A Few Of My Favorite Things

by Danny Kavadlo on March 5, 2013

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One of my very favorite things about calisthenics is that you can do it anywhere. That fact in itself is endlessly fascinating to me. Think about it: in a day and age where people sit in traffic while they drive to the gym, or wait an hour in line to take a thirty minute spin class on a fake bike, the simple notion that a gym isn’t necessary is truly liberating!

Now, please understand that I have nothing against the gym. It can be a great place to train hard. I have had many spectacular workouts in gyms. I just believe that the gym is not the only game in town. Due to the simple and sublime nature of body-weight strength training, you can make a gym out of almost any place you want.

These very places themselves are a few of my favorite things too.

In the Backyard

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Some days we want that shortest distance, with no need to travel. Several years ago it dawned on me that the ultimate home gym could be mine, but I’d have to build it. So for a low price, plus some time and sweat, I built my first Backyard Pull-Up Bar. I could now rip through those reps anytime the urge struck me. This was even better than the indoor, mounted bars I’ve owned for most of my life. You see, I have always been a fan of outdoor workouts. I love being outside in general. However, these days, it seems we have a cultural obsession with climate control. We drive in cars with individually heated seats and exercise in air-conditioned buildings. I am pleased to say that the outdoor workout eliminates those unnecessary commodities. Nowhere can you dominate your own body-weight and release your inner beast like you can under the earth’s sky, truly in touch with who you are.

At any time of day, any time of year, all my favorite exercises are waiting at my doorstep. From powerful pull-ups, to perfect planks, to mighty muscle-ups, they’re all here. Several different bars and numerous angles provide for unlimited variations of many of the oldest and noblest exercises. It is also of note that these iron bars have a big, fat two inch diameter, which adds extreme grip training to every single workout.

My brother and fellow trainer, calisthenics icon Al Kavadlo, immortalized the Backyard Pull-Up Bar in his ground-breaking book Raising the Bar and its companion DVD.


In the Park

I am lucky enough to live in New York City, one of the main hubs for body-weight enthusiasts of all walks of life. There are many parks, playgrounds, and jungle gyms in the Big Apple, but none are as well known throughout the world as Alphabet City’s legendary Tompkins Square Park.

I’ve trained a hundred times at TSP at six o’clock on a Monday morning. I can tell you first hand that there is nowhere you will feel as motivated and inspired as you will there, no matter what time of day it is. While the city sleeps, serious-minded individuals can be found lunging, jumping, pushing, and pulling. Even in the rain or snow, you can always find some hard core body-weight aficionados out there doing their thing. In fact, it’s the first place I ever saw a one-arm pull-up.

But just as it is motivational to train amongst those serious athletes, it moves me equally to see how many new jacks train at TSP as well. You see, a certain solidarity exists at Tompkins. It spans across the entire community of the park, from the world-renown bar masters, all the way down to the young kids doing their first chin-up. Hell, where else could you observe an ex-con asking a drag queen for handstand advice? I’ve seen it at Tompkins. Ya’ gotta love Alphabet City!

In The Basement

Sometimes I do train indoors. Remember, by keeping things simple and pure, based on mechanics and movement, we can train anywhere we want to. So do dips in your kitchen. Practice your bridge-work in the living room. Put a pull-up bar in the hallway.

I personally like to train in the basement.

The basement has been used as a metaphor for the subconscious by everybody from Dostoevsky to the hit television series “Wilfred.” And it makes sense. When we are in the basement, we are in the building’s underground, free to explore the deepest, most primordial workings of its structure… and of our own!

Much of calisthenics training is based on unleashing our instinctual primitive movement patterns. In Convict Conditioning, Coach Wade discusses how you tap into your “tree dwelling” DNA when you pull your own body-weight when executing pull-ups. Well, you don’t get more primitive than that! There is no better place to explore the deep, dark movements of the mind, spirit, and body than underground, with just your physical self and your psyche, ready to train hard!


In the End

The places I listed above are just a few of my favorite things. Hopefully you have discovered some special work-out spots that are near and dear to you, where you can push yourself, free from judgments, and full of positivity. We all need somewhere we can work on self-improvement and awareness. Explore your options and be creative. Have fun with it.

The still photos were taken by my wife, Jennifer, during an improvised workout on the now-famous Backyard Pull-up Bar. The following videos demonstrate some diverse calisthenics training at Tompkins Square Park, and a basement workout based on push-up bar variations. Of course, I had to include a video in the backyard with my bro Al as well. Keep the dream alive!




