Kavadlo Brothers’ Calisthenics Arms Workout

by Al Kavadlo and Danny Kavadlo on April 11, 2017

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Al and Danny Kavadlo Calisthenics Arms Workout
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 biceps and triceps, and help you carve out cannonball delts. In addition to your arms, this simple sequence will actually hit your entire upper body – even your abs. When you perform exercises that employ compound movements, it’s easy to target multiple muscle groups at once.

If you are unable to complete this workout as written, you may add additional sets in order to complete the same total number of reps. For example, when the workout calls for 3 sets of 10 reps, you can modify it by doing 6 sets of 5 reps (or 10 sets of 3 reps) in order to make the workout more manageable. You may also substitute a different variation of an exercise if you need to, such as pike push-ups instead of handstand push-ups.

Aim to perform the exercises in sequence with approximately 60-90 seconds of rest in between each set, though you may also try performing this workout as a circuit, if you are looking to enhance its cardiovascular benefits.

Close Push-up
Start in a push-up position, only with your hands closer together. Bend your arms and lower your chest toward the floor, keeping your elbows fairly close to your sides. Pause briefly with your chest approximately one inch from the ground, then press yourself back to the top. The close position of the hands places additional emphasis on the triceps.

3 x 20 reps

Chin-up
Hang from a bar with an underhand grip, then pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar. Avoid shrugging your shoulders, bending your knees, or using any momentum. Lower yourself back to the bottom position with control as well. This exercise works the entire upper body, while the underhand grip places additional emphasis on the biceps.

3 x 10 reps

Handstand Push-up
Kick up into a handstand against a wall. Look in between your hands, bend your arms and lower your head toward the ground. Pause briefly when your nose touches the floor, then press yourself back to the top. The handstand push-up is the ultimate calisthenics exercise for the shoulders.

3 x 10 reps

Aussie Pull-up
Get down under a bar that’s about waist height with your legs extended in front of you to form a straight line from the back of your head to your heels, then pull your chest toward the bar. Pause briefly at the top, with your chest approximately 1-2 inches from the bar, then lower yourself back to the bottom with control. Aussie pull-ups work the entire upper-body with emphasis on the biceps and mid-back.

3 x 10 reps

Parallel Bar Dip
Position yourself upright between two parallel bars with your feet off the floor. Bend from your shoulders and elbows, lowering yourself until your elbows are bent to at least 90 degrees. Pause briefly at the bottom, then press yourself back to the top. Parallel bar dips will finish off whatever is left of your triceps, shoulders and chest.

3 x 20 reps

Watch the video below for more:

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Al and Danny Kavadlo are Master Instructors for Dragon Door’s Progressive Calisthenics Certification. The Kavadlo Brothers have authored several internationally-acclaimed, bestselling books, including their latest, Street Workout, and have been translated into over a dozen languages. They have appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times and Men’s Health, and are both regular contributors to Bodybuilding.com.

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Hang Your Way to Better Pull-ups

by George Corso on April 4, 2017

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George Corso Al Kavadlo Tree Hang

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 missing them?”

Pull-ups are kind of like free throws. They take practice, but you have to make sure you are practicing the right way. Though many people feel that they would have an easier time climbing Mount Everest than accomplishing even one pull-up, I hope to show you a different approach that will not only help with your pull-ups, but many other bar exercises as well.

When I started my own practice in calisthenics I was able to get my chin above the bar, but it really was far from a perfect pull-up. I sensed that something was off so I began to film myself doing pull-ups. It’s not always easy to be critical of yourself but I knew that this was an essential element of perfecting this exercise. I broke it down step by step from the first pull to the middle section and then to the top of the bar.  Then I studied it in reverse while lowering myself. I found that I was a complete mess!

It made me think back to the story about the free throws. I applied that coach’s criticism to my situation and realized that I was practicing my pull-ups without much regard for quality. It was obvious that I had to make corrections. I started with the initial pull. To my surprise, I found that I was pulling more from my biceps, which caused me to round my shoulders too much. A lack of strength in my scapulae was a real issue. I also discovered a lack of grip strength. In order to fix this problem I decided to scale back and dedicate my pull-up practice to different variations of hanging on the bar in order to work my way back up with proper technique.

Here’s what I did:

Dead Hangs
I started with the basic dead hang. The dead hang is such a great introduction to calisthenics bar training. It not only preps the hands but also decompresses the spine. Plus it opens up the chest so you can gain better shoulder mobility.

Start out with 10-30 seconds at a time. From there you can build to longer hangs. I recommend playing with different grips on the bar as well: Supinated, pronated and alternated grips are all fair game. I also suggest using a variety of different hand widths to add to the benefits of the dead hang. Using different grips will work the body in different ways, which can help you discover where your individual strengths and weakness lie.

George Corso Dead Hang Bar Hang Grip Variations

Active Hangs
The active hang is the next progression. In this variation, you’ll still be hanging with your arms completely straight, but your lats and shoulder blades will be engaged to “pack” the shoulders into their sockets. Adding this move into my programing leveled up my strength more than I could imagine. Active hangs helped me understand the proper muscle sequence in the motion of the pull-up, with scapula depression being first and foremost of the movements. As with dead hangs, I encourage you to explore and play with different grips.

Al Danny Kavadlo Active Hangs

Active Arch Hangs
These are one of my favorites! The active arch hang is one of the most challenging due the the body position needed. The goal is to hang with an arched back, while actively depressing and retracting the shoulder blades. It’s almost like a back bridge combined with an active hang. This will not only increase one’s strength in pull-ups, but will also aid you in someday catching the extremely challenging front lever.

George Corso Active Arch Hangs

Ape Swings
This exercise requires stamina, strength, control and mobility in order to accomplish. Start off in a dead hang with a mixed grip (one palm facing away and the other facing towards you). From here, release the palm that is facing you and rotate your body beneath the bar, switching your grip for the other side. Continue moving across the bar in this fashion, then reverse direction. What I love about this exercise is the control and scapular strength needed in order to bring yourself up enough to grab the bar. Each rep is almost like a one arm scapula pull-up.

George Corso Ape Swings

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George Corso is a PCC, RKC, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Certified Animal Flow instructor and the co-owner of FORZA in Millbrook, NY. For more information, connect with George on Facebook.

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