Freaks and Geeks of Fitness

by Danny Kavadlo on April 9, 2013

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We within the calisthenics community come from different backgrounds and origins, assorted borders and parts of the world.  Yet here we are united for a common cause, a love of fitness and function, a passion for the improvement of self and the inspiration of others.   In bodyweight training, we achieve with only the bare minimum.

Young and old, male and female, black and white: we are all represented.   In fact, lots of us have never really fit in anywhere else, have we?  I love it when outcasts come together.  Diversity is a beautiful thing.Danny.Kavadlo.Ape

From urban bar athletes of New York, taking muscle-ups to new levels, to the teenagers in Europe flagging off the street signs, many with the affection for fitness have found a place to call home in calisthenics.  So what if we didn’t throw the winning touchdown at the big high school game?  We may have had different introductions to exercise, but we’re proud of who we are.  And we train hard.

Coney Island, in deepest South Brooklyn, is the stomping ground of some of the illest calisthenics practitioners on the planet.  Historically it was the home to strongmen, acrobats, and freaks of nature.  Those guys were no joke.  I can do a human flag, but I can’t bend nails!


One need look no further than the pull-up bars on the beach, the side show by the seashore, or the upcoming strongman contest, to see inhuman feats of strength still being performed to this day.  Boardwalk history repeats itself as these modern marvels echo the death defying showmen of yesteryear.

They never fit in anywhere either.

C.I. is iconic; some would say magical.  Even Coach Wade shows his love with a shout out to Joey Chestnut in his Convict Conditioning Ultimate Bodyweight Training Log.  As the new season begins after a devastating year, I decided to include a clip that pays tribute to my favorite gym in the sand.  Here’s some extreme bodyweight training, served up with a little extra mustard!


About Danny Kavadlo: 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:

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  • Paul John Wade

    Bring us your outcasts! Your individualists! Go Coney Island!!
    You know, you are absolutely right–bodyweight fits so many different types of people; it’s not excusive at all. Maybe it’s coz you need virtually nothing? Maybe coz bodyweight doesn’t easily lend itself to competition or entertainment. It’s about what it is!
    Well done Danny. Great article, great video!

  • Amber Lee

    My great uncle was a strong man in a vaudeville act, and while I didn’t get to meet him, I’m still trying to get the pictures that are somewhere in my grandmothers house of him, and (in the first place I ever saw one) a kettlebell. I still think seeing those pictures at a very big (and awkward) 8 years old influenced my life in the direction it has gone 🙂

    • That’s awesome Amber! I’ve seen a lot of kettlebells in strongman photos. Ha, I’ll bet you were indeed influenced as an 8 year old. That’s a good thing right? The kid in the video who comes in and out of the shots is my six year old. His friend is in the sideshow as the “World’s Youngest Snake Charmer.” They’ll both turn out fine (I hope).

  • robA

    I love that. Taking your fitness to where you live and breathe!

    • Thanks Rob. That’s a big part of what we do. Because we require so little in terms of equipment and location we train anywhere and everywhere. Thanks for the comment!

  • Danny, thanks for touching on the fact that not all of us are socially accepted “stick and ball”
    athletes, but have the desire and work ethic to attain levels of high physical achievements. Just last week I was asked if I played sports in high school. “Sure”, I said. “Motocross”. Blank stare; conversation over. Well, without having a bike right now, bodyweight and KB drills come damn close to that experience, and if I want to get closer, there’s the Cyclone.

    • I hear ya Marc. That’s a funny story. I sucked at traditional sports in high school. Not everyone chooses the same path. Make sure you ride the last car on the cyclone. Rock on!

  • Danny,
    I like that muscle up variation in the beginning. Any tips on training the transition between a pull-up to the muscle up, aside from just going for it?

    • Hey Scott,
      We’ll get into much more explicit detail at the PCC workshop but here’s a few quick pointers: First, grab the bar with as much of an exaggerated hook grip as you can, similar to a “false grip” in gymnastics. It eases the transition from pull-up to dip. Next think about pulling the bar LOWER than you would on a pull-up. Try to pull the bar toward your belly rather than your sternum. Last, practice EXPLOSIVENESS. Try to get over the bar. But these are just words… the best thing is to get out there and try it. Good luck!

  • Tom Gapic

    Awesome vid! Captured that circus feel with a punch!

    • Right on! Thanks Tom. That’s my favorite vid to date… i just love the energy of the surroundings and all the people.

  • Beth Andrews

    Love video and article..” Diversity is a beautiful thing”.:)

    • Thanks Beth. The diversity of the people involved really is one of the things I love most about the calisthenics movement.

  • Aleks Salkin

    Who wants to be normal? I prefer to let my freak flag fly! Calisthenics all the way!

  • Are you going to be demonstrating some of these things at the PCC workshop? It’s coming up, right?

    • Oh yeah! The workshop will be incredible. Welcome on board Rose!

  • Paul John Wade

    Isn’t it great that we are getting all the interesting, smart people behind this movement?!

    I LOVE this!!

  • Thanks for all the comments feedback. At the end of the day, it’s a story about misfits. Outcasts. But here we are stronger than before and still growing stronger every day. Why be mainstream anyway?

  • Right on. Hannibal is the man! He’s been inspiring for years.

  • Syed Saheeb Ahmed

    Whose music was that in the video?? Epic video. Ahh! I haven’t been proactive in trying to find misfits of this sort 🙁 How do I go about??

    • dannykavadlo

      Hi Syed,
      Sorry for the late reply. I just saw your comment now. The music is Lordz Of Brooklyn. This song was on the Soundtrack for the Motion Picture “Gravesend” (released on Island records in the late 90’s). Fun fact: Although the Lordz usually used sampled beats and music, this particular track featured LIVE musicians, including Danny Kavadlo on drums. Haha… back in the day.

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