PCC Goes Commando

by Grace Kavadlo on May 23, 2017

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PCC London 2017

I’d heard big things about the Commando Temple gym in London from Al and Danny after the previous Progressive Calisthenics Certification there, so I had high expectations going into last weekend’s event.

This would be the third time the PCC was happening in Great Britain, but it was my first time visiting the legendary Commando Temple. Despite the hype, it was even better than I expected!

The Temple is nothing like your typical gym, which tends to be bloated with treadmills, stationary bikes, and machines. It is truly a playground for DIESEL people! There is tons of floor space, pull-up bars of every width, a Swedish ladder, full-sized parallel bars and even customizable human flag handles.

I was immediately impressed and knew it was going to be an event of epic proportions. Still, nothing could prepare me for the energy and excitement that took place throughout the weekend.

PCC London Al Kavadlo Flag

As a self-professed geek, I was thrilled to see that the walls are covered in comic book and superhero art. Everywhere you look there’s a figurine or picture with inspirational action icons!

The superheros pictured on the walls weren’t the only superheros in the room. Just like the unassuming Clark Kent turns into Superman at the blink of an eye, these polite British chaps turned into full-blown calisthenics beasts once they were unleashed on the bars!

PCC London Hanging Leg Raises

The guys weren’t the only ones getting in on the action, either. There were some Wonder Women in this group as well. I love connecting with other ladies who share my passion for calisthenics. As a female, it’s empowering to be on the forefront of a movement that is typically dominated by men. However, at every PCC we are spreading the word that pull-ups and push-ups aren’t just for the boys. The ladies of PCC never fail to impress me with their strength and solidarity.

PCC Ladies Group Photo

As always, the PCC brings people together from all over the world. Though there were many local Londonites in the house, attendees came from places as far and varied as Senegal, South Africa, Italy, Greece, Belgium and Ireland. We were all united by our passion for calisthenics and our desire to improve. And improve we did! There were more PR’s set than I can ever recall seeing at a PCC workshop. Pistols were firing, flags were flying and handstands were happening everywhere.

PCC London Handstands

The whole weekend went by in a flash! When all was said and done, we were left with new friends and a great group of newly certified progressive calisthenics trainers. It’s an honor to teach and share what I’ve learned so far in my journey, and it’s a privilege to be a part of this wonderful movement. My favorite thing about the PCC is how it brings out the best in people. We all have a superhero inside of us.

PCC London 2017 Group Photo



Grace Kavadlo is a PCC Team Leader, personal trainer and group exercise instructor located in New York City. She is a columnist for Bodybuilding.com and can be seen in several Dragon Door books, including Al Kavadlo’s Zen Mind, Strong Body and Paul “Coach” Wade’s Explosive Calisthenics. For more information about Grace, check out her website, www.DieselGrace.com.

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Taking The GET STRONG Transformation Challenge

by John Du Cane, CEO and founder, Dragon Door on May 16, 2017

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John Du Cane Pull-Ups Get Strong Transformation Challenge

John Du Cane comes off the bench to help John Du Cane with the Get Strong Phase 3 Pull-up and Chin-up sets.

What mechanism acts as both the Great Protector of our health and well-being—while often acting as the Great Saboteur of our attempts at physical transformation?

That mechanism would be Homeostasis:

  1. “The tendency of a system, especially the physiological system of higher animals, to maintain internal stability, owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any situation or stimulus that would tend to disturb its normal condition or function.”
  2. “A state of psychological equilibrium obtained when tension or a drive has been reduced or eliminated.”

As the cliché goes, we are creatures of comfort. We seek to minimize pain and to quickly eliminate any perceived threat to that comfort. Without this overriding tendency, of course, our internal systems would collapse—as they de-regulate into a chaos of conflicting and unbalanced energies.

But when we seek to transform ourselves physically, the whole construct has to shift. No more Mr. Nice Guy. Now, we have to deliberately, savagely, nastily traumatize our own bodies—to shock them into change…

We have to willfully terrorize ourselves out of the sloth of our addiction to ease…

Far from reducing or eliminating tension and drive, we need to psych ourselves up into an unreasonable quest for dis-comfort, dis-equilibrium—and a kind of planned mayhem. We freaks of fitness storm the barricades of complacent physical mediocrity—and to hell with the naysayers and stay-at-home couch potatoes…

However, all this savagery of intent still screams for proper leadership. Whatever the fire burning in your belly, you’ll go nowhere fast if you don’t have wise guidance from fitness experts who are true masters of their game.

