In 2013 Dragon Door launches the definitive bodyweight certification. Enquiring minds want to know some things about this revolutionary project—dubbed the Progressive Calisthenics Certification (PCC). In the days since John Du Cane announced the cert, I have been deluged with questions from my Convict Conditioning students.
Here are some answers.
Q: Why bring out the PCC now?
A: I can sum that up in two words—Al Kavadlo. When Convict Conditioning first became a runaway best-seller, I was approached by a number of people who wanted to put together seminars or workshops based on the kind of traditional bodyweight strength methods I learned in prison. For a long time, I didn’t believe that anything like this could happen. I didn’t believe I could find a Lead Instructor with the required combination of energy, ability, and personality, plus the encyclopedic knowledge of progressive bodyweight training needed to get the job done right.
Everything changed when I worked with Al on Convict Conditioning 2. I quickly realized that this kid was much more than an exceptional athlete—he was bona fide genius in the bodyweight field. Despite more than 30 years experience seriously studying strength calisthenics, I have still learned a lot from Al since meeting him. Believe me when I say that there is nobody on the planet I trust more with this certification than Al Kavadlo. If I didn’t believe in Al 110%, I would not have put my name to this.In many ways, PCC is as much Al’s baby as it is mine—maybe more. The system represents an evolved fusion of Convict Conditioning progressive principles, plus Al’s new-school “urban” bodyweight strength methods. The result is a totally unique system—something lethally effective and completely exclusive that just cannot be found anywhere else.
Q. Will the material in the cert be exactly the same as in the Convict Conditioning book? (e.g., the “Big Six”, the same progressions, etc?)
A. The PCC is based on the essential philosophy of Convict Conditioning, but incorporates many techniques not included in the book. At the cert you will be taught proper form and progressions for mastering advanced new exercises such as muscle-ups and the human flag. Convict Conditioning focused largely on moving techniques, but the PCC curriculum also covers static techniques (such as floor holds, L-holds) as well as levers (elbow levers, the back lever, the front lever). Those athletes familiar with CC will be ahead of the pack, but they will also gain a huge amount of new, advanced information from this cert. The PCC syllabus is incredibly comprehensive and expansive. Expect bleeding-edge exercises, new approaches, next-gen thinking.
Super designer Derek Brigham made the PCC shield six-sided: to reflect the importance of the “Big Six.”
Despite the fresh content, rest assured that loyal CCers—hooked on the Big Six—will not be disappointed. These time-tested “old school” movements will form a serious part of the PCC. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Q. Why is PCC a “bodyweight only” cert? What’s so wrong with barbells and kettlebells and other types of equipment?
A. Nothing. The PCC is not intended to denigrate or devalue other training methods for a single second. The PCC Instructors have all trained using weights and related exercise tools, and will continue to coach others in the proper use and value of barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells.
The PCC curriculum has been painstakingly field-stripped by Dragon Door specialists to be completely complimentary and synergistic with all other training approaches and styles. For example, many PCC participants will wish to utilize or teach bodyweight strength techniques alongside barbell or kettlebell training. That’s cool. Strength and conditioning expertise is about increasing the number of tools at your disposal—just think of PCC as the ultimate, state-of-the-art bodyweight toolbox.
Bodyweight strength is the basis of physical mastery.
Q. Is PCC certification just for professionals and bodyweight fanatics, or can anyone participate?
A. The cert is for everyone and anyone with the fire in their belly to take on the challenge. Ultimately, PCC is about learning to move the body with maximum power, control and efficiency. This means that the PCC will be a valuable learning curve for all coaches and athletes who need to master strong movements. This includes:
- martial artists
- combat athletes
- track and field athletes
- parkour enthusiasts
- grip aficionados
…hell, even dancers. If you need strength, muscular control, or if you move for your sport (who doesn’t?!) then this cert will take you to the next level.
On the other hand, if you aren’t devoted to a specific sport, but you just want a life-changing challenge that’ll get you in the best shape of your entire existence, then signing up for the PCC is one of the smartest things you could ever do.
Q. Paulie, got any tips on getting ready for the three-day PCC cert?
A. I got your back, Jack. There are many roads to PCC—you can get ready using lotsa different methods, various programs, and so on. But as a general “shotgun” guide for those preparing, I would give you these three tasty shots of advice:
1. Focus on the basics. This means pushups, pullups and squats. Lots of ‘em! Forget fancier moves for now and keep these three central to your workouts. These three will go a long way to strengthening your entire body. Build up your strength, and get plenty of reps under your belt in the months leading up to the cert. The workshop will feature handstands, so save some time for your inverse training too—handstand pushups, handstand holds, etc. For inverse training like this, Raising the Bar (chapter six) is easily the best blueprint.
2. Don’t neglect your midsection. Practically all bodyweight work stresses the “core”, so to survive—to excel—at the cert, your waist needs to be strong as hell. This means bridging for the spinal muscles, at least twice a week. (Anyone who doesn’t like bridges, doesn’t like home cookin’.) For the front of the midsection sit-ups are okay, but you’re better off working on exercises that raise that ass and those tootsies off the ground—L-holds, hanging knee raises and leg raises will get the job done. The workshop also features an in-depth tutorial on the human flag, so working the sides of your waist as preparation is a smart idea. Begin working with the flag progressions in Convict Conditioning 2. Just get some work in for conditioning; you don’t need to become an expert—that’s what the cert is for!
3. Pump up the volume. Building great strength doesn’t require lots of volume, but you do need volume if you want to build endurance and recovery ability. The cert involves three long days of constant training. If your body isn’t ready for that workload, you will be too sore and stiff on day two to get outta bed—let alone ace The Century on day three. So prepare those muscles for tackling extra work. My advice would be to pick just two workouts per week and begin building in more sets. Start by trying to double your usual sets (your reps per set can drop a little). Then—when the soreness eases—triple them. Then quadruple the sets. You don’t need to do this forever (two or three months is enough) but you sure will be grateful for this advice on the day of the cert, soldier. I would also advise folks to take two or three days rest before the cert hits, to ensure they are rested up and supercharged.
Q. Any tips for taking on “The Century”?
A. Yeah. First up—don’t be afraid of The Century, studs and studettes. Yes, this challenge will seem impossible to the average coach potato, but there is no reason why a fairly strong, reasonably well-conditioned athlete should not be able to dominate The Century. You just have take the time for correct preparation, and put the necessary work in.
All I would point out to prospective PCCs is this: set the bar high during your own training. If you can only just manage The Century under normal circumstances—if it represents a maximum effort for you—there is no goddam way you are gonna be able to do it after three days of exhausting training and study! Please understand this ahead of time—you do not wanna be learning this on the day. Set aside some time for performing The Century during your training week, and build up your numbers until The Century is easily attainable.
For total dominance, apply the “50%+” rule to The Century.The actual math will depend on each individual, but the “50%+” rule is a pretty good rule of thumb: if you want to destroy The Century at the cert, you should be able to do at least 50% more than The Century requires during your regular training. That’s right, sucker! I mean you should be shooting for 60 full squats, 45 full pushups (kneeling pushups for female athletes), 30 hanging knee raises, and 15 pullups (Australian pullups, for the females)—all in one pulse-pounding, muscle-burning shot.Sound tough? Sure. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. But in reality, not everyone will have what it takes—mentally and physically—to attain a certified PCC rank. Like the man once said: many are called, but few are chosen. As to who those “few” will be…?
I believe in ya, kid.