The Bodyweight Revolution

by Paul "Coach" Wade on April 15, 2014

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Al and Danny Kavadlo

The Kavadlo brothers are the face of
the Dragon Door bodyweight revolution!

If you have been keeping track of the fitness world over the last five years, you have definitely heard the term bodyweight revolution used by writers and teachers.

Lots of folks have used this term, but few—if any—have defined it.

To me, if there is a common theme behind the modern bodyweight strength revolution, it’s this:

Cutting edge athletes and coaches are starting to break down the distinction between bodyweight training and externally-weighted methods for adding strength and muscle mass.

What does that mean?

Well, up till fairly recently, the fitness “status quo” treated bodyweight training and, say, weight-training very differently. Weight-training was done to get ya big and strong as possible. To achieve this, you were supposed to follow three basic rules:

  1. Train hard for strength and mass. (A given. No pain, no gain, bitches!)
  2. Be progressive. (The goal is always: add weight to the bar!)
  3. Focus on load, not reps. (Folks will ask: how much can you bench? Not; how many reps?)

Fairly simple, huh?

And it worked, too. For the last fifty or so years, barbells and dumbbells have been the “go-to” method for bodybuilders and strength trainers alike. Some coaches and exercise ideologists have gotten so wrapped up in the romance of the iron, that they have told us that these tools are the only way to maximize muscle and power. (This is horseshit, but you know that already, right?)

Compare this model with bodyweight training. Over the last forty-plus years, personal trainers, writers and fitness coaches have been force-feeding the world with a philosophy of bodyweight training which is built on the following three principles:

  1. Train moderately for skill or conditioning. (e.g., soccer drills, circuit training)
  2. You can’t be progressive with load. (Sure, you can add weight to pullups, but then you are weight-training, right?)
  3. Build to high reps. (How many pushups can you do?)

Notice something? The bodyweight training principles are pretty much the diametric opposite of the weight-training principles! Why? Because it was figured that there was no point in treating calisthenics like a PROPER strength and muscle discipline, coz there was no way to make the load progressive. For this reason, bodyweight training ceased to be viewed as a power and strength method. It became relegated to a “fitness” method, or for a warm-up, prior to the weights. Worse still, it was viewed as a means for “light toning”. (Puke now, ye who have the buckets readied.)

Recent conditioning icons have shattered this illusion, and are actually bringing intelligent athletes round to the notion that you can break any bodyweight exercise into progressive chunks—all the way from easy rehab work, up to the hardest strength exercises know to mankind. I’m talking about revolutionary books like Al Kavadlo’s Pushing the Limits! and Raising the Bar; Brooks Kubik’s wonderful Dinosaur Bodyweight Training; and Pavel’s breakthrough Naked Warrior.

Bodyweight can’t build total-body strength? Give me a break!

Bodyweight can’t build total-body strength?
Give me a break!

This is the idea at the very heart of the modern bodyweight revolution. If you can use external weights progressively—in hard sessions designed to build load over time—why can’t you do the same using your body’s own weight? The answer is, of course, you can. You don’t need to treat bodyweight as a gymnastics or sports skill, or as a warm-up, or as a simple endurance discipline. You can do it progressively, just like weight-training. All you need is a solid understanding of the science of bodyweight progressions. And this is why the Progressive Calisthenics Certification (PCC) organization was born, to catalog and disseminate this traditional knowledge to anyone in the fitness world who wants it.

A lot of athletes—specially those already in the bodybuilding or powerlifting world—have taken this breakdown in the barriers between regular lifting and bodyweight training approach real literally. Hell, why not apply regular lifting templates to bodyweight training? This is what many have tried to do; and in this article I’ll discuss some ways of doing it. I’ll also show you a good alternative used by my own teacher, Joe Hartigen.

The CC-Style Template

When it comes to sets and reps, I generally prefer a real simple, old school, American-style double progression. You warm up with some fairly easy exercises, then hit your major technique hard for two-to-three sets. When you hit your rep goal, you move to a tougher exercise. Don’t go to failure—always leave a little energy left in your limbs to complete an exercise safely, or in case you need to defend yourself. That’s the Convict Conditioning approach—and trust me, it works just as well for weight-training as it does for calisthenics. Many old school bodybuilders and strength athletes have used this kind of program with great success—it’s not a million miles away from the sort of training performed by old school strength marvels like Doug Hepburn, or modern-day bodybuilding champions like Dorian Yates.

Dorian Hepburn
Hepburn—like all the ultra-strong old-timers—used bodyweight training alongside his lifting. He also trained infrequently, going all-out with low sets. Sound familiar?

Popular Strength/Mass Templates

Of course, there are other rep/set formats than the CC approach. Dozens. Here’s a roll-call of a few well-known ones:

  • The 5×5 system
  • Pyramid training
  • Ladders
  • Heavy singles

All of these popular weight-training approaches can be used with bodyweight—in fact, they are being used right now. But no method is perfect, and there are problems when applying these methods.

Using singles is a good example. A heavy singles workout might consist of, say 10 sets of 1 rep, using 85% of your max. This is pretty easy to accomplish if you are working with your bench press; but it’s a lot tougher to translate it to your bodyweight pushups. For a start, how do you define “85%” of effort accurately? Which pushup progression do you select? With the bench press, you can add a tiny increment, maybe 2lbs to the bar every so often. How do you add such microscopic increments to your pushup form? How do you maintain this system, long-term with such fuzzy variables? You are kinda pissing in the wind here.

A bigger problem with most training systems is that they waste the athlete’s precious energy. A really great rule of thumb in muscle and strength work is that the degree to which your body adapts is proportionate to the stress you put it through. But what athletes constantly forget is that the muscle-building and strength stimulus is based on your best set, it’s not spread over your other sets! As I’ve said elsewhere:

Paul_Blog4To put that shit simply, if you want to get diesel, you need to do a lot of work in a single, relatively brief set. Your peak set! Trouble is, a lot of athletes are in the habit of exhausting themselves before they reach that peak set.

Bodybuilding is possibly to blame for this. Back in the seventies and eighties, it was all about “pyramiding”; you would typically warm up with 15, 12, 10 and 8 reps before knocking out a few peak sets of 6-8—then you would reverse the process. (You go up in weight, then down, hence the term “pyramid”.) The problem with this was that by the time you had done the first four sets you were too shot to do very much in your peak sets! Then you would repeat all those lighter, higher-rep sets again, just adding more volume to eat into an already overloaded recovery system.

The same problem is true of the popular “ladders” method of training. With ladders, you start with one rep—say, a pullup—then take a short break, and do two pullups. Break, then three. All the way up to your peak set, of, say, five reps. Then you take a short breather, do four reps, then break, then three, and so on down to one rep. See the problem with this? If your peak/best set here is the five rep set, you will have already done TEN reps of that exercise before you reach it! If the five reps really represent your best, then doing ten reps of the same beforehand is definitely going to adversely affect your performance in the five. In essence, ladders are a good way of doing a lot of work, but a pretty imperfect way of doing high quality sets.

5×5 is a more traditional method—it was used by Arnold’s hero, Reg Park, back in the fifties.

Big Reg Park

Bodyweight back work: Big Reg Park
rocking some behind-the-neck pullups.

Park’s method was to use two warm-up sets of five, then three sets of five with the heaviest weight you can handle for a particular exercise. Once you can hit the 3×5, you go up in weight.

It’s a simple (and pretty effective) idea. The problem—in terms of hitting one great, “peak” set—is that it makes you hold yourself back. You are inevitably (even if only subconsciously) holding yourself back from giving your all on the first hard set, in order to get the five reps on the final two sets. You need to do this, because if you really gave your all grinding out five reps on the first heavy set, you would be pretty unlikely to be able to repeat that twice. So with 5×5 you never have the motivation to really give your all and hit that one peak set.

Enter the Mentor: Joe Hartigen

One template which doesn’t contain any of these problems was taught to me in the 1980’s by my mentor, Joe Hartigen. Joe was a bona-fide calisthenics master, and although he was in his seventies when I met him, he was much more powerful than me, and remained incredibly strong in pulling movements right up to the final year of his life. Joe had forgotten more about training methods and the history of physical culture than I will ever know, and I learned virtually all the progressions in Convict Conditioning from him.

Despite the fact that Joe was an icon to me—and several others in San Quentin—we didn’t train in exactly the same way. We had different backgrounds, for one thing. I came from a “new school” calisthenics approach, one based on building up high reps in squats, sit-ups, pullups and (especially) pushups. In fact I would often return to these high-rep workouts—often ultra-endurance bodyweight work—throughout my time inside, particularly in Angola. (Think “thousand pushup days” and you got the idea.)

Joe was very much a man who favored lower, more intense, higher quality reps. He typically shook his head when he looked at my training journals, and—likewise—I must admit that when I was younger and dumber, I possibly looked down on his methods as a bit old-fashioned. Like a cool photograph, but colored in sepia. In later years, I realized he was right on the money, and although I modified my own training to better match his thinking, our workout styles were never quite the same.

The Hartigen Method

When it came to sets and reps, Joe had a pretty fixed method for working out. I’ve never heard a name for this scheme, so I’m gonna call it The Hartigen Method (although there’s no way he was the first to use it). This approach is simple to apply, allows for the use of real hard exercises, and is progressive—so I thought I’d put it out there for any ex-lifters or strength athletes looking for a new way to work with bodyweight exercises.

