over here!!

  • AR

    Hey Coach!
    We’ve missed ya. You’ve been pretty quiet since Explosive Calisthenics came out.
    Thank you for all this wonderful information.

    I was wondering if you know of any exercises than can help with Golfer’s Elbow. Any advice would be appreciated, Thanks

  • Dan Söderberg

    bullseye is your middlename Coach

    • Dan…I look at you and think: “how did this guy get so great…?”

      • Dan Söderberg

        i might not be top class in my moves yet but my determination is world class

        • You are top class to us, my friend!!

  • Matt Schifferle

    Holy mind blowing article Coach! There’s so much in this sucker as far as take-aways and other resources it’s a gold mine!

    Loved reading about all the old school muscle control stuff. I totally concur regarding the Maxick. I love his Muscle control manual. Also super cool to hear you mention the Dynamic Tension book by Harry Wong, it was a big influence on my training when I was just starting out.

    Can’t wait to tear into this stuff on the playground and really looking forward to part 2. Thank you so much for your insight, and generosity sharing this stuff with us. I promise to make good use of it!

    • It’s the Fit Rebel! No.1 master of bodyweight bodybuilding in this world today!

      Another fan of the battered old school training books, we are so alike my friend it’s not even true…

      Also: a big public congrats on being nominated by Dragon Door for joining the first ever elite wave of PCC Team Leaders. You were always my first pick for this group. Nobody thinks on the level you do. Your time is coming, dude.

      Many of you lucky bastards reading this may earn your PCC letters from Matt! The ULTIMATE experience for you bodyweight bodybuilders…start lining up now!

  • Paramesvara Dasa

    Hi Coach,

    This article could not have been more timely. I have gone through a bit of a slump the last couple of months, partly including marriage/change of living situation, and also the dreaded mental burnout discussed at the beginning of the article. It all happened just as I was picking up steam.

    Basically, when all is said and done, I only have so much time left for exercise related matters, so I’m not so inclined at this point to spend a lot of time studying/learning new methods. I was just about to hit up the CC group on FB and solicit advice from the awesome people there, so to have this two part article come out now is a serious boon. Thanks very, very much.

    • Paramesvara–I can’t thank you enough for your kind comment my friend. When I take the time to write something like this and it helps an athlete like you, it honestly makes the whole damn thing worthwhile. I mean that. So thanks for reaching out and telling old Coach. Made my night.

      Please keep me posted on your training. I don’t do FB, but if you are talking to members of the CC group please tell em I said hi!

      Your pal,

      Paul

  • Marklar

    Hey coach. Let me join the chorus of thanks for this remarkable article. I have two picky questions. The arm blaster is listed as being a two month program. Is this a typo? Or, after finishing month one, do you turn around and do it again? The leg blaster lists straight bridges off the forearms as one of the key exercises. Forgive my lack of imagination but I am just not seeing it. Can you break this down further. Maybe I am weak as kittens but I tried what I though this was and couldn’t budge at all. I’m thinking that maybe I’m doing something wrong. Looking forward to Part Two!

    • Marklar

      Sorry for the repost. I thought my last post didn’t go through because of…gasp…profanity so I reposted this edited version. And then the PCC bots decided a little swearing was OK and we ended up with 2.

      • Apologies for the sucky, seemingly random pending post system. At least it didn’t go missing, huh?

    • Marklar my man!!!

      You KNOW I only put confusing shit like that in there to check that you are paying attention, right? Good news is…YOU PASSED! Your calisthenics black belt is on it’s way!

      I was originally in two minds about putting this out as a one or two monther–it’s that tough. If you have the balls (and I know you got grapefruits, kid) turn around and do it again.

      Ignore the forearm reference. It’s an irritating and tricky move, and it was only in the original program coz the guy I wrote it for broke his wrist. If your wrist is working, switch for straight bridges, which are way more productive.

      Always great questions, Marklar…keep em comin!

  • jack arnow

    Hi Paul, I loved reading this article. It’s so important to keep enjoying your calisthenics training. And everyone, I say everyone including me, sometimes gets bored or stale. You gave 20 different things to do, because different things might work for different people. It’s overwhelming in a good way. Thank you. I’ve recently just added one of your suggestions and it has helped me greatly: explosive work, first explosive jumping and now explosive pushups too. They are building my strength and are such fun to do. And when I get stale again, I have 18 other suggestions to choose from. Enjoy the New Year Paul. Have fun writing, getting great feedback, and inspiring so many others.

    • You know, writing a post here really makes my day because I get to hear from so many old and new friends, all in the bodyweight world. Some are beginners, some are bona fide experts, and I love them all.

      But once in a while, I get to hear from one of my OWN heroes in calisthenics–that’s you, Jack. You just made my entire damn 2016!

      • Jack Arnow

        You’re too kind, Paul

        • It’s all truth my friend.

          • Dan Söderberg

            when do you and all the top classguys get together and write the encyclopedia of bodyweight training so that one wouldnt have to change book to change focus or method just turn a page….and now i woke up

          • Trouble is–we all fuckin disagree!

  • BigDan

    Hey Coach,

    As with everything else, great article. In fact, I sent an email your way describing some of the stuff I’m working on and it touches on what you write here. Matt Shifferle – some of it is based on your theory also, along with the Big Six and I’m packing some beef along with the strength.

    It’s always a treat to read your stuff, Coach and I’m looking forward to part two.

    Yours in strength,

    Big Dan

    • Big Dan! Thanks for the email, I’ll check it out and answer as soon as I can! I love to hear from ya but I’m swamped writing part two. That Matt S is pretty cool, huh?

      Always a pleasure, Big Dan!!! Thanks for the comment, please keep em coming in the New Year, we’d be lost without ya.

  • Answered above, big man!

  • Eoin Kenny

    Hey Paul, thank you for the article! You said there’s no such thing as stupid questions so here goes… I got pretty bad wrist inflammation from holding the CC2 clutch flag progressions for the advised 10 seconds, I’ve pretty much healed up now but I’m wondering if I should try them again? Maybe just do 3 second holds and add a second whenever it gets easy? Or maybe I should wait until I have stronger wrists from my push ups and pull ups progressions? I’m around step 8 for them in CC1, been working out around 2 years, but only 1 year in CC. Thanks and I look forward to when the PCC comes to Ireland next!

    • Eoin!

      First up, yeah–try again, but be careful. You are definitely better following your method of strict form, low volume. Don’t push yourself, and be aware that with flags and whatnot we are down the rabbit hole. This stuff is totally different for your joints than the basic basics. It can take years for the joints–especially deep, to the bone–to catch up with the muscles. So please be careful!

      A while back someone sent me a link to your CC volg series, and I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed watching every second of your stuff. Seriously. You are clearly such a bright guy, and I appreciate you putting your experience and new ideas out there for the world to see.

      You are a star, my friend–old Coach has his eye on you and is proud and grateful as hell!!