About Danny: Danny Kavadlo, Master PCC, is a Personal Trainer in New York City. He’s worked with hundreds of clients, including athletes, models, and celebrities. He is featured in the Convict Conditioning Series & Raising the Bar, and is known globally as a motivator & leader in the calisthenics community. Learn more about Danny at: www.DannyTheTrainer.com.

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  • You’re an animal, Danny! You and Al are my two biggest inspirations. I never get tired of watching you guys work. Amazing! Thanks so much for the motivation.

    • Thanks Steve. We are happy no motivate. You’ve always been a big supporter of the cause and we love it! Thanks for the comment bro.

  • jim perry

    the padmasana pull-up…!!!!!!! lotus rising !!… great writing and nice video clips…
    gets my blood rolllllling as the sun cracks the sky….
    thanks again for ‘raising the bar’

    • Right on Jim! Thanks so much for the positivity! You get it!

  • You are so right about having multiple locations for calisthenics training. When I first got into training I jumped from believing the park was the best place to train, then my basement and carport and then the gym. Each location has it’s own advantages for sure. Every environment has it’s own resources.

    Why limit ourselves to just one location when we can have many!

    Thanks again for the blog Danny & Al!

    • Hell yaeh Matt. It’s always good to mix it up. That’s the great thing about this style… improvising! You know as well as I that you can train anywhere!

  • Great article! Looking forward to the PCC cert in June!

  • Paul John Wade

    A truly inspirational article! What a brilliant peek into the mindset of a calisthenics master. Also very practical tips on addressing there “where?” question which I get asked so much.

    All this great writing, Danny…when we gonna see you put out a training book? I would be first in line to order that sucker!

    • Thanks Coach. The answer to “Where?” is “Anywhere!”

      As one of my favorite fitness writers, I appreciate your kind words about my writing… let’s just say there’s something I’m working on. I can’t say too much more yet…

      • Paul John Wade

        Damn! That’s exciting news man! (And thanks a heap for the compliment.)

        Please keep us posted, brother…the world will wanna know!

  • Cal

    Great post, and so easy to read! Thank you Danny.

    • You’re welcome Cal. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Truly from the heart.

  • beth andrews

    Great article! I love it… love,love,love it!! My fav qoute”Much of calisthenics training is based on unleashing our instinctual primitive movement patterns. In Convict Conditioning, Coach Wade discusses how you tap into your “tree dwelling” DNA when you pull your own body-weight when executing pull-ups. Well, you don’t get more primitive than that! There is no better place to explore the deep, dark movements of the mind, spirit, and body than underground, with just your physical self and your psyche, ready to train hard!
    I teach basic BW skills first to my clients so they can train anywhere,anytime .. on vacation,at home with a sick kid,at the park,etc. Learning Bw skills there’s never an excuse not to train and teaches connection of “mind,spirit and body “as you said!!
    My fav inside home workout..
    Door frame pull ups,1 arm push ups (with assisting arm on a sock) and pistols.
    Outside I throw a rope over a tree and do pull ups,and whatever feels good! Definitely being outside rewards a better feeling…connecting with nature,breathing fresh air and hanging with my pups 🙂
    Rock on Kavadlo Brothers…Look forward to meeting you guys at the PCC!!!

    • Yeah Beth! You get it! I love your comment and I completely agree. I’m sure you have helped a great deal of clients just by keeping it simple. Rock on!

  • IvanRadek

    Great article! I feel the same.
    For me calisthenics is freedom. I love to train and hate to miss workouts.
    With calisthenics I can workout when I’m at my parents, in vacation, in the forest, in the park, anywhere.
    I don’t have to miss workouts just because I want to live my life.
    I feel sorry for the gym rats.

    • Damn right Ivan. “I don’t have to miss workouts just because I want to live my life.”
      I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • Hey Danny, nice article man, and awesome video clips! I’d like to point out to you that, when you do L sits, try to point the pits of your elbows more forward (rotate your arms outward). You may be surprised by how much more difficult this is, as it will give your shoulders and core less leverage, thus, of course, giving you greater gains. It’s also the more technically correct way to do it (I got this tip from Ryan at GMB), and will make your V sit much stronger as well. This is something that I recently realized that I have to work on myself.

    • Thanks Robby. I’m looking forward to trying those adjustments. I am still a student as much as a teacher and I appreciate your feedback!

  • Gabriel Galeano

    Thanks for the inspiration, Danny! Mastering my own body is the best thing I have ever done in my life. It’s liberating and has cured me of demons and aches!

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