How I Use the Convict Conditioning Program Along with Kettlebells

by Adrienne Harvey on February 26, 2013

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Since many of us who practice Progressive Calisthenics are often involved with other athletic pursuits like kettlebells, martial arts,  and/or sports, a question which continually comes up is how to program our sessions in a way that allows for high performance in some areas and at least maintenance in others.  People beginning the Convict Conditioning program sometimes ask a similar question, thinking that they need to “add in” cardio, thinking that the program somehow isn’t “enough” on its own for fat loss or other physique-related goals.   The good news is, the program can absolutely stand on its own, it’s just very different from the familiar sets-reps-weights-n-cardio paradigm.   It’s important to realize that the bodyweight programs as presented in Convict Conditioning are complete, and use a strategy which is entirely different from mainstream “conventional” approaches.


For fat loss, it isn’t really necessary for someone to have to add steady state cardio.  An  improved nutritional plan and consistent work with Convict Conditioning should produce incredible results.   Especially when this beginning calisthenics athlete begins to really feel, on a visceral level, how their performance is enhanced by getting stronger, and by becoming a little lighter.  This sort of dual reinforcement is powerful—it can motivate people to permanently adopt a healthier lifestyle.   Given the program’s power,  athletes participating in competitive sports, martial arts, or other athletic pursuits like kettlebells will want to keep this in mind when programming.   Motivated athletes of all kinds seem to short change their rest and recovery.

I’ll be giving an example week of how I have made a Convict Conditioning program work within my own lifestyle of instructing, maintaining, and further refining RKC kettlebell skills while still creeping towards some fairly big long-term bodyweight goals (1 arm chin up, human flag, etc).   A few of the routines in CC are specifically designed with enough rest days to allow for the inclusion of sports.   Good Behavior and to a lesser degree Hard Time are great examples.   Hard Time is especially upper body focused, so if your “extracurricular activities” are particularly upper body inclusive you may wish to choose a different routine to work with.

An important thing to remember with both Convict Conditioning and kettlebell training is that less is often more.   Convict Conditioning requires  absolutely strict form and coordinated full body tension with each exercise—while not training to failure (and theoretically still leaving you enough energy to defend yourself).  In my opinion, practicing Progressive Calisthenics, like kettlebell training, is as much about building skill as it is about building raw strength.   Often on Facebook and other online communities we see some very ambitious sounding workouts with just amazing rep ranges, but it’s important to remember that these longer duration workouts will have performance and form trade offs.   Think of a marathon vs. a sprint—to run a marathon, the athlete will need to pace themselves.  In a sprint, the athlete will basically go “all out” for a short period of time.   Personally, I like shorter duration workouts aimed towards skill building, optimal movement patterns, and the control of maximum tension where needed in each rep.   Most days my “workouts” tend to be small, near maximal sets of very challenging exercises spread throughout the day.   The CC logbook is especially great for keeping track of these activities.


Since maintaining and refining kettlebell moves is essentially my current “sport” or “martial art” right now, a program like Good Behavior can be easily adapted for several weeks of progressive training.  The weeks following the example below would have variations in kettlebell exercises and weights, and if appropriate (the progression standard met) a graduation to the next step in a given Convict Conditioning progression.  The names of the calisthenics exercises refer to wherever I am in the progression.   This is a fairly typical example of my training on a non-traveling week, adapting the Good Behavior routine:

 Monday: Push Ups – 2 Work Sets*; Leg Raises – 2 Work Sets

Optional kettlebell swings and a few get ups as a warm-up, or to break up a typical Monday heavy on business, writing, or internet work.

Tuesday: Moderate kettlebell work (RKC snatch test or slightly heavier bell)  technique workout for get ups, swings, high pulls, and snatches.  RKC Planks and hollow position holds.  Rep range is significant but nothing spectacular.

Wednesday: Pull Ups – 2 Work Sets; Squats – 2 work sets   Optional swings and/or get ups.  After the work sets of pull ups and significant rest, I might play-practice with pull up variations and or a muscle up or two along with dragon flags and working towards the “human flag” here and there in the day.