      • Eoin Kenny

        Holy crap!

        First off, thanks for the advice on the flags, I’ll definitely add them back in and go slow as hell for the sake of my wrists and won’t push myself. You’re right I was totally unprepared for how they’d feel, but I’ve learned a lesson for life and I’m just glad no permanent damage was done.

        In my wildest dreams I never thought you’d watch my vlog, especially with my crappie computer skills, HOLY COW!!! You’re incredibly encouraging and a heck of a writer, in case I don’t get the chance again to say this… thank you coach! Keep up the good work and I’ll do my best too 🙂

        • Keep me posted on the flags, buddy.

          Once again–awesome work. Big thanks and respect for spreading the word. I predict HUGE things in the future for you kid, and we WILL be talking again!

          Paul

  • Owsky

    Another classic article, Coach, printed out and filed away in my ‘Collected Works of Coach Wade’ folder. Thanks! Some really interesting ideas here, some of which I’d just recently started exploring too.

    A question for you Coach, regarding C-Mass:

    So, you say sleep is super important, as is exhausting the muscles. But what happens when these two conflict? Specifically, I’m doing some low rep uneven squats, followed by 1-2 sets of high rep full squats. Problem is, no matter if I do ’em morning or night, that night I just can’t sleep. It’s like my quads are keeping my brain awake all night.

    I’d really appreciate any advice on this.

    Cheers,
    Owsky

    • Hey, it’s Owsky! Great to hear from you my friend, been wondering how you’re getting on!

      God damn I get some fascinating questions shot at me on this blog, but this one is pretty damn out there!

      First things first: how often are you squatting?

      • Owsky

        Just 1-2 times per week.

        • Hm. I’ve heard about this kind of problem with beginners, but not for vets like you.

          This is just an idea–hear me out–but I wonder if your recovery is so good that you are actually beginning to decondition by the next session. Let’s test it: add a third, easier session between these two–maybe just a set or two of close squats for moderate reps tagged somewhere else.

          Keep me posted on this, my friend. I may not have the answers but if this doesn’t help we can try something else.

          • Owsky

            Wow that sounds so crazy it might just work! I’ll give it a try. Thanks.

            Coach, if you’re in the mood for another physiological riddle, do you have any advice for a 39-year-old male who has an on-again off-again niggle in the left shoulder that gets irritated by horizontal pulls and HSPU work, but has no issue at all with dips, push ups or pull ups? Thanks 🙂

          • First up, 39 is nothing. That has nothing to do with it. I’ve trained teens with bad shoulders I had to sort out.

            Yep, it sounds to me like simple asymmetry. I think your pushing is stronger than your pulling (save on the handstand work, where the rear delt acts as stabilizer). Long term, this WILL get solved by performing more rear pulls–especially horizontal pulls–than you do presses.

            Also, don’t be afraid to get STRONGER in the h-pull. Move to close, asymmetrical and one arm work, and vary your level.

            At first this may make the niggle seem worse, but the niggle isn’t the problem it;s just the symptom. Over a longer period, things will improve.

            And don’t forget those shoulder rotations, and twists–this time next year you’ll be bulletproof!

          • Owsky

            Wonderful advice, Coach. I really appreciate it. Thank you!

          • Pleasure was mine, stud! Don’t be stranger!

  • AR

    Thank you vert much Coach.
    Seriously man-everything you write deserves to be written in gold (apart from the profanities, that is; I think I’ve mentioned that before), DD should collect all these gems in one place and index them.
    God bless you 🙂

    • Bless you, AR–I’m doing better in editing my swears as I get older.

      Work in progress, eh? Thanks again for the awesome words!

  • Benjamin dumbrell

    Hey coach, I’ve asked this question on your article “the Joe hartigen method” I’ve been doing it for a while now and have been getting good results, I do each exercise once a week including grip, calf, neck and dips. I use 3 pull up progressions one each day I train a pushing movement. Is once a week enough or would I see faster results doing them nore often? Also you should really write a book about Joe’s training method, this info is priceless and if you go it how’s with you. What do you say coach?

    • Benjamin, thanks so much for your question my man! Thanks also for trying out old Joe’s training methods and feeding back to me about it–it really made me smile to hear it. I appreciate it!

      I would say–yes, try doubling up. However, don’t just double your volume by doing stuff twice as much. If you’re gonna do this, maybe cut a little volume from each session and keep the extras (calves, grip, neck) once per week only.

      The ultimate arbiter of whether this works, Ben–is reps. If they are going up, you’re winning. If they’re stagnant, you need to cut back again.

      Will you keep me posted my friend?

      • Benjamin dumbrell

        I definitely keep you posted, this old school stuff just resonates with me. And I’ll try doubling up like you suggest.

        • I love your style, Benny boy! I love that look, too–and you have just summed up Joe’s physique, so I guess it must work!

          If you want to apply Joe’s rep range to his overall training philosophy, please check out this article: http://www.myconvictconditioningjourney.com/2013/07/2013-07-09-blog-post-weve-all-been.html

          I wrote it just for old school tough guys like YOU!

          • Benjamin dumbrell

            I have one last question if I may coach. I imagine since Joe was doing relatively low reps with his 54321 method he would be doing them very strict, I do all of my exercises 3 seconds up 2 seconds at the top 3 seconds down and 2 seconds at the bottom. How slow did he train?

          • That’s a really great question. I would call his training “strict” but honestly not completely momementum-less, if that makes sense. He didn’t count–he didn’t need to. He was completely in the moment.

            But yeah–the whole “strength is control” vision of my philosophy I totally stole from Joe. If he could do an easier progression for five and make it harder, he’d pick that over the shakier, more advanced exercise. That’s the beauty of limiting your reps to five–you are in control of how hard a set is, NOT the reps. That’s pretty important, if you can understand what I’m saying thru my mangled words.

  • Nick297

    Ah. And thanks for ignoring my post, by the way.

    • Nick! How could I miss your post? It was my favorite of all time!!

      Rectified now my friend, and with big apologies from old Coach! Don’t be a stranger!

  • Jigme Dorje

    Great article Coach! I’ve been a (secret) admirerer of your work (methodology, writing – the works) for some time now. Love the openess to new and old ideas in this article. As a longtime practitioner of martial arts and trul khor yoga, I’m wary of any exercise using “unnatural” body movements (whatever that actually means) and muscle isolation. That said, reading Maxick’s fascinating Muscle Control gave me a strong urge to spend some time with his exercises. What’s your opinion on the safety of his isolated muscle contractions with regards to joint strain and injury? All the best for this new year!

    • Jigme! Hey, I got a secret admirer!

      Seriously, thanks for your comment. I get a real kick out of hearing from athletes who are drawn to yoga and martial arts–they seem to intuitively “get” what’s so great about calisthenics, and don’t require a lot of deprogramming about ideas with weights and so on. So welcome to the party, it’s great to have you!