Here’s how it works:

1. Pick the hardest exercise you can do for 5 reps in good form.

2. Warm up, and perform a 5 rep set.

3. Rest approximately 1 minute. Shake your muscles loose as you rest.

4. Perform 4 reps of the same exercise.

5. Rest approximately 1 minute. Shake your muscles loose as you rest.

6. Perform 3 reps of the same exercise.

7. Repeat this procedure until you have performed a single rep.

That’s it! In essence, Joe picked an exercise he could do five good, strict reps with, and did 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

It’s that simple. Joe’s theory was that if you could bust out five reps of an exercise you were working on, then after a minute’s rest, you should be able to do four reps. After another minute, you should be able to do three, and so on. Joe felt this rep scheme offered low reps for strength and muscle, but also enough reps—fifteen total—to give an athlete plenty of hard practice on an exercise, but without burning out.

Plus, using this method you can hit an exercise hard in under ten minutes. Even if you were working with four exercises in a workout (two or three would be better!) you could be done in half an hour. Joe’s method works great with weights, too—kettlebell presses and rows would be a wonderful superset, if you’re that way inclined. (5 presses, a minute’s rest, 5 rows, a minute’s rest, 4 presses, etc.) You could superset pushup and pullup exercises the same way.

Making progress
Progression couldn’t be simpler with this method. When you can do all 15 reps—that is, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1—for three workouts in a row, you move to a slightly harder version of the exercise. As with all bodyweight strength, having an extensive toolbox of progressions is key to moving forward; it’s also why the PCC Instructors’ Manual includes hundreds of progressive exercises.

There will be times you don’t get 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. You may only get 5, 3, 2, 1, 1. That’s fine, and to be embraced. When you don’t get the full 15, use these principles to move forward:

Try to add a rep (or two) next time; shoot for 5, 4, 2, 1, 1, then 5, 4, 3, 1, 1, and so on.

Whatever you get, always push yourself hard on the first set—that’s your peak set.

Adding reps on the earlier sets is more valuable than adding reps on the final sets.

Never do more reps than you are aiming for; stick with 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Aim to perform ALL five sets, even if those sets are very low rep; e.g., 3, 2, 1, 1, 1.

Exercises, post-set work and warm-ups

Joe often performed more exercises than I stuck to. Most people today would probably call his routine imbalanced. In particular, he loved hanging exercises, and would do all kinds of weird variations of pullups, leg raises, levers, holds and hangs. Strangely, despite being such an aficionado of hanging work, he would typically do only three exercises for the rest of his body—one-leg squats, flat one-arm pushups, and some kind of inversion; handstands, but often headstands (I rarely saw him do inverse pressing, these were typically static). I have watched Joe do bridges, and do them easily, but like the man himself, these were an exception rather than a rule.

Whatever his last exercise of the session was, Joe would often make his very final set harder by completing a ten second dynamic-tension isometric at the top position of that very last rep. He’d follow this with a slow negative of about ten seconds. He claimed that this little “trick” for finishing his workout told his body that the session was over, and increased his hormonal profile. I’m not sure that’s true, but if Joe’s physique—at over seven decades—was testament, then he knew what he was talking about.

Al Kavadlo Push-Up

No matter what exercise you finish with,
you can squeeze it at the top for an isometric benefit.

What about a warm-up? Interestingly—like Reg Park—Joe never went over five reps on his warm-up sets. He would typically do two or three warm-up sets of five reps, and he always applied Charles Atlas-style dynamic tension during his warm-ups. If he was doing an exercise like one-arm pullups, he would perform an exercise about half as tough on his warm-ups—two-arm pullups. Always five reps. Why not more? Joe felt that you should always train to meet your goals. His peak sets were always five reps, so he thought if he did more in his warm-ups, his body would get confused and start adapting to higher reps instead! I’m not certain I agree with that, but it gives you some food for thought, eh?

I often advocate using progressive exercises when warming up—maybe start with a real easy exercise for high reps, then follow with a slightly harder exercise for less reps. But Joe only ever used one exercise technique in his warm-ups, no matter how many warm-up sets he did. I used to wonder why, for example, he’d perform two sets of regular pullups before his one-arm work; why not one set of regular two-arms, then something harder, like assisted pullups? I asked him once. Because I can make the two-arms as hard as assisted pullups, dumbass! he replied. And it was true. His capacity to tense his muscles during training—dynamic tension—was so profound, he could make seemingly easy exercises as seem as hard as advanced ones. He was able to adjust the intensity of any exercise by 100% or 1%, just using the power of his mind.

That was how profound his body wisdom was. Not many athletes could aspire to this level, although it’s possible with time and patience. I still admire the man to this day!

Lights Out!

Well, that’s it from me. Thanks again for reading—it means a lot to this dopey fella that you guys and gals still take the time to read my weathered musings. I hope this article has given you a new idea to play with. Looking for a lower-rep strength and mass routine that fits well with bodyweight? Give The Hartigen Method a try…tonight!

Oh, and if you liked hearing about Joe’s attitude to training, check this article out. I wrote it for my good buddy Neil Bednar.

You could do a lot worse than modeling your training around old Joe’s philosophy. That brother was something else!


Paul “Coach” Wade is the author of five Convict Conditioning DVD/manual programs. Click here for more information about Paul Wade, and here for more information on Convict Conditioning DVD’s and books available for purchase from the publisher.

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  • Ryan

    Coach, As always, great stuff. Been doing CC for 11 months and continue to make progress. How often did Joe work each movement? thanks!

    • You the man, Ryan! Appreciate the kind feedback. It means a lot to me that you are still making progress–that really is the name of the game. So many guys rush to stay at the same level they have been in years, so you are doin something very RIGHT!

      That’s a really good question about frequency. I was gonna talk more about it in the article, but I went over ten pages and had to quit, so kept it all about sets n reps. Joe typically worked more than I would advise–three times per week, starting with hanging work (up to five exercises or so, but varying techniques from workout to workout) then pushups, then squats (which he rarely used 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 on).

      On his “off” days he would typically do some light stuff, like muscle control (Maxalding/Dynamic Tension), some stuff we would today call “mobility”, deep breathing, and non-taxing inversions, like shoulderstands and handstands. He saved these days for things which (he felt) would AID his muscle recovery, rather than eat into it. He often took weekends, or just Sunday, off completely.

      Hope that answers your question, dude!

      He didn’t work this way ALL the time, but this is fairly typical.

      • Ryan

        Awesome! Thanks for the quick and thorough response. Sounds like Joe’s routine is a little too much volume for me. I will continue to stick to the CC Good behavior routine until I hit some sticking points and then possibly switch over to a lower frequency version of Joe’s routine. Currently on steps 4-5 on most of the big 4 you recommend starting with… love the CC books! I’m planning on sticking with them for a few more years and see where they get me!

        • That mans a lot kid! Wise response, too…there is an old saying, “dance with who brung ya”…to me, it just means that if a training approach is helping you make progress, stick with it!

          I got no doubt you will keep with bodyweight for life. That’s a long time, my man. You will NEED other approaches to your workouts than CC, just to stay sane.

          Maybe in a few years if you are looking for somethin new, you’ll remember old Joe’s method and give it a shot?

          Thanks for the kind words buddy–I’ll take em all!

  • HD25FAN


    When will CC3 come out?

    I can’t wait to see the plyometric progressions that are waiting for us 🙂

    • I’ve hit some snags that have delayed it, and I want to put the finishing touches on the free calisthenics mass ebook we are putting out, but after that CC3 hits the shelves in all its glory! It will definitely be completed in 2014, and I would imagine the big man JDC will put it out soon after!

      Bless ya (and everyone else) for being eager to read it–I won’t let you down. It will be the biggest and most information-packed manual Dragon Door have ever put out, that’s for sure.

      Thanks for the comment, HD25FAN!

  • GREAT STUFF!!!! It’ll be required reading of my clients for sure…. Really like how you’ve spelled out The Hartigen Method, as I’m a huge fan of descending ladders, especially with very difficult, very maximal moves… the balance of quality work, rest, and at the end total reps is incredibly valuable for continued progress. Now… to go work towards that BEST SET 🙂

    • If it gets a thumbs up from the girya girl, then I count it as a win!

      Thanks Adrienne, I can always count on you to really GET the CC philosophy. Nobody gets it like you!

  • Lyle

    Thanks so much coach. I’ve utilized CC since 2009, shortly after your first book was printed. It has given me the strength framework to do all kinds of fun things (e.g. hand balancing, acrobatics, acroyoga) that I would have been otherwise unable to do. I, too look forward to your next book.

    • Lyle brother, that is such a meaningful comment to me, man. The idea that I’ve helped an athlete like you to build calisthenics strength is especially satisfying when that athlete has USED that strength to explore other bodyweight arts. Sounds like you are pickin up a serious range of skills–please don’t forget to pass em on, huh?

      Thanks for the kind words. The new book is comin just for YOU!

  • Leo

    Dear Paul Wade,
    1.I like all your articles. I really enjoyed this one, because of Joe Hartigen and his training methods. I’m also more of a puller than a pusher, partly because of my wrist weakness.
    Fingertip push ups and Hanging Grip work is something I’d love to explore, even although you mentioned I don’t need it. I’m working on step 4 of the pull ups. Is it fine to begin grip work, because I admired big forearms and a hard grip for a long time and I’d like to do rope climbing as well.
    2.I tried out the first step of calf raises too. I want to have strong ankles and feet to be able to jump from higher surfaces like in parkour. I’m approaching the uneven squat soon, so is it okay to include calf and hand training if I really want to?
    3. Will including dips (on parallel bars), with my bent legs on a surface in front of me (like bench dips) aggreviate my wrist pain, I got from the flat palm position on push ups?
    Or will it help because the wrist is in a neutral position?
    But it isn’t as natural as the flat palm position, isn’t it?
    4. If I would include the clutch flag, will it hurt my wrists (because it’s a bit like a one arm elbow lever)?
    5. If I want to include the L-Hold progression into my trifecta workouts, should I do them hanging at first? Because hanging without warming up hurts a bit in my stretched triceps and shoulders.

