Building an Indestructible Body with “Outside the Box” Exercises

by Logan Christopher on August 12, 2014

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Al Kavadlo Back Of The Wrists Push-Ups

Push-ups. You move in one plane of motion, up and down.

Squats. The same thing. Pull-ups too.

Everyone here will agree that bodyweight exercises are great, but it’s important to realize that there are many, many different ways of doing them.

If all you ever do are one dimensional exercises, even if you build a lot of strength in them, your overall fitness and athleticism will remain one dimensional.

It’s a sad fact that one of the biggest things holding people back from hitting their training goals are injuries. Yet, with smart training these can largely be avoided. And if you do suffer from pain currently, there are always things you can do to work to improve your situation.

Whether you are rehabbing or pre-habbing (doing work that aims to prevent injuries), these exercises generally are the same.

So, what makes one of these exercises different than a regular exercise?

The focus on building flexibility and/or mobility along with a strength component.

The more mobile you are (up to a point), the more likely you can fully exert the strength of that joint and the surrounding tissue.

The more flexible you are (once again up to a point), the more likely you can fully exert the strength of that joint and the surrounding tissue.

When you recognize that strength must be used in combination with mobility and flexibility, then you see why you need to do more than just “straight line” and conventional exercises. The effects of this type of training help you to build an indestructible body.

Before we begin it is important that you move into these exercises slowly. While they will help strengthen your weak points, remember that you are still working on weak points! The difference between something that is good for you and something that is not, can be separated by very little intensity or volume, so you must ease in slowly. Be smart!

Cross Leg Squats

The knee is a simple hinge joint. As such, so many personal trainers and coaches become deathly afraid if it ever does anything outside of that ability. “If the knees go past the toes in a squat you’re going to wreck yourself!” they say.

But here’s the truth: If your body can move in a way, that ability can be strengthened. And if it is strengthened then you’ll have less of a chance for injury. Not only do cross leg squats work the knees, they stressing them in a plane of movement they don’t normally go—and the ankles get worked too.

Begin by sitting with your legs crossed, then rock your weight forwards and press on the sides of your feet, extending your legs until you come to a standing position. Make sure to try it with your legs crossed both ways.

For assistance you can grab onto a doorknob or other solid object to help. You don’t need to do a lot of reps, but instead work to make this an easy way you can get up from the ground at any time.

Logan Christopher Demonstrates the Cross Leg Squat

Sit to Cossack Squat

Was that last one too easy for you? I’m guessing that’s the case for many people reading here. So try this challenge.

Do a Cossack squat to one side while keeping the heel flat on the floor. Once at the bottom, sit back until your butt is sitting on the floor. Now rock back up to Cossack squat, switch sides and repeat.

If you need assistance use your hands to get back up, but the challenge is to do it without them, while trying to use as little momentum as possible. This takes some deep flexibility, and you may notice that your knees don’t necessarily track your toes.

This video shows it in action as well as the secret I found to performing it after much frustration and failure to do it.

One Arm Twisting Bridge

Let’s move onto the upper body. This is a fairly advanced move that I covered before here on the PCC Blog: One Arm Bridge, Twists, and the Valdez.

It’s so useful I’m bringing it up again. The twist in particular builds shoulder stability and strength in an extended range of motion. It even works the wrists in a flexible manner.

At the same time the spine is in full flexion and then twists. A big “no-no” that I say yes to!

If you can do this, there’s a good chance you don’t have issues with any of the joints mentioned above. If you can’t do it right now, but take the time to build up to it, your body will be that much more indestructible from your work.

Back of the Wrist Pushups

An important thing to realize when doing these “outside the box” exercises is that you can still follow the same rules of progress as you would in all your other training.

Back of the wrist push-ups are a great complement to doing lots of push-ups and handstands. In regular push-ups and handstands, your wrist is extended back. But here, you flex your wrist fully and put the weight on the back of the hand. This builds strength and toughness in the wrists, but also works the elbow joints in a big way.

Start slowly with these, as in kneeling push-ups. You can hold for time or rep them out. Progress to regular push-ups when you’re able to. Remember to go slow.

I decided to see just how far I could progress with this and worked my way up to a back of wrist handstand push-ups.

Adding Indestructible Exercises to Your Program

Here’s the great part about these exercises and the hundred, if not thousands, of other moves like them. You don’t need a whole lot to get the benefits.

Doing a few of these exercises, like a few reps in a single set, will be enough to get better at them, and reap the benefits.

Any of the following will work:

  • Add them to your warm-up.
  • Add them to your cool down.
  • Add them to your stretching program.
  • Add them to your mobility work.
  • Do a few on your off days.
  • Do them as part of a morning wake up routine.

You can work through your entire body or just focus on one area at a time.

If you enjoyed this article let me know in the comments section below. I’d love to share more exercises with you in the future!

***

About Logan Christopher: Logan Christopher has been called a physical culture renaissance man as he is accomplished in a wide range of strength skills from kettlebell juggling, performing strongman stunts, and bodyweight exercises. He is the author of numerous books including Secrets of the Handstand and The Master Keys to Strength & Fitness. In addition, he’s spent the last several years going deep into mental training to find out what it takes to really excel and tactics that can help people instantly improve their exercises. You can find out more about all this at http://www.legendarystrength.com/.

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  • I love this article…

    To me, one of the major differences between modern bodybuilding (which dominates strength training) and calisthenics is that calisthenics strengthens the weak links, A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, right?

    Logan is at the forefront of this kind of training. My favorite training manual of his is “Deceptive Strength”, which you GOTTA check out if you are into this kind of approach…

    • dhairya

      Hi Paul,
      I also have an interest in building muscles just like Matt,
      Can you tell me how to build a bigger Thorax( especially the area above diaphragm below chest line as shown in pictures.)like Maxick and Alan mead?
      There must be a specific move or calisthenics exercise which makes it broader like Hell!!!

      Also What do you think about cycles and prioritization of a specific move in a calisthenics workout? Like for one week i put more focus on pullups and then other week on pushups….
      What do you say? Does it increase strength and muscles?

      • Logan Christopher

        That moves all about muscle control. Learn to control your diaphragm and you can move it far out.

        • dhairya

          How do i control that diaphragm.?

          • Tom

            Do you have the book ‘Muscle Control’ by Maxick? You can probably still find it in eBook format…

          • Logan Christopher

            As Tom said, get that book, or some of the other ones on muscle control. Then its about practicing. Just from looking at the photo you can see what they’re doing, so try to replicate it.

          • You used to be able to get it on the wonderful Sandowplus website, but tragically I’ve been told that the owner (or one of them) passed away. A great loss, both the site AND the man.

          • dhairya

            Thankyou v much All of you.
            Paul how do you know about the loss of the owner? Who told you?
            I just began reading the ebook phylosophy science and practice of maxalding by Antonio rozas..
            I got that free ebook from maxalding. Web. This is the supplementry site to sundowplus.
            Maxalding is good but i have to give much time for it. I am finding new ways so i can do it along hardcore calisthenics.
            My muscles are becoming less rigid and more young Paul.
            Lets see what does it help me.
            Thanks Paul and Logan… And all,
            Dhairya

          • One of my students told me about the Sandow site. I think the Maxalding one may be down too.

            I believe in you my friend, we got a long way to go yet!

          • Marco

            Hi Paul, I’m a calisthenic athlete since 2009 and I started training with Convict Conditioning.

            This November I will graduate in Science of Education in the University of Study of Milan-Bicocca here in Italy.

            My thesis is about the educational and pedagogical resources of calisthenics and has the following title: “Step by step; calisthenics in the individual’s physical dimension of life”.

            In my thesis I’d like to interview the calisthenics athletes and coaches that had most influenced my strenght life, and I’d love to ask you some questions about your experience because for me everything started with Convict Conditioning.

            Would you like to answer my questions? Is there any e-mail address I could write to reach you? I’d leave mine here in case you want to contact me directly: piotr.kalostenos@gmail.com

            Thanks for your time and ispiration.

            Marco

          • Halil Mutlu

            try to breathe in without breathing in :DDD I do it like that and if you press your hands towards your hips while doin that there will be a awkward abdominal section poppin out:DD

        • What Logan said!

          • dhairya

            What about second question on prioritization?

          • Yes, it can work. BUT if you are a beginner–less than one year into it–don’t waste time on fancy workout plans, dude. Just spread big effort over the basics, week in, week out!

    • Logan Christopher

      Thanks “Coach”. I’m right with you, and sometimes those weak links need to extra added focus. I’m actually working on a whole project around the idea of the ‘Indestructible Body’ going joint by joint through the whole body.

      • That sounds incredible, brother. Please let us have a bodyweight-based excerpt when you write it, so we can share it with the world.

        • Logan Christopher

          Will do.

    • Halil Mutlu

      hey coach right now ım readin the naked warrior by pavel tsatsouline and it reads ‘flat abs are strong abs a sucked i stomach is weak. but you re sayin to keep bellybutton pulled back which is true?:D

  • Rodolfo Oliveira

    Great article Logan! Even though I am still not that advanced to try some of these bridge variations (yet), I am always happy to see that calisthenics are a huge field that will never get you bored as long as you are willing to put the effort and time to it. Amazing HSPU too! I have done some back of wrist pushups before and I know they are hellish, so great advice on progressing and taking it easy on that one.

    • Logan Christopher

      Thanks Rodolfo. The body can move in thousands of ways and you can progress in any of them, so yes I’d say its pretty much unlimited.

  • Jon Bruney

    Great Info Logan!

    • Logan Christopher

      Thanks Jon!

  • dhairya

    Hi logan, the cross leged squat.- this is the most common move or stance to sit in India.
    Do you know why almost every indian has strong legs because of the design of toilet. Every one has to learn to sit in squat position for emptying their gut, completing most important part of digestion-the excretion. 😉

    However v.nice post by you.
    Thanks for your wisdom..

    • Logan Christopher

      I agree. Many of the things commonly done in other countries would be great for those who don’t do them.

  • Per Schölander

    You could’ve mentioned the ballcrushing effect from the cross leg squats! 😉

    • Logan Christopher

      You gotta save something for the experience 😉

  • Another great article and more exercises to add to my todo list

    • Logan Christopher

      Thanks Dave.

  • Yum Yucky

    Niiice. Just found your site. With everything that I do, I keep come back to calisthenics. Now it’s time to build more strength and challenge myself. The basic moves just aren’t doing it for me anymore.

    • Logan Christopher

      Basics are great. AND adding complexity also has lots of value.

  • Emanuel Darby

    wonderful article

  • Bill

    You are such a wealth of information, Logan

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