      Your question is a great one. For the average person it’s actually pretty hard to injure themselves using Maxick’s methods–there is no external load, therefore the nervous system is in charge of the whole thing, so the safety “blocks” are in place the whole time.

      One exception, ironically, is folks like you who have spent a lot of time unlocking those blocks doing things like martial arts and yoga. You may be able to contract harder and stronger than the average noob.

      My advice: very low risk, but build up slowly! 2-3 gentle sessions in a week, then eight moderate sessions over two weeks, then a session or two giving it your all in a very experimental way, and you should be good to go!

      Thanks for such a great comment and question, my friend!

      • Jigme Dorje

        Looking forward to spending some time with this and really bringing it into my experience.

        As one of my teachers likes to say, there’s the yogi who’s like a bee (buzzing from flower to flower, going from teaching to teaching, program to program without really trying any of them), the yogi like a dog (overeager or just plain dumb, rushing into things too fast and getting hurt or burning out), the yogi with the dignity of a lion (confidently basking in the sun in front of his prey knowing that when the time is right he can eat his fill), and the yogi who is like a madman (seeing no boundaries, restrictions, or limitations). I’m not sure whether you’re a lion or a madman, but you’re a hell of teacher. Thanks for the great advice! I’ll take it slow and see where this leads!

        • I love your wisdom, Jigme–you are one helluva interesting cat! That’s a great analogy, and one I will probably use myself.

          As for me–aspiring to be a madman. Not there yet. Learning to limit things less all the time…

          • Jigme Dorje

            Your ideas on body wisdom are one of the reasons I love Convict Conditioning. I’ve been fortunate in having patient teachers and a patient body. Wisdom comes from patience. Like a stone becoming naturalized to its environment by slowly gathering moss. And little by little the conceptual/perceptual switch occurs. We move from knowing information about the body to a direct understanding of it, a direct awareness present to the body’s rhythms and movements.

            We can stop just playing fantasy football with our bodies and really get in there and play the damn game.

            Learn to understand the feeling of what it’s like to be in this body, to be this body! In this very environment at this moment right now! If we’ve been doing our calisthenics progressively, then maybe we’ve already felt it. Feels damn good.

            Much love to you Coach

          • Everything you write is gold–sure you’re not a pro, dude?!

            “We can stop just playing fantasy football with our bodies and really get in there and ply the damn game”

            So many people I would tattoo this maxim on, you got no idea!!

            Much love back atcha bro!

  • kiwikidaus

    Hey Coach Paul,
    This is the best article yet, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I woke at 1.30am thinking about how am I going to modify my training to be more competitive in my respective sport. I was throwing a few ideas around in the ole grey matter then decided to surf the net for awhile. Checked out your most recent email notification and the article was basically everything I had gone over plus a fair bit more. I particulary liked and focused on the caveman, grip and hand balancing stuff…ohhh and also the recommendation to “keep it fun!”….most important and easily forgotton.
    I wanted to add one all important thing to your article that is often overlooked by a lot of people…myself included. I do a fair bit of running from 100m’s upto 10k. I was out on the mountain trail last evening and had a revelation into getting a quicker leg turnover.

    Ive been doing some research lately into how to improve running times. Alot of that research has been into plyo training and believe it or not….ballet.
    Ill leave the plyo out as most of us know about it and focu on the ballet as it’s pertinent to what I’m writing about.

    i wanted to start running faster and I knew that I would have to start from the ground up….it just makes sense. but there are virtually no foot srtengthening exercises out there in the mainstream health and fitness domain.
    When I stumbled across ballet I realised I had literally been stumbling along the trails and paths of every running workout I had done. Here was the ultimate foot workout!

    So on the trail last evening I’m running hard out for the first km then blow out as my legs feel like concrete. I take a breather then get back into it, however this time for some reason I changed my footwork and started doing a very noticeable planter flexion movement (just on one leg…dont ask why CAUSE i dont know!) Next thing I know my whole leg is being thrown forward like it weighs a matchstick….it just seemed like an automatic muscular response in the hip flexor to get that leg into forward flexion as quickly and easily as possible. Instantly I felt comfortable and alot more power…and Im going uphill here and on a trail.

    With all that in mind I decided after returning home that foot training IS definitely on the menu from now on. If you want to develop your feet…and a healthy foot fetish, check out some of the foot exercise videos on Youtube posted by prominent ballet dancers…..they’re almost orgasmic…..I gaurentee most of your readers wont even be able to do a “demi-point”.

    As I say…it’s an often overlooked body part when it comes to training but in reality…it’s probably THE most important. Those little hip flexors just were’nt designed to lift and drag all that leg weight forward stride after stride without some assistance.

    My old man and old lady use to tell me when I was 5-6 years old and right into my sport “all the top sports guys do ballet” I was like “piss off…You’re not catching me doing ballet!” Wish I listened to them now……even if just for the thrill factor.
    Thanks again for the article…..great reading.

  • Brendan Ijor

    Hey Coach!
    Lurker here. I’ve got a few questions for you. But first, Fantastic article(Which was to be expected coming from you).I’m 18( for a few more months) and have been a convict conditioning practitioner for 2 and a half years now. I’ve bought all your books and read all your articles. I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart, CC has changed my life. I used to be overweight outta shape and weak. Since starting I’ve dropped 50 lbs of fat and put 4 inches on my arms. But the benefits haven’t been exclusively physical, my confidence 0 to pretty damn high after leaning down and achieving things like human flags, one arm pullups, and kip ups. So again from the bottom of my heart THANK YOU SO MUCH! You have changed my life and I am forever grateful to you. Ahem, now onto the questions.

    1. I’ve achieved the prison pushup as shown in the DVD but am struggling to progress to the straight body variation. If I have my hand centered and try going down I can only go just about 3/4 of the way down before I hit a wall and know if I go any lower without twisting I will fail the rep. How do I progress to the straight bod version?

    2. You mentioned a change in hand position necessary for the snake push up in the faq, what is the hand position needed for the pure prison pushup.

    3. I recall reading an article you put up on the myconvictconditioningjourney web site about how your mentor Joe Hartigen could do a prison pushup with minimal hip bend. So does the pushup detailed in the book require a totally straight body or is a very(and I mean very)slight bend(ala snake push up)acceptable.

    4. I seem to have hit a stumbling block with closing bridges where I cant completely control the descent(fall onto hands over the last 8-12 inches) without raising up on my toes which makes stand to stands very difficult. Do you have any tips or ques for getting the portion closest to the ground under control and maintain balance(I’ve tried reaching back onto steps)?

    5. Got plans for any more books?

    I understand that your busy and that you may not be able to answer my questions, regardless I hope you do read my message, it’d mean a lot. Thanks a million Coach!