Thursday: Rest/Mobility/Extra tai chi skills practice and/or Extra Primal Move mobility/skills work

Friday: Handstand Push Ups – 2 work sets; Bridges – 2 work sets

Saturday: A kettlebell challenge circuit workout – usually includes pressing and/or clean&jerks, along with an extra implement or challenge like Battling Ropes or flipping tires.  Play with advanced variations of a CC exercise, or a PR attempt of some kind.

Sunday: Rest/Recovery/Mobility

*Work sets in Convict Conditioning are preceded by a few warm up sets of earlier parts of the progression, the book has all the details and several workout routines like Good Behavior for you to start working with immediately.

About Adrienne Harvey, RKCII, CK-FMS, Primal Move Nat’l Instructor

I started studying kettlebell training over three years ago and became RKC Certified in October of 2010, and became an RKC Level 2 Instructor in July 10th of 2011.   Kettlebell and bodyweight training have been absolutely crucial in my personal quest for fitness, and I love sharing these ultra-effective modalities with small groups and individuals.  Similarly, developing recipes to further support performance, body composition, and general enjoyment is another passion.  Go to for more information about Adrienne!



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  • jim perry

    nice article…. helpful… concise/to the point… gonna get me a kettlebell….or two…!!

    • Adrienne Harvey

      Thanks Jim – and let us know how your training goes! Are you currently working with Convict Conditioning right now?

      • jim perry

        adrienne.. yes i am working w/CC. started in Oct/12,,..have done a fair amount of yoga.. so it’s familiar territory… … and have signed up for the PCC in June…. i’ve got CC1 and CC2 books…. and the training log.. sort of like a trilogy..!! i’m not a ‘professional’ trainer or such.. i’ve been in flooring for the past 40 yrs and spend most time running small business in NE WI.. i transition out of that role/way of living… i’d like to learn the art/science of the bodyweight systems and enable myself to teach it to folks in my age group.. focused on improving movement to day living type movement.. and increasing strength/vigor throughout the living years.. to that very last breath..!!!!! ……. best to you.. jim

        • Adrienne Harvey

          So glad you’ll be joining us at the PCC, and your long term plan sounds really great. Healthy movement is so important for all ages – you’ll be a much needed leader for your age group!

  • Brice

    Adrienne, you are truly a beast! Great article. Keep it up!!!

    • Adrienne Harvey

      Thanks a ton, Brice! 🙂

  • Paul John Wade

    Thanks so much for this, young lady. Adrienne, you have no idea how delighted I am to have you as one of the inaugural Master PCCs. What you can do is phenomenal, and you look just mind-blowing.

    YOU ROCK!!

    • Adrienne Harvey

      Wow, this really means a lot – so glad that you like the article and I simply can’t wait for the PCC Workshop – it’s going to be incredible! Thanks for making my day! 🙂

  • Isaac

    Thanks for the concise yet highly informative article Adrienne. I’ve been looking for an example that combined K-bells with Progressive Calisthenics for some time and now you’ve provided one.

    Now I have a Question about the pressing movements from Convict conditioning that I hope someone can answer. Something I’ve been wondering about the convict conditioning program is if a trainee will achieve a one arm push up faster by solely focusing on one arm push ups, or if adding handstand push ups helps with achieving one arm push ups.

    Thanks again for the article!

    • Adrienne Harvey

      Hmmmm faster? What’s the race? The overall strength of both exercises certainly won’t hurt, but focusing on that particular goal of the 1 arm push up might get you there faster, but everyone is different – there’s a lot of factors at play with these sort of goals – nutrition, recovery, sleep, etc.

      • Isaac

        I was worried that someone would say something about my use of the word faster. I know that the primary goal of progressing as fast as possible is warned against by coach wade. But as long as the quality in form is there I don’t see how faster is not better. As for you question about “what’s the race”, the race is the only one that’s mattered since one single cell organisms evolved to eat another, the race of survival. Coach wade did after all tout progressive calisthenics as the ultimate in survival strength. My question about only focusing on one arm pushups stems from writings by Pavel where he talks about the limitations of motor learning and that the nervous system adapts faster by focusing on a limited number of movements. For this reason I was thinking it would be more efficient to achieve a one arm pushup by focusing on it then I could go into maintenance mode and focus on handstand pushups.