Otherwise we become a foolish, disorganized rabble, our dreams of physical transformation derailed by misinformation and false promises.

And here’s the great beauty of a well-organized, well-planned transformation program: it helps jump us out of the rut of our normal meandering exercise patterns. Instead of two steps forward, three steps sideways, one step back, woops, two more steps back, yikes, half a step forward and so on—boom, we suddenly have our marching orders, a goal to achieve, fire in our eyes, confidence in our hearts, competitive juices flowing and a sense of driving purpose.

30 perfect Feet Elevated Push-ups can be surprisingly demanding

30 perfect Feet Elevated Push-ups can be surprisingly demanding

Now—against all the homeostatic odds—we can embrace the pain-drenched ecstasy of the struggle for physical glory. And succeed, right? 🙂

Get Strong is exactly that well-organized, well-planned, proven program you can count on to effect the changes you desire. You can do it on your own, of course, but why not join forces with other bodyweight exercise enthusiasts?

So, when Al and Danny Kavadlo created their Get Strong 16-Week Transformation Program, we thought it would be perfect to include a community contest to help motivate us all to give this thing our best possible shot. We can join forces with a bunch of fellow maniacs, urging each other forward, come what may…

While waiting for the printed copies of Get Strong to arrive from China, I decided to preview the Transformation Program myself. Almost without any exception I train alone: bodyweight exercise, kettlebells and Chen Tai Chi. Mostly in my office. This is all well and good, but this solitary training has its pitfalls—as I quickly realized once I embarked on the Program. I will describe my experience below, but first, here’s the contest we devised:

To qualify:

  1. Submit one or more Before photos taken within three days of beginning the contest.
  2. Submit one or more After photos taken with three days of completing the 16-week contest.
  3. Submit an article detailing your performance progress through the Get Strong program, beginning with the Phase 1 Test as the baseline.

Entries can be submitted up to October 30, 2017, sent to support@dragondoor.com
Winners will be announced November 15, 2017.

Judges: Al Kavadlo, Danny Kavadlo and John Du Cane.

Grand Prize: $500 in cash, one free RKC or PCC workshop, interview, dedicated PCC blog piece.
Next four best entries: Interview, $300 off any Dragon Door workshop.
Next fifteen best entries: $100 off any Dragon Door workshop.

We have also set up a private Facebook group The Get Strong Transformation Challenge. Purchase the book and we will automatically invite you to join or accept your request to do so.

My experience with the first three phases of the Get Strong Program

The First Phase is called The Foundation—and it is literally that. Raw newbies would need the full four weeks, if not additional weeks, to be able to test out. The thing though about all the Phases, is the inclusion of one or more exercises that you may have been neglecting in your own practice.

John Du Cane Handstand

A work in progress on my Wall Handstand—some technical tightening needed on that left elbow…

At age 68, my current biggest vulnerabilities are my elbows and my right knee. I had reduced my pull-up practice because of tendinitis in those elbows, so I definitely felt the one-minute Active Hang part of the Phase 1 test. Those tendons were letting me know of their existence… Yes, I tested out with ease overall, but I realized Phase 2 was going to up the pain factor by a fair amount.

Phase 2 is called Brick and Mortar. I did NOT pass the Phase 2 test at the end of the four weeks and had to repeat Weeks 3 and 4. The villain was the Wall Handstand. Amazingly, I had never practiced handstands in my life. Strange, but there it is… So, I entered Phase 2 a handstand virgin and paid the price. The test requires a 60-second hold. I made it to 55 seconds! An undoubted weakness that I have enjoyed confronting in Phase 3—which requires two sets of 60 seconds in Week 4.

Did I have any other problems with Phase 2? For the testing, probably the toughest part was only being allowed one minute between each exercise. Those who have taken the Century at the PCC would appreciate the energetic demands of completing 30 Push-ups, 10 Chin-ups, 20 Hanging Knee Raises and 40 Squats plus an additional four exercises with just one minute rest between each…

On to Phase 3, Concrete and Iron, where things start to get more challenging for sure…

Phase 3 is where both my elbows and my right knee asserted themselves. Phase 3 introduces Assisted One Leg Squats and Bulgarian Split Squats. As a former sprinter and longtime martial artist my legs have been my strong point—pistols for instance were never a problem. However, for quite a while now, I have stopped doing unilateral leg work—and have just done regular squats or double-kettlebell squats. It was a shock to discover how much weaker my right leg was than my left. I have enjoyed the challenge of fixing that—big time.