    • It’s my main man–Brendan! First of all, I want to thank you so much for reading my stuff…but I am even MORE grateful that you are actively using it! It does my old heart good, seriously; and for you to take the time and reach out to tell me about it, man–I can’t tell ya what that means to me.

      And these great questions! Lemme see if I can help:

      1. Keep trying, using tiny measurement changes on the floor. Bear in mind–the difference is about a 225 bench press going to 300. That’s how hard straightening the body is. Yes, it can be done, but it can’t be done in a few sessions. Bear in mind, you have already reached a high level which very few will accomplish. As with all athletes, making even small improvements from an elite level is difficult. But you can do it. I’m proud of ya!

      2. It needs to be under you! An elbow-out position only works for the snake style. This is the tiny change you need to make, fraction by fraction, getting that hand in!

      3. A perfect straight prison pushup is possible. Only a handful of men on the planet can do it, tough. But if you want to PROVE to yourself that it can be done, try performing the negative. If physics allow a negative to be achieved, then it means a positive rep is also possible, if the athlete is strong enough.

      4. Your center of gravity is shifting too far backwards. You need to bend those knees and slowly inch your hips forward to counter the weight going back. I’m convinced this is confidence and technique, not strength–I’m betting you are easily strong enough for this. Keep me posted!

      5. No plans! IF you want a great book to read for 2016, check out my buddy Danny’s Strength Rules. I loved it, I bet you will too! http://www.dragondoor.com/store/strength_rules_by_danny_kavadlo_paperback/

      Thanks for the great feedback and questions, Brendan–I hope we get to chat again, bro!

  • Sam

    Thanks a bunch Coach, once again! A spicy spicy mixture of 4 & 16 for me. I ain’t gonna blame you for sure when the Spring comes, but do you have any good recommendations for new t-shirts?

  • Great article coach, think I must have tried a fair few of these over the years. Hand-balancing is one that I’m working on a lot at the moment, have a goal to get a 30s freestanding handstand by the end of the year. The perfect 10 sounds like it might have to be another long term goal for me!

    • It’s the One-Arm Thunder from Down Under!

      Dave, it’s so great to speak to ya–feels like it’s been forever. You are looking good, bro!

      The Perfect 10…always looking for perfection. You aren’t frightened of a challenge, are you?!

      • One-Arm Thunder from Down Under! That’s an awesome nickname, will have to try get that one to stick haha.

        Yes, it’s been too long. 2015 was a crazy year for me, got qualified as a Personal Trainer and have been launching my calisthenics business. Got plenty of ideas for PCC posts, so when I get some free time (working two jobs at the moment), I’ll send them your way.

        I like to have tough long term goals, keeps me pushing! I’d have to improve in all areas for that, so seems like a good long term goal to have.

        • It would be amazing to see more of your ideas here…you know I’m a fan of yours!

          • Thanks mate. Yeah I’ll definitely try get some more articles out this year

          • No rush–all your stuff is well worth waiting for, my friend.

  • kiwikidaus

    hey Coach, I’ll check that book out for sure, thanks for the recommendation!

    • Thank YOU for the post! I got my foot training in this afternoon, in your honor!

      • kiwikidaus

        Lol, YouTube…..mans best friend

        • David

          Man, now you guys had me searching ballet vid’s on youtube 🙂

          As you said above, it’s neglected! I’ve been neglecting it for almost all my life. More likely been abusing them than anything else..

          kiwikidaus: any links about this?
          peace

          • kiwikidaus

            You’ll need to a towel

          • David

            Thanks man!

          • Yeah, thanks–very cool stuff!

  • Dan Söderberg

    what i like most about bodyweight excersizes is that you cant fake the funk

  • Joshua David Taft

    Thanks for all your books and articles. They have really helped shape my program. I can hold a flagpole for about 3 or 4 seconds these days (although that’s not all I’ve achieved) and even though I had to discover some of my own progressions, the information in your books definitely pulled through. Speaking of programming, how soon do you think we’ll see part 2? Looking forward to it!

    • Joshua! It is a sincere honor to hear from a Jedi–I feel bad for you guys that the latest movie sucked balls. I’m impressed with your flag performance but EVEN MORE impressed that you are creating your own progressions! Well done my friend.

      The next part of the article should be up Tuesday. Thanks for the comment my man!

  • Kishore

    Yo Coach 😀 Remember me? 🙂 Long time no see.

    A wonderful article to start off this new year. Phew quite a read. 😀

    Waiting for the next week’s article 😀

    Just a thought coach. You might have mentioned your training journal/diary/book (might be wrong here) back from your days. It’d be awesome if you could keep sharing stuff from it as articles here or as books for us 😀

    Happy new year 🙂

    PS: training is going great 🙂

    • Hey Kishore! Do I remember you? Hell yeah! It’s so great to hear that you’re kicking ass in your training–thanks for reaching out and letting me know, it means a lot!

      That’s a real cool idea about the journal entries. A while back I read a great book by Frank Zane with some of his journal entries at the back, from when he was in his prime–I actually found his journal entries the coolest part of the book. (I think the book was called “Mind, Body, Spirit”–it had a black and white cover.)

      I might do this at some point…at the moment, the nearest place you could find my current training is in the programming section of the PCC Manual, but that’s not available to the public. I think it’s a great idea, Kishore….thank you!

      Happy New Year to you too, my friend. Thanks for the comment–let’s make 2016 a good one!

      • Kishore

        Shucks. Hm.. That’s alright. With so many many things you’re giving out for free, I guess the manual and the workshop is very very very…. (I can keep going) worth paying for. Right now, I’m doing my masters. I’ll get a (real world) job in maybe 2-3 years. After I start making money on my own, you bet I’ll attend the PCC maybe 4-5 years down the line (though, I won’t practice as a certified fitness professional, if that’s ok, cos I’d already have a professional job).

        • You don’t NEED the PCC to excel, my friend. But it would be awesome to see your name on the list!

          I will seriously consider your idea about journal entries though, I think it’s a real cool notion and I’m grateful to ya!

  • Brad Sadl

    Great post as always coach! I’ve been telling people that consistency and variety are the two main ingredients in muscle building for some time. You can spice up that recipe anyway you like. For me, it’s the social aspect of CrossFit and I’m taking gymnastics lesson. Talk about a lesson in humility when a room full of 6 yr old girls are killing you in every movement. I love it though – oh yeah and since I last commented on one of your articles I got PCC certified! Was such an incredible experience :). Thanks for this!

    • Hey Brad! Believe it or not–I knew you were a PCC. I keep track of every single feedback form, and I knew your name. Congrats my friend, you are achieving bodyweight greatness!

      Kudos big time on the gymnastics. There’s a line in the Tao Te Ching that has always stuck with me: that in order to be strong, you first have to be truly weak. It’s easy for full grown guys like you to go and heft big weights in the gym and look macho. But to actually knuckle the fuck down and tackle proportional strength drills–as a big, strong, male member of the species–this is not so easy on us. But the benefits are amazing.

