CALISTHENICS: 20/16 20 Exercise Tactics and 16 Programming Approaches to Keep the Dream Alive (Part Two)

by Paul "Coach" Wade on January 12, 2016

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Apparently one of the movie sensations of 2015 was Fifty Shades of Grey—a flick about the pleasure you can get from absorbing punishment. Well, I didn’t see that pile of crap myself, but I can see we have plenty of dedicated masochists in the house today…you came back after reading Part One. Good for you!

This article ain’t about making that mythical “new start” for the New Year—new starts are easy as pie. It’s keeping going that’s hard, good buddy. With that in mind, the first part of this article was about new training techniques and approaches to keep things fresh. This second half is about finding some new programming approaches to help you express freedom and creativity in your training. You’re not meant to use ALL the stuff I present to you here—just take it as the ramblings of a crazy mind. Who knows? Hopefully by the end of this article, you’ll have some fun new toys to whip out when you feel the urge.

Enough smut. Let’s go!


I’m a big believer that athletes should develop their own programs—teach a man to fish, and all that jive, huh? With this in mind, I want to expose you to a useful bit of PCC theory we use to help coaches and trainers visualize the basics of programming.

There are four basic variables of any program:

  1. Mode is what you do;
  2. Volume is how much you do;
  3. Intensity is how hard you do it; and
  4. Frequency is how often you do it.

Imagine these four as axes on a square—the “corners” of the square being maximum (highest reps, intensity, volume, and the peak complexity/skill of the mode—e.g., compare kneeling pushups with high-skill hand-balancing):


Now, in theory, any workout you care to imagine will make a pattern on this square. By visualizing different patterns, you’ll be able to understand all these four variables’ roles in a program. For example:

a. Injury rehabilitation

This requires lots of volume, lots of frequency, and low intensity, over very easy-skill exercises. So the square pattern might look like this:


b. Skill training

Learning complex bodyweight skills—such as an elbow lever—also requires lots of practice (volume and frequency). But you should keep fresh, which means lower intensity. So the square pattern will look more like this:


c. Hypertrophy training

The muscles need plenty of rest (low frequency) but moderate volume if they’re going to grow. You need fairly basic exercises, and you need to work them hard (intensity):


d. Strength training

Sets are moderate to high, reps are low—making the total volume somewhere in the middle. Intensity is high, exercises are big and basic:


What’s that? You disagree with the data pictures in the squares? Perfect! The beauty of this approach is that you can tailor your own squares. What line graphs are to understanding and displaying economics, the square of programming is to understanding and illustrating programming theory. Think of it as a shorthand. Look at your personal goals, then see where your own workouts fall in the square.

Neat, huh?


One of the biggest favors you can do in programming your training is to understand the role that reps play. It sounds obvious, but if you want to get strong, you are going to do it more efficiently with sets consisting of low repetitions. If you want muscle growth (hypertrophy) you need more reps. For a mix of strength and size, you need somewhere in the middle. For rehab purposes—you need higher reps still

Enough jawing—a picture is worth a thousand words. Memorize this chart, then eat it.


Yep, you’ll find these type of charts differ slightly. But you’re reading my article, so I guess you want my opinion on the matter. Just for you, brown eyes—in black and white.



I’m often asked the best way to train for strength—not mass, just strength. In the PCC Instructor’s Manual we put out eight tactics which should be considered the foundation of all strength training—honestly, I can’t put it better than I did there, so I’m going to share them with you here:

  1. Keep strength work brief and focused. Strength and volume are mutually exclusive. Focus on low reps, and take plenty of rest in between sets when strength training.
  1. Warm up. The nervous system can take time to “wake up” and generate maximum strength output. Gradually increase the difficulty of your work sets (without burn-out) during a training session to tap into your full strength potential.
  1. Brace yourself. The idea of “bracing” when the body is needs to exert or absorb force (the two are the same) is an ancient one. Prior to your technique—whether static or dynamic—deliberately flex all your muscles, and keep them tense as you train. This would comprise an excessive energy drain during a higher volume set (e.g., a hypertrophy set), but when applied during low-rep pure strength training it works well.
  1. Grip/root. Generating tension in the hands during training increases upper-body power by amplifying nerve branches running through the torso to the arms and hands. Powerlifters have used this technique for decades, gripping the bar hard during deadlifts and bench presses. Grip the bar as strongly as possible during bar work, and focus hard on “gripping” the floor with your fingers during pushups. When your feet contact the floor (e.g., squats), employ the same tactic with the feet, by generating static torque in the legs, calves and feet, and bracing the lower legs. This is called “rooting”.


  1. Inhale to improve leverage. Breathing in a big lungful of air prior to a positive movement can increase strength on many techniques. When the lungs are full, pressure inside the trunk increases, making the torso more “solid” as a leverage base.
  1. Utilize controlled exhalations. Learn to “hiss” as you exhale during negative movements. This will dramatically tighten the trunk muscles and core. Controlled exhalations can increase force production during a punch or a kick; this is why boxers and martial artists seem to hiss when they strike powerfully.
  1. Find your psych. High levels of strength are associated with hormones like epinephrine, which can be produced by emotional arousal. You are unlikely to see a strength record broken by a relaxed athlete—learn how to apply controlled aggression.
  1. Employ plyo. Explosive movements (jumps, clapping pushups/pullups) force the body to rapidly recruit huge numbers of motor units, amplifying neural facilitation. Performed before work sets, plyo temporarily raises the baseline of strength.

Expensive manuals of strength have been based around these eight simple techniques, which can double a novice’s strength in a matter of months if applied consistently. You’re welcome.


#4. 1-10-1

This is a very traditional approach to bodyweight training that’s about as old as the dinosaurs. It got popular again in the 70’s and 80’s when Arnold S. (yeah, that Arnold S.) discussed it in several training articles.

It’s a beaut for getting a lot of training under your belt on the basics like pushups, squats and pullups. Just pick an exercise you can do for over ten reps and hit it like this:

Set # Reps: Set # Reps:
1 1 11 9
2 2 12 8
3 3 13 7
4 4 14 6
5 5 15 5
6 6 16 4
7 7 17 3
8 8 18 2
9 9 19 1
10 10


It’s a basic pyramid, allowing you to get 100 reps in total over 19 sets. Training this way has a lot of pluses: it’s high volume, and allows you to build in a lot of reps into your program without getting too fatigued; it also works great as its own warm-up. Sure, this is not the program for you if you’re on the hardcore edge of your training—trying to eke out another rep on a tough exercise, or master a new step—but it’s an excellent device to help you build on the basics. And who doesn’t need more of the basics? The basics are like exercise candy, baby!



I feel sorry for modern trainees for a lot of reasons. The prevalence of steroids and dumb expectations is one reason. The utterly mental obsession with programming is another.

I’ve been called a throwback and a Neanderthal for my programming ideas: or, to be fair, my LACK of ideas! When I started training we generally picked up a few bodyweight exercises from watching others do them, then we did them. We trained hard as we could, increased our reps and got stronger. We didn’t really talk much about programming.

Folks today are obsessed with programming. Maybe it’s the internet—I dunno. But they talk about rep ranges, cycling, periodization, percentages…Jeez, if training had been like this when I started, I might not have bothered. I wouldn’t have understood that shit!

I hear from a lot of guys in a similar position. They want to train hard—they are aching for it—but their routine is getting them down. They find it boring, constraining, being stuck in a workout rut: but they’ve expended so much time and energy working on the “perfect” program, they feel constrained to follow it.

My solution: for a few weeks, throw your program in the garbage. Seriously. Replace it with a stopwatch, and do this:

  • Set yourself a fifteen-minute period every other day for training.
  • Try to give yourself access to a bar, a basketball, and the floor.
  • Do NOT plan your workouts hours ahead of time!!
  • Take five minutes before training to put some ideas together about what to do. No more.
  • Feel free to change your plan “on the fly”. Improvise.
  • Do not repeat workouts. Try to keep fresh.
  • Try to train as nonstop as you can for the fifteen minutes.

This is actually a surprisingly refreshing, exciting method of training. The best thing about it is that it completely removes any mental pressure than has built up, and is cramping your training. You might be thinking—fifteen minutes….damn, that ain’t long. But trust me, when you are faced with filling that time, nonstop, you’d be amazed what you can pack in there!


And what should you be looking to pack in there? This is where the creative fun starts…anything you like that’s bodyweight is game! Here are some options:

  • Mobility work: twists, hamstring stretching, joint rotations, Egyptians, teacups…all groovy.
  • Skill-strength work: any exercise you can barely perform for a single rep? Great! Keep returning to it during your training session!
  • Pushing: pushups, jackknife pushups, chair dips, tiger bend pushups
  • Pulling: Aussie pullups, pullup variations
  • Cardio: Burpees, star jumps, running on the sport, jumping jacks, shadow boxing, up-and-downs—all for nice, high reps.
  • Grip work: Fingertip pushups, timed hangs
  • Inverse work and balances: Handstands, headstands, elbow raises, crow stands
  • Leg work: Pepper in plenty! Squats, close squats, shrimp squats, lunges, broad leaps, vertical jumps, spin jumps, etc.
  • Soft tissue work: any sore spots? Time to massage out the trigger points you’ve been neglecting!

See what I mean? That’s plenty to pick from right?

Don’t forget—you don’t need to stick to a strict rep range, or even a strict order. You can do ten pullups, or ten sets of one. You can do five sets of pushups, or none. You can start the session with grip work, then return to it later. It’s your call—you’re free again!



You beautiful, fresh-faced hunks of gorgeousness are too young to remember, but back in the seventies and eighties, there was a war going on in gyms. Not the Cold War, or a war between Man and Machine—a war of bodybuilding styles.

In one camp were the heavy lifters. They claimed that unless you were bending bars with giant weights, and getting stronger on a diet of doubles, triples and singles, there was no way you could reach your brawny potential. On the other side were the muscle pumpers, or spinners; these guys insisted that bombing and blitzing the muscles with higher, exhausting, pumping reps was the true key to getting truly swole.

Eventually, thesis and antithesis found their synthesis, and bodybuilders began using the heavy-light routine. This involved beginning your bodypart training with the biggest weights on compound exercises you can handle. From there, you move to higher rep exercises to engorge the muscles and keep them pumped and primed. A nice solution, no?

You can also explore this general method with bodyweight training. There are several ways to go about it, but here’s what I suggest:

  • Pick an exercise you can barely perform for one repetition: maybe a strict handstand pushup for shoulders. (This is the “heavy” portion.)
  • After warming up, perform that technique for five single repetitions.
  • Take at least a minute between reps—more if you want to.
  • Now pick two pumping exercises for the same area; say, pike pushups and handstand inverse shrugs. (This is the “light” portion.)
  • Perform two sets of each “pumping” exercise, aiming at 10-15 reps.
  • Rest less than 30 seconds on the lighter work.

This approach might seem old-fashioned and mixed up to modern athletes—but if you can stomach it, it actually has a lot going for it. For a start, it allows you to explore your full strength potential when you’re fresh, allowing you to constantly master newer and harder bodyweight feats. (Don’t forget—you can use holds, like levers or free handstands, for the “heavy” bodyweight stuff—since it’s one rep, you don’t need to be moving.) The lighter (but harder and more painful!) work ensures that your muscle mass will always be constantly growing.


I’d advise cycling three workouts:

  1. Horizontal push/pull (pushup progressions, Aussie pullups or back levers)
  2. Lower body and abs (squats, leg raises or front levers, bridging)
  3. Vertical push/pull (handstand work, pullups)

This template allows for a lot of finagling—you can go three times in a row, three times a week, and so on. Give it a shot, handsome.



Most of you reading this will have a pretty good idea of what the Convict Conditioning view of sets and reps is. But a few of you won’t, which is why I want to take a moment to outline it here. Convict Conditioning is at the opposite end of skill work, and is heavily set in the muscle and strength building portion of the square of programming. There are some minor variations, but at its heart, Convict Conditioning couldn’t be simpler:

  • Warm-up well with 1-4 lower intensity sets
  • Perform 2 hard sets of 8-10
  • Rest until recovered between sets
  • Take 48 hours+ before hitting the same exercise again
  • When you reach a rep target, find a way to make the exercise tougher
  • Wash, rinse, repeat

This, ladies and gents, is what foolproof basic training looks like. Convict Conditioning is essentially old school, intense, power/bodybuilding-type training—which is why so many bodyweight aficionados, mired as they are in gymnastics-born systems—find it difficult to accept. Convict Conditioning is about gradually and progressively using bodyweight training as a tool to build muscle and raw strength. It is NOT about using skill-type methods to teach the nervous system into performing bodyweight “tricks”. This can be done quite quickly—but so what? If you are performing Convict Conditioning-style bodyweight work, and someone tells you to stop, because you could progress faster through the steps using skill-style or GTG training, run to the hills. They do not understand the system, nor what you are trying to achieve. It’s like a skinny guy walking into a gym and telling a bodybuilder to quit his methods and switch to Olympic lifting, cuz “you’ll be able to get a heavier clean and jerk much quicker that way”. The two are different things!


Is the Convict Conditioning way “best”…? Well, best for what? For becoming a skilled gymnast, no. For racing through progressions, no. For building a blend of muscle and strength simultaneously? Yep, I believe it IS the best. Yeah, you can apply other methods, but if you are looking for a method to use as the backbone of your training, something you return to over and over, you could do a lot worse. I say that with no ego—two hard sets and home? C’mon, I didn’t invent that shit. It’s been around since the pyramids, and will be around—and working well—long after I’m gone.



If there’s a “classic” set and rep scheme for mass and power in the weightlifting world, this is it—the hallowed 5 x 5. 5 x 5 was heavily used and promoted by super-stud Reg Park, who was “Ah-nold’s” hero back in the fifties. Reg not only built the most badass physique on the planet (yep, he took gear—sorry but he did), he also moved more weight than Charlie Sheen has done coke, being the second man ever (after big Doug Hepburn) to bench press 500 pounds—and this was in the damn fifties, when the average man would have trouble rolling that weight.

How did he do it? He did it with his classic 5 x 5 routine: a method that became so popular, it’s still the mainstay of many hardcore routines to this day. There are many variations of this workout, but the basic one involves:

  • Picking 3-5 BIG exercises—no isolation fluff!
  • Perform five sets of five reps
  • The first two sets should be progressive warm-ups
  • The final three sets should be with the same weight: your top weight
  • If you can’t get five on the last three sets, continue training with that load until you can
  • When you can get five on the last three sets, jack up the load a little bit

Like most other basic approaches, this one can be stolen for bodyweight. Is it perfect? Hell no. But it’s a change, and sometimes that’s what the body—and mind—really needs.

Just pick a bodyweight strength exercise you can perform for 6-8 reps, if you’re pushing all out. Then perform two warm-up sets with easier drills (two sets of five reps) then hit your hardest exercise for three sets of five. Like Park said—if you can’t get fives on the last three sets, stick with that exercise. If you can get the three sets of five, move to a harder variation. Do this for a few of the big exercises—pushups, pullups, squats, handstand pushups—and you have a serious strength and size workout on your hands.

The trickiest part of repurposing weights programs for bodyweight use is having enough progressions at your fingertips. When you want to move forward with a barbell, you can just slap five pounds on the bar and repeat. But with bodyweight, you need to be more subtle. Tiny progressions can be made, however, if you have the right knowledge—the “hidden steps” as I can them. Slight shifts in hand or foot position; limb alignments; different body angles; depth changes. This was the real reason that I worked on the Progressive Calisthenics Certification with John Du Cane and Al Kavadlo. I wanted to create an entire generation of super-bodyweight trainers and coaches, with a toolbox of progressions so vast, that any programming method would become possible!

Don’t ever listen to goofballs who tell you that you need to use “special” programming approaches for bodyweight. It’s not true—whether you are performing dumbbell bench presses or one-arm pushups, your muscles have no idea whether you are performing calisthenics or hoisting a bar. They only contract and relax—that’s it. They don’t go onto Reddit to discuss the nuances of their day. If a collection of sets and reps works for weight-training, it will, under most circumstances, work for bodyweight!



Let’s face it—if you were to look at the rep ranges of the average calisthenics athlete throughout their career, you’d be faced with a mind-blowing level of tedium. What’s your favorite rep range? 6-8? 8-12? Truth is, we’re creatures of habit. Once we find rep ranges we like, we usually stick with ‘em. That’s no bad thing: until we get bored.

Let’s change things up. Kiss them single and double digits goodbye, and let’s go triple. You haven’t lived unless you’ve performed a hundred reps straight on a calisthenics exercise:

Set # Reps:
1 100

The method couldn’t be simpler. Grind away at an exercise until you hit a hundred. Probably best not to start with pushups though—unless your last name is Kavadlo.

If you’re new to this method, start with light stuff—kneeling pushups, half squats. You’ll be amazed at the feeling these “easy” exercises give you in your muscles. As well as enjoying the burn, you should savor these high-rep delicacies, knowing that you are building your circulation, lactic acid/waste removal systems, releasing endorphins and natural analgesics, nourishing the joints and basically just being cool as f**k.

As you gain in strength and stamina, every dedicated athlete should aspire to this kind of level:

  • Close squats x 100
  • Pushups x 100
  • High incline pulls x 100

What? You want to do them all in one session? God damn, you stud! What a workout! Let me know how it feels to be awesome!



Human instinct is to overcomplicate anything we think about a lot. Unfortunately, the Golden Truth of programming is the opposite of this—if in doubt, simplify.

I recently read a program designed for the absolute beginner who wanted to get as big and strong as possible. I couldn’t believe it—there were about twenty exercises over three workouts! There were flyes and lateral raises, machine movements, this and that. You’ve probably seen similar routines yourself.

This is totally wrong. Getting big and strong—quick—is like beating someone up. If you really want to destroy someone, don’t hit them all over their body, in dozens of places. Pick only a small number of places and pound them there—over and over and over again. It’s the Principle of Concentrated Energy. This is Sun Tzu, Von Clausewitz shit I’m giving you here, son!


Those of you (the smart ones) familiar with my training philosophy will know this already, but it bears repeating. To get bigger and stronger, cut back. Cut back your exercises and your sets. You only have so much energy—neural energy, muscular energy, hormonal energy. You need to pour that energy where it counts: the big efforts on the big exercises. It’s pure Pareto Principle: 80% of your gains come from 20% of what you do. So put everything you can into that 20%!

If you are deadly serious about just getting as big and strong in calisthenics as fast as possible, do this:

  • Pick three movement types: a vertical push (the pushup family), a vertical pull (the pullup family) and a lower body move (the squat family)
  • Begin with fairly easy versions of the exercises to learn form, condition your joints and build psychological momentum
  • After a light warm up, perform two hard work sets
  • Work hard to build reps—while keeping your form pure. The harder you work, the faster you will progress
  • Every time you meet a rep goal, move up to a slightly harder exercise (use the rep targets and progressions in Convict Conditioning)

Progressive bodyweight training really is as simple as that. Why do we constantly wring our hands over it, and overcomplicate it? You could write that shit on a match box.

At first—when the exercises are easy—you should be able to perform all three exercises per session; either three days per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) or on alternate days. As you get stronger and it takes longer to recover, take two days off between workouts. When progress slows down again, think about performing pushups on day one, squats on day two, pullups on day three, and repeating on a six-day cycle, with one day off each week.

One final tip—if you are really serious about jacking up your strength—emotional and physical—in 2016, grab hold of my favorite strength book: Strength Rules by Danny Kavadlo. I don’t get paid a red cent for promoting his book, but I’d be dishonest if I didn’t tell you this book is awesome. I learned a huge amount from it. Get it and build your year around it. You can thank me in 2017!



One of the less fashionable ways to use bodyweight nowadays is by applying a bodybuilding template. Why? Because the idea of bodybuilding—isolating different muscles—is seen as very dysfunctional. Calisthenics naturally lends itself to total body training. But you know what? Screw being hip—let’s do it!

One of the classic bodybuilding programs is the old three days on: push, pull, lower body. On push and pull, you’re going to be working 3 different movement-types during each session; four, for lower body:


Horizontal pushes (pushup variations, elbow levers)
Vertical pushes (handstand pushups, handstands)
Triceps work (bodyweight extensions, tiger bends, dips)

B. LOWER BODY: Squat progressions

Squat progressions
Bridge progressions
Leg raise progressions
Bodyweight calf work (one-leg raises, jumps, etc.)


Horizontal pulls (Aussie pullups, front lever work)
Vertical pulls (Pullup progressions)
Biceps work (close pullups, supinated Aussie pullups, etc.)

This is another template that stands a lot of tweaking. In the sixties, the big bodybuilders would generally do this three-session cycle over three days (Mon to Wed), really hitting their heaviest weights and busting ass. Over the next three days (Thu to Sat) they’d repeat the cycle with somewhat lighter days, taking Sunday off completely to recharge for the next week. Hardgainers can still follow the routine, but doing the three days over Monday, Wednesday and Friday, rather than twice per week. Most drug-free bodybuilders fall somewhere in the middle, perhaps taking a day off after leg day and before the next cycle, thus spreading the three workouts over five days rather than three or seven.


In my humble opinion, an even better way to work the three-day cycle is to mix up the upper-body work: swap biceps to the push day, and triceps to the pull day. Why? Well, for starters small muscle groups like arms can be worked more frequently and still grow. But the most important reason is intensity: after pushups and handstand work, most athlete find it impossible to give their triceps a damn good beating. But after pullups? Triceps are still fresh for the slaughter. Same principle for biceps. Check it:


Horizontal pushes (pushup variations, elbow levers)
Vertical pushes (handstand pushups, handstands)
Biceps work (close pullups, supinated Aussie pullups, etc.)
Hanging forearm drills


Squat progressions
Bridge progressions
Leg raise progressions
Bodyweight calf work (one-leg raises, jumps, etc.)


Horizontal pulls (Aussie pullups, front lever work)
Vertical pulls (Pullup progressions)
Triceps work (bodyweight extensions, tiger bends, dips)
Fingertip pushup drills


The best way to hit this for most athletes?






Like I said before—this isn’t set in stone. No programming is. You can skip the rest days if you’re raring to go, or add in more if you are always sore/not recovering. Nothing bugs me more than coaches who say; use my program as it is, or not at all…don’t change a thing! Athletes are not retards. They are individuals, with brains. If they don’t have ideas, experiment and start working stuff out for themselves, they’ll never learn what works for them. They’ll always be dependent on external “experts”.

Still, I guess that works well for the experts, right?



Back in his day—the drug-free forties and fifties—Steve Reeves was the greatest bodybuilder in the world. His physique was so impressive—previously unheard of mass, combined with classical lines—that it led him to Europe and made him, for a brief time, the highest paid movie star in the world.

Reeves built the bulk of his muscle on plain vanilla training: the whole body done a deal three times per week, with just one working set. Yep, Reeves used weights, but it doesn’t mean we can’t rip off his template and apply it to bodyweight training:

  1. Burpees: 20 reps
  2. Australian pullups: 10 reps
  3. Jackknife pushups: 10 reps
  4. Jackknife pullups: 10 reps
  5. Pushups between chairs: 10 reps
  6. Close squats: 15 reps
  7. Bridge pushups: 10 reps
  8. One-leg calf raise on step: 20 reps
  9. Incline tiger bend pushups: 10 reps

You might need to tailor this workout to meet your strength level: feel free to drop or add reps, or alter the exercises. This is just an idea, folks.

Often we make our training too complex. We overthink it. Reeve’s original-style routine is a great way to go back to basics, and get a good honest workout under our belts.

Make no mistake, this kind of template can be very powerful. Reeves himself claimed that he put on thirty pounds in his first summer of training this way! Ironically he was later disparaging of this kind of “simplistic” training, saying that he’d moved on to more sophisticated methods. Maybe that was a bad move—Steve put on thirty pounds of muscle in his first three months with this method, but didn’t gain twenty pounds over the next two decades.

So much for sophisticated!



One of the most perfect set-and-rep schemes I ever came across was invented (or reinvented) by my mentor, Joe Hartigen. I wrote more about the Hartigen Method here, but it fits in really well in this article. It looks like this:

Warm up: with easy sets of 5 reps

Set # Reps:
1 5
2 4
3 3
4 2
5 1

Looks simple huh? It is!

Just pick the hardest exercise you can perform with great technique—five reps should be very close to failure. Warm up with a few easier exercises—but keep to five reps. Then, get stuck into your work sets. Do your five rep-max set, and rest for a minute or so. Now, draining as that set was, after a minute you can probably still manage four reps, right? So do it. Another minute’s rest and you can manage three, and so on—right down to one.


I love this method, which is why I’ve talked about it before. This is an elegant way to train. Unlike methods like 5 x 5 and 1-10-1, it allows you to get your hardest effort out the way immediately, and with the most efficiency.

Those of you who’d like to learn a little more about Joe’s broader training philosophy, check the article I wrote here.



This is another method drawn from the weights world—bodybuilding specifically—just to show you future greats that you don’t have to limit your mindset, just coz you are working with the greatest gym ever—the human body.

In C-MASS I discuss the difference between building strength and building mass. This confuses some folks, so I keep it stripped back: high load/tension is what builds strength. Stress/chemical drain is what builds mass. Typically, bodyweight athletes have taken their techniques from gymnastics, which is really more about building strength than mass. That’s why you have so many skinny guys performing amazing bodyweight feats. The trouble is, athletes interested in bodyweight then look at all these skinny guys and think: damn—calisthenics doesn’t build any beef at all!

Not true. You just need to apply bodybuilding methods—which drain the muscles—as opposed to gymnastics methods, which prime the nervous system.

Say what you like about their methods, but bodybuilders know how to program for mass!

Say what you like about their methods, but bodybuilders know how to program for mass!

With that in mind, here’s a classic pure mass method, straight from the Eastern Bloc. Although the name, German Volume Training, sounds kinda scientific and intimidating, this method is simpler than you might think, and actually translates effortlessly to bodyweight work. Pick an exercise you can perform 20-30 reps with, in good form. Then perform ten sets of ten reps with that exercise, with sixty second’s timed rest in between sets:

Set # Reps: Set # Reps:
1 10 6 10
2 10 7 10
3 10 8 10
4 10 9 10
5 10 10 10


  • Pick only one exercise for this method
  • If you can’t make the full hundred, note your reps and try to improve each session
  • Scale back your other exercises to a minimum during this protocol
  • Use the method for one exercise only, twice a week
  • After a month, return to regular training

I know this approach will have the low-rep skill-strength lovers pissing down their pant legs, but trust me—it works. At first, achieving the full ten sets of ten will be impossible. Your muscles will be screaming, your body pumping out more stress hormones than an actress getting a lift home with Bill Cosby. But persevere. Radical jumps of muscle size have been noted on this routine.

You’re a crazy radical, right? You’ll try something nuts once in a while? I knew it. That’s why I love ya like I do.



In Convict Conditioning I advocate damn hard training on all work sets. I don’t however, advocate going to complete failure; I believe you should always leave a little bit of energy in your limbs in case you need them to defend yourself, or for another emergency situation. It’s how I was taught, and it’s how I teach now.

That doesn’t mean I think training to failure is a “bad” thing. It’s more like following through when you go to the bathroom; you don’t mean to do it, but sometimes you just push a little too hard. We’ve all been there. My ultimate view of training-to-failure is simple: your adaptation (how big and strong you get) is in direct proportion to the intensity of the stressor (how hard your training is). In other words, the harder you train, the better you get. Modern babble aside, everyone who has trained long-term knows this in their heart of hearts. You know it too, right?

Mentzer_image17The king of High Intensity Training was Mike Mentzer. He shocked the training world with his one-set-to-failure philosophy, and he practiced what he preached. It was hard to argue with those results, either: back in ‘78 he was the first ever bodybuilder to win the Mr Universe with a perfect score. Many in the know also thought he was the winner of the highly controversial 1980 Mr Olympia, which was actually taken by a well out-of-shape Arnold S., who entered as a last minute contestant.

What would Mike make of bodyweight training? Actually, we have a pretty good idea, because his mentor—the famous Nautilus machine inventor, Arthur Jones—was, ironically a big fan of bodyweight work. He went so far as to write that pullups, dips and one-leg squats would maximize any athlete’s muscle mass.

Fancy some calisthenics, Heavy Duty style? I suggest this:

DAY 1:

Pullup progression:
8-10 strict reps (to failure)
2 forced reps
2 ten second negative reps

Handstand pushups:
to failure

DAY 2:

Squat progression:
10-15 strict reps (to failure)
2 forced reps (or self-assist)
10 reps (with an easier progression: to failure)


DAY 4:

Dip progression:
8-10 strict reps (to failure)
2 forced reps
2 ten second negative reps

DAY 5: Off

Repeat cycle

That was fun, eh? But screw “fun”, Paulie…is this program any good? Yes and no. If you want to ramp up your muscle and strength over ten next ten weeks, and you have a partner willing to help with the forced reps, go for it. But after ten weeks you’re gonna start dreading training. You’ll find little niggling injuries. You’ll get colds. These are all really your system’s way of avoiding the pain. For long-term results, if your training ain’t fun, it’s not gonna happen.

…Speaking of fun…



Low reps and keeping fresh—strength as skill—is the dominating approach in bodyweight strength, and it has been in years. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s all a part of God’s Great Creation. Like dysentery, or pubic lice.

But let’s be honest—it’s gone too far. You’ve got athletes terrified of reps. Scared crapless of actually pushing themselves, and busting their butts on basic exercises like squats, pushups and pullups. The way some of these dudes today program, you’d think their dicks would drop off if they hit double digits on an exercise.

I’m here to tell you: that’s bullshit. There are times a man (or woman) needs to push themselves way beyond what they ever thought they could do. Doing this builds huge chemical stores in the muscles, massive stamina and intestinal fortitude.

In jail there is one bodyweight challenge which is taken very seriously indeed. The man who completes it earns instant respect as one of the true “black belts” of cell athletics. Forget singles, doubles and triples. Forget twenty rep sets. You thought a hundred reps was big boy stuff? How about a thousand reps in a single day?


It might sound impossible—and for most people, even very experienced calisthenics athletes, it is. But if you lay the groundwork and prepare for it methodically—a lot like training for a marathon—it can be achieved. You can achieve it. Before we get to anything resembling a program, here’s some Cliff Notes on the prep:

  • The pushups need to be tolerable. Getting the chest 4-6 inches from the floor is acceptable, as is moving fast. Slow and controlled is great, but if you try that shit here it WILL kill you.
  • Yeah, you need to get good at pushups before you do this. Unless you can do fifty reps in a regular set, don’t even think about this.
  • You also need good recovery ability throughout the day. Unless five hard sets of pushups (doing double figures) is easy, keep trying until it is.
  • You also need good recovery ability day-to-day just to get through this training. This is really just the result of consistent, fairly frequent training over the last few months. Unless you can perform pushup sessions with minimal soreness the next day, don’t try this at home.

Once you meet these basic criteria, you can think about beginning the real training. Obviously, a thousand pushups can’t be achieved by strength training—it’s all about stamina. The key to a successful build-up is gradually developing this stamina. If there is a “secret” to acing the 1000 Pushup Challenge, it’s this: many small drops fill the bucket. The easiest way (!) to make the grand is not by huge, mega-sets, but by lots of small sets, frequently.

Think about the math. If you woke up and tried to bust out 150 pushups straight away, you’d probably exhaust yourself for the rest of the day. But if you did two sets of twenty every half hour, over twelve hours this would equate to 960 pushups. You’d only need to make 40 before bed, and you’d hit the grand.

This is the best way to approach your conditioning. There are several ways to go about this—I’ve used and endorsed several—but here’s a good one, lasting just eight weeks:

  • Strip back your other training to zero over the next eight weeks. Pushups hit the entire body; from the arms and torso to the legs, and even the toes. Don’t worry, you’re conditioning ain’t going nowhere.
  • Work out every other day. (Remember—you’re building stamina here, not muscle.) Your goal is ten sets of pushups, max reps. Take two minute’s rest between sets. Constantly try to bring up your numbers through the eight weeks. Ten sets of 25 is a good start, although much higher reps are possible with time.
  • One day per week, have a “test” day. On test day, you’re going to be skipping the usual ten sets, and trying to build up your stamina throughout the day. Stamina can be developed a LOT quicker than strength. Test days should build in volume like this:

WEEK 1: Perform one set of 25 every hour over ten hours (250)

WEEK 2: Perform one set of 25 every half hour for five hours (250) then every hour for the next five hours (125) (TOTAL: 375)

WEEK 3: Perform one set of 25 every half hour for seven hours (350), then every hour for the next five hours (125) (TOTAL: 475)

WEEK 4: Perform one set of 25 every half hour for ten hours (500) then every hour for two hours (50) (TOTAL: 550)

WEEK 5: Perform one set of 25 every half hour for twelve hours (600)

WEEK 6: Add a second set of 25 reps to hours 1-3 (675)

WEEK 7: Add a further second set of 25 to hours 4-6 (750)

WEEK 8: Add a final second set of 25 to hours 7-9 (825)

TEST DAY: From here, you should be good to give the challenge a try the following week. Your goal on challenge day will be to hit two sets of 20 every half hour for 12 hours—you will add a twenty-fifth session of 2 x 20, or 4 x 10—or whatever you can manage to get forty reps!—before collapsing into bed. This makes 1000.

Some final tips:

  • Take two days off after every test day. You’ll need it.
  • This prep is flexible. If you can’t meet the test day standards on a given week, keep training until you can.
  • Take the final four days OFF before you attempt the challenge. Stretching is fine, but no pushups. This will allow your muscles to overfill their energy reserves. Don’t panic—you won’t regress.

Can you really do this?! Of course, if you want it. The body was designed to perform bodyweight exercise, and it can do better than you give it credit for. Yoshida of Japan did 10,507 pushups non-stop. You can do this, bro.


Phew! That’s quite a little programming journey we took there, huh? From low reps to ultrahigh reps, from strength training to pure bodybuilding, old school to bleeding-edge. Quite a little mental tour.

Was this info-dump systematic? Nope. Was it logical and consistent? Hell, no—it half the stuff in there contradicted the other half. (Like the Bible.) But that was the point of these two articles—freedom, change, variety. Acquiring ability to break off the shackles of our usual training and have the guts and motivation to try something new—trust me, that is how we keep in the game, year in, year out.

Remember, there are good routines and bad routines, but there are no perfect routines…and any calisthenics training is better than just quitting, because athletes who quit regret it down the line and wish they’d kept their hat in the ring. I guess from that perspective, “perfect” is whatever keeps you training, right?

Thanks for reading this—or skipping to the end and pretending you did. Either way, old Coach had a fine time sitting writing this for you guys and gals. I really, really hope you can take something from it that helps ya, however small. Please hit me up in the comments with any thoughts, questions, or just to say hi. I will answer all of you, and have a fantastic time doing so!

Big love again goes out to Adrienne and all the Kavadlo clan for the huge help they gave me in delivering this little ankle-biter.


Paul “Coach” Wade is the author of Convict Conditioning, Convict Conditioning Volume 2, the Convict Conditioning Ultimate Bodyweight Training Log, and five Convict Conditioning DVD and manual programs. Click here for more information about the Convict Conditioning DVDs and books available for purchase from Dragon Door Publications.

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  • What a wrestler’s bridge on the concrete by Danny Kavadlo there! Took me 32 years to feel comfortable (ish) with something like that. Coach, I’m smiling here because you’ve put a name to so many half thoughts & patterns that I’ve played with. Thanks for everything, I’m in awe as ever.

    • Hey Dan! I agree with ya, that’s a wicked wrestler’s bridge he’s got going there. It may be envy talking here though, coz my hairline goes back to the Civil War, and I don’t have that “foam block” protection that kid has.

      Seriously, it’s indecent for a grown many not to be losing ANY hair. We gotta talk him into shaving that stuff in 2016…mention it at the PCC for me, Dan!

      • I’ll certainly mention it, but I reckon he might be resistant. Been drawing the squares today, excellent way of thinking. Thanks!

        • I’m honored you took the time to explore it–I really mean that.

          Thanks so much Dan!

          • It’s going to be useful. With a bit of tweaking it will become a very good shorthand for the training log with a few numbers in the corners. I like it.

            I met a member of your silent bodyweight army (a CC2 disciple) in the local park the other week & he came around to have a go on the garden rig today. He did a few good clutch flags & pistols, way more advanced than me. “What I love about calisthenics is that you don’t have to be any good to enjoy it,” I said. Sometimes, I reckon it might even be a bonus.

          • You hide your light my friend–we are lucky to have such a great athlete as you, in so many disciplines, as one of our soldiers!!

  • Paramesvara Dasa

    Thanks for dropping part two, coach. Just seeing the first part about the programming square has already revolutionized my thinking. I am getting back on track with my training now, so like I said after part one was released, this information is so timely to me personally. I have both parts printed, and I’m gonna hole punch them and put them into binders for continued reference.

    By the way, the CC FB crew really dug the fact that you said hello. Phil Clark, the creator and moderator, posted about it to them. I have to say that a serious testament to what you have presented to everyone in the fitness community is the general awesomeness of the people in the FB group. There is a fat loss expert named Tom Venuto who considers a support group as the missing element in many people’s fitness journey, and even inclusion in an internet group has been shown to provide that extra bit of accountability and motivation that many people require, even if they partake of the ‘be your own trainer’ approach. Another positive is the ability to receive constructive feedback on matters such as form. All in all, the community there is amazingly positive and incredibly welcoming, a true model of mutual respect and encouragement. I know that my inclusion in that group has helped me keep my head in the game. You should consider hitting up Phil, and doing some kind of interview or something similar. I guarantee that the morale boos alone would be worth it.

    Anyway, this post has grown long enough. As always Coach, thanks for helping kick start the current calisthenics revolution. Calisthenics has become a very important part of my life, and I never have to set foot in a gym. Cheers.

    • Paramesvara, thank SO MUCH my man for dropping me a line and telling me this has been useful. That seriously means more to me than I can say, and makes it all worthwhile. And I am so honored that you would wanna keep my ramblings for reference. Sixty pages, huh? Maybe we should combine both articles into a free PDF for the community..?

      I am jacked that you said hi to the CC group for me. I don’t do Facebook for various reasons but I’ve heard about the CC group through Adrienne, who has nothing but HUGE praise for the group and the quality of its members, which is high praise indeed coming from someone who knows CC as well as she does. I will definitely look to speak to Phil at some point–I’m more grateful than he knows for the effort he has put in to spreading the word about old school calisthenics. Same for you–thanks for all the efforts you’ve put into the community. It all adds up!

      Building great athletes who never set foot in a gym…there’s a T-shirt there somewhere. I love it! Thanks again for all the kind words my friend, they mean a lot!

  • Sheath

    Greetings Coach,

    Part 2 did not disappoint. It gave a final few clarifications on some things that I thought were clear but didn’t really fully grasp. It definitely added many tools to the bag, which I know will come in handy. The first 2 tips have gots to be my favorite. From those 2, everything else is dependent on them. The better one masters these, the better they will be at generating their own programs that are both progressive and creative, not to mention fun. Back to the basics.

    However, as you could assume, it did raise a few questions if you don’t mind…

    1) In combining the tips sprinkled through your works and the Kavadlos, I’ve kinda combined them into the veterano program, each day looking like this (Trifecta, CC3, CC1, CC2, Stretching Your Boundaries). So where would some static work like (front lever, back lever, free handstands, dragon/press flag, elbow lever) fit in this scheme? Before or after CC3? or elsewhere?

    2) I noticed that all of the Big 6 have a static skill move (pullups > front lever, bridges > back lever, hspu > handstands, leg raises > dragon/press flag, pushups > elbow lever). If these are correct, then what would fit for the squats?I know wall squats were mentioned as well as endurance work. I was just curious if I was missing something.

    3) I’m using the knowledge of calisthenics material to enhance my martial arts practice. I’ve reached the master step of suicide jumps, superman pushups, and kip-ups. I remember that in CC2 the CC System had 4 parts, the last dealing with Survival Athletics (stamina training, combat fitness, and muscular endurance). Being a martial artist, this missing part is something that has increased relevance to me. I saw some glimpses here, but was uncertain if these snippets were intended to be the final Survival Athletics piece of the CC System.

    Your student,

    • Yo Sheath! What an AWESOME set of questions–let’s get to them right away because I think you’ve summed up stuff for a lot of athletes.

      1. We just need to remember that skill is best done fresh. For this reason skill and explosives tend to clash in a single workout because both should be done fresh. If you build in slow–to the point where a short hold in a lever doesn’t cause soreness–you should tend towards leading with skill stuff at the beginning of non-explosive workouts.

      2. I love this question–and a great spot. (Don’t forget, there is also an explosive move for each of the Big Six!) You haven’t missed a thing.Apart from static holds in the bottom position of squats, close squats and one-legs (which a lot of folks take seriously as hidden steps) the levers are upper-body heavy.

      3. A fighter eh? Fantastic–martial arts and calisthenics, what a mix! Can’t go wrong, great choice. The answer: nope, survival athletics is a separate part of the system. I don’t know if I’ll ever write it–maybe as a free e-book for readers of this blog. That’s a possibility.

      Hope that all sheds a little light? Once again–thanks for gutting thru both parts of the article and coming back fighting! Great, great questions–stick around bro!

      • Kishore

        Please, survival athletics, pleaaaaaassssseeeeee 😀

        • One day, if I live long enough, good buddy!

  • Dan Söderberg

    you are like a favouriterestaurant itake what the house recommend cause i knowit is giong to be good

    • And you are my best customer, Dan! Bless you for being masochistic enough to read both parts…I really appreciate it buddy!

      • Dan Söderberg

        Its not hard work at all its pure pleasure the hard work i save for the bar and thefloor

        • Love this guy’s attitude.

          If Dan Soderberg made T-shirts, they would be the best f—in T-shirts in the world.

          • Dan Söderberg

            we can get into the t-shirt buisness together …if they are custumized for hard calisthestic sweaty work..thats my only condition

          • It’s a deal, bro…my people will call your people!!

          • Dan Söderberg

            name time and place my guys will be will be wearing “get fit ordie trying” tshirts

          • Awesome, my guys will be wearing “Keep Calm and Do Your F—in Pushups” tees

  • Brian

    I was stoked as soon as I read “part one” in the title of the first article, implying that there’ll be more to come. Thanks for hittin’ us with the knowledge and tools for success, Coach! In 2015, I finally achieved the pistol (takes a tall, lanky dude a while to pull off) and several other BW feats using your teachings. Thanks again, Coach! Respect!

    • Brian! Hey, big respect back to you my friend, firstly for reaching out and saying hi–I appreciate it my man–but also for acing that one-leg!!

      You are right, it can be murder for tall guys. But the payoff–once you get there, your mobility (especially ankle, but also knee), tension-flexibility and tibialis power will be second-to-none. You’ve achieved a bodyweight feat less than 1 in 100 serious athletes can do.

      Old Coach is proud of ya!! Keep up the great work in 2016, I want to hear more about your achievements my friend.

  • Liviu Alex

    I waited for this second part so much. But this is not why I write here. This is probably the only way I could get to write to the Big Coach, and let you know how much all of your works influenced my fitness and training journey this past 2 years. I never found an author that I could agree with so much as you. Thank you so much for doing this for the world, because before I read your books i knew nothing about calisthenics, besides gymnastics. Now one of my fitness dreams is to see Calisthenics gyms out there, as many as the regular gyms today. For people to train like the ancient Greeks did and be healthy. The phenomenon you started, is getting bigger and bigger with each year and this is wonderful. Each and every time someone asks about my training methods (they see the results), I tell them about CC and all the material written by you, and tell them it’s worth every single word. It changed my life. And now when I see the manner you reply to the comments, it really shows what a great man you truly are. Regardless of your past, you are a role model. And I can say without a hesitation a big THANK YOU from all the CC practitioners in the world. Respect.

    • Liviu Alex! My friend, I cannot tell you how grateful I am that you took the time to write to me here.

      To hear that my work has had an influence on an athlete like yourself is incredibly meaningful to me. When I read the stuff you are writing, it seriously has an emotional effect on me, because ten, twenty (or more) years back, it seemed like literally nobody was thinking the way you are. But now you are writing to me and I’m nodding as I read what you’re saying, and it feels amazing.

      It feels even better that a young guy like you actually seems to CARE about calisthenics and spreading the word. That, to me, is worth more than a million dollars–because I know this stuff is safe for the future in your hands.

      Seriously man–you made my whole week. Thank you!

  • Matt Schifferle

    Coach, this post hit me at the perfect time! I was just thinking about trying to apply calisthenics to classic body building or weight lifting routines, and here you come out with the full-on manual on how to do just that! This stuff is all-out calisthenics gold man!

    Thank you so much for sharing your methods with us!

    • My main man, Matt–I tell ya, that means a HUGE amount coming from a trainer of your stature. Physically and intellectually!

      A lot of folks miss it–it’s tucked away at the back–but there’s some real detailed and cool Golden Age bodybuilding workouts at the back of the PCC Instructor’s Manual I think you’d get a kick out of…

  • Brody Johnson

    One of the best articles if not the best article on working out that I’ve ever read.


      That is a real honor man–thank you so much for the kind words brother. It means a lot to me that you reached out.

  • Marklar

    Coach, many thanks for another remarkable piece. These last two weeks have been Christmas all over again.

    It seems downright indecent to ask for something after all of these gifts you have been giving us but following up on your answer to Sheath, if you could at some point give us a look into the Survival Athletics part of the system, it would be mightily appreciated by all of us. All the best.

    • God bless you for the support Marklar–I can always depend on you. It’s the community full of awesome folks like you that keeps me writing.

      It is a real compliment that you great folks want me to write more. All I can say is–if it does happen as a free ebook–you guys will get it FIRST!

      Once again, thanks so much for making me smile my friend.

      Your pal,


  • Joe! I was wonderin when you’d get to the party to supply the soundtrack! As it turns out your were at the doors early and f-ing Disqus chewed up your comment! Apologies.

    Awesome music as ever…I was betting you’d go Bowie!

  • Les Gross

    Absolutely phenomenal set of articles Coach! What a way to start the year, and a great way to bust through the training blues (which I have suffered from for about the last two months). It’s always a pleasure to read your material, I always find something interesting to try, or a different approach to what I’m already doing. Great stuff!

    • Hey Les! Great ot hear from ya, big guy! NOT so great to hear you’ve got the training blues…but it looks like I wrote these just for you, right?

      I’m glad you found something interesting here and REALLY hope you find something to just keep the clock ticking. Please don’t quit–we need you in the battle here with us, my man!

      • Les Gross

        I’m not going anywhere Coach. I’ve been disheartened, but I still have the drive to train, albeit with a slightly different set of goals. Here is what’s going on if anyone cares to listen:
        1. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do pistol squats due to a hip issue.
        2. I failed miserably at the Diesel 20 challenge, though I did gain about 7 or 8 lbs. of muscle. Not bad, but I worked my ass off trying to make it.
        3. On pullups it seems like I take 1 step forward and get knocked 2 steps back. Just when I started gaining reps, I develop tendonitis.

        It’s taking it’s toll on me, but I’m not going to quit, my willpower is too strong. My girlfriend honestly told me that she didn’t think I would last 3 months, but I’ve been training hard for 2 years now. I’m here to stay. Speaking of which, I have a brutal Upper body session I’m about to tear into right now. Thanks for listening!

  • This is awesome!!! Not sure if I like part one or part two better!!!! 🙂 So much info! Thanks for sharing, Coach!

    • Bless you Adrienne–you did such an amazing job here…little extra links to the DVDs and everything. You ALWAYS go above and beyond. What a wonderful person you are!

  • Benjamin dumbrell

    I’m totally writing this stuff down, I might not get a chance to try this stuff for a while since the Joe hartigen method is working so dam well for me, like it was made for me haha. I just want to say thanks so much for cc3 coach, turns out i was born to be a tumbler! Back and front handsprings no problem, I actually kip up to powerfully and sometimes land in kind of a pushup position, suicide jumps I can do for 5 reps machine gun style prettyeasy. Its just a matter of time before iI can do the front and back flips more consistanly. You know what I’m going to ask right coach? Did Joe ever do acrobatics or similar things?

    • Hey, it’s my pal Benjamin again! You came back for round 2, huh? I can’t tell you what that means to me, my friend. Thank you!

      A born tumbler? That is some pretty awesome news. Good for you, my man! It sounds like you are kicking my systems ass right here. I’m proud of ya!

      Joe was kind of a springy guy–he talked about “supple strength” and springy legs. But no, I never saw him do any really explosive stuff. Just the opposite, actually–he valued isometric holds in things like hangs and headstands more than he valued explosive movements.

      I often wonder…if the tables were turned, could I have brought him round to my way of thinking? Even if he was older, I don’t think that matters if you have an open mind. Look at Jack Arnow. He trained under Jasper Benincasa, who had a VERY similar training style to Joe, from what I can see–slow strength was “real” strength to those dudes. But even in his seventies. Jack has taken to explosive calisthenics like a duck to water, and is kicking ass on the CC3 Master Steps.

      Great question Benjamin, sorry for rambling…

      • Benjamin dumbrell

        Yeah that jack arnow is a badass! How about you coach? Been keeping up with your flips and acrobatics?

        • To be honest, the last couple years I’ve been more into the isometric stuff, buddy. If it goes on like this, I’ll only be moving to go to the john!!

  • Matthew Dodd

    Thanks Paul for sharing your knowledge. Your books saved me from giving up training and a career as a trainer. cc1 got me through a knee reconstruction. Then 4 years later micro facture on femur cartilage. Basically physio and surgeon said my knees f@#$ and don’t do anything too athletic to damage cartilage. I bought CC3 thinking I wouldn’t be able to do any of the training, Man I was wrong! Your books have become my blue print for rehab and recovery. I believe I can heal my cartilage and was using high rep squatting(cartilage training I call it.) Have you had any experience with this ? You are the Carlos Castaneda of physical culture to me, I can reread your books and find deeper hidden knowledge.
    I hope that is a complement, it is in my eyes! Thanks again for your writing.
    Can you talk the PCC into coming Australia?
    Matthew Dodd

  • Mikey T

    Paul Wade! I just want to say thank you for writing Convict Conditioning! A friend got me into the book and I never put it down! Having discovered it in July 2015, I still refer to it almost everyday as I work through the progressions! Definitely has had a huge impact on my life and I am truly grateful for what you’ve written!

    • Mikey! Hey, thanks so very much for the kind words. You know, you write about your life training and a book gets published, but when I actually hear back from athletes like you who enjoy it and are using it, I won’t lie–it is a massive boost to me and makes it all worthwhile. Thank you for making my day my friend, and keep working on those progressions for me: Coach is proud of ya!

      …Now go put that book down and do your damn pushups!

  • Joshua David Taft

    Hello again Coach! Thanks for your reply on your previous post. I’m doing a lot of training, but I’m no Jedi yet (one day). Both are really great articles, and I will be reviewing them both for some time as I continue developing my program, and will hopefully be able to help others with these as well once I successfully incorporate them.

    I would like to share, and maybe even get your opinion on, a program I’ve been playing with for almost the last year that has really helped me make a lot of progress very quickly. It’s based off of High Frequency Training. After reading Danny’s book Diamond Cut Abs, he said that core training should be included every day that you train with variations. At the time I was doing a split routine (3 day split, 4-5 days per week, over 2 weeks) and following Danny’s advice I noticed that my core training had progressed much farther and faster than the rest of my training. This got me thinking, and referring to what you said in one of your books how the basic 3 day full body routine was still best for building pure strength. I didn’t want to stick with only 3 days a week so I researched High Frequency Training programs, 4+ days of training each muscle group per week.

    After my research, I found the best way of approaching this was varying the workouts. Essentially I would focus on movement, so each day I would do one of each movement (neck, push, pull, abs, lower back, calves, flags, and grip training) while utilizing supersets to save time and stretch out antagonistic muscles during my sets. I would do a combination of the rep ranges, so on days that I was working on harder exercises and progressions, I would start at low reps (1-6) and work my way up to the 8-12 range, and would progress once I could do at least 2 sets of 10-12 reps. On days that I used regressions, I would do higher rep ranges of 20+ reps. I would also rotate between the movements, i.e., one day i would do (one arm) pushup progressions, next day ring dips, and the next day handstand pushup progressions, and rotate. I was on a 6 day program with one day of full rest (I worked my way up to it so I didn’t kill myself), and now I’m including more skill training so I’m doing 5 days strength/skill with 2 days active rest focusing primarily on skills and mobility, as well as other activities like climbing during the week.

    Long story short, the program is still not perfect, and I’m working on adding more variety while still maintaining frequency. Overall, I feel that this has really helped me improve my strength and stamina much faster, at the cost of a lot of hard work, and I’ve even improved my recovery times by gradually building into the routine. Wish I could explain it more, but it’s a lot of ground to cover. Would love your opinion on it. Perhaps, with some modification, it would be worth sharing with everyone looking for more training ideas.

    Thanks again for all the material.

    • Honestly, having seen your philosophy and attitude in your comments, you really have got to the point where you are doing your own self-coaching and doing it BEAUTIFULLY. You:

      1. Seek good source material
      2. UNDERSTAND what you read
      3. Try out different approaches and techniques
      4. Experiment, and
      5. Adapt based on the results.

      Provided you are improving, which you clearly are, your program–aka President Taft, or “The Big Bill”–looks just fantastic.

      You say it’s not perfect–good! Nothing ever really is. That’s what keeps us changing, learning and adapting. Bill Pearl said once that there was no routine that will look after you the rest of your life, and he was right. The key is to stick with the basics–are my key movements progressing?–while changing everything else at a reasonable pace.

      Thanks for a great comment–intelligent as always. Please stick around and keep me posted on your new thoughts/ideas, etc. I think they’re all real cool, Josh!

      • Joshua David Taft

        Thanks for the compliments, and will do. I’ll let you know how the program progresses with the tweaks in the future!

        • Be sure you do, my friend. You got this calisthenics thang licked, Josh!

  • Michael Ma

    Thanks for your sharing coach. You and Kavadlo brothers did a great job! Hope this article can help me pass the century test in 90 days.

    Greed from China.

    Michael Ma

    • Yo Michael! Thanks for your message–does that mean you were at the PCC China? I heard that place was full of kick ass athletes!! If so, thank you so much for attending it and making it the legendary, important event that it really was.

      90 days? You got this. I am here if you need help, and will be personally keeping track of how you do.


      • Michael Ma

        Thanks coach! Yeah I did PCC it was amazing!! I’m just a beginner on calisthenics but I don’t want to miss that opportunity.

        Appreciate for your help coach. That means a lot to me. I can finish the 40 squats now. I need to conquer the ohter 3. Any suggestions?

        Oh, one more thing my coach. May I have your email address if you don’t mind?

        Thanks again.


        • Michael! Great job for getting through the PCC! Wow, what a great decision–I can’t imagine how many years you have have speeded up your progress by going to such a great cert as a beginner!

          Tips for the Century? Yeah!

          The main tip is to focus on pullups. You need to do them often. Don’t burn out–but get to the point where you can do a few light sets every day, with one day off a week. Try to build up your daily total when you can. When folks fail the Century, it is the pullups they fail on. Work on the other three every few days, but they shouldn’t be a problem. Once a week (the day before your day off), push yourself hard on pullups as part of a Century test. That will tell you where you are.

          Also read THIS:

          And this:

          I am afraid I can’t give out my email address publicly–I get so much email as it is, I’d find no time to train! But if you email Dragon Door and tell them you are from the China PCC, they will pass it on to me and I’ll email you back, so you can get my email that way.

          • Michael Ma

            What an honor to contact with you coach!!!

            Thanks for your kind words and wisdom. I’m here to tell you in the future 90 days the century test is my first priority. Why? Because I don’t want to let my coach down.

            Thanks again. God bless you.


          • You have already made me proud! Look forward to hearing from you.

            Your pal,


  • Jo6ka

    Once again, thanks for a great post.

    In Czech republic, there is an internet forum dedicated to home-training I regularly visit. There is just a handful of us commenting of a regular basis, but the athletes here are just amazing. We are a bunch of people who took the “be your own coach” philosophy as our own. And it is rather interesting that some of the guys (and girls) come up on their own with training ideas quite similar to some of which you mentioned and use them really creatively to make progress and to keep training interesting.

    For me, the number 7, the default mode, rocks. I cannot really get bored on this kind of “program” since there is always some excitement about the next workout, next progression (or regression :D) and about the gains one can get on the way. I found out quite recently, that cc philosophy got really under my skin, when I realized I do not really care about great complex stuff that occupied my mind for years (levers, muscle ups, planches or 90 degree pushups) until I master the corresponding master step from big 6 (prison pushup before planches, one arm chin-up before front levers, …). That is just how I feel it now, even though I know that for example the front lever wok provide a good deal of transfer two OACs, I would like to build strenght first, complex skills later, and get the most out of the way (which might be why I prefer simple stuff in order to build the base).

    I am thinking of adjusting the “pushup stamina builder” into a “swimming stamina builder”. I was able to swim 1500 meters in a row using breaststroke, but failed miserably using a crawl. So I am thing replacing the reps with meters and hours with minutes (as a rest time) and giving it a shot in a pool. Guess it will be fun and who knows, it my actually work and build some lung stamina. In fact, it came at a totally right time to me, because I was trying to come up with my own type of progressing with the crawl and got stuck :D.

    Be fine, coach, and thank you for the great work you are doing for us!


    • Yo Joe! Hey, thank you for such an awesome comment. I’m proud of ya for being your own coach–and ALSO for joining a forum and spreading all your knowledge and motivation to plenty of other Czech athletes! Tell em Coach said hi. Great, great work. Please keep it up!

      It’s very interesting what you say about returning to the basics as I have heard that comment more than you realize. It’s a shame–it seems like in the fitness world you’ve had two extremes: the simple, basic powerlifting-type attitude, and the complex, frequent skill approach of gymnastics. The THIRD way–which I call “old school calisthenics”: hard, basic progressive bodyweight training–seems to have kinda got lost. But it does my old heart good that a younger generation of athletes, like you, Joe, are picking up that damn torch and running with it. Hard!

      You are a swimmer too, huh? You should hook up with our own friend of the PCC, Dan Earthquake, legendary cold water guy who often posts cool stuff in the comments. I’m a big fan of swimming–bodyweight gold–and I’m intrigued by your experiment. Let me know if it works!

  • Kishore

    Yo Coach. Great post. Different routines for the entire year 😀 This post effectively teaches us that there is NO ONE routine to achieve greatness. 🙂

    Tried the sucking in the abs as you suggested last week. Works 🙂 I was doing the mistake of sucking it too much to create a vacuum.

    Good luck with your training too 🙂 Loved the 100 reps workout. I do it from time to time. 😀

    • Kishore! You really get it my man! Thanks also for experimenting with the abdominal technique–I’m glad you got this licked now, I knew you would.

      Hey, you’re also a fan of the high rep stuff from time to time! I can’t tell you what a genuine relief it is to me to hear that a young athlete like you is actually doing this off their own back once in a while. Low reps are awesome, but you’ve gotta learn to love those high reps from time to time, right my friend?

      Keep training hard and please continue on as a friend of this blog. We need ya!

      • Kishore

        Hey coach. Quick question. I’m in a kinda awkward position right now, where I get to do pull ups, rows, only once a week or once in 10 days. (don’t ask me how/why). I was wondering, apart from bridging, how else would I train my back and pulling muscles? Anything you can suggest? Anything I missed?
        (think of me as someone who is under solitary for 24 hours a day. don’t worry, I’m not in prison or anything 🙂 )

        I have a floor to do push ups, squats (and jumps), core work like l sits, v ups etc, and bridging. I’m worried I might not balance myself on my back/pulling muscles, which I can get to train only once a week/10 days.

        Yep. I love high reps from time to time. Makes me beat down to the ground, the sweat, lactic acid buildup, the burn. 😀

        • Honestly Kishore I hate to be the confirmer of bad news but you are RIGHT. You will create imbalances this way if you train like this long-term.

          The best solution, short term. is to make the best of it. Include:

          1. Bridges, especially straight bridges, for the muscles of the back, particularly the shoulder-blades
          2. Built-in dynamic tension work, tensing and pulling, hitting the back muscles from every angle–back, down, different hadn spacing. 5 rep sets with 5 second holds. Doing these between pushing exercises is a great way to spread them out.
          3. Isometric bar pulls if you can find a place.
          4. Lots of mobility holds with the arms BACK–stretching those pecs–to make sure the pressing doesn’t pull everything forward.
          5. Spinal twists to keep the shoulders loose.

          And get that pullup bar added to your doorframe as soon as you can!

          Hope this helps my friend. Don’t you dare quit on me!

          • Kishore

            Hey coach. Sorry to bother you again in the middle of push ups. 😀

            I was wondering, how often should one be aiming for endurance on a particular move/exercise? I’m more concerned about the 100 rep set. Consider Pushups. Is it a worthy goal or the best use of time to have 100 to gain endurance before moving on to Close pushups? Or would you suggest moving on to close pushups after reaching CC progression and then coming back to pushups some other time and train specifically for 100 rep set?

            Btw coach. I got a place to hang a two towels. So I guess I’ll be doing some towel hangs, pullups, rows, though considerably harder, it’ll keep me busy for a while till I find that pull up bar 😀

            Thank you for all the tips coach. Will include 1-5 🙂 Yes, this is definitely short term, maybe 2 months.

          • Hey bro! Thanks again for the great questions! Let me quickly answer so I don’t cool down too much from the pushups:

            If you have been training for a while, you can start now. I left a lot more details about the 100 rep stuff in another post. Scroll up and see the reply I made to Thorsten. This should answer all your great questions!

            In my opinion, higher reps if done RIGHT are awesome for joint health.

            Great news on the towels–I expect to hear all about your inhuman grip and forearm strength soon!

            Your pal,


  • Eoin Kenny

    You know, all these options are terrific and I would guess they can keep a man occupied with training for a lifetime. Confession time though, I have a clear favorite, #7, classic convict conditioning. I am kind of weird, I don’t get bored with any kind of training so long as it delivers results, I’m the same with food too. What could be simpler than that way of training? What could be more easily measured and reliable? It’s definitely my plan for the next year, although I’ll try higher reps every month or two just to know that I can 🙂 One of my hero’s Jack Lalanne always preached that, and hey, he didn’t do too bad right? It feels good for the body too (but I’m sure you know that!)

    One question about training though (time to get specific sorry). I’ve achieved one master step so far, 10 strict 2-1-2 hanging straight leg raises, but here’s the thing… I can only do it by breathing in on the concentric, the opposite of what everyone says to do. I don’t know why, but I feel SO much stronger when I breathe this way during leg raises. Is this really bad? Or is there anything I should be aware of? I am trying to work towards full leg raises and wonder if problems will show themselves by breathing this way when I eventually get to the top. What do you think?

    Thanks again for the hugely inspirational articles! Can’t wait to workout tomorrow…

    • Eoin! Hey, great to hear from you again–such a treat for me that you came back! Sorry for the late reply my man–that wasn’t to diss you (or anybody here). It’s just been a heavy training day today and time has been limited. Back and ready to rock now though my man.

      You have impressed me even further–I am pretty astonished that an athlete so young has even HEARD of JAck LaLanne, let alone that you admire his philosophies. He was a HUGE figure in fitness in the Bay when I grew up (he had a gym near where I lived.) That guy was a fucking beast! What do I always say about getting to be older and still in great shape? When he was 70 he swam nearly two miles while towing 70 boats with seventy men and women on them. In fucking handcuffs. And I get guys turning forty and asking me if they are too old to get in shape, Jesus Christ.

      Anyhow–what’s that? You breathe in on the way UP with leg raises?! Nope, you are a freak of nature, kid.

      Still, there are worse things to be. Continue doing it.

      • Eoin Kenny

        I could talk about Jack all day, he and you are the biggest influences I have to train. I remember when I started training two years ago I would get up before sunrise and train for an hour in my front room whilst listening to reruns of his TV show. My favorite saying of his was “God helps those who help themselves”. So I do! RIP Jack…

        Cheers again! Full leg raise here I come.

        • You are a great man, Eoin–we are lucky to have you!

          I was right in predicting great things for ya, kid. And I don’t say that about everyone, trust me.

  • Aleks Salkin

    F’in A, Coach, you’ve done it again! I’m really interested in the Joe Hartigen method in particular. Would you mind if I emailed you with a question on programming? I think I have an idea…

    • You don’t have to ask, bro! I’m sure there’s not much I can teach you, but by all means I’ll always throw my dumb opinion into the pile. Shoot!

      • Aleks Salkin

        You’re too kind 🙂 But believe me, your opinion is anything but dumb! If I thought any less I wouldn’t twiddle my thumbs for each of your articles to come out.

        Stand by – I will send an email shortly.

  • Thorsten

    Hey Coach,
    first of all: thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. I started with CC in early 2014 and it changed my life. Never seen such a logical and thought through approach. And veryt important for me: I keep with it.
    One question on the 100 rep set: can you recommend a protocol how to work up to 100 reps?
    Thanks again from Germany

    • Thorsten! My brother from a Teutonic mother! Hell, it’s so great to hear from ya–thanks for the comment, and thanks even more for trying my methods. I appreciate it, my friend!

      Thorsten, a few ideas on this:

      1. Make sure you have a base of training under your belt before you try stuff like this. It ensures that you know the movements and that your joints have a level of conditioning. A rank beginner trying this could seize up and quit for good! I see you have been with is for nearly two years–so this doesn’t apply to you. You’re good to go!

      2. I’m teaching you stuff you know here, but you obviously need to build up both intensity (how hard the exercise is that you can use) and volume (reps).

      3. A logical option is just to pick the exercise you want to use and gradually add a rep here and there. Actually this is not the best way to reap gains from this type of training, which is really about high reps rather than the difficulty of the exercise. I prefer starting with a really, really easy exercise and doing:

      -50 reps one workout
      -2 sets of 50 the next workout
      -1 set of 70 and one set of 30 the third workout
      -1 set of 100 the fourth workout.

      4. Obviously if you are experimenting with higher reps as part of your regular workout, the high reps must be done at the END of the session!

      5. The first 2-3 workouts should feel EASY. Pick easy exercises. I’m not kidding! I’m talking about fairly rapid wall pushups, not full pushups. Quarter squats, not full squats. Even with these easy sets you will probably be out of breath and getting a burn on these first few workouts, if you’re not used to higher reps. But you’ll get a GREAT high afterwards! Well done–you’re winning!

      6. After consolidating (getting used to!) the 100 rep set, think about minor changes. A SLIGHT incline. A SLIGHT depth increase. By all means improve where you can, but never forget the point is the REPS. If you are progressing so fast that your reps are going down, you have screwed up.

      7. One of these sets once or twice a week for ten weeks is enough, really. Much more and you will start to get bored and dread these sessions–which is what we are trying to avoid, right?

      Hope that helps, my friend! Please hit me up with any more questions.

  • rhgo

    Hi Coach–your articles are always enlightening,informative and entertaining.In regards to Joe Hartigen’s programs,how many dats/week did he perform a given exercise?

    Thanks for your help and for reading.

  • Danny Kavadlo

    Coach, you’ve outdone yourself with this masterpiece. Amazing content, broken down in a way we can all understand. HELLYEAH!

    • Thanks so much, Danny!

      That means a pretty giant amount coming from a guy who teaches the PEOPLE WHO INVENTED KUNG FU how to build elite bodyweight strength!

      So great to hear from ya and glad you got back safe and sound, hope the jet lag is finally wearing off.

  • Always genius finds–this is my soundtrack to these articles! Great work Joe, my man!

    • Joe

      Thanks coach, your the best by the way the Charlie Sheen joke was hilarious. To finish on this a quote by the mighty frank drebin of the police squad tv show frank-“cigarette” lady-“yes I know”.

      Your student

      • “Is this some kind of bust?”

        “Yes, it’s very nice, but we’re here to ask you some questions…”

        • Joe

          Hahaha you cannot go wrong with that

          Mayor: Drebin, I don’t want anymore trouble like you had last year on the South Side. Understand? That’s my policy.

          Frank: Yes. Well, when I see 5 weirdos dressed in togas stabbing a guy in the middle of the park in full view of 100 people, I shoot the bastards. That’s *my* policy.

          Mayor: That was a Shakespeare-In-The-Park production of “Julius Caesar”, you moron! You killed 5 actors! Good ones.

          • AHAHAH! Gotta watch me some of those again, classics my man!

          • Joe

            Thanks coach, sorry about going off the topic (bodyweight) there I couldn’t resist that police squad is up there with Richard Pryor for me.

            Your (stupid and grateful)


          • “Cocaine, momma”

          • Joe

            Haha that is “fudding” funny coach, I’ll sign off from this post and beast the d”20″. I’ll find some more YouTube albums for you soon.

            Your student

  • rhgo

    I appreciate the detailed answer–thanks for taking the time to answer my question.

    • Anytime, buddy. Sorry I couldn’t give you something more black and white, but that was Joe!

  • Kasper

    Hey Coach
    It’s Kasper here … you told me to get back regarding part 2 … so here I am 🙂
    Kasper Bas from Denmark to be correct for future references.

    Yet another great article! As you point out there is so much programme confusion out there so very cool to get this overview from you. Thanks a lot! Really like the freedom and flexibility you emphasise as I am a program neard myself.
    Staying on the program subject one question for you. Have followed Hard time or Lockdown a long time and even though I have had great progress I would like to work the upper body each training day and find lower body-only a bit boring, but together with a push or pull exercise its great.
    I love the idea around full body training three times pr. week, but doesn’t seem to be able to recover properly. Maybe because I have both static, explosive and strength each time..
    So What’s your thinking regarding push/core, pull/leg split alternated 3 times pr. week (eg. 1-Arm Push-up, HSPU, StS Bridge, V-Leg raise Tuesday/Saturday and OAC, FL pull-up, pistols Wednesday and vice versa next week)? And any other ideas are more than welcome!

    By the way. Mentioned last time I was 40 and stronger than ever. And that is a result of studying and following your teachings (have invested in all your and the Kavadlo brothers books and worth any penny and then some). Just to give that statement some leverage I can mention that I was in the infantry for 12 years – ending as an officer incl. two tours in Afghanistan, and have been responsible for and teaching Psysical training at my regiment for years. So calisthenics have been a huge part of my life … but needed exactly the steps to reach the real hard exercises. So I turned to weights and got strong as well with fx. 150 kg. bench press. But ( and that is a Kardashian size BUT) … what happened was exactly what you describe … As it seems always to be the case. I got injured in my shoulders and I lost a lot of athletism. So I cut down but missed real strength training, and that’s when CC was out. So December 2009 I started only Old school Calisthenics training which was a game and life changer. Kept and increased size and strength increase through the roof. So once again. Thanks so much!!!

    All the best

    And like several others in here, I would love for more like the endurance CC part or a book around the importance of strength and the aura as mentioned in CC

    • Hey Kasper my man! You came back for part 2–I knew you must be some kinda tough guy. And in this post you proved it–we have an infantryman here with us! It’s a real honor to hear from you guys. Dragon Door has a huge relationship with the military and in my experience nobody understands the role of bodyweight like you guys. You guys and boxers. And a military PT instructor, too! God damn!!

      I really appreciate your question, too. Remember, there’s no shame in ultimately abandoning full-body workouts, when you are working on the cutting edge. The harder you work and the greater your work capacity, the less feasible this kind of full-body system becomes. So from that perspective, growing out of them is a good thing.

      Your intended 2 way split looks good, my man. In fact, it is a fine routine. I have no doubt you will recover from it as you have built in a shitload of bodypart recovery. My only real concern for someone as advanced as you is slinging the vertical and horizontal pressing on the same day. It’s very hard to progress on hspus when you’ve just shot your load on pushups. Before trying this, if I were you I’d take a shot at rotating:

      1. HSPU/OAC/Pullups/Pistols
      2. One arm pushup/horizontal pulls (or front lever work)/bridges/midsection

      3 days per week, with a day off in-between (like you suggested). This routine has the plus of having you work the upper-body 3 times per week, but in different ways. It also splits the pushups and HSPUs so you can really give your all with the HSPUs. I am aware that this MAY well be too much for the shoulders. You will have to let me know. If that happens, rebound fast to the program you suggested. But you might find you are okay if you focus on quality rather than quantity.

      Thanks for telling me your story–it’s great to meet you, my man. I hope to be speaking to ya lots more!

      Your pal,


      PS. As for the endurance part of the system– you’ll be the first to know, Mr Bas!

      • Kasper

        Hey Coach!
        Thanks for the In depth answer … really appreciate it!!

        Good points all of it … of course. Will follow the routine you suggested and focus on quality to keep the volume down which is always hard for me. Us army dudes have learned to train hard to fight easy. Been a civilian since 07, but the soldier still lives on 🙂

        Thanks again!
        Great talking to you, and an honor to..

        All the best

        • Once a military man–always!

          Thanks for the comment, hope we can talk again my friend.


  • Jack Arnow

    Great article Paul. It was so much fun to read. And I learned plenty too. This article should be a reference book in every public library. You want to be strong, or big, or skillful, or inspired, then just read Part 1 and Part 2 of this article. Get ideas from this article and practice them until they stop working for you. Then choose another and continue. I once asked Jasper Benincasa what is the best way to train for a one arm chin. He said there are many ways. Whatever your goals are, this article in my opinion, says the same thing, but also gives you so many tried and true options to choose from.

    • Jack! You clearly love the pain, coming back for part 2! Damn, it’s inspiring to hear from you, and intriguing as hell to hear some wisdom from Jasper Benincasa.

      One of the things I admire about you is that you are so open to exploring new stuff. For someone who has achieved as much as you have, and who has been performing calisthenics for so long, that is amazing. Something Al wrote about once–which I am trying to learn–was the idea of a “beginner’s mind” in Zen training. The true expert is the guy who approaches everything like a beginner–sure, he keeps all his knowledge, but doesn’t think that knowledge is the be-all end-all. He is open to every new idea, so he keeps on growing.

      Reminds me of you!

      • Jack Arnow

        Thanks again!

        • Speak soon my friend, keep training hard!

  • VencaN

    Hi Coach,
    I would like to thank you for excellent Convict Conditioning. I read this masterpiece
    almost 3 years ago and since then I keep training according this book.
    Also thanks for spreading your training wisdom through PCC.

    Old Joe would be proud of you! I know it.

    Greetings from Czech Republic

    • VencaN! Thanks so much for reaching out and writing this lovely comment! Your words mean a huge amount to me and I am grateful as hell that you read my book. I wrote it for you! Thanks for what you said about Joe–I sure hope so! When I die I’m expecting him to find me and kick my ass.

      Many, many badass bodyweight athletes in the Czech Republic–big respect to all of you! Thanks again, and please keep checking the blog, lots of great articles to come.

  • Victor Bonnici

    Hey Coach, great article. I usually do PCC style strength training and some HIIT. Anyway I took up your 1000 PUSHUPS IN 12 HOURS challenge. I did a 1000 in 7½ hours. Not bad for a 57 year “young” guy. But I’m no where near Danny’s 100 + in a single set. What a power house! I’m happy for now with my 50 in one set. There’s always something to work towards. It makes training more interesting and inspirational. Thanks for all your wise words of instruction and info.

  • Tor


    Thanks for the brilliant articles, packed with lots of useful information!

    The definition of rep ranges (#2) gave me some perspective on my training. I have followed CC for two years now, but I feel that it is difficult to build up to the 20, 20 rep range in the original CC progressions. I’m stuck in some progressions and do not manage to build up the repetitions.Since my focus in my previous training (weight training in gym) have been strength and muscle, the idea of 8-10 rep progressions for hypertrophy appeals to me. Do you have any thoughts on the differences in the original CC progressions and the default mode above (#7)?


    • Eoin Kenny

      I’d love to know this too!

      • Extra detailed answer, just for you my man!

    • Yo Tor!

      Thanks for your comment my man–great question! Sorry for the slow-ass reply, another heavy training day today.

      I’m gonna answer this as best as I can, in as general a way as I can:

      If you are working with moderately high reps, and you are unable to continually increase your reps, you need to alter your programming: I’m talking frequency and, sometimes, exercise selection, rather than your rep targets.

      If a particular rep range appeals to you–psychologically, theoretically, or physiologically–go for it! Use it and explore, learn what you can and make whatever gains you can with it. BUT–and this is the heart of it, Tor, Eoin–you should NOT be dropping to medium or lower reps because you are working with a higher rep range and find yourself unable to add reps over time. If that is happening something else is wrong and you need to figure out what it is.

      Let me give you two ideas in this regard. First–think of higher rep calisthenics masters. The world champions. Minoru Yoshida performed over ten thousand pushups in a single set. (That was 35 years ago–the record still hasn’t been beat!) Chuyen of Viet Nam did a hundred pullups (full pullups–all the way down to the chin over the bar) in three minutes.

      Now, these men, and others like them, all started only able to do a few reps. Maybe ten. They built up to twenty. Thirty. Then to fuckin ridiculous numbers, over time. Think about this. If higher rep sets–20 and above–are REALLY difficult to add reps to, how could these men have done what they did? They couldn’t. The truth is that it’s much, much easier to add reps to higher rep sets than lower rep sets.

      This leads to the second idea–simple math. Let’s look at a pullup. Let’s say you can only perform one pullup–that’s your absolute maximum. To add a rep, you need to literally improve your performance by 100%. Now let’s say you can perform twenty horizontal pulls–that is your absolute limit. Now, to add one rep to that set–and perform 21–you are only adding a measly 5% to your performance. That’s much easier, theoretically and in practice.

      My advice–yep, when most guys start doing CC the higher reps–at the beginning of the system–hit them hard. Their biology is just not used to busting out so many reps, nor are their minds, their nerves, their pain thresholds. You gut it out, and you get better at it. Eventually–a LOT better if you want to.

      So I’m not saying don’t choose your own rep range. If you have enough progressions in your toolbox, sure you can. But don’t quit higher reps because you are struggling to add reps. YOU CAN. It’s worked for me, it’s worked for others, and if I didn’t believe it could work for YOU, I wouldn’t have put those rep ranges in the system.

      I believe in ya!!

      • Tor

        From a so mysterious man as you i am glad to get an answer at all.. 🙂

        I really need to cultivate the ”be your on coach” idea and start to think CRITICALLY and do what WORKS, and not be so fixed in my approach towards original CC.

        Thank you for a super-great answer and motivating response!!

        Time to experiment!


        • I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect answer.

          Please let me know your results my man. I trust ya–you got this, Tor!

          • David

            Coach, that make so much sense.. from time to time I’ve wondered why I seem to make such slow progress compared to ‘everybody else’ (I’m thinking about the beast Eoin Kenny here among others). However, since experiencing pain from rushing I’m a lot more humble and I’ve accepted where I’m at.. Inspiring reply I must say!


  • Les Gross

    It kicked ass, AND I kicked it’s ass! Did my Lower body session today and it kicked MY ass. I did, however manage to add a rep to almost every set of the 4 movements, and I gave shrimp squats a try- I can do a few, but I have to let my knee graze the floor a little bit. Good suggestion, and I imagine after a few more sessions I won’t have to do that.

    I found that, if I straighten my arm out in front of me and hold my hand up as if I’m telling someone to stop, and flex it backwards as hard as I can for a few seconds, it eases the pain from tendonitis. I did it a few times before pullups, and there is no soreness afterwards, so if anyone is dealing with the same thing, they should give that a try.

    Thanks for the inspiring words Coach, you’re a class act!

    • Great work, Les! Bless you also for spreading this great stretching technique for tendonitis so that others can use it.

      It interests me also because the great Jack Arnow told me he fixed his pullup/elbow issues by using a flexbar, and the main technique on that sucker is almost exactly what you describe, but with the fingers pointing down. Check it (you are watching her right hand):

      Maybe you should be in the physio bizness!

  • Thomas Fuchs

    Hi Coach! Love CC3 & 1, which I discovered (together with Calisthenics!!) 2 months ago. So, since 15th November I’m training almost every day outside here in Germany … using the 12 master goals as my backbone (flexible split) & mixing it with parkour, tree & wall climbing etc. to keep it fresh and motivating … Thanks for all these ideas which are new to me, ’cause I’m quite a new guy in Calisthenics & Co.! 🙂 Maybe one day I’m coming to the PCC … your stuff & Al’s & Danny’s are a great inspiration … Thomas

    • Thomas! Yo my man, thanks so much for reaching out and sending me a message. It’s really great to hear from ya, and I hope you stick around. We are gonna be adding a huge amount of great articles to the PCC blog over the coming year.

      Your training system sounds just fantastic–REAL bodyweight work, with great goals, and all done outside! How can you fail? Please keep me posted on your progress.

      Big respect to Germany, and welcome to Calisthenics & Co., it’s great to have ya!

      • Thomas Fuchs

        Yeah! Just bought CC2, and started with Trifecta: What I noticed is, it simply FEELS good! Like a slow, focused push-up with whole-body tension and breathing also feels good. So, the body knows what is good for it! See ya 🙂 … Thomas

        • The body knows! Body wisdom, my man.

          See ya!

  • Victor Bonnici

    Thank you so much Coach for the kind words. I’ve never written a blog but you’ve given me the impetus. Now that i’ve tried it once i think I can get it done in less than 6 hours. With the 7½ hours I started with 10 sets of 30 every 15 minutes but by the last couple of hundred I was doing 6 x 15s + 1 x 10 = 100 in 15 minutes. So if I maintained that pace I could theoretically do 1000 in 2½ hours. Alternatively if I do 15 every 5 minutes that’s a little more than 5½ hours. I’ll do some experimenting. Glad to call you friend. Thanks again.


      Thank you Victor, keep up being god damn awesome my man!

  • Daniel Sakowicz

    Hi Paul I want to
    tell you that you are a great inspiration to me.Your books are really amazing
    especially Convict conditioning. It has something deep within that ignine the
    spark in people to train calistenhics. in convict conditioning you mostly
    concentrate no to train to failure because its not good for pure strength
    etc. However in order to be in good physical shape we should not forget
    about stamina. And do you think its possible to build amazing stamina to
    acheaive 100 one hand push up without training to failure ???I trained a little
    boxing (for myself to to for a fight) and had over 10 sparrings and
    very often after training with heavy bag we did push up to failure. what
    do you think about that its Wrong to train to failure in any sports or only in
    calistenics ? So I would like your advice how I should work on my stamina in my
    convict conditioning training.Generally speaking MY program looks in that
    way. For example monday push up and leg rises I do from one step to
    four step in CC.I do very slowely to maximum 10 reps.and on TUesday the other
    stuff with similar way.SO HOW should I build stamina ? and last question many
    people claims it is not possible to do one hand push up with close feet
    together and straight body.? do you really can do one hundred
    one hand push up.I doubt if even kavaldo

    • Hey Daniel! So great to hear from you my friend–your words make me smile, and I tell you truthfully that it is a genuine honor to have inspired you! Thank you. So on to these fantastic questions you got for me:

      -I’m not really anti training to failure. However in the prison environment training to failure was never a good idea–we always left a little energy in our limbs to be able to fight if we needed to. I appreciate that many fighters work to failure, so that energy loss and exhaustion in competition won’t bite so hard. I can dig that.

      -How do you build stamina? Try the hundred rep sets I described above. How to do it?

      Thorsten, a few ideas on this:

      1. Make sure you have a base of training under your belt before you try stuff like this. It ensures that you know the movements and that your joints have a level of conditioning. A rank beginner trying this could seize up and quit for good! I see you have been training a lot–so this doesn’t apply to you. You’re good to go!

      2. I’m teaching you stuff you know here, but you obviously need to build up both intensity (how hard the exercise is that you can use) and volume (reps).

      3. A logical option is just to pick the exercise you want to use and gradually add a rep here and there. Actually this is not the best way to reap gains from this type of training, which is really about high reps rather than the difficulty of the exercise. I prefer starting with a really, really easy exercise and doing:

      -50 reps one workout
      -2 sets of 50 the next workout
      -1 set of 70 and one set of 30 the third workout
      -1 set of 100 the fourth workout.

      4. Obviously if you are experimenting with higher reps as part of your regular workout, the high reps must be done at the END of the session!

      5. The first 2-3 workouts should feel EASY. Pick easy exercises. I’m not kidding! I’m talking about fairly rapid wall pushups, not full pushups. Quarter squats, not full squats. Even with these easy sets you will probably be out of breath and getting a burn on these first few workouts, if you’re not used to higher reps. But you’ll get a GREAT high afterwards! Well done–you’re winning!

      6. After consolidating (getting used to!) the 100 rep set, think about minor changes. A SLIGHT incline. A SLIGHT depth increase. By all means improve where you can, but never forget the point is the REPS. If you are progressing so fast that your reps are going down, you have screwed up.

      7. One of these sets once or twice a week for ten weeks is enough, really. Much more and you will start to get bored and dread these sessions–which is what we are trying to avoid, right?

      -For the answer to your last question, see my Super FAQ on Dragon Door’s website. Hope that all helps, Daniel!!

      • Randy Randerson

        Coach Wade,

        What is the best way to train for both strength and stamina? For example, to do both 20 one-arm push-ups (per arm) and 200 full push-ups, or 6 one-arm pull-ups (per arm) and 50 full pull-ups?

        Based on your comments above, it seems like you recommend adding stamina work (a set or two with very high reps) at the end of a normal Convict Conditioning strength-building routine. I’ve also considered alternating between strength and endurance sessions.

        What are your thoughts on all of this? Some detailed programming advice would be great. I try to read everything that you write, but I haven’t seen this specific topic addressed.

        Thanks for bringing back old-school calisthenics. It makes working out fun, as it should be.

        Your trainee,


  • Muhammad Jawad

    Hey Coach, your student from Pakistan is back again!

    Just wanted to inform you that I have restarted training on the basis of your comment and article written in 2014 for noobs.

    Quick question – could that workout be performed using hartigen method or some other methodology needs to be applied?

    I found this article very useful – especially the detailed set-rep ranges for skill and strength work mentioned in S no 2 above.

    • Yo Muhammed!

      You are doing the Noob Program! Hey, good for you–I am so very proud of you for starting up again. Well done. My advice–leave the Hartigen method…for now. That method is a way of handling heavy exercises, for adequate reps with good form, and progress slowly (when you are advanced, ANY slow, steady progress is great!) IF you are a beginner on the program I set out, you are starting from scratch with a body that has a LOT of adaptation left in the tank. You don’t need advanced set and rep programs…in fact they will hold you back.

      What YOU need to do is:

      a. Start easy. Take it easy and don’t push yourself.
      b. Focus on learning the exercises and the way your body feels.
      c. Add the odd rep here and there–slowly and without strain, keeping your form excellent.

      This should not be a problem if you are new. Remember, the big, hard exercises aren’t going anywhere. They will still be here in a few weeks, a month, or a few months if you need it. Your job is to slowly build your joints and conditioning before you get to those exercises.

      Keep at it, my friend. Big respect to you and all my bodyweight brothers out in Pakistan!

      • Muhammad Jawad

        thanks coach for the feedback.

        On a plus side, I have moved to another workplace which has a gym, and the absence of bar which was previously restricting my training is no longer a hinderance. Will follow this program for around 2 months to regain my strength and then move to CC style workout.

        • This is damn good news my man! You won’t regret it!

      • Muhammad Jawad

        On another note, I want to tell you that I cant be classified as pure beginner as couple of years back I could do 30 pushups (arms flared), 2 sets of 50 consecutive lying leg raise, full bridge, 20 second handstand, and 30 second bar hang (but never performed pullups). However I had to quit training due to an elbow and toe injury suffered in training for martial arts and followed by a very tough job.

        Since I am coming back, I am following the noob program using Matt Schifferle’s chain training method to get better muscle size and increased strength.

  • Kishore

    Hey coach. Training going well here. Forearms burning. 😀

    Anyway, I have an interesting question, if you’ve the time to answer it. Why are full range handstand pushups tougher than full range pull ups?

    • Hey home boy! Keep firing those questions at me, I will be checking this blog until the new blog gets posted–I don’t want to get in the way of other contributors. But until then, I love the questions man. Fire away!

      This IS an interesting question Kishore, but it’s also real easy to answer. It’s because the muscles that do the HS pushups–your shoulders and triceps–are WAAAY smaller than the big workhorses, the lats upper back and biceps. Check out this pic:;topic=173167.0;attach=201370;image

      You will notice how huge and thick this guys lats are–in case you don’t know what lats are, they are the muscles underneath the armpits. They are thick, and huge, and go right round the back. Compare these muscles to the muscles on top of his shoulders, the traps, which seem almost tiny in comparison.

      • Kishore

        No wonder. I always wondered why, since both are anyway opposing pairs, one is harder than the other. Thanks coach. 🙂

  • Kishore

    Hey coach. I have another question. Regarding my progression. Well, on some moves, I seem to progress a lot more easily and on some its harder. Like, lower reps are for strength and reps around 10-20 build muscle right?

    Here is my question. I was able to perform 2 x 20 pushups properly as in CC progression, and then I progressed to close push ups. It was very hard. I had to start out with lots of sets of 2-3 reps to maintain perfect form. But, now, I’ve progressed to uneven push ups. The thing is, I can perform 2 x 10-12 with perfect form faily easily (I don’t have to huff and puff to churn reps). So… should I cut back and focus on building strength with low reps right now even though I can do the middle-higher rep range comfortably? Like, should I cut back to multiple high sets of 1-2 reps for uneven pushups and then go toward the higher reps even though I can do it now? I’m kinda confused about what you mean by milking the step or building strength…

    What I don’t understand is… how is it that I can progress with one step sooo easily but with another step it is harder to do so… This happened with me once before. Incline to kneeling pushups was easier. But kneeling to half then full pushups was harder.

    PS: I’m really sorry coach. I should organize my questions more I guess. Sorry if you think I’m spamming you or something….

    • Yo! First up, remember that what you’re going thru is normal, my man. Although the steps in CC are as natural as possible, they are not all nice, easy, even jumps forward. Some will seem harder, some easier than others. This can even vary from person to person, with different weights, leverages, etc. This is not weight lifting where 5 pounds on the bar is always five pounds.

      My advice–drop your reps on the uneven work and if it seems easy, find a way to make it harder! The best way to do this is to shift your weight over the ball-arm. That, actually, is the real point of the exercise–to help develop supple triceps strength when the elbow is bent.

      Hope that helps, bro!

      • Kishore

        Yep coach. Helps. Thanks a ton.

        • Awesome! Keep at it kid, I got your back.

  • Phelon

    I’ve got a question.. What kind of pull exercises, to work the lats, can I do without any equipment at all? I work on the road and don’t have any options for equipment. I use chairs and the floor. Thank you!

    • Kasper

      Hi Phelon,
      There is always options. You can consider the bar pulls mentioned in CC1 under pull-up variations. Other vice you can always use a door (with a Owen on top if needed) and pull up on that. If you are on horizontal pull-up level a table is always useful. But it is always possible to find something to pull up on. A three for example. In 3 years of traveling regularly I always find a pull-up possibility.
      Br Kasper Bas

      • Phelon

        Thanks man!

    • I would fully endorse what Kasper says (below). I’d also add that dips–although a PRESSING (rather than a pulling exercise)–are also a primary lat movement. Some guys get sorer lats from dips than from pullups, ya know.

      You say you got chairs–if they’re sturdy, dip between them with your legs bent to accommodate the floor. If you are too weak for this kinda dip, stick those feet up on something and use progressions.

      Hope that helps, Phelon my man!

      • Phelon

        Thank you sir!

  • Rodrigo

    Hey coach, do you think is possible to pack some size on the legs when sprints is not a option and without pistols/shrimps? I can do single legs sutff and they are the most logical way to go but they bored me to tears!! No fun no gains right? I quit all my leg training some months ago and those chicken legs are bothering me!! Can you give some ideas?

    • Dan Söderberg

      try plyometric onelegged legcurls but do it with shoes on on something softer than a hard chair if you want tokeep your heelsintact plus make sure your calves and hamstrings are properly warmed up (stole this from a swedish based finnish trainer Jari Ketola try this in combination with the hamstringwork that Coach recommends in c-mass

    • Higher rep squats, hindu squats and close squats will all help my man–effort is more important than load for legs, anyway. You’lll need volume–think circuits. Add to that explosive lower body progressions like those found in Explosive Calisthenics and you are onto something cool, Rodrigo!

  • Abhilash Rayaguru

    Dear Coach Wade,
    commenting here for the first time. I just wanted to say nothing but “THANK YOU”. Thank you for every bit of precious knowledge you have contributed to the world. Thanks to the convict conditioning series I have not only embarked on an enjoyble life long journey but also discovering new paths, new peebles, new experiences and body wisdom.
    Another thing coach- You have told mentioned the “survival athletics” thing in your book. Will there be a future title on this?

    • Abhilash–you are a brother after my own heart, I also avoid the interwebs when I can. But speaking to folks like you makes it aaaaallll worthwhile!

      I have heard AWESOME things about the FB CC group; I don’t do Facebook, YouTube or anything like that, but my main girl Adrienne is there, and her word should be considered gospel.

      As for the photo idea–I’ll get working on it! Thanks for reaching out my friend. You keep training hard, y’hear!

      Your pal,


  • Lucas

    Hey Coach , question, I don’t know if it sounds cliche, but i’d like ask you, what is required to be a an awesome athlete ? I mean not just in phisically but mentally and psychologically ? ( to excel everything ) This question give me headaches.

    • Lucas, my dude! What an awesome question!

      We actually spent hours discussing this matter when we were putting the PCC together, as we wanted to include some material on this question in the super-manual we were putting together. In the end, we decided that the best model at the moment is the one by Jack Lesyk, PhD. Jack is a real genius in sports psych and was kind enough to allow us to include a lot of new material on his mental training theory in the manual. Lucas, check out his “Nine Skills” stuff:

      Hope that answers your questions–or at least helps a bit.


  • Portagee Slim

    Hey, Coach.
    2 quick questions. There are days when I just don’t have what it takes to continue with my CC progression. So, I will step back 1 or 2 and do timed holds. For instance, if I am working hanging bent leg raises(step 7), I will back up and hold the top of a hanging knee raise for 30-45+ seconds, then SLOWLY, release into a hang, repeating this for 3 sets as soon as I feel ready to go.
    OR, I may push a Hartigen with the next step above where I am. Instead of working 2 X 15 of Uneven squats, doing a Hartigen on 1/2 one legged squats.
    Is this stupid? Or detrimental?
    Thank you for your time.

    • Yo, slim!

      Thanks for the awesome, interesting questions, my man. I normally don’t come back and check old blog posts but Adrienne mentioned your questions to me in an email, and it spurred me to gee back the horses.

      When you say “you don’t have what it takes” to follow the program strictly, it SOUNDS to me that you are getting bored. When this happens, if it’s a choice between inserting some variety (around the bodyweight basics, not silly shit) or just not training, then by all means do something different for the win.

      In this sense, CC can be seen not so much as a PROGRAM, but a strength-measuring/progression criteria which functions as the backbone of your workouts, rather than the be-all end-all of them. This is fine.

      I think Adrienne mentioned that, as long as you aren’t injuring yourself, have fun exploring new training variations. I stand by this, and would add to it: are you progressing in your basic exercises? Are you adding reps over time? This is really what the CC standards are meant to measure. And if you are, you are winning.

      THAT is what determines whether your self-made program changes are “stupid” or “detrimental”–the fact (or nonfact) of PROGRESS. That and that alone. If the training is more interesting and you are still moving forward, however slowly, keep that shit up, son!

      Your pal,


      • Portagee Slim

        Yeah, life has been busy, and thrown me a few curves when I wanted fastballs, but I think that apply to most of us, eh?All we can do is take our best shot and swing for the fences!
        But I have found the timed hangs to help. They don’t take long. And, dang I seem sore for a bit longer. {Activating & recruiting more muscles?}
        Still making gains, slowly. Trying to build a solid foundation. Long way to go, yet. One step at a time.
        Thank you for all your writings, and keeping the fire going!
        Success, Coach!

  • Giorgi Tsikarishvili

    Hi coach
    I am 22 year old male who never drinked or smoked before and have been active for my whole life. Recently I began using GTG on my heandstand push up series, and even though I progressed faster my heart began feeling strange every next day I did them, so I had to remove such a good exercise from my routine. Doctor said my heart and blood pressure is phenomenal. So I would really appretiate your opinion on why heandstands might have caused my heart to feel strange and if there is any way to do this exercise again without fear of heart problem

  • potin

    First I want to congratulate you for Books Thank you to you because I really found what I was looking in the sport and I like to follow your ideas ! Thank you for these little tips that I can add to my chest , but my men to the regiment ! thanks again!
    a small French soldier who follows your programs and those of kavadlo brothers !!!
    sorry for my English!

  • Cavi


    I know that coach don’t read old posts but anyway…

    Besides Twist from CC 2, what other movements i can do for rehab of a shoulder that dislocates?

    • Obviously I’m not Coach Wade, but I’d like to offer some thoughts. I had a shoulder injury that was aggravated by a long swim. Here’s how I repaired it:

      Isometric (static) tension might help – hands close in front of chest, push palms together. I like to cross hands slightly so the thumbs wrap around the opposite hand. Push for 10 breaths. Then make a hook out of each hand with the fingers, link hook hands & pull in opposite directions – again 10 breaths. For the first 2 or 3 breaths apply tension gradually, if it feels good, ramp up the tension until 8 breaths & ease off on 9 & 10. I did this every night before going to sleep with a few other statics – bridge, leg raise hold, etc. It became a staple part of my exercise even after the injury had repaired.

      Rowing. I don’t mean the machines or leaning over a bench with external
      weights, I’m talking about the boat. I found that the pulling &
      pushing of the oar felt very good on the bad shoulder & because I was in the open air with scenery I did lots of it (hour & a half each session) a few
      times a week for 12 weeks, by which time I could swim front crawl again
      comfortably. Obviously if you haven’t got a boat you’ll need to simulate
      the movement. Horizontal pulls/Australian pull ups might help, but
      start it at a lesser angle, maybe look for a bar that is chest height,
      put your feet forward of it & row gently back & forth.

      Incline push ups might be of value too – find a bar or wall waist height or use a door frame & gently go through the range of motion with some care. If you need to stop, simply step forward or shift weight to the good shoulder. As it says in this article, rehab is thousands of repetitions, so don’t be in too much of a hurry. Aim to increase your intensity without pain over time. If you can get the angle right so you can do a hundred reps per set I think that’s the best. Do it every day too – this will keep the tendons & surrounding tissues supplied with nutrients from the previous day’s effort & it might help you heal quicker.

      These are the things that worked for me, the angles for you might need to be different. Every workout that you do to repair the damage is a step in the right direction.

  • Nyx King

    Thanks and God bless you

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