The Meathook

by Al Kavadlo on March 31, 2015

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Al Kavadlo Meathook

PCC Lead Instructor Al Kavadlo demonstrates the meathook.

Using all of the body’s musculature together as one cohesive unit is among my favorite aspects of bodyweight training. Iso-lateral calisthenics moves like the “one arm push-up” are misleadingly named, as they require strength throughout the entire body—not just one of its appendages. Few iso-lateral moves demonstrate this full body harmony better than the little known (and perhaps more aptly named) “meathook” exercise.

Hooked on Calisthenics
Though a full body movement, the meathook still emphasizes certain areas. It requires tremendous grip strength as well as monstrous shoulders and lats, plus a powerful core. If you don’t have those attributes yet, practicing toward this move can help you build those areas along the way.

Before you are even ready to begin working toward the meathook, however, the first step is to be sure that you have a solid foundation in push-ups, pull-ups and hanging knee raises. I recommend getting to at least 30 push-ups, 20 hanging knee raises and 10 pull-ups before you even consider attempting the meathook. (Those numbers may look familiar.) I also suggest you get comfortable with full range-of-motion, straight hanging leg raises before working toward a meathook. You should to be able to get your shins all the way to the bar before you move on to the next step.

Al Kavadlo Hanging Leg Raise

Get comfortable with full range-of-motion, straight hanging leg raises before working toward a meathook.

Wipe Out!
The windshield wiper is a very challenging exercise in its own right, but it is also a crucial lead-up step toward the meathook. Once you’ve met those initial requisites, your next step is to start working on windshield wipers. Begin by hanging from an overhead apparatus, then raise your shins to the bar and begin rotating your legs and hips toward one side. Aim to get your legs parallel to the ground before reversing direction and lowering them to the opposite side.

Once you get comfortable performing several windshield wipers in a row, you’re almost ready to attempt the meathook, which you can think of like a static windshield wiper held on just one arm. Naturally, before you’re ready for all that, you’ll need to get comfortable performing a basic hang on one arm. These can be surprisingly tough when you are starting out. I advise you to use the progressions in Convict Conditioning 2 to build toward a one arm hang if you aren’t there yet.

Al and Danny Kavadlo Windshield Wipers

The windshield wiper is a crucial lead-up step toward the meathook.

Hook It Up
Though grip strength is an important prerequisite, remember that the meathook involves a lot more than just the ability to hang on to the bar. Your lats and shoulders need to be very strong and stable to hold the meathook, plus you will need powerful abdominals and obliques. Do not attempt this move until you’ve built up to a solid one arm hang and can do several consecutive windshield wipers.

Once you’ve satisfied those requirements, you are ready to rock and roll! Begin by grasping the bar tightly, then perform a windshield wiper toward your dominant arm. When your legs are all the way over to the side, lift your hips toward your elbow, folding your body around your arm. It may take some trial and error to get a feel for finding the “sweet spot” but at a certain point, you will feel your balance shift.

Al Kavaldo Windshield Wipers

The elbow of your primary arm should wind up down by your hip.

Once your hips are in position, begin to loosen the grip on your secondary hand, gradually transferring all of your weight to the other arm. When you feel confident enough to completely release your secondary hand from the bar, do so carefully.

You’re now holding a meathook – Congratulations! Stay here for a few seconds, then slowly reverse the movement and try it on the other side.

If you are unable to take your other hand away, try removing a finger or two instead. Over time you can work toward relying on your secondary arm less and less as you progressively build the strength to perform the full meathook.

Once you’ve gotten the “hang” of getting into a meathook this way, you can start building up to longer holds and experimenting with different methods of getting in and out of position. The meathook can also be useful for bridging the gap toward one arm pull-ups and the rarely seen one arm back lever.

There are many uses and applications for this move; feel free to experiment and get creative!

***

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

 

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  • Mohammed

    To achieve a shins-to-bar leg-raise, would it be more beneficial to modify all the steps in a leg raise progression so they’re similar to a v-raise (e.g., hanging knee raises where knee touches chest) or to achieve a full straight leg raise with legs parallel to the ground and then add height to that?

    • Either of those methods will work! You’ve got a good mind for Progressive Calisthenics! 🙂

      • Mohammed

        Thanks, Al. I’ll have a think about which to do, then.

        Seems then that sticking around the likes of yourself and the people here is working!

  • Shane Gallagher

    Al, you make those look so easy! That’s more impressive to see done than hand stand push-up. I currently do hanging leg raises, hanging flutter kicks, and knees to elbows (still working on my volume for these) along with pull-ups, and core exercises derived from HITT and my recent new addition to my workout library your ‘Pushing the Limits’. Good stuff man!

  • Awesome!!! So glad to see a progression for this move. I have a feeling this is going to take a while, but will be worth it and fun to work on! 🙂

    • Right on, Adrienne! Enjoy the journey!