      Like I said in an earlier comment, if Van Damme can suck it up and go to ballet lessons to improve his karate, gymnastics should not be a problem!!!

      I’m so proud of you man. Thanks so much for your comment, it means a lot to be able to congratulate ya. The road goes ever on–when PCC Level II happens I expect to see your name there, my friend.

      • Brad Sadl

        Oh yes!! I cannot wait for PCC level 2 🙂

  • Mattias Östergren

    Thanks coach! I never get tired of reading your articles. I sometimes think my only gift when it comes to calisthenics is not quitting. People sometimes ask me how I manage to stick to my routine I jokingly say to them to me training isn’t necessarily fun nor boring – it something I do for its benefits – just like brushing my teeth.

    I think my trick is so far that I love to explore nuances of moves. And that helps me endure times when more reps don’t come easily. Also I blend in some spice in form of holds, joint work and lately explosive moves. And last, but not least I love the way my basic program slowly morphs into increasingly harder progressions. Not a giantic difference comparing one week to the next, but looking back six months or a year there is a big difference.

    • Mattias–thanks so much for your comment. It was a fairly brief one, but you know what? If I could, I’d frame it and put it on my fuckin wall. Better yet, I’d have it printed on business cards, and when I get complaints from 9 out of 10 of my young students that their program isn’t working, I’d hand the bastard out and say: THIS.

      Love it–especially the line “my only gift when it comes to calisthenics is not quitting”. So understated, but oh man…what a gift to have. In fact, of all the training gifts we could be bestowed, I think it’s the best one.

      Bless you for your comment, my friend. It made my day. Please don’t be a stranger!

  • Swiss_Olympic

    Hey Coach!

    Amazing post! I love the sheer variety of tips, and I’m sure they’ll come in handy later on.

    My new routine (starting in three weeks) will comprise of sprints, jumps, med ball throws, isometrics and dynamics for the legs, particularly glutes and hamstrings, Diesel20 stuff for the upper body on two days, and the Hartigen method on one day. It’s gonna be a tough 8 weeks, but it’s the kind of work you need to put in when you want to get faster on the track.

    Thanks for the CC books, Coach. They’ve helped me become a better athlete, and continue to do so.

    Greetings from (you guessed it) Switzerland!

    • Oh man! A track athlete, this is awesome! God bless you for your feedback on your routine–it looks amazing, and from your photo it looks like you are in peak shape. If I had ANY role at all in helping you be what you are, however small, it’s one hell of an honor, and I appreciate you making your comment more than you will ever realize.

      Please stick around the blog, we’ve got so much cool content coming your way, and it’s always fantastic to hear from a track athlete’s perspective. Huge respect for what you people do, huge.

      Big love to Switzerland–feel the Bern!

  • Muhammad Jawad

    Hey Coach,

    Thanks for the amazing service to the bodyweight calisthenics community.

    Unfortunately, I am one of those “keyboard warriors” who love to read the stuff written by awesome authors like you, Kavadlos and Matt Schifferle, but somehow finds number of excuses to not train. The main excuse of not training is the fact that I have no access to any pullup bar for horizontal rows and pull-ups due to absence of parks and unavailability of decent pullup bars in our areas.

    However, recently, I read Al Kavadlo’s “Pushing the Limits”, which promises training using just the floor. Can I use that book for improving my fitness. If yes, then what could be a routine for a person coming back to fitness?

    Also, please shed some light on following topics as well:
    – use of floor pulls and floor pushes as a progression for pullups and HSPUs
    – Matt Schifferle’s awesome veterano program – is it an intermediate program or could be used by beginner?
    – use of Start Bodyweight routine or Recommended Routine on Bodyweight Reddit as possible alternative to CC?

    Thanks again for the awesome work!

    • Muhammad–I’m real happy that you made this comment my man…you might not know it, but you are EXACTLY the kind of brother I’m looking to reach here. Let me get straight down to it:

      -Excellent work on picking up Al’s book. That kid shits gold and I tell you you cannot go wrong following his words.

      -Can a guy coming back start off strengthening his body using just the floor? For sure! I wrote an article just for you here: http://pccblog.dragondoor.com/absolute-beginners-4-new-year-goals-total-noobs/
      Follow it tomorrow and you will no longer be a keyboard warrior, but a calisthenics athlete!

      -Do you need a bar after completing this? I hate to say it man, but–yes. Gravity only works in one direction, but the body was designed to move in all directions. If you train without a bar beyond the beginner level, you are neglecting the pulling muscles–forearms, lats, upper back, rear shoulders–and you will build an unbalanced body.

      -My advice? You got a doorframe, right? Get a doorframe pullup bar. They can be taken down between workouts.

      -All of Matt’s programs are superb for building muscle and strength–all of them. Even if you are fairly new at things, just use the right progressions and you will do fine.

      -I don’t know the Reddit programs so I can’t comment. Like I always say–if you like the look of a program, try it. Experiment. If you are adding reps, getting stronger and having fun, you’re winning!

      I hope that sheds some light me friend. Now get off that keyboard and get training! Coach is waiting!

      • David

        Yeah Muhammad – let’s do this!
        See Mattias comment a little below for perspective on the matter of ‘why’! I know you hang around the fb group sometimes which, as you know, is a great resource. I’d be more than happy to help out and I know a lot of others are as well. Imagine what a feeling of accomplishment it’ll be when get passed this line, from wanting to start and to actually doing it! 🙂
        Good luck and let’s get started!

        To Coach: did you see Red delta project’s version of Veteranothat Muhammad mentioned? I think it’s awesome but for a little more advanced athleates than. will keep it in mind for the future though 😉

        • Muhammad Jawad

          Thanks a lot David – I would definitely keep the FB group posted.

        • Owsky

          Hey can someone please provide the Facebook group URL. I couldn’t find it anywhere. Cheers!

      • Muhammad Jawad

        Thanks a lot Coach for the feedback. These words are like gold and encourage people like me to lay off the laziness and do some work.

        What I wanted to inquire about Reddit BW fitness programs is there following features:

        1. They prescribe training at least three days a week – with all six exercise progressions of squats, L-sits, pushups, horizontal rows, pullups (which is to be performed if a person gains low bar horizontal pulling strength) and dips (which are to be performed if a person is strong enough to perform diamond pushups) to be performed each day. Is it overkill? I experimented with one of these routines in last few weeks and found it quite useful in sticking to exercise regimen instead of New blood program.

        2. They prescribe practicing handstand (with wall plank as initial exercise of the progression) and parallel bar support as skill work. In recent few weeks I have practiced these things which led to size improvements in my shoulders and arms. Is it ok for people coming after lay-off?

        3. One of the programs suggest use of incline pike press as beginner shoulder exercise, which they progressively make difficult till a person gets strong enough to perform the HSPUs. Can they be used as reasonable substitute to HSPU CC progression and be practiced by beginners as well.

