Big Man Calisthenics

by Forest Vance on February 24, 2015

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Forest Vance  with Al and Danny Kavadlo at the Encinitas PCC

Forest Vance with Al and Danny Kavadlo at the Encinitas PCC

A couple of years ago, cumulative injuries, less time to hit the gym, and just wanting a break from hard lifting motivated me to explore other modes of training to gain functional, healthy strength. I’d been lifting weights for almost 20 years and needed to try something different. The simplicity and practicality of bodyweight training appealed to me, but I always thought that at my size (6’4″ / 245 pounds) advanced calisthenics were out of my reach. If you look around YouTube, I’m a lot bigger than the typical people you see doing this stuff!

Back in my football days (I played college ball and had a short stint in the NFL), bodyweight work WAS a big part of our routine. However, it was mostly conditioning – stuff like jumping jacks and running in place. I had NO idea of how to use bodyweight training for any other type of goals (strength, muscle gain, etc).

I remember searching around on the internet one day and running across one of Al’s YouTube videos. It featured him doing human flags, muscle-ups, and a bunch of other stuff and that’s what led me down the “rabbit hole” of bodyweight exercise.

I went in to PCC Encinitas not knowing what to expect. Watching videos and practicing on your own is one thing, but going to an event like this with dozens of other calisthenics enthusiasts is another. I went in not knowing if I could even DO any of the exercises taught, let alone hang with the gymnast-types I expected to see at the event.

The certification weekend turned out to be one of the best fitness events I’ve EVER attended – and I’ve been to dozens over the 10 years I’ve been in the fitness business full time!

Forest Vance Muscle-Up

We learned and trained bodyweight exercise for three full days, including:

Human flags
Muscle ups
Back bridges
Ab work (everything from L-sits to dragon flags to hanging leg raises)
Front and back levers
Floor levers

And MUCH more.

From the staggering amount of new exercises, technique tips, and coaching cues I came away with, to the top-notch instruction from Al and Danny and the rest of the PCC team, to the positive attitude and energy of every single attendee, it was truly an amazing experience.

And my worries about fitting in and being able to hang were gone almost as soon as the event started. Being able to try “basic” versions of exercises like the human flag, muscle-up, dragon flags, floor levers, and many more showed me that these movements ARE possible for a big man. The huge amount of progressions presented showed me that if I put my mind to them, and work consistently on getting better over time, I can make a lot of progress!

Forest Vance Assisted Pistol

Add to that the accepting, positive, encouraging approach of the instructors, and you have probably the most universally applicable training course for a fitness professional that exists. Master this bodyweight stuff and you can train any client, anytime, anyplace, with zero equipment.

I feel a new enthusiasm for training that I haven’t felt in quite a while, really since I discovered kettlebells six or seven years ago. That alone is worth the cost and time of the trip 10x over.

It turns out my fear about my size was really just an excuse I made up in my mind! YOU can do this progressive calisthenics stuff – big or small, young or old, fit pro or just calisthenics enthusiast … make it happen! You’ll be glad you did.

Keep training hard!

Forest Vance At PCC


Forest Vance, PCC, RKC II, is a Master of Science in Human Movement, former professional football player, and currently runs a fitness boot camp and personal training facility in the Sacramento, CA area. Find years worth of free kettlebell and body weight – related articles, videos, and training courses at Forest’s personal blog at

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  • dannykavadlo


    • Forest

      Awesome Danny. Great experience and really impressed by your ability as both a trainer AND coach. Keep up the great work, you guys are bringing such an awesome thing to the fitness community!

  • Great post, Forest! And you did awesome at the Encinitas PCC, it was fun to finally meet you in person!

    • Forest

      Thanks Adrienne! Great meeting you as well and thanks for your awesome coaching over the PCC weekend, I was really impressed. Rock on!

  • Karen Lee

    Good post, I let it creep in my head sometimes: “Maybe I can’t because…” It IS just an excuse. So, then I just keep training 🙂 I love what the PCC movement has taught me. Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Forest


    Thanks again to the PCC team for putting on such an amazing event.

    I’m practicing and using so many tips, tricks and techniques I learned at the certification weekend with our training clients on a daily basis.

    And as I mentioned in the article, I feel a new enthusiasm for training that I haven’t for quite a while! Loving this calisthenics stuff! Rock on guys!

    – Forest

  • John Meyer

    Forest Thanks for sharing this post with us your clients we see the difference in the training we have been doing since your return. New kick butt stuff that’s making us moan and groan but it’s all good. Keep educating us.

    • Forest

      Awesome John! Thanks for the kind words, really appreciate it!! And keep up the great work yourself – you inspire us every day at FVT Boot Camp!

  • Scott Cardiff

    Great post, Forest. Had the same trepidation due to age but that vanished as soon as class started. Encinitas was an absolute blast. Hope to stop by your facility to check it out sometime.

    • Forest

      Thanks Scott! Great meeting and training with you in Encinitas as well. And you are welcome any time at FVT! 🙂

  • Eric Buratty

    Way to represent the big guys, Forest!

    I agree with you about the PCC experience–easily the best health & fitness event I’ve ever done!

    Keep bringing that excitement back into your training, and you will see how deep the “rabbit hole” goes in the best way possible.


  • Dan Earthquake

    It’s easy in life to worry about the things that aren’t being done & miss out on participating. Calisthenics can be a means to an end or an end itself. I started doing isometric exercises when I was 3 & calisthenics when I was 7. I never had a name for them. It was just something I did. Forest you are right that bodyweight exercises are accessible to everyone. Whether it’s in a class, a visit to the park, a workout in the garden or staying indoors it’s a universal concept that doesn’t exclude anyone who wants to participate.

  • Al Kavadlo is one of the best calisthenics trainers. His books and instructional videos are great.

  • “Forest Vance” is a super-hero name. I love it.

    Awesome article big man.

  • Wade Race

    I’m not tall (5’9) but I’m 220, just a natural hoss. I could totally relate. But if one is a bigger, why wouldn’t you do calisthenics? If progressive resistance is the name of the game, being able to do lots of pullups at 220 or 245 is an asset. Relative strength, baby!

  • Al Kavadlo is a legend in calisthenics. In my book one of the best trainers out there. All of his teachings are excellent. Strength over size any day! Thanks for sharing.

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