    • Leo, my boy!

      Let’s see if I can answer those questions–I always enjoy em coming from you. You make me work, kid!

      1. Leo, I’ve told ya in the past you don’t really NEED grip work. But hell, you don’t NEED to play basketball or pick yer ears clean every night! So if you are passionate about it, go for it. Don’t live your life based on what some washed up old bastard like me has to say. YOU are in charge of your life, my man. And who knows? You are just a young kid. In a few years, you may go on to become the greatest bodyweight grip expert in the entire world! Why not? You can tell people how you once had shitty wrists, and calisthenics powered you up!

      2. Same as I said for grip applies to calves, kid. That said, if you REALLY want to strengthen your ankles for parkour, the best way is not calf raises, which are really a bodybuilding exercise. The best way is to build to full one-leg squats using the CC series, and GRADUALLY build in explosive work–hops, dead leaps, tuck jumps, negative jumps (off something) and sprinkle in parkour work itself.

      3. Yes. Did you try the pushups on closed fists, to save the wrists?

      4. Not that likely–clutch flags aren’t all that bad on the wrists.

      5. You CAN do L-holds hanging or grounded–up to you, Leo. As for the triceps stretch, man the fuck up, kid, you will adapt!

      Remember, try not to be paranoid about your wrists, kid. If you are really worried about pain, get them checked by a GOOD medical professional. But I promise ya men with worse wrist joints than you have become bodyweight powerhouses, through gradual, careful, intelligent training. Follow the advice I gave you in former posts, and you WILL get stronger and beat the pain!

      You can do it!

  • Steve! My man!

    Sounds like you are doing real good, my friend. Remember on the pullups, always limit your work with the strong arm to what the weaker arm can do, or your will create a further disparity. Looks like you need access to a “hidden step”. Remember that on this exercise, the higher the assisting arm, the easier the exercise. Try the exercise with your supporting hand OVER the pulling hand. When this gets easy, grab the back of the pulling hand. Then the wrist once again. (In fact, you can take this principle further; to make uneven pullups harder still: grab the forearm and assist; then the elbow; then the bicep. Few coaches know just what an amazing spectrum of techniques you can make from this one exercise. I love em!)

    On the bridges–great work here, too. You need another hidden step or two. I would advise some practice leaning back and touching the wall as low as you can. When this gets tricky, try closing your bridge back onto an uneven surface–steps (behind you, NOT on em!) are a good option, if possible. Use a lower step each time. Finally, try closing back onto something only a foot or so off the floor. Use planks or bricks or a stepped surface. Just be careful man and always use something sturdy.

    The “hidden steps” of traditional progressive calisthenics are really crucial for moving forward when you are stuck on a step, Steve–that’s one of the reasons we did the DVDs, to demo plenty more hidden steps that didn’t fit into the book.

    You said a mouthful there, too–Villa are not in great shape, let’s be honest. On the bright side, I was trying in vain to teach my dog how to roll over and play dead–no luck, but I played him a tivo of that game you played against Crystal Palace on Saturday, and it seemed to do the trick.

    • villafan

      Ha ha, ace coach! That would do it, even if it may be considered animal cruelty to make your poor dog watch villa play. I will put your words into action tomorrow my friend. Many thanks again for the detailed response.

      • Anytime, Steve!

        Keep working hard, bud–as a Villa supporter I know you have a super-high pain threshold!

  • Hey, it’s the Fit Rebel!

    Man, that is a wonderful compliment coming from a trainer with your huge level of knowledge. The truth is, I have been exactly the same, certainly in my 20s and 30s. Over the years I allowed my sets to creep up, my frequency to creep up, then get burned out or a nagging ache, and cut down and start making progress again.

    I’m sure a lot of it is a psychological thing…the mind, eager to improve, keeps pushing forward. More, more, more. But the body has its own ideas.

    Thanks so much for the comment, Matt!

  • nab

    Coach, thanks for the shout-out! I will be taking these great tips into account moving forward. Been meaning to email you lately…will put something together soon.

    • Hey, thanks for reaching out! You know where I am, please keep me appraised of your progress.

      (I am still as thick fingered as ever, if I don’t reply to an email it’s coz it “drops off” the end of the list due to volume, and I missed it. If I ever screw up like this and neglect ya, please just give me a nudge on here and I’ll go find it!)

  • FattyWhale

    Mr. Wade,

    I’ve enjoyed your articles for a while, and I appreciate all the work you do trying to educate others. But if I may, I’d like to share something I’ve discovered.

    I’ve been working for a long time, on trying to understand practically everything that has to do with exercise theory and practice. Now, although I’m still in the testing phase, of my latest experiment, the early results so far, have been extremely encouraging, and I’ve yet to find a hole in the theory behind it.

    Now, for the sake of this format, I’m not going to go real deep explaining everything; but most of the people on here, should already have a good enough understanding, that it shouldn’t be too difficult to grasp.

    One common theme between most exercise programs, have been the way “sets” and “reps” are presented. What I’m about to mention, will turn it all upside down.

    One set, Two reps.

    Not only is that all you need, but anything more is counter-produtive.

    I’m sure this may seem absolutely crazy to some of you, but let me explain why it’s not quite that simple.

    Like with most things, it’s all about the details. If all you saw was: “One set, Two reps.” and did just that, you probably wouldn’t get very much out of it. That’s why details are so important.

    Slow. Fast. This is starting to get closer to what I’m talking about, but it’s still an over-simplification of the main idea.

    The first repetition must be done while in full control; all momentum must be eliminated. You want to “feel” every muscle-fiber lengthening and contracting. The harder it gets, the slower you go. You want to be completely aware of everything your body is doing.

    What this does is, it strengthens the weaknesses in your ROM, it also trains your brain and nervous system, teaching it everything it needs, so you can perfect your form, learn what muscles you need to tense, and it makes you aware of any other weaknesses you may have.

    The reason you only do this once, is because you’re only going to be able to perform at your peak, one time. After that, any other repetitions you preform, could potentially de-train your brain; because any deviation in performance, could result in a second movement-patern signal, which could confuse and slow down the correct signal, hindering performance.

    The only problem with this method is, it neglects the fast-twitch muscle fibers; and since
    those are our strongest, and most powerful muscle fibers we have, neglecting them would be a bad idea.

    So to fix this, the second repetition should be performed as explosively as you can, as long as you maintain complete control. Don’t be afraid of using momentum, as long as the momentum is generated from your muscle-fibers.

    The great thing about this method is, how well the two types of repetitions work together. By preforming the “slower” repetition first, it prepares the movement pattern for optimal performance of the “faster” repetition. It makes it almost impossible to plateau this way, because it’ll prevent you from being able to do more than you should.

    Another great thing is, it allows you to work extremely hard, without taxing yourself too much, which helps you recover more completely, and allows you to work even harder the next time!

    I’ve come up with three levels for this if needed.

    Level 1: The first repetition is preformed the same as the second.

    Level 2: Start to transition the first repetition in the eccentric phase.

    Level 3: Begin adding the concentric phase to the first repetition.

    When you are able to preform “Level 3” with perfect form, begin the next progression at “Level 1.”

    I know there’s a lot here, but I’m trying to only put what’s necessary for the basic idea. So if you have any questions, feel free to ask, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

    Thank you for your time.

    • That sure is a radical program! Not that that’s bad…

      A couple questions:

      1. Is this enough volume to exhaust the muscles? In order for an athlete to go slow with a load, it’d have to be pretty light?

      2. What were you thinking in terms of feedback–how do you quantify the variables?

      3. Is this a weight-training program? Could it be used with bodyweight?

      4. Have you tried this? Any evidence you’re basing it on?

      Hit me up–thanks for the food for thought!

      • FattyWhale

        1. As I’m sure you know, it’s more about TUT (time under tension) than how many repetitions you do. Which is why “static” exercises can work so well. If something’s hard enough, it doesn’t take a lot to exhaust the muscles; but this is more for building strength than for building muscle, so it’s more for the CNS than for the muscles.

        Not as light as you might think. When only one repetition in this manor is necessary, you can really put a lot into it.

        2. and 4. My genetics are not very good for building strength and muscle, so I decided to use this as a positive. I’m able to test theories out on myself, knowing that if it works for me, it’ll work for just about anybody. I’ve done many programs that worked great for other people, but did nothing for me; so I have a better idea of whether it’s the program, or the person that’s getting results.

        I started doing this after a pinched a nerve in my neck, which I lost about 40% of the strength in my right arm; causing me to not only lose the ability to do a one-arm push-up (among many other things), but I couldn’t even perform normal push-ups very easily.

        Eventually I not only got my strength back, but I was soon doing things I couldn’t do before. Not only that, but I was feeling much better as well; with much more energy than I had before.

        I used to always push myself as far as I could (sometimes too far). But now, with this method, I can still go all out, without completely exhausting myself.

        3. While it could certainly be applied to a weight-training program, I personally use it for mostly bodyweight training.

        I don’t know if that completely answers all your questions, but I hope it helps.