        Thanks again for the valuable feedback.

        • I’m glad I can help, my man! As to your questions:

          1. Three days a week can work for athletes. BUT if you are hitting your training hard, it can be overkill. If you murder your muscles on Monday, and they are sore as hell on Tuesday, how can you improve on the same exercises on Wednesday? You can’t! The bottom line is–experiment. Just like strength, everyone’s recovery level is different, and I can’t know yours until I train with you a while. If you like the look of those workouts, give em a shot!

          2. Sounds like an awesome idea! If you feel the improvement, I say continue these exercises–they are not too strenuous. Well done for experimenting!

          3. Yes! There are similar progressions in the PCC Manual. If you are strong enough to start the pike press and not hurt your shoulders, you are good to go!

          You trained today, right my friend?! Let me know you got started, I’m waiting!

          • Muhammad Jawad

            Yes Coach, I did GTG skill practice of handstands (wall planks) and dip holds using two tables mimicing parallel bars. On monday I would start with new blood 2.

          • I am proud of you my man! Let’s keep this up. You can transform yourself with bodyweight training in 2016…

            …please, DO NOT quit!!!

  • Pierrick

    Hi Coach !
    thank you for this post, it is really interesting !
    Just when I start to interest me has hand balancing and levers, you creat an article on this. big thanks!

    contrôle the planche, back and front levers are one of my objectifs for 2016 ( I have already the human flag and dragon flag ) but I also want to develop more endurance with the super max program of your book convict conditioning.

    Can you give me some tips to master this program please ?
    thanks for you reply.

    • Pierrick! My man man! So great to hear from you, thanks for your post! You want tips? You got it!

      1. Levers are about balance and coordination. This makes them skill exercises. When you perform them:
      -Aim at perfect form
      -Try to stay fresh
      -Don’t exhaust your muscles
      -Quit when your form breaks down

      2. Practice frequently. Five days per week is fine, if you are not sore

      3. After a warm up, always do these exercises BEFORE any muscle-building work. Never after!

      4. Always make your training progressive. Start with easy exercises.

      5. Move forward when you hit your targets. A sixty second hold time broken over several sets is a good start, but you can be flexible!

      Also, look out for next week’s article–there will be more info on skill work and programming in general. Should be out on Tuesday!

      Once again–so great to hear from you, Pierrick! Please keep on keeping me posted!

      Your pal,

      Paul

      • Pierrick

        thanks you for your tips on strenght calisthenics skills.
        have you others tips to master the supermax routin ?

        Last year, I have put 2 kilo of pure muscle on my body, today my weight is 75kg, kick ass workout is very effective and I have learned lot of thinks during this two month.
        If I can take photo of my human flag, I will show you on the pcc blog 🙂

        sorry if my english language is bad.
        I keep you posted on my progress during 2016
        thanks for your reply, the communitie of PCC blog do lot of things for the evolution of calisthenics

        • Pierrick! Your English is great–as is your progress, it’s to be commended! Well done my man. I’d love to see that flag.

          As for the Supermax–my advice is if you want to keep gaining muscle and strength, don’t bother. I included it in the book as an extreme example of a calisthenics workout, but more basic workouts are much more efficient.

          Thank you so much for your kind words, it means so much to me. Please stick around and keep returning to this blog!

  • David my man! YES–it has been a long time! First up–apologies for leaving it so long in answering this excellent comment. That wasn’t done to diss you, just the opposite: I’m still working hard on Part 2 and I wanted to wait until I had a break to answer your post, and give it the attention it rightly deserved.

    Second–great to see you again! I’m genuinely over the moon that your shoulder is now pain-free–see everyone, it DOES happen! In fact, these articles are about finding ways to just stick with your training, and never quitting: so I’m nominating YOU as the poster boy for this series. Great work, I’m proud of ya!

    On to the other stuff:

    -The screw your armpits method is awesome: I don’t use it myself, because I tend to go for higher reps, and that kind of technique is an energy drain, best left for low rep sets, in my humble opinion. But I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again–The Naked Warrior is an incredible book, and contains top-level information. I endorse all the techniques in that book fully if you want to get as strong as possible as fast as possible. And hell, if it’s working for you, why would you stop? Keep doing it!

    -As to your legs: knee locking is a classic sign of meniscus tear, but NOT ALWAYS, and obviously not having seen your knee in action I don’t want to go against anything your physio says–you did great in going to a physio, good job. I think you have worked out the problem for the medium term yourself: keep training hard, but limit your motion. As you get stronger the kinetic “clockwork” in your knee will change, so it’s possible in six months you can retest and add a few degrees to your squat. Then a few degrees more. One-leg squats as a Master Step may be out, shrimp squats may be in!

    -Your progress sounds just terrific. I’m so proud of ya! Yep, you diagnosed it right again–slipping knees in the crow stand is weak hips (and abs). The only solution is time!

    I really appreciate you taking the time to post, David–I talk to a lot of athletes on the internet, and it’s so awesome to hear from them a little down the line. It really makes my day when they, like you, have been doing all the stuff they SHOULD have been doing and are training hard, fixing injuries and generally being badass. So thank you, man!

    Keep me updated, y’hear?

    Your pal,

    Paul

    • David

      Sorry for really late reply Coach, it’s seems like I’ve been dissing you maybe, unintentional that’d be! Thanks for your reply man!

      Dunno about poster boy, think Al’s doing a great job with that hanging L-hold! Give me a couple of more years and I’m up for it! 😉
      Oh yes I’m never gonna quit calisthenics! Your writings made me hooked you know.

      Tell me about it! I’ve been working on pushups step 2 since May/ June. First session on step 3 last monday I made 25 reps in my first set, could’ve done 30 but I didn’t wanna push it, was fried in the following sets though so I’m a take it easy, just wanted to see where I’m at. And most importantly: no shoulder pain!

      Yeah the knee, since you replied I haven’t had any pain but the locking is still there and to be honest I don’t really trust these physios diagnosis, I think there’s something more to it, like you said. I’m working 3 4th of a full squat pain and locking free and doing them real slow makes for a pretty good leg workout at my level, aiming at real slow progress here (as I should’ve in the first place).
      On a side note here, for some time shoulderstand squats was the only squat I could do for a while and I’ve improved my form tremendously which is nice. This brings me to a follow up question, how come you put this as step 1? I see this move fitting with the squat series but it’s really hard to preform with good form, I couldn’t do 50 x 3 reps with good form. 25 x 3 maybe and I’ve been practicing it for many months as well as static shoulderstands (which really help with the top position btw) regularly for the last year at least. I’m not questioning your judgement here Coach, believe me I trust you, big time. Just out of curiosity.
      Another thing concerning my leg training, I’ve started bridges but do you have any thoughts on other exercises to incorporate. What comes to mind is wall squats and calf raises, what’s your take?