Combining relatively high reps of Assisted One-Legged Squats and Bulgarian Split Squats is not the breeze you might think it to be…

Combining relatively high reps of Assisted One-Legged Squats and Bulgarian Split Squats is not the breeze you might think it to be…

My elbows are really squawking from attempting 2 sets of 10 Pull-ups, plus 2 sets of 10 chin-ups plus 3 sets of Hanging Straight Leg Raises—mixed in with other arm-intensive drills in close succession to each other. Here, I am straight-out being sensible. From bitter experience, I know that pushing into the realm of tendinitis will be highly counterproductive to future progress… There is good, constructive pain, then there is foolish, destructive pain… So I am going to take the time I need to advance without injury, whatever pace that might require.

John Du Cane Hanging Leg Raises

3 sets of 10 reps. I don’t feel this in my abs, but I sure feel it in my arms…

The most challenging new exercise for me in Phase 3 has been the Feet Elevated Pike Push-up. I had never performed this move in my life other—so another hump to surmount.

To succeed with the Get Strong Program, particularly when you are older, proper recovery is essential. I have become acutely conscious of needing that much more sleep, that much more rest and that much cleaner a diet. To that end, I have found Wim Hof’s ice therapy and breath-holding exercises immensely helpful. A very recent and wonderful addition to recovery has been my discovery of the Air Relax dynamic compression system. It’s hard to truly quantify, but I believe it has cut the recovery time for my leg work by perhaps as much as 50%. Exciting…

All in all, test-driving the Get Strong Transformation Program has been an exhilarating personal experience for me—and I have been immensely enjoying the additional strength I have gained from a religious adherence to the Kavadlo Brothers’ blueprint.

I hope many of you join me in taking the challenge—and I look forward to hearing your stories down the road!

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How to Restore Desk-Damaged Physiques with Calisthenics

May 9, 2017

Years ago, well before the PCC, and just after Convict Conditioning began to get extremely popular, I heard Andrea Du Cane say that we shouldn’t live in the posture of our sport. In many cases, we should also not live in the posture of our work. It seems as though many of our clients (and […]

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Progressive Calisthenics Comes To Boston!

May 2, 2017

In 1858, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. famously referred to the city of Boston as “the hub of the solar system.” This past weekend, Boston could have been called “the hub of the calisthenics system,” as this historic American city hosted the first Progressive Calisthenics Certification ever held in the New England area. I was […]

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Kavadlo Brothers’ Calisthenics Arms Workout

April 11, 2017

Fans of progressive calisthenics know that you don’t need weights to pump up your arms. With nothing more than your own bodyweight and a few bars, you can blast your guns without any external resistance. Though you won’t find any dumbbell curls or triceps push-downs in this workout, the following exercises will blow up your […]

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Hang Your Way to Better Pull-ups

April 4, 2017

A basketball coach walks into the gym and witnesses one of his athletes shooting free throws. He makes 1 out of 50 shots. The coach asks the athlete what he’s doing and the athlete replies “practicing free throws.” The coach then asks him a simple question: “Are you practicing making them or are you practicing […]

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Five Reasons to Practice Pistol Squats

March 28, 2017

My first attempts at the pistol squat were an embarrassing failure. Back then, weight training made up the majority of my leg workouts, and I thought I had already built myself a set of powerful posts. I could leg press nearly half a ton and comfortably barbell squat more than my body weight for many […]

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Revive, Restore, Recertify!

March 14, 2017

This January marked my ninth Progressive Calisthenics Certification since first becoming PCC Certified three years ago. In that time, I have been a student, an assistant, an instructor, and now, a Team Leader for this organization. I’ve had the privilege of attending and teaching in seven countries spanning three continents, and I continue to grow […]

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I Am Not An Athlete

March 7, 2017

EDITORS’ NOTE: The opinions expressed in this column belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect that of Dragon Door Publications, its staff or its affiliates. As you may know by now, I am not one to get bogged down on semantics. Progressive Calisthenics, bodyweight training, and street workout are all terms that I […]

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Organizing a Group Calisthenics Class

February 28, 2017

I can still remember my anxiety as I was about to teach my first Progressive Calisthenics class. I found it challenging to train myself, let alone a group of people with varying backgrounds, limitations (both psychological and physical) and fitness levels! Perhaps you have recently qualified at a PCC, love calisthenics and are looking to […]

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