        • Sounds pretty incredible–I’m glad you got the strength back after your injury. Calisthenics, baby!

          If you really want to promote your method–and you got photos (training, before and after, etc) write up a blog post and we’ll post it.

          • FattyWhale

            Unfortunately, I’ve never been big on taking photos of myself. 😛

            I’m more about “go” than “show,” so it’s not something I’ve found to be very useful. Besides, like a said before, with my genetics, I’m not going to wow anyone, because the “before” and “after” would be difficult to distinguish.

            But there’s no denying that when I’m able to do something I couldn’t before, or my performance improves greatly on something I was struggling with, that I’m getting results.

            When I did my first dead-hang, one-arm chin-up, I didn’t need a picture to tell me I had gotten stronger, it was kind of obvious. 😉

          • Brother, that is an attitude that does my heart good!

            As does making a new buddy, who is a fellow one-armer. The offer stands though, big man. Whatever you decide, please stick around this community, love your ideas man.

          • FattyWhale

            I’m humbled by your offer. But to be honest with you, I’m not sure how to go about doing that. I’ve never written a blog post before, so I wouldn’t know where to begin.

          • If a person can write a thoughtful blog comment that is easy to understand and is generally correct grammar and spelling wise (like your comments above), they can write an article. 🙂

          • FattyWhale

            I meant, more along the lines of general formatting. I don’t know what gets added after I submit it (or where/how I’m supposed to submit it), or exactly what all I’m supposed to include with it.

            The writing part, that I can do. 😉

          • Write to Dragon Door via the contact page at Dragon, leave yer email address and tell them Coach sent ya.

            They will email me your message, and I will holler back from my personal email. From there, if you write somethin that gets okayed by the head of PCC, Mr Al Kavadlo…we publish the sucka here!

          • FattyWhale

            Okay, I sent it.

            Thank you for being patient with me. 🙂

          • When it comes thru to me I will email ya, kid. They get hundreds of emails, so you will have to be patient now, but we will hook up, I promise.


          • FattyWhale

            Fortunately, being patient is not a problem for me. 🙂 Besides, right now I have a couple of other projects that are taking most of my free time. But I’ll try to get something done in a few weeks.

            I usually don’t try to do something fast, I try to do it right.

          • Sounds like my love life.

            These days.

  • Great article as always coach, will give the Hartigen Method a try sometime. My own progress has come on leaps and bounds since we last spoke, I also attended the PCC in Melbourne in February and did my first ever (jump assisted) one arm pullup. Haven’t quite been able to recreate it since as Danny suggested might happen but I’m sticking to my training plan with the one arm work and am improving well.

    As others have said, am really looking forward to CC3 hitting the shelves, have started building quite a bit of explosive work into my training and will be very interested to see what you have to write on the subject.

    • Hey David, great to hear from you! Wow man, sounds like you are heading into the elite at light speed–big credit to you for your achievements!

      Also great to hear that you have joined the true hardcore bodyweight army by attending a formal PCC. When you gonna share all this amazing knowledge and write a post for the community? They wanna hear how you are doing all this!

      Kudos again!

      • Thank you for your kind words coach, but I’d say I’m far from the elite, especially after seeing the Kavadlos in action, always more strength to be gained.

        Yes I have considered sending a post through if it would be of interest, I really enjoy writing about calisthenics and have my own blog. I don’t have the greatest writing skills in the world but I know all the progressions I took (and am still taking) with my one arm pullup training, so if you think this would make a good post then I’ll get to work on it.

        • Spike

          Hey David, this is unrelated but I read from one of your older comments on this blog that you managed to gain 10kg from doing CC, with a starting weight of 60kg.

          I’m currently struggling to gain weight at 60kg and wonder if you mind sharing your training regime (how often did you train, and how many reps/sets did you do?) as well as your diet plan in order to achieve mass gain?

          Thanks a lot!

          • Hi mate, I replied to this last night but it seems to have disappeared.

            Yeah, before I started training Convict Conditioning I was just under 60kg. My bodyweight fluctuates a lot but I’m usually between 65-70kg now, depending on how much running I’m doing and the time of the day. Despite this gain in mass, my running has actually got a lot better and I’m way less injury-proned than I used to be.

            As for actual training, I followed Convict Conditioning strictly for a year. Splitting it into upper body (pushups, pullups and handstands) and legs, bridges and leg raises. I trained this 3-4 times a week depending on how fresh I was. I got the best results in terms of mass gain in this period, that may be down to higher reps but also diminishing returns, which may have limited my gains since.

            These days I rarely go over 5 reps for my sets as my aim is strength over size, but some of the guys I train are aiming for mass so they train in the 10-15 rep range, with their final set training to fail. So far this seems to be working for them. As for the number of sets, my training is split into 2 different groups of sets, the hard sets in which I go for the hardest possible exercise I can achieve with a range of 2 sets of 5 (progress if I reach 5 in the first set). Then I have my working sets which I train 4 sets of 5, the guys training for mass only do 2 sets here.

            As for nutrition, different diets work for different people but I’ve found personally that carbs don’t do anything for me in terms of gaining mass. When I used to just run, I ate upward of 3000 calories a day but 70% carbs and I still didn’t gain any weight. Since I started to eat a lot more good quality meat, my gains have been much better. By good quality I don’t mean low fat, there’s lots of nutrition to be had from the fat in meat. I mean free-range grass fed. I eat 3 square meals a day but do snack whenever I’m hungry on nuts, yoghurt, fruit etc. Despite these gains my bodyfat has actually gone down. I’m not saying I don’t eat carbs, you need them for energy but I make sure that I eat plenty of protein and fat too. I used to take protein shakes but saw absolutely no difference when I had a 3 week period off them so haven’t taken them since.

            Hope this helps, give me a shout if you have any more questions.


        • Brother, there’s tons of great stuff on your site, I have been impressed by it before…in fact it has more solid progressions and technical tips than 90% of the “hardcore” calisthenics sites out there. Your vids are also excellent, in my opinion. You don;t give yourself enough credit, kid.

          I’m sure folks would love to hear your ideas on:

          -combining running and calisthenics
          -explosive work and box jumps
          -advanced pullups

          And so on. If you really wanna submit something, write Dragon Door at their contact page and tell em Coach sent ya. I’ll give em a heads up beforehand and they’ll send it to me.

          • Everything I’ve achieved in calisthenics, the reason I take classes with my mates for fun and why I have that blog is because I read Convict Conditioning just over 2 years ago. Calisthenics has changed my life, to see you’ve made my day reading that would be an understatement. Thanks mate.

            I’ll see if I can take a couple of videos this week and get a post written up on my progressions towards the one arm pullup.

          • Hi Coach, have contacted Dragon Door with my details, would like to bounce some ideas off you before I send a post through. Cheers

  • ozynigma

    Hi Coach,

    I am a new fan from the land down under. I have been on CC for a couple of months and making great progress on some exercises (like abdominals) but really stuck on the horizontal pulls. I have tried making some of my own progressions by bending the knees to reduce the lever length and adding a swiss ball underneath to reduce it to the top half of a horizontal pull.

    There seems to be a big difference between the 5,4,3,2,1 philosophy and the high reps required in the early stages of CC. I am guessing when you are stuck you could switch approaches to breakthrough?

    I was also thinking of adding 3 point dumb bell bench rows to my program until I build enough strength to do the horizontal pulls. If I did that would the 5,4,3,2,1 philosophy be a good way to go? I really need to double the weight I can row with a single arm to get to the kind of strength that will handle my (current) body weight.

    • Another Aussie! You dudes are really open to calisthenics, welcome to the party man!

      Ah, horizontal pulls. Most guys have a serious lack of strength and stability in the rear shoulder–this is true for athletes and laymen too. That’s why I advise all my students to invest a chunk of time (and pain) hitting horizontal work hard. If you don’t, you WILL pay for it later in pain and lopsided development.

      Onto your great questions. For a start, you shouldn’t switch to a lower rep approach. Why would your body learn to break thru and achieve the high reps if you are giving it a diet of low reps? Your training should be specific to your goals. It MUST be!

      On this note, you should not switch to dumbbells either. Dumbbell training is not the way to get good at horizontal pulls. Horizontal pulls are the best way to get good at horizontal pulls.

      I DO have some advice on horizontal pulls–I put it in the Super FAQ and I really think it would help ya. Sign up for it here (it’s free):

      Please keep me posted and hit me up with any more questions. You got this, Aussie buddy.

  • Owsky

    Hi Coach. Thanks for the great article! Really enjoy delving into the history of this stuff. Please keep ’em coming.

    May I ask an unrelated question? How does one deepen the arch in bridging work (steps 3 and above)? Myself and others often seem to have a lot of the strain focused in the lumbar spine instead of evenly spread out. I thought Angled Bridges would help open up the thoracic spine, but instead found these worse on the lower back than Head Bridges or Full Bridges.


    • Thanks for the kind words, Owsky! Sure you can ask a question and I’ll do my best to answer.

      First, you are not alone in noticing this. Modern humans (even athletes) tend yo use their hips as a hinge. This makes their T-spine immobile and rusty. But it can be cured!

      Time is the first thing–it can take months and months to really build some mobility in this area. If you really want to strengthen and mobilize this area, build to wrestler’s bridges as described in CC2.

      Also–are your sure the T-spine is the problem? If your lower back gets stiff, maybe it could use a warm-up? You could try headstand hyperextensions, followed by some lower back stretches. Gorgeous combo for the lumbar area.

      Thanks again for the comment. Let me know if this helps, bud!