      Peace

      What actually helped me with the crow since, is doing two sets of 10 squats before, now I can hold it!

      It’s me who should AND are extremely thankful that you give me the opportunity to get feedback from the source. Thank you!

  • Jo6ka

    Thanks for an excellent article, Coach!

    I found it too much helpful in my situation. Got an irritating pain in left hip which stopped my progress on the whole body workouts – i could not do pullups for a few days because of the hip pain 😀 – but my upper body is now ready to go for it again, so I decided to give the arms building workout a try with light lower body work once a week and man, after just two workouts, totally love it. For a long time I wanted to give a Hartigen method a shot, but since I got some great results with the classical cc progression, I decided not to change (I am one of these guys, who enjoys a rather boring routine in the exercise like cutting off a centimeter in the depth on the positive part of s2s bridges once a week for at least half a year :D). Since I usually train with really long rests between exercise (I build my stamina in a pool, concentration on the bar) and working most of the time well under maximum effort (I am putting money in the bank 🙂 ), this kind of bodybuilding routine such as the arms one was all Greek to me, now, it might end up as a best four training weeks this year :D.

    Since there is the opportunity I would like to ask a couple of questions:

    1.) in number 4, the arms workout, you recommend to work out 2 times in the fourth week and three times the last day. Would you prefer the 3times a day workout to be the 3rd one this week, or do you suggest to do the second workout in the 3times a day format? (hope it is comprehensible :D)

    2.) I am one of those guys who try to conquer a prison pushup (and have huge respect for all the athletes giving it a shot – all of them are a big motivation for me). Nowadays I am working on lever pushups (even though my first snake pushup came more than three years before – when I was training half pushups! :D) and my plan is to bring the ball in lever pushups progressively just next to my hip so it cannot provide much of a help, but still at least some assistance remains. I have even tried to improve the negative phase of the pushup and took some photos of the bottom position – it does not look half bad (well, the best I can do :D), but the hip bend is still there. So I would like to ask you – how much bend (circa, in degrees?) do you find achievable?

    3.) When I got stuck with hurting hip, the first thing I wanted to try, when it eased off enough, was to get some numbers in my pullups (honestly, I suck in pullups :D). I wonder which strategy for increasing the number of pullups in one set do you prefer (or have good experiences with)?

    4.) Even though it might look I care only for upper body, the reverse is actually true :D. I love lower body work, i used to squat weights in my teens (and got a distorted spine as a result 😀 + the hip relapsing pain shortly after i stopped lifting weights back than), the squat (I was able to do few decent pistols when I read the cc for the first time, but still started from shoulderstand, jackknife and supported squats – do not regret, just the opposite) and bridge progressions do miracles for my joints. I will definitely give the leg building routine from this article a shot when the right time comes. But now I would like to ask you a question regarding a leg training of your mentor, Joe Hartigen – you have already written he has taken the pistols as a complementary to pullups (it looks a lot like climber´s type of workout to me – btw. I love climbing) and that he did not use Hartigen method with them. Could you give us just a hint about how his leg workout philosophy did look like? I am really curious about this one since I believe that strong and healthy legs in an advanced age are the secret to stay “forever young” in a way and as far as we can see, this is exactly what your mentor was like.

    Once again, thanks for great work you do for us and best wishes.,

    Joe from Czech republic 🙂

    • Hey, it’s my buddy Joe! Big respect going out to the Czech Republic!

      Thanks for your comment–now, let’s see what we can do here…

      1. It should be a third workout: on the final day of the week! This method–several workouts a day–is actually a very old technique for bulking up the arms fast. I think Peary Rader was the first person to discuss it, back in the fifties (correct me someone if I’m wrong!). I’ve tried it and it works wonders!

      2. I get this question all the time. A perfectly straight position is achievable, but it’s equivalent to a 300 pound bench press. Every tiny alteration of an alignment adds many, many pounds. Lots of men can do a 200 pound press (the snake pushup) after a year of trying, but few ever reach 300. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible though, Joe! You can do it!

      3. The best way to increase your numbers in pullups–once you can do a few–is to perform lots of pullups! Condition yourself to doing them every other day, and you will progress fast. But perhaps more important than this is laying a base…if you are weak at pulling BEFORE you attempt pullups, your pullups will suck. But if you build a base with jackknife work and Aussie pullups, you will breeze through the pullup stage and soon want harder work.

      4. Joe saw pistols as an exercise that “greased” the legs, keeping them young and strong. He (as ever) rarely went over five reps and would pepper a few sets of pistols though the day–they were easy for him, not much more than stretching. My view of leg training is different. I prefer my students to build up to pistols twice a week, and complement that training with lots of bodyweight circuits, explosive jumping and sprints.

      I loved reading your comment Joe–you obviously know a lot of stuff! I hope my answers helped you a little. Please keep returning to this blog, I’d love to hear more from you. Hope that hip stays behaved!

      Your pal,

      Paul

      • Jo6ka

        Thanks a lot for the answer.

        Must say, the arms routine is making me hungry 😀

        The leg workouts look awesome. I bet you build quite an amount of muscle and definition on those legs. Last quarter of a year or so, I was building my leg workouts around pistols (building slowly from 1×5 up to 2×11 before the hip stopped me) with additional work of jumps, samson´s squat and/or 50 full squats (it depended upon an amount of time I had – if there was enough time, I threw in all three, if there was not so much time or I was tired, I used just one or two of them) and bridges (by the wall with closing bridge as a negative part and then returning to standing position with the assistance of wall – i marked the high from which I “pushed” back and progressed a centimeter closer to the floor every workout), and by the time, I got at least as much centimeters around a thigh (even though I was not even trying to) as when I squatted more than 100 kilos three times a week! Moreover, when I stopped lifting then and start trying gymnastic strength workouts instead, the size of my legs immediately dropped (although i did a kind of weighted pistols back than), not so now, even though I had to cut the leg work to minimum for almost a month now. Well, that is my take on the claim that one cannot build leg muscles with bodyweight.

        It seems, I might be little misleading with the pullups. In reality, I can do around 15 (usually 14-16) decent pullups (last time I tried I achieved 15 hollowbody overhand grip pullups). Fact is, the pullups are my weakest link, I progress much slower than with other exercise and sometimes need to “regress” or deload. Hell, I enjoy the slow progression, it is much more rewarding than the “fast and easy” progress. Al Kavadlo´s great 20 pullups challenge make me thinking of giving it a shot and try to add these last 5 reps (and than beyond, hopefully). Well, I got at least two personal pullups experiences which demonstrate the importance of laying the base you are talking about, coach.

        Thirstly, in reality, even though I was able to do 14-16 pullups that time, I started cc training from a scratch and spent almost 2 years (dec 2011 – nov 2013) on a diet of australian pullups, jackknife pullups and half pullups (and it was one of the best decision of my training life). Roughly in a half of this great two year period, when working on double digits on my jackknifes, on a hot summer day, I tested my max on weighted chin-up and found out, that it jumped from 15 to 30 kgs in just a quarter of a year!

