Preparing for the PCC Experience

by Adrienne Harvey on September 30, 2014

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Adrienne Pull-Up

While we’ve shared a lot of information about what happens at PCC workshops, there are always still questions revolving around the same couple of topics: How do I prepare for the Progressive Calisthenics Certification, and is the PCC right for me?

Unlike many certification workshops in the modern fitness world, the PCC is a highly physical three-day workshop AND it has a strictly judged physical test (The Century!) to ensure you’re fit to present yourself to the world as a PCC Instructor. While this can seem daunting, there are some clear-cut strategic approaches which can help you both be prepared to pass the test, and be physically (and mentally) prepared to really get the most out of your PCC experience. (Be sure to click here for Paul Wade’s excellent PCC Q+A article written in January of 2013 which I hope you haven’t missed.)

One of the things I like most about The Century is that it’s a balanced test. While the numbers may not look frightening, having to perform each rep to our standards for the required number can prove to be challenging to say the least. I’ve personally seen very fit, very experienced people who were well prepared for the test need to take a second to mentally reset between exercises in the midst of testing.

Practicing the basics to the point that they are second nature is not only great for testing, but is also helpful for situations where you find yourself having to instruct a large group of people, or multi-task in some way while troubleshooting a client or student’s technique. In other words, performing the exercises during testing can tell us how you might perform as an instructor and leader. Not to mention, the testing occurs after three days of exhilarating and fun physical learning!

Testing at the PCC in Sweden

Attention to Detail During Testing at the PCC in Sweden

We usually have to remind especially inspired attendees not to go to complete failure while they are trying out some of the progressions we present during the workshop. It is hard after you get that first muscle-up to slow down and not immediately get back up on the bar for the 2nd, 3rd or 4th attempt at another. I’ve seen guys so overjoyed at their own progress after getting a game-changing cue from Al, Danny or myself that they’ve shredded up their hands while practicing it over and over again. (Yikes!)

Someone preparing for the PCC should really have two goals, passing the Century test is the more obvious of the two, but the other goal should be a focus on general strength, skill, and volume. The volume will also help prepare your body (and hands) for spending more time on the bar, pole, or floor. Suppose your most favorite (and/or most challenging) exercise falls on the 2nd or 3rd day? You will want to have as much strength and mobility at your disposal for trying as many of the progressions as possible—especially since the PCC instructors and your fellow attendees will be there to help you past any sticking points.

Adrienne coaching Tony towards a clutch flag at the PCC

When mentioning this particular topic, people often voice concerns that they think we will be doing muscle-ups and front levers 8 hours a day for three days in a row. Don’t be intimidated by the range of material the workshop offers, but do be prepared to attend at your best.

Also, I hope that you will bring us questions and moves you’ve been struggling with—we can help you work on them, and at the same time, the other attendees benefit from seeing how a given issue can be resolved. This is incredibly helpful for everyone’s own practice as well as that of their clients. I try to bring up stories of how either my clients or I overcame an issue so that others can try the approach too. So bring your strengths, but bring your “weaknesses” too.

By preparing for the Century, you will be drilling yourself well for the basics, which is often the most important aspect of being a professional trainer. While we would all love to be constantly coaching others on extremely advanced exercises, the reality is most of our clients will be everyday people who will need to start out at the very beginning. While many of us have long since progressed from the initial steps in Convict Conditioning (the basis of the PCC) and are slowly approaching the master steps, we need to remember how to really drill down and help someone who is just starting out. Often, beginners bring restricted movement patterns that can prove perplexing to an instructor who isn’t fully prepared.

It’s easy for us to be tempted to skip over that “easy stuff”, but I always remember an attendee at one of the very first PCC Workshops who was incredibly fit and able to do rep after perfect rep of “regulation” push-ups. But, when working through the progressions he was unable at first to correctly demonstrate a push-up from the knees. Fortunately with some attention to detail, and activation of the abdominals and glutes, he was not only able to demonstrate a knee push-up that would truly help a beginner, but he was able to progress further with his own push-ups because of this extra knowledge and experience. Similarly, when I get stuck on a given progression I go back and make sure I’m not taking my own strength for granted, simply because I’m able to “muscle through” a particular move.

The great thing about the PCC is that ALL levels of the progressions are useful—no matter your client’s fitness level. So, getting proficient with the Century Test is a crucial task, as is working up to a volume level that will allow you to fully participate in the workshop.

Jen Kalmes Pull-Up

PCC and RKC Instructor Jen Kalmes confidently completes a pull-up rep at a PCC Workshop in Minneapolis, MN

While we’ve seen a trend towards more men attending than women, everyone who has come to the PCC has been able to fully participate and learn from the experience. Women often ask me if I think they should “even bother” signing up, because somewhere along the line a rumor must have gotten started that we’re going to be doing backflip muscle-up spinaround jump squats (don’t ask me how to do that, I just made it up for emphasis) for three days in a row. But, the women who have shown up to past PCCs have not only thrived at the workshop but always seem to surprise themselves. Similarly, women with training backgrounds not as grounded in raw bodyweight strength often discover a whole new world of training to explore. As I’ve said many times before, if you understand the principles, you can really coach anyone—even people who have different strengths than your own.

The real treasures of the PCC are not just being able to perform or work towards performing cool moves and exercises, it’s being able to break down the movements for any situation. If there’s a common thread I’ve noticed among past attendees of the PCC workshops it’s a willingness to try new things, an innate form of leadership, and an intense desire to help others.

The PCC is an instructor course, and while many people do attend for their own knowledge (which we think is fantastic, by the way) we do find out that after a while those same people can’t help but share the information with others.

The world needs this accessible do-it-anywhere route to fitness, as well as instructors of all shapes, sizes and abilities to lead the way. I hope to see you bring your “A Game” to an upcoming workshop!

***

About Adrienne Harvey, Senior PCC Instructor, RKC-II, CK-FMS, Primal Move Nat’l Instructor: Originally RKC Certified in 2010, and RKC Level 2 certified in 2011, kettlebell and bodyweight training have been crucial in Adrienne’s personal quest for fitness. A core member of the PCC team, Adrienne loves sharing her knowledge with small groups and individuals. She also loves to develop recipes and workout programs to further support performance, body composition, and of course—FUN. Go to http://www.giryagirl.com for more information about Adrienne!

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  • I am so stoked you wrote this article, Adrienne! I especially enjoyed the part about encouraging more women to attend PCC! The collective energy of a group of bodyweight aficionados in one place and the top-level instruction that you, Danny, and Al provided really encouraged me to try moves I wouldn’t otherwise have tried on my own! You are definitely an inspiration for women getting into this type of training and one of the reasons I wanted to take PCC in the first place! You rock!

    • Thanks for reading, Grace 🙂 Sometimes well just need a little encouragement at these workshops and as you know, PCC Instructors are always willing to dish out the encouragement and info! 🙂

  • Marcus

    Well written article Adrienne. I was at the PCC in Sweden and remember a simple adjustment you made to my clutch flag that boosted my progress no end. Oddly enough failing my Century test the first time around also proved to be one of the best lessons I’ve ever had in my life.

    How come?

    Because it forced me to focus on my training with an intensity I didn’t know I possessed.

    Thanks John, Paul, Al, Danny, Adrienne and everyone involved for the PCC. I can’t say enough good things about it. If you’re on the fence about attending a future PCC, it’s time to book your place and ready for a life changing experience.

    • Thanks for your comment, Marcus! And really glad that cue helped too, the fun thing about moments like that is not only seeing the immediate effect, but then the understanding that maybe a small adjustment to any given troublesome move can yield a big result–and to keep trying 🙂 So glad you enjoyed your PCC experience (the entire experience) and got so much from it. Keep us posted on your continued progress!

  • Another awesome article, Adrienne!

    Real interested too in what you say about the female athletes. Too many allow themselves to get intimidated in thinking about a PCC. It’s a shame, because women really seem to excel at the certs when they get there. Also, the girls, in my experience, really seem to “get” progressive calisthenics and what it’s all about. The form, the body, ability, beauty.

    Awesome job spreading the word, Adrienne. As ever!

    • Thanks for your kind words, coach!! Slowly but surely we seem to be getting that message across — we’ve seen some amazing things happen from everyone at PCC workshops! 🙂 🙂

    • sean ;)

      Thank you as well Adrienne for a good article, i enjoyed the read.

      Paul brotha, you getting close to putting the final touches on that book of yours? I can only re-read your stuff so many times. Whats the status, I’m dying over here…didn’t you say october in some past articles comments?

      until then I guess I’ll have to just….keep calm and PCC on!

      • Sean my man! You got it! The final manuscript is handed in within a week…Luckily, John and Al are letting me reach out to you guys here in the next couple weeks, so the PCC community are the first folks in the world to get the lowdown on my new “baby”…

        • Sean ;-)

          YES, YES, YES,,,Awesome to hear!! Consider it bought and paid for already. I’ll assume it will be introduced as a post here so that we will know asap when it hits my inbox? I hope there will be a kindle version offered at it’s release as well? If not no biggie. Thanks Paul for keeping on target for us CC junkies! Have a good day!!