  • Paramesvara Dasa

    This is where bodyweight starts getting to be wonderfully strange. Has anyone attempted to catalogue EVERY SINGLE bodyweight training exercise that exists?

    • While a noble endeavor, I think it would take several lifetimes to compile such a list. The possibilities are virtually infinite with bodyweight training!

      Having said that, the PCC Instructor manual is the most thorough catalog of bodyweight exercises I’ve seen yet. And the only way to get it…is to come take PCC!

  • Matt Schifferle

    Man, that beard is in full effect! You also look like you’re getting a bit thicker in the midsection there, have you noticed more muscle growth in that area or am I just imagining it? Looks powerful!
    Back to the meat hook, this is one of those classic examples of how BW training can be so much fun. It helps break us out of the pick-up-put-down style of training and shows us there are so many ways to use the body. Thanks so much Al!

    • Thanks, Matt! If I’m looking thick around the midsection, it’s only because I’ve been enjoying myself too much this winter! It’s probably just the lighting though – all my clothes still fit. 😉

  • Eric Buratty

    After seeing a picture of this meaty move in Stretching Your Boundaries, I was instantly hooked.

    Yeah, yeah . . . I know that was cheesy.

    While the picture and general explanation you gave back on your blog for this move were helpful, seeing you perform the meat hook in person took my strength to a whole new level. With maybe a week of practice after returning from the VA PCC last year, I finally got it and had to post it on Facebook!-lol

    Thanks for sharing a more formal tutorial on this move. It’s an excellent progression/pre-requisite for one-arm lever training!

    Ciao m/

    –Eric

    • Thanks, Eric! You know how I love cheesy puns! 🙂

      • Brad Sadl

        Meat and cheese you both are making me hungry 🙂

  • I like the dynamic camera work in the vid. Looks like you have a new camera man (or woman? 😉 ). Super cool move. Your progressions are still my favorite ones. We’re working out!

    • Thanks, Silvio! After years of making youtube vids, I guess I’m finally getting pretty good at it! 😉

    • Haha, thanks for recognizing my sic camera skills, Silvio!! 😉 Al’s been a great teacher not only for just Calisthenics, but filming vids, too!

  • john flynn

    Do you think training pull ups and knee raises everyday is effective?

    • Americanadian Badass

      Depends on your goals and how you are training them every day.

    • Those are great exercises, but every single day might be too much. Take a rest day when you are sore.

  • The Eternal Innovator.

    After decades in bodyweight, you’ve introduced me to at least THREE exercises I’ve never seen anywhere! Damn.

    • Believe me, Coach, it’s been a two-way street; I’ve learned a lot from you, too! 😉

  • Frank Delventhal

    I would love to to that but I got to be very careful with my shoulder, and the one arm bar hangs have to be longer … but that is a very cool exercise. 😉

    The progressions seem to be very sensible. So if I can hold the one armed bar hangs for longer, I will go for it. So far I can just hold for 10 Seconds (after the workout) or about 15 seconds, when I am fresh.
    To safely try it how long would you suggest, that one should be able to hold the one arm bar hang?
    Second question “one armed back lever”? … When I think about that I just can not imagine how to to that … I lack the fantasy to visualise that one a planet with gravity. 🙂 I hope that you can show us (me) one time how that looks. Thanks for your inspiration.

    • It’s hard to say for sure, but I’d aim for closer to a 30 second one arm hang before trying the meathook. As for the one arm back lever, this picture will have to do for now, but maybe one day I’ll get to demo it for you in the flesh!

      • Frank Delventhal

        Thanks Al 🙂 maybe I would have to skip some of the other grip taxing exercises. Funny as a lot of them require a strong grip (Kettlebell Swings with a 48) but that does only require an immense grip for a relatively short period of time. 😉

      • Frank Delventhal

        You know that this is kid of insane?
        If I imagine it … I would be the Superman with one arm biting the dust …. other arm still dangling from the bar … 😉

  • David

    Hey Al I am greatly looking forward to being a student at your PCC in Dallas. With the certification under my belt I actually want to have a calisthenics park built in my hometown so I can help others who may not be into other forms of fitness and would just like to be outside. I would greatly appreciate any advice on getting the project started!

    • Hey David – Looking forward to meeting you next month in Dallas! I recommend you go to to a local city council meeting with a formal proposal. We’ll talk more about it at PCC.

  • kane

    There’s always a new move to master or one i haven’t heard of, that’s why i love this training so much….i recently saw a move where its a reverse muscle up from german hang but cant find the name now, anyone know it?

    • I’ve seen the move referred to as a reverse muscle-up or German muscle-up, but I’m sure there are other names for it, too. Whatever you call it, it’s a crazy move!

      • kane

        Definitely requires some major shoulder flexibility……i got work to do haha!!! BTW will the pcc ever come to Sydney Australia

  • Duane Robinson

    just started trying these out bro, awesome addition, but just a quickie do you think its more benificial as a static hold or to rep it?

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