        Than, the last summer I worked hard on a hand on hand uneven pullups and then tried classic rocky pullups, got the beginner standard quite easily, but failed the next workout to manage progression or even those 5 reps. After few weeks of trying I saw my grip strength dropped (this used to happen to me usually when winter is coming, not so this year), so I deloaded back to full pullups, working the whole year on progressions I already went through and building momentum with classic, close and commando pullups, I tested my one arm flex hang at the end of this summer – guess what, working on the two arm strength the whole year, my one arm strength jump from rouhtly 2 seconds one arm flex hang hold with legs in front of a body as a counterweight to approximately 15 (stronger arm) or 10 (strong arm) counts (i was counting breathing, it might be around 8-13 seconds? don´t know) confident one arm flex hang in hollow body (and with a smile 🙂 ).

        Talking about flex hang; what is your take on isometric holds, coach? Don´t think levers and other gymnastic stuff, but things like two arm chin-up flex hang for better pullups, one arm chin-up flex hang for one arm pulling strength, bottom of the one arm pushup for getting the pushup technique under the skin, and so on. In Building the gymnastic body, coach Sommer talks about a guy who increased numbers in pullups while working only on one arm chin-up flex hang. I thought, isometric holds like these may be used as a handy hidden step when a lot of strength or skill is involved.

        Hope the long message does not bother you, when I got into it, I am capable of talking about some things (including bodyweight training) for hours non-stop :D.

        Best wishes and again, thanks for all the great stuff.

        • Joe, thanks so much for the message! I love long messages, especially when I enjoy reading the contents as much as I enjoy reading yours!

          We have the same take on building leg size, it seems. It’s just one of those eternal truths, I guess.

          As ever, you ask a real pertinent question on the flex hangs. In fact, this is a real controversy in the bodyweight bodybuilding world. They CAN add strength, no question about it. But–like negatives–they are really no good for building muscle. I am not a huge fan, partly because (not you) so many athletes use them to explore techniques they are just not ready for, like the one-arm pullup. Then it becomes like a powerlifter who can only bench press 300 pounds trying to bench 500 by holding it in the lockout position. There’s just no benefit to it.

          That said, you have your head screwed on. If they are working for you, stick at it!

  • Kishore

    Hey Coach. I’m completely sorry for being an ass now, I forgot what I wanted to ask you in the first place. 🙁 Anyway, here is the question.

    You say to suck in our abdominals (like we do when we see a hot chick) when we do leg raises right? Well, right now, I’ve reached the master step, but, I still find the technique a bit …. tough. Like. Its really easy for me to do it if I hold my abs tight (like when I hold it to withstand a punch… get it?), but, when I suck it in, I find it difficult to breathe because I’m used to breathing via my diaphragm rather than my chest. So when I suck it in, I can’t breathe IN much. Also, I did a quick search, and I saw that bodybuilders like Zane and the likes also sucked in their abs. Is that how you mean it?

    What am I missing here? What am I doing wrong? Any other tips/suggestions?

    • Great question Kishore–and congrats on the progress!

      When I say to suck in, I don’t mean a full vacuum. Just keep the abs tight and consciously draw your belly button an inch or two towards your spine and you’re set!

      You will easily be able to breathe this way since your chest has plenty of expansion left in it. Go try it dude!

  • Mark

    Hi Coach! Thank you so much for your knowledge, training with your books and ideas has become such a big and satisfying part of my live, i have to be carefull not to get too emotional about it, haha. Really, thanks a lot. You sure know your work does so much more than making people stronger in a physical sense.
    I’d simply ask you, what’s your take on “butt wink”? Some say, depending on proportions of the body it’s sometimes inevitabe – how much of a problem with bodyweight squats is it anyway?
    What do you say?

    Greetings,

    Mark

    • Yo Mark! Thanks so much for the message–don’t get emotional big guy, you’ll set me off!

      Thanks for the kind, kind words, they mean more than you know. Your question is also a very, very interesting one. My instinct is to say–provided your mobility and strength are generally good–I don’t really care if your pelvis rotates at the bottom of a bodyweight squat. (It won’t happen at the bottom of a one-leg squat.) If it happens, it happens. Yeah, if you have 300 pounds on your shoulders it may be a different story…

      I’m betting your thinking is going along the same lines, judging by the wording of your comment. Once again–big thanks for checking the article, and if you are in the mood for punishment please check part 2!

  • Owsky

    Thank you Muhammad!

  • God damn, look at that shoulder strength!

    Sorry for the late reply, catching up on part 2 comments. Thanks so much for sending me this–thanks also for your posts, which are so thoughtful and intelligent. So much fun to read. It is actually scary how many guys post on here that are smarter than me…gotta keep up the pretense!!

    Seriously the welcome was heartfelt my friend. Please, please stick around this blog–the PCC community needs smart, strong athletes like you!

    Your pal,

    Paul

    • Swiss_Olympic

      Thanks, Coach! With such great articles and a warm welcome, why would I not stick around? hehe.

      In all honesty, I look forward to contributing to the blog some day.

      Cheers!

  • Rui Chao

    Hey, Coach!

    I’m a student from Beijing, China. I really appreciate your books published these years and I just found this blog very helpful. Convict Conditioning changed me a lot. And I am not sure if you’ve heard that the Convict Conditioning became a great success in China. 100k+ people gather in a CC forum on Baidu(Chinese version of Google) to share experience and make discussion on CC. 20k+ post their daily exercise on related website. Hope you can say something to Chinese CC lovers:)

    • Rui Chao!

      My friend, I can’t tell you how much your comment means to me! I am a huge fan of Chinese culture and nobody was more honored than me that CC has taken off the way it has there…last week we had the PCC in Beijing, also!

      I wrote a foreword to the Chinese edition of CC, but due to the language barrier I don’t get to chat to Chinese CCers very often, so I’m real delighted you dropped by to say hi!

      Please pass on huge love and respect from Coach to all my Chinese bodyweight brothers and sisters!!!

      • Rui Chao

        Aha, I definitely will:) Can’t wait to share this blog with the fellow CCers in China! Still, most of us cannot quite understand English. Hope there will be a Chinese version soon!

        • Your English is better than my Chinese…Thank you for passing on whatever you can my friend–it means more to me than you know!

          Xie Xie!!

          • Rui Chao

            Aha… Bu ke qi:)

  • Raff Hindustani

    Hey, Coach! Are you planning a CC4?

  • Tim Jones

    Coach,

    Had a partial menisectomy(10% medial meniscus removed) with some cartlidge under knee cap smoothed out. Are full bodyweight squats and even pistols recommended? I would definitely like to give them a shot.

    Thanks for your time,

    Tim

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