          • Rodolfo Oliveira

            I second you my brother Sean!

        • Rodolfo Oliveira

          My birthday gift!

      • You’re welcome Sean, hope you found it helpful 🙂 I’m also really looking forward to the new book! 🙂

    • Leo

      Dear Paul Wade,
      I´ve got a lot of questions for you.
      Should I ask them under this post or somewhere else?

      • Vasily K.

        I join this question cauze I also have something to ask, Coach.:)

        • Rodolfo Oliveira

          Dragon Door should keep a place at the PCC Blog only for Q&A! Something like “Ask Coach”! We already have “Ask Al” which is my favourite YouTube channel!

          • Vasily K.

            I think this is brilliant idea, my friend! Hope that PCC-Leaders and Coach will consider about this.

          • You guys are giving me ideas to present, that’s for sure. There’s a small “Ask GiryaGirl” section on my own site and it is definitely popular as well… from the writer’s perspective answering questions is often a fun way to write a post too (in my opinion)

  • Vernon Douglas

    Great article!!! As I am training for the PCC in January I found this and Paul’s blog regarding PCC prep very helpful. I have the Century down but on Paul’s advice I am looking to get my volume up another 50% by January. I am currently doing Solitary Confinement(6 days per week) but I read in Paul’s blog to pick a couple of workouts per week and ramp up the sets. Does this mean just 2 days per week or 2 sets of exercises repeatedly throughout the week? Sorry for the technical questions in here but I have to ask! Thanks in advance everyone and stay strong!!

    • Glad you liked the article and even more glad to hear that you’re signed up and preparing for an upcoming PCC workshop! 🙂 Can you link to the specific blog post from Paul where he says that? Also, I’ll see if I can make sure he sees this question too

    • Vernon! Adrienne told me you’d asked this question and since it relates to an article I wrote, the lady asked me if I wanted a shot at answering it–so here I am!

      The advice meant two days per week. For example, this week, pick two workouts and double your sets on every exercise. (Take it easy with the reps. Don’t kill yourself! back off the intensity a bit, but increase total reps.) Next week, do the same with a different two workouts. The week after, do the same with the final two workouts. After that, keep adding extra sets where you can. Aim at ten moderate work sets–for now!

      I also think–maybe late November? You should move from SC, as it is just too damn efficient with rest. Start working with more total body workouts–this will mimic the certification better. Your whole body will get worked each day, trust me!

      Even if you build volume, keep taking the odd day–even two–off to totally refresh every week. I don’t want you to build up residual fatigue before the cert. Take a short break before the cert, too!

      It’s amazing that you are coming to the cert! I KNOW you’ll be a PCC in the class of ’15!

      Hope this makes sense. You got any more questions V, I got a “live” blog post going now on this site. I’ll be answering all questions through till next week. Hit me up! Adrienne also has an “Ask Adrienne” Q and A section on her site, and she is a fabulous resource: remember, she is a top PCC instructor who actually judges folks on the day!

      • Vernon Douglas

        Hey Paul!!!I really appreciate you taking the time to give such a thorough response. It’s nice to know we’re in this together:). As usual, you nailed it! I will follow this and will be in fine form come January.

        • Vernon Douglas

          Also much thanks to Adrienne for your assistance!

          • You’re welcome and please keep us posted on your progress too!

        • It’ll be an honor to have you on board, my friend!

          Vernon Douglas PCC DOES have an awesome ring to it….

  • Vernon Douglas

    Hey guys, as we are moving into November, do you have a sample program for final weeks leading to the cert? Is it now best to stick to volume in the 4 moves that are in the Century and lay off the progressions? Thanks!

    • There’s not a specific program other than the examples given in Convict Conditioning — most will depend on where you’re at with your progress. If you’re solid on the Century, then working on the progressions certainly can’t hurt. Most people at the PCC seem to have a progression where they’re struggling (even/especially towards the advanced end) and are prepared to get as much help and practice in on it as possible at the workshop — hope that helps! 🙂 How’s your Century coming along?

      • Vernon Douglas

        yes coming along pretty good, thank you for asking. have it at 5 min. now i will be adding in the additional 50% volume as recommended. Will you be at the PCC in Jan?

        • Glad to hear it! 🙂 and yes, I’ll be at the January workshop!

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