      • Owsky

        Thanks Coach – you made my day!

        I’ll get started on wrestler’s bridges. I’m not sure I can do headstand hyperextensions though. I’ll come up with something.

        Cheers and best wishes from Downunder!

        • You made mine! Keep me posted bud!!

  • Giovan Maria Catalan Belmonte

    Well, finally some beef for us after some months. Grazie. Ciao

    • I’m all about the beef, Giovan!

      Thanks for the comment, plenty of beef lined up over the next few months. Stay tuned my friend.

  • A R

    Hello Coach.
    Nice to read something written by you; it’s definitely food for thought. It’s been a while since the last piece. (And it’s nice to see the language toned down too).
    I’m still stuck with the hip-bend/shoulder twist one arm push up. I can’t figure out where the hand should be placed and how much to twist. I can get two sets of sixteen doing it on my knees, but doing it on my feet is a different ballgame. Any chance of a detailed form description?
    Also, in the Closing Bridges, how one the decent be slowed down so that the hands don’t hit the flood hard? I find the doing the entire motion fairly quickly makes it easier; trying it slowly makes my back lock up. I also seem to be coming up onto my toes at the bottom.
    Any thoughts?
    Thank you for your time my friend. When is CC3 and the other e-book due? May God reward you for your contributions.

    • AR–what an awesome comment, thank you for making my day!

      Great questions too–seems like you are pretty advanced, kudos on your progress. It’s impossible to give a real detailed description of the pushup, but I can give you a tip–try negatives with a minimal twist first. Once you have mastered controlled negatives, then you have the form you will need for the positives–if you are strong enough.

      On the bridges–don’t hurt your wrists, please! You need a hidden step or two. I would advise some practice leaning back and touching the wall as low as you can. When this gets tricky, try closing your bridge back onto an uneven surface–steps (behind you, NOT on em!) are a good option, if possible. Use a lower step each time. Finally, try closing back onto something only a foot or so off the floor. Use planks or bricks or a stepped surface. Remember that cushions (maybe sofa cushions) can also be used for safety. Just be careful man and always use something sturdy.

      CC3 this year my friend–just for you. And the ebook, probably a couple months or so. We’ll keep ya posted right here!

      Have a great day.

      • A R

        Hello Coach.
        Thanks for the excellent tips.
        You know what? I was able to do the one-arm push up. It seems that there wasn’t enough ‘tightness’ in me, so the form was very sloppy. Thanks once again.
        How many reps should I try to work up to before trying to reduce/minimise the twist? Any tips on how that can be done? Is it possible to do it with no twist?
        We’re looking forward to the new books. I hope getting them out is facilitated for you.
        Have a great day too, Coach.

  • joe williams

    Hi Coach,

    Another classic post by yourself, Joe Hartigan sounded like the modern day version of the legendary Milo Of Croton minus the ox . If it is not too much of a problem could you have a look at my current 3 day training routine please (in the vain of Steve Reeves). All exercise are from CC1 and CC2 exclusively.

    Day 1-

    5×30 Full Squats
    4×5 One Leg Squats
    5×20 Double Leg Calf Raises Off The Floor (Bent Leg).
    2×10 Short Bridges
    4×5 Full Bridges

    Two or three full days rest lots of sleep (8hrs average sleep per night)and three meals a day in between sessions.

    Day 2-

    2×10 Vertical Pulls
    3×10 Horizontal Pulls
    3×10 Close Pull Ups.
    3x30sec One Hand Bar Hang (Both Sides)
    2×15 Flat Straight Leg Raises
    4×5 Hanging Straight Leg Raises
    4×5 Reps of Bent Leg Press Flag.


    1x 20sec Wall Headstand
    1x1min Crowstand
    3×5 Handstand Push Up
    3×10 Kneeling Push Up
    10×20 Full Push Up (Permitting Form is Solid any weak reps I stop immediately)
    2x30sec L-Sit (off a staircase)
    2x20sec Easy Twist Hold
    2x20sec Bridge Hold

    My gains are slight but to counter act my lack of size my pound for pound strength is through the roof. An example of this is done periodically (when the body permits) I can do a one arm one finger pull up on both sides. And also the classic free standing handstand an inch or so off the wall for around 10 to 20 sec daily (taken from Steven Low’s overcoming gravity theory on consolidation training and CC’s progressions up to the full hand stand). I hope I have not waffled to much to you coach its great to hear your information on training (and life) it’s like gold in an age of endless verbal diarrhoea.

    Many Thanks


    • Joe!

      Thanks so much for the comment my friend. Your routine is fairly unique, but it looks sweet to me! I went through it to see what I could add or subtract, but there’s really nothing.

      Judging by your physique and strength levels, you know what you are doing man. Looking awesome!! Please stick around the community my friend, and update me when you can!

      • joe williams

        Thank You Coach,

        The only other addition I would like to add to my current workout would be reflex and dynamic tension exercises to keep myself sharp. Also I forget I include the wrestler bridge and the early stages of the front wrestlers bridge into day 1 of my routine (accompanied by Crowbar-Crowbar on the stereo). Thank you for training gold its the best.


        • Brother–thank YOU.

          You have got old school calisthenics nailed. Just don’t quit, and you can go anywhere, do anything.

  • Marcus


    I’m happier than a kid at Christmas, can’t wait to take Joe’s method for a spin AND there’s a new CC book coming out.

    Dang, it don’t get much better than this =)

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge, you’re like the Rosetta stone of body weight training =)

    • Marcus, you got that right! I am an old relic very few people understand!!

      Seriously man, bless you for the kind words. Joe would be very proud that you were gonna give his method a shot. Let me know how it works for ya!

      • Marcus

        Coach: Yesterday was Pistol Squat practice (I’m getting there!) When using Joe’s method to do a one limbed movement do we follow the same 5 (Left then 5 right), 4 (Left then 4 right), 3, 2, 1 for each leg? After 30 PS negatives I was walking a little funny =)

        Thanks Coach!

        • Remember Marcus, The Hartigen Method should be for techniques you can BARELY do five good reps with, after a warm up. This makes it kinda tricky with negs, coz, how hard are they? It varies on how much control you use!

          As long as you are controlling those negs at the bottom (no crashing), I say go for it–and please let me know how it works, Marcus. Be proud of walking strange!

          You can also use Joe’s method for statics–a five second hold, a four second, and so on. This can be done more frequently than positives and negs, once it doesn’t make you sore.

          • Marcus

            Thanks coach =)

          • Anytime, brother!

  • Kyle

    When does the new CC book come out?

    • CC3 all finished in 2014, Kyle my man. Bless you for the interest, it means a lot!

  • healthiswealth

    More wisdom from “The Calisthenics Master”!!…But Coach
    I was wondering how you felt about intermitten fasting -type diets in particular The Warrior Diet, I know you advocate 3 square meals to gain mass but what are your thoughts on this since it replicates an oldschool method of eating(100,000 years ago to be exact).

    • Thank you kindly, Healthy/Wealthy One!

      I have been asked this question before. In fact, I have some sympathies with intermittent fasting. Just a few years back, everyone in fitness was eating 6-8 times a day as a religion…many bodybuilders were waking up in the middle of the night to chug down shakes! I have always known this was unnecessary. When I advised people to stick to three meals, “fast” in the evening, go to bed hungry and fast through the night–this is years ago–bodybuilders thought I was nuts.

      So this IF thing is actually closer to the Prison Diet in philosophy than the “8 meals a day” crap. It’s pretty refreshing, to be honest. Never used IF, but I certainly think it could fit well with a calisthenics regime. If you try it, please let us know what you made of it?

      Let’s not forget too that my man John Du Cane brought this Intermittent Fasting bag to the world by publishing The Warrior Diet. Just like he brought kettlebells to the world again with Pavel, and has kickstarted the Bodyweight Revolution with the Kavadlo boys!

  • Maybe not exactly on topic, but that second photo of Al Kavadlo is sick! I had to look a few times to figure out he wasn’t floating. The strength in all these photos is incredible, but that one is unique, IMO, because it looks so effortless. He really looks like he’s just floating…. Crazy cool!

    • Well there’s a goal for ya, sweetie!

      I’m sure you can score a copy of the PCC Manual, if you ask the Boss nicely. Plenty of progressions in there. 😉

  • Mauricio

    Coach Wade, i’ve been your student for about one year and I really want to thank you. Your book is pure gold. If you allow me, I would like to ask for a few tips on the handstand progression. After I’ve hit the 1 minute of handstand, it became real hard to add even one second more. Could you help with a tip? I’ve tried the tactic of greasing the groove, tried to add one second per week but nothing worked.
    Even if you cannot, I want to thank you for all you have done for me.
    Best regards!

    • What kind words my man! Thank you, and sure I will always help a bodyweight athlete if I can.

      First up, you don;t mention your routine. How often do you press/do handstands? Have you tried adding extra rest days to see if that helps, Mauricio? What about more frequent training? Fewer sets? How are you sleeping? Are you resting enough? There’s always a rope you can tug on to make progress, kid!

      Second, what are your goals? Everyone responds differently to training. Your body may favor intensity over time–in other words, if you want to move to handstand presses and have really busted your ass with handstands, you may have done enough. It may be time to move on to another step.