        Thanks for your response and incites.

        • Paul John Wade

          Interesting question, Isaac. I have a lot of respect for Pavel–he’s brilliant–but speaking for me, I advise my students to learn a handful of bodyweight movements; five, six or seven typically. Working the whole body this way integrates things. Working a midsection, spinal, and leg movements as well as a few upper-body pulls and pushes won’t slow you down. It’ll make you progress faster.

          Look at dancers or martial artists. They have to work on dozens (at least) of movement patterns to get good at what they do; it doesn’t kill them, and multiple movements in your routine–provided you program ’em right–won’t kill you, either.

          • Isaac

            Thanks for addressing my questions Coach. Being that I’m engaged in the programming from your books I will defiantly defer to your expertise on this matter. Rest assured that I have been working the entire body per instruction. More specifically I’ve been using the “Good Behavior” template. My question was more hypothetical as I struggle to adjust my thinking to a progressive theory that seems to be in opposition to what I’ve learned from Pavel. But ultimately I’m not interested in theory, only in what works.

            Progressive Calisthenics are what I had always hoped the typical high rep calisthenics would be when I was a teenager, a go anywhere, train anytime protocol capable of delivering elite levels of conditioning. I echo the sentiments of many in that I wish I had the knowledge you’ve provided when I was a young athlete and though I’m by no means an old man, as I approach my 30th birthday, I cannot help think about what could have been and lament. In my opinion the return of progressive calisthenics to the public consciousness represents more than another way of “working out”, rather a preservation of our shared human heritage. For your work in this field I salute you sir.

            Again thank you for response and expertise.

  • Brice

    Convict Conditioning and a great diet is really all you Need to see
    Great results. That’s basically all I do and I’m lean and mean:-)
    I love the program because it forces you to slow down and your muscles spend
    A lot of time under tension. And even knee push-ups become a challenge. A very humbling
    System indeed.

    • Adrienne Harvey

      Agreed and totally know what you mean about being humbled by some of the earlier steps!

  • pheonix1754

    hi Adrienne.Thank you very much for your article.Been doing CC and Kettlebells for about a month now.(Kettlebells for 9 months).My biggest concern was in-between days,because im one of those gotta do k-bells,and along came convict conditioning.Thought i knew how to do pushup,squats.The section on bridging surely gave me new insights on this exercise.Your article gives me a good blueprint to start with.It’s really a blessing when RKCS like yourself share your knowledge and experience with others.God bless you,and thanks again.

    • Adrienne Harvey

      Glad it was helpful – and let us know what you come up with – and how it works for you! 🙂

  • Great article Adrienne. I love the hybrid training. I like how you connect the two in that they’re both strength training AND skill development. YEAH!

  • Prahlad

    A question about the good behavior program. Why does Coach Wade combine pushups and HLR, squats and Pullups, etc? Is it just a possible way to do it or is there a more specific reason?

    Also in CC2 Coach wade mentions that one can do the Trifecta any time in the day. Wouldn’t it be risky to do the advanced level stretches like the bridge or full twist without a good warmup?

  • Nick

    Loved the article! I am also mixing in CC/CC 2 with other methods. Currently, I am on the Revolving Door program found in the CC super FAQ. Here is the breakdown:

    Day 1
    Pullups, squats, pushups (power and easy levels)
    Deadlift 1-3 reps only
    Barbell squat 1-3 reps only

    Day 2
    Handstands, bridges, leg raises (harder levels)
    Neck work
    2 arm KB swings (pyramid)

    Day 3
    Pullups, squats, pushups (holds and harder levels)
    Calf raises

    Day 4
    Handstands, leg raises, bridges (easy levels)
    Grip work
    10-40 meter sprint intervals

  • Alex

    I really like how you put this so directly. So many people do cardio for fat loss, but it’s really only diet, and diet is greatly improved (sub-consciously) by movements that focus your attention on your posture and body position. In the last few months I quit running and cycling, started doing only Tai Chi and Convict Conditioning… and now am both much leaner and much stronger!

  • Hey – I recently started following CC. I am also working on a phone app for CC to help me keep track of my progress…

    I thought it would be great to connect and get some feedback on the app

    Here are some early screen shots :


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