      • Mauricio

        Coach Wade, thanks for the atention. Regarding your questions, my routine for the past few months has been:
        Monday: Squats (2×9 one leg assisted squats)
        Tuesday: Handstand and bridges (1×60~65 seconds handstand and 2×13 half-bridges)
        Wednesday: Running
        Thursday: push-ups and calf exercises (2×17 close pushups – I’ve achieved the goal of the step of uneven pushups to move to half one arm push-up, but decided to take a step back and do the close pushups more slowly; 4×70 single leg calf raises)
        Friday: Hanging and dips (2×60 seconds 1×40 seconds towel hanging – I’ve been adding one second per week; 2×5 dips from the bar)
        Saturday: running
        Sunday: pullups and abs (2×5 close pull ups; 2×18 straight leg raises hanging on the bar; 3×24 horizontal pulls).
        Through the week, I do the clutch flag. I’ve been trying to do the real and amazing flag, but I am not able to go through the first step of the progression you show on CC2.

        I sleep eight hours a day. I try to mix the exercises through the week so I have enough rest. Just to add, I think endurance is my best quality in calisthenics. I’ve been following you book for about one and a half year by now and had only one week off when I got the swine flu.

        My goals are those expressed on your books. I want to achieve the tenth step of every exercise you taught. Or at least, get old trying to.

        I didn’t move to the next step on the handstand series because the progression level is two minutes, which I am far from achieving.

        I hope I’ve answered you well enough. English is not my natural language…

        Thanks for your help once again! Hope you write many more books!
        Best regards

        • Thank you for the extra info, my friend! This all looks good, but if you are really struggling with the handstands–and wanna make two minutes fairly quick–do this:

          -You have three pretty heavy “pushing days”. These may just be draining your pushing structure enough that endurance holds are too much on the Tuesday.

          -Combine your Thursday and Friday workouts, and do em on Thursday. (Don’t worry–for now–if some of these exercises take a hit, or if you gotta drop some of em. The goal will be handstands for the next couple months!)

          -Switch the squats to (now empty) Friday.

          -Do pullups and abs on Saturday.

          -This leaves Sunday and Monday empty. KEEP THEM EMPTY. Rest, Mauricio. Just for now.

          -Your goal on Tuesday is to add 5 seconds each time on your handstands–think about this, every night of the week. It can be done. Visualize yourself doing it, before you go to sleep! You gotta LUST after that 2 minute goal like you would lust after woman.

          -Drop the bridges, or do them (low, low volume–one work set for maintenance at most) on a different day.

          Hit me up with the results, big guy. You got this!

          • Mauricio

            Coach Wade, thanks for the tips! They seem pretty reasonable for me! I’ll start doing what you told right now. I’ll keep you updated, through this topic.

  • V Kishore Vancheeshwaran

    Hey Coach

    Long time no see. How are you? Good to hear from you after a
    while. As usual, I have a few questions for you.

    1. What is survival athletics? How do I train them?

    2. Last week, I got into a fight with another guy,
    classmate actually. I tried to avoid it but he WANTED me to fight, just to
    challenge my strength he said. I am stronger than him, like, I could push or
    throw him around easily. But he gets to punch me very easily. How do I train to
    defend or fight? Calisthenics is all safe and healthy, but what do I do if I don’t
    know how to use all the strength? How did you learn to fight in prison? Btw, he
    won the fight, and I ended up in bruises.

    3. I got an app just for fun. It is called Gorilla
    Workout App. But, Some of the workouts are really bizarre.. like 1 set of 100
    burpees, or 10×10 pull ups and dips, or 15×10 broad jumps and split jumps.. I
    mean.. its overwhelming, it says by performing these kind of exercises in the
    prescribed intensity, frequency and so on, it will make me more athletic, and
    strong too..Is this true regarding bodyweight fitness? high sets of medium to high reps? Or do i stop following the app?

    4. In the other article, you say Joe says he doesn’t
    do lunges or parallel bar dips. Are they inferior to Pistols and One arm push
    ups? How do I integrate them into my routine?(New blood 2.0)

    5. When is the CC3 and the free e-book coming out?

    Still expecting PCC in India. Tc Coach.

    V Kishore V

    • V Kishore! So great to hear from my friend in India! Yep, I am also waiting for the PCC in India, so you need to be my general out there, spreading the word about old school calisthenics and rousing up the troops! And I know you are doing that, my friend.

      Onto these really excellent questions:

      1. Survival athletics is the prison-built alternative to “cardio”. In most folks idea of cardio, you typically (sometimes literally) spin your wheels on a stationary bike, or use a rowing machine, cross-trainer or similar useless made-up-to-sell-to-someone shit. Survival athletics is about using your bodyweight to build heart, lungs and endurance and lose fat, by doing functional activities (that could save your life) like jumping, sprinting, getting up and down fast, getting over obstacles, etc. But all in a small-space environment, with minimal equipment.

      2. This is a huge question that I can’t answer properly here. One tip would be: if you are stronger than someone and can throw them around easy, you just need to build into your skill set practical techniques to USE that strength to stop some bitch from hitting you and to put you in a dominate position. Wrestling and grappling arts sound just right for you. If you ground someone and start pounding them, or you put the in a hold that dislocates a shoulder, they aint gonna be swinging no more, right V?

      3. Brother, I can’t comment on individual apps (I barely even know what they are) cept to say that I applaud ALL bodyweight. Whether its good for you depends on your goals–and in this follow the universal truth that high reps build fitness, low reps strength, and medium reps, size. The exercises you named sound pretty good though.

      4. It’s not for me to diss any particular exercise–in fact, lunges AND dips are taught in the PCC curriculum. Joe didn’t like dips because he felt that pressing while gripping hard caused elbow and forearm problems, and he didn’t like lunges because he felt there were better intermediate exercises leading up to his beloved one-leg squat. If you are progressing with pushups and squats, why bother including them at all, kid?

      5. Very soon my friend–all done in 2014!

      Awesome, awesome questions. Stick around my friend, one day you will make a great calisthenics master!

      • Sean ;-)

        V. Kishore,

        Not sure about anyone else here but if you want to do bodyweight exercises and learn how to avoid a punch or give one in defence (or secretly because you feel the d#*che bag deserves it lol) I would say finding a boxing coach might be a good place to start? Calisthenics and boxing have gone together perfectly for many boxing champs for a long, long time. Heavy bag only won’t do it. You need someone to teach you sparing techniques. Like I think Coach would say if you want to learn how to fight then train how to fight. Boxing is what I like to do for my “survival athletics”, screw anger management counselling hit the heavy bag instead HULK SMASH LOL Just my 2 cents…

        • V, Sean’s advice is solid.

          I had someone delete your previous post, not coz it was offensive, but because it contained personal info that might make ya vulnerable if published on the web.

          If you REALLY want to learn more about real self-defence you need to train your MIND and behaviors as much as the body. You cannot do better than Geoff Thompson’s incredible book Dead or Alive. Seriously, the advice in there is a million times better than I could give you in a few emails.

          You can do this, kid. I’m with ya.

          • Sean ;-)

            Aaaah i get it now. Thanks for have’in my back.

            Great book suggestion, just snagged it from amazon should be a good read. I also got his book the art of fighting without fighting. Both should prove interesting/valuable reads.

          • Amazing book, amazing man. You won’t regret it Sean.

          • V Kishore Vancheeshwaran

            Hey coach, that’s fine. I have ordered the book. I will look into it. One more thing, you still haven’t told me how can I increase my test. Am a 20 year old and vegetarian.

          • You can’t go wrong with Geoff T. The key to test, for you, is threefold:

            1. It is built from cholesterol–mainly found in meat, but also in dairy like cheese and whole, raw, milk, also eggs. So make these the mainstay of each meal.

            2. Brutally hard, aggressive, BRIEF workouts where you really go at it on big exercises and beat your best every time.

            3. Sleep. Can’t make ten hours? Try. Twelve is better. Naps count.

            Also, refer again to my muscle-building post put out on this blog a while back. Always steer clear of toxins and drugs, even muscle drugs, as these actually DECREASE your natural test drastically over time. Some herbs may also be of use, in particular PURE Tongkat Ali.

      • V Kishore Vancheeshwaran

        You have said above that if he’s a non vegetarian, then his test will be high. Got any advice for me, a vegetarian looking to increase test or have high test?

        Coach I beg you, think of this as me falling on your feet begging for your help. I really need you to guide me a little more specifically about how you trained to fight in prison, how you managed to keep the guys away from you. Am in a very bad shape. I can’t face multiple guys at the same time. If this keeps up, I will end up being their sandbags for the year. If you do have the time, mail me at if its necessary.

  • Marius Mare

    ‘Sup Coach?

    Just want to thank you for all your articles. I LOVE reading ’em and gaining more and more knowledge that I can use in my training. I’m 18 years young and I’ve been a student of yours for the past year and I’m lovin’ every second of every workout!

    Just a few quick questions: do you have any specific advice regarding increasing your hormonal profile, like Joe spoke about?

    And: do you think a PCC workshop will ever be held in South Africa? There are a lot of calisthenics enthusiasts here and I’m pretty sure it’ll be a big hit in good ol’ SA.

    But until then, I’m just gonna train hard and give Joe’s method a try in honor of his work. Bless you for everything you’ve done, everything you’re doin’, and everything you’ll do in the future.

    • Sup my dude?

      Aw, shucks, I am gonna blog more often if all you nice people keep saying such fine things to me! More important, it really does my old heart good that the next generation like you are picking up on old school calisthenics–and loving it. Please don’t quit!!

      Hormonal profile? To be honest if you are non-vegetarian 18 year old male athlete who trains hard and finishes what’s on his plate, I got no advice for ya. Your test is probably thru the roof, kid! That potential just needs to be shifted into solid MUSCLE through a year or two of sensible progressive bodyweight work.

      PCC in South Africa? Hell yes! It’s bound to happen. Many, many great links exist between Dragon Door and SA…in fact, the big Boss, John Du Cane, lived there for many years as I understand. Plus the fact that there are many intelligent athletes over there participating in bodyweight, I have no doubt that it WILL happen. Soon–so get training for the Century, kid!

      Bless YOU for your kind comment, Marius. It means a lot to me that you are honoring Joe. Don’t be a stranger, now.

  • Hey hey, Ryan!

    Great to hear from you man! As for “Reverse Pyramid Training”. I have heard the phrase, but frankly I’ve never understood it…surely a “pyramid” means you go up AND down, by definition? And how can you “reverse” a pyramid anyhow? A pyramid you reverse, since it’s symmetrical, looks the goddam same! (Unless you “reverse” it by turning it upside-down, which would imply that you start with your heaviest weight, then go lighter–like a strip or drop set, then finishing with your heaviest weight again.) This is all very different from the Hartigan Method.

    Remember, I’m not claiming nobody else has used equal load and less reps as the sets go on–in fact I think it’s a very natural way to train, and it was probably used since time immemorial coz adjustable weights, or sets of weights, are a fairly new invention. I did say that Joe didn’t invent the idea. In another post, Adrienne Harvey called this method “descending ladders”, which I’m not 100% sure is right either–I think the ladders system uses way more sets and reps. Ultimately I guess it doesn’t matter what ya call it if it works, huh?

    Yeah, I think the Hartigen Method COULD work well for folks with a few months training under their belt…trouble is, you progress from exercise to exercise quickly when you are using it with bodyweight, meaning that a beginner would need to understand progressions pretty profoundly. You could probably do it if you had the PCC Manual.

    Also, I tried to follow the link dude, but it looks broken. Thanks for the source anyway.


  • Coach Wade, love the article! There’s so many great training tidbits here that it will take a while for me to absorb them all! I will definitely have to apply Mentor Hartigen’s method, and see if it helps training towards one arm pullups! I’m finally nailing slow, perfect form for the progression standard on uneven pullups. One-half one arm pullups have proven just beyond my strength level though and have been using weighted uneven pullups and “bar and towel” pullups (as recommended in Brooks Kubik’s Dinosaur Bodyweight Training) to bust through that strength plateau.

    Should I try 5/4/3/2/1 for bar-and-towel pullups? (Basically assisted one arm pullups but without letting go of the towel during the top half of the movement.) I’m able to do these for short sets with my hand low on the towel to make it harder, and encourage me to use the bar arm more. Should I still drop back down to one-half one arm pullups and at least try one or two slow negatives?

    What do you think about weighted pullups (wearing a weight vest, for example) to get past a plateau? I know that in the first Convict Conditioning, you essentially feel that adding a dumbbell isn’t the way to go. Would this apply here as well? If so, what are some recommendations for “hidden steps” that I could train up on?

    Just want to make sure I’m not misleading myself or wasting effort!

    • I started working on weighted pullups after being able to do uneven pullups and “bar and towel” pullups, and then working through the book Overcoming Gravity.

      • Sean ;-)

        hey gang,

        Owen, not sure if you caught it but there was a good blog posted just recently on “why do weighted pull ups” here. There are some good examples there to make them harder to hold off moving to weighted stuff. I like weight vests for stuff but I try to be careful that I’ve feel I’ve mastered the move without it first otherwise you might find out quickly you now have a tendon or joint that hates you for not giving em more time to adapt. A 26 yr retired military friend of mine who trained new recruits (no stranger to bodyweight exercise) always made fun of me when I wanted to add weight to bodyweight stuff that he’s seen me doing and knew I still had a ways to go before mastery. “hey dummy why add weight to something you can’t do right on your own??!!!” A free lesson in humility every time we workout…bonus!

        As a separate issue, Not sure why but its happened a couple times I try posting here (on past blogs too), it looks like its on, then I refresh the page and pow its gone? My posts are pretty clean so not sure whats up; being moderated maybe? I’ve made successful posts in the past here so I know how to do it, just wondering for future thanks.


        in fellowship

        • I’ll have to read that particular post. And I agree – if a movement hasn’t been mastered, why add weight to it? That’s just asking for trouble. I’ve spent a lot of time with uneven pullups (got the progression standard now) and bar&towel pullups but couldn’t seem to bust through to one-half one-arm pullups, so I started adding weight. So, I do feel comfortable with unevens, but I’ll still keep working them. Perhaps I’ll get some good ideas from the post you mentioned!

        • As for the disappearance, for what it’s worth it has happened to me too and its a real pain in the ass! It is nothing to do with the mods.

          When I write a post, someone here moderates the comments under my instruction, and Rose does the same at the Dragon Door end. Rose is real liberal and fair when it comes to discussions, and I definitely won’t delete shit unless people put personal info (email, address, phone number, etc) which would make them vulnerable to others. Even then I tell em why.

          I think sometimes posts simply get “lost” in the Disqus system. Bastards.

          CC3 is coming, kid!

        • Rodolfo Oliveira

          I believe wheighted vests are a good tool to have in your inventory PROVIDED THAT you have really, and I mean it, MASTERED the said movement before adding weight. There is like an infinite hidden steps between and even beyond the 10 (or 8) steps of every progression and that is the beuty of it! It takes true mastery to see how a little less leverage can make an exercise harder and keep the progression.

          CC3! CC3! CC3! Just addin’ to the chorus! EVERYTHING you write is f-ing amazing Coach! And I think I am not only talking for myself but for Sean, V and all others who take CC seriously but we do feel you are coaching us all along… someone with so much wisdom MUST write a ton more books for the sake of mankind! I am not only anxious for CC3 but for CC4 too! I love martial arts and have passed most of my 27 years training in some martial art or another (although I am not training right now because my weight is limiting my technique acquiring capabilities, so I am using 2014 to shed all unwanted fat) and CC appeared to me and it resonates so well with my philosophies toward strenght, health and fitness that it seems it was written for me (I believe the other commenters feel kinda this way, am I right?) Thank you for your books and posts Coach and let’s work out!

      • Great book–written by one of the ORIGINAL PCC Instructors, the bodyweight genius Steve Low!

        Sounds like you have a pretty epic taste in bodyweight books, kid…Kubik, Low…if ya round it out with Kavadlo, the shelf will be complete!!

        • Sean ;-)

          Agreed Steven’s book is and epic tome of bodyweight progressions/rehab/programming extravaganza. I know cuz I got it as well. One must get this if serious about wanting to learn about bodyweight training. He will be coming out with another volume this year I’m told, and I’m sure Ill add it to my library as well. Have read O.G. a few times and still learning from it. Have to go out onto the unpopular limb here and say I don’t agree with not using weighted vests. I’ve used them and feel its an easy way to take movement patterns that are already ingrained and easily increase intensity for added fun or challenge. I think if your strict about it you can watch form but its been said many times there are quite a few progressions for every exercise than can be exploited first to challenge one’s self. But to preserve the integrity of the original movement I wouldn’t consider it until I felt there was nothing more to improve on without having to learn another technique. This is why I say form can be preserved if you know what the correct movement feels like or should be without the weight. Maybe I’m wrong….

          Owen, if your mind is set on using added weight I would review Steven’s section of his book on training for levels 7 and 8 bodyweight movements. There he discusses the “daily undulating periodization” where he took his 135lb body and worked up to adding 170lbs in weighted dips (Now that should kill any posts that bodyweight exercises can’t get ya strong). But BIG caution here, if you follow his way of thinking in an attempt to break a plateau then you need to seriously take into account the level system he is using. If your no where near the technical ability of a level 7 or 8 then you have no biz using a weighted vest. In Steven’s book approximately pg 382 he talks about one arm chins and ways of progressing to it using weights if necessary. Again its a up the skill chart according to his book so there are are a few progressions to master you might want to consider before hand in breaking that plateau. Like Coach said be honest with your abilities cause its easy to be impatient and push for power all the time with end result being frustration and failure. So if you have to regress your progressions then do it you got nothing to lose.

          Huh?, Actually Coach the “daily undulating periodization” seems kinda similar to the Hartigen method in terms of the rep scheme. And by Steve using this method he was able to break some PR records. Mr. Wade you may have shared something that is way more influential in gaining strength than you know at the moment? Good job!

          • Thanks for the input Sean–especially about Steve’s new book, you have actually told me something I didn’t know and I’m grateful. That sure will be something to add to the Christmas list…

          • Sean ;-)

            No problem Coach. Actually I believe I got the new book information from when Steven blogged here and I asked him about it in the comments. Now if I could just remember the darn post title he did…?

    • Owen, my main man–glad you like the article, and I’m touched that so many young athletes like you are gonna give Joe’s methods a shot!

      In my opinion you cannot go wrong following any bodyweight routine advised by Kubik, but if you want to apply Joe’s method to his technique, it will work well. The only issue is gauging how much resistance you are using each time–you need to be honest with yourself to know how much you are progressing. But I say go for it, kid! And lemme know the results, of course.

      Honestly, I’m not a fan of negatives for strength, and I know this makes me rare in the bodyweight world. But no powerlifter trying to lift 500 pounds would do negatives with it first, would they? So why do you need to with pullups, if you know the right progressions? You don’t.

      I’m not dissing ANYONE’s method Owen, but if you are asking my opinion I fucking hate vests. They are worse than useless for bodyweight; the screw up form, they can cause aching joints, and they never seem to do what they are supposed to–get folks up the next progression! You are far better finding progressive “hidden steps” in your training.

      You asked, brother! hope it helps man.

      • The concerns with vests is certainly valid! I haven’t been using it as a mainstay in training because of the aches. I just wasn’t sure if I should stick with it or not.

        So, it’s back to hitting the progression as strictly as possible! I’ll work uneven pullups slow and perfect with Joe’s system, to see if I can’t tighten up form even more. I may even have to give it a shot with bar and towel variations that Kubik suggests. The lower rep counts, I believe, should help me focus like a laser on form and milking all the strength gains that I can out of these.

        I may just focus on the towel work to help with hidden steps as well. Once I train up with 5/4/3/2/1, I’ll try removing a finger or two from the towel once I get to the top half of the pullup. It may be a good idea to work only the top half the movement very strictly for a few reps, with the other hand holding the towel low, focusing on the bar hand. I’ll see how I can tweak things and make progress – and I’ll definitely keep you updated!

      • Have to agree with you on weighted vests coach, I used them for a few weeks to try get beyond a plateau and whilst I increased the weight I could lift, when it came time to go back uneven pullups I had made no progress at all. I don’t think they carry over very well. I found increasing the distance between my arms using rings or a towel to be much more effective.

  • Simeon Reigle

    Hey Coach,
    I was wondering if the peak set concept applied to the earlier stages of CC. Should a beginner strive to keep his 2 or 3 work sets at the same number of reps; or allow the reps to drop after the first working set?
    If not, around what steps should an athlete focus on a peak set?
    Future Pheonix

    • Simeon, that is such a great question, and I’m extra glad you asked that shit coz I can’t believe I didn’t cover it in the article. Thanks man.

      Answer is–NO–beginners don’t gotta be concerned about peaking. The goal for beginners is to get to know the exercise, build co-ordination, joint strength and awareness, not to really hit it with a peak set. For this, beginners need a few more sets and reps, and they got to learn to love each rep–each rep should be as close to the last as possible, performed with care, curiosity, and even an inner thoughtfulness.

      When you start hitting those peak sets is kinda flexible, but as a general rule by the time the work sets drop to TWO is a good level for looking for peak efforts. The system is designed to ramp up this way, if you check the work set suggestions.

      Hope it helps, FP!

  • Mohammed

    Hi Coach Wade,

    I started CC back in August of 2010 at the ripe age of 23. I’ve made many mistakes and found that I have not always followed your advice about not rushing even when I thought I had been! I’ve often been frustrated and sometimes say to myself “Dammit! Why did Coach Wade have to put such high reps for pushups/horizontal pulls/leg raises!!”

    Nevertheless, I’ve stuck with CC and don’t dream of giving it up. Especially in squatting, I have seen phenomenal results (just finished step 6 on Thursday!) Regardless of slower progress on the other exercises, my strength and ability to use my body as a unit has gone up, even though I could do full pullups and 50 (fast) full pushups before CC. It’s amazing how doing movements at a slower tempo and with strict attention to form increases the benefits reaped from even relatively “easy” exercises.

    CC has become an integral part of my life; I LOVE to talk about training with people and always inevitably tell them about CC or even show them my copies of CC and CC2 in the hope they may buy into the system or buy the books. I’m happy to say I got one of my friends to start a program of pushups and pullups last year and recently, I even wrote down a simple program for an uncle who was trying to get fit (I will check up on him to see if he has been using it!).

    I will not fully reveal my progress on all exercises; a combination of strains/mild injuries (and I will admit, less than optimal habits) has slowed my progress in the upper body exercises. Nevertheless, I have renewed my efforts to become a model student and these days, I mostly follow your advice to the letter. I guess even a few years can mature a person a lot.

    I have a couple of questions and would be grateful for your advice:

    1) Step 2 of grip work (hanging with both hands from bar): I previously built up to 4 x 48 seconds before I started regressing in the next work out. Endurance seemed to be a problem, so I have cut out one set and am focussing on building up to 3 x 1 min
    before adding the fourth set; right now, I am at 3 x 50 sec. Is this the correct approach? What can one do when one hits a wall in the grip progessions?

    2) Step 3 kneeling pushups: I have tried a variety of different ways to build up reps (adding a rep per week) but have not managed to get past two sets of 17 and 10 reps. What I am doing now is trying to build up to 2 x 15 reps; yesterday, I did a set of 15 good reps with a rep in the bank, and hope to add the second set next week. Once again, correct approach? A problem I have with the pushups is I can add no more than one rep a week? I know you normally advocate no more than one session per week but in this case, would two sessions help, especially since I’ve been doing CC for a while?

    It seem strange that I am way ahead in squatting but lag behind in the other exercises.

    Sorry to ramble on but I have had so much to say and it’s great to be able to contact and ask questions to the author of CC; I truly appreciate that.

    Thanking you from London, England,


    • Mohammed! Hey there brother, it’s a pleasure to hear from you, an honor that you use my methods to build your body, and a privilege to have you as an advocate, spreading the word–thank you, man!

      It made my night to read your comment, thanks for writing it…in return, let’s see if I can answer those awesome questions, huh dude?

      1. There are several approaches you can take here, but the one you describe is the one I would advise anyway. In general, once ya can achieve a goal in a single set, adding another set (and building to that same level) aint too tough. If hitting just a minute is impossible, then even one set would be a good start. The rest can be added over time. Honestly, I rarely see athletes who stumble with grip work–provided they go slowly. Where they do, it just because the hands are used ubiquitously in other workouts, and they are just burnt out. More rest, even if only temporarily, is often the cure.

      2. Again, this sounds good to me–as for the two sessions, you just have to try it, kid. If you progress, you are winning! I never tell folks how often to train, typically. Too many factors. Try it and get back to me.

      Wonderful, wonderful to hear from you, Mohammed. Please stick around the PCC Community, kid. I wanna see ya with those letters after your name when DD comes to London.

      • Mohammed

        Thank you for replying Coach Wade. Good to know I’m on the right track. I shall definitely try two sessions per week for a while and will keep you updated.

        One more thing: an unusual request. We all know that you advocate 3 meals a day and focus on calorie intake and not protein etc. However, I (and others, I’m sure) would find it useful if you did a 7 (or less) day food diary and posted it as a short blog post. I find small things like this helpful and am always asking people about their diets. Whaddaya think?

        Since you’re busy, I’d even be happy to create a chart myself and send it to you to fill in (if you tell me how to send it).

        Thanks again,


        • You guys want more on nutrition? I’ll put it on the list, Mohammed buddy. As for my food diary, trust me, it would be a great cure for insomnia for most folks. If you want meal lists for a week, they are there in CC2!

          • Mohammed

            Ah yes, I thought of the meal lists in CC2 soon after pressing the post comments button!

            More nutrition articles sound excellent, thanks.

          • Rodolfo Oliveira

            It would also be awesome to know if you’ve heard/what do you think about the Paleo Diet/Primal Blueprint Coach! Just your 2 cents really…

  • Sounds like you are about ready to put out a killer book, my friend! You got a system, well done!

    As for muscle–you got it wrong, bro. How much muscle has nothing to do with whether folks will give ya shit. That’s playground thinking, not yard thinking. If a big guy is a fucking pussy, who cares how much muscle he’s got? Likewise, if a small guy will KILL you for fucking with him, will you fuck with him?!

    And as for Joe, you could see he trained, even as an older man. In his 70’s I would say he was comparable, certainly in the upper body, with a slightly sleeker Manohar Aich at the same age. He was not a tall man, with spectacles and a short white beard.

    • healthiswealth

      Thanks Coach,you never fail to amaze me with your viewpoints,and yeah I have seen this as well(Big Guys who are pussy’s)and iv’e seen smaller men who are straight up menaces so I guess it all just depends on a mix of psychology,fear levels,physical stamina,strength,fighting skills,and how much testosterone a man has.Yeah Old Joe sounds like he could have been a real character I would have love to have met him,or talked to him.I really respect men from that time period,they didnt need to cry about every little thing or need “therapy”to be able to handle lifes up’s and downs they don’t make them like that anymore!!.Also I read a little bit on Manohar Aich he was a very interesting person as well,are their any other athlete/bodybuilder/strongmen that you know of who used calisthenic exercises exclusively or at least 80% of the time to increase muscle mass?maybe you could compile some sort of list for the pcc community.

  • Spike

    Hey mate saw both of your posts, really appreciate your lengthy replies! Didn’t know you have a blog, I’ll be sure to check them out.

    Anyway I’ve been following the CC program New Blood (twice a week with 2 recovery days) and combined with a 3500-calories per day bulking plan (mostly carbs + proteins) for a few weeks, I ended up gaining some fat around my waist rather than muscles! (gained ~3kg in 3 weeks, which I’m sure most of which are just fat)

    Maybe I didn’t train hard enough, or maybe I’m unfortunate enough to have this “skinny fat” genetics where the excess calories are preferentially partitioned into fat rather than muscles. Any thoughts on this?

    I know Coach Wade has repeated this many times, but as a beginner 2 sets of 12 reps per exercise seems like very little workout for me (i.e. not difficult enough that I can perform up to 12 reps, and too little volume for just 2 sets). Is this really optimal for maximum muscle growth? Progress was slow when I trained twice a week (effectively performing a particular exercise every 7 days), and I’m now trying to train 3 times per week (same exercise every 4 days). What are your thoughts about this?

    P.S. I’m not doubting you Coach, I swear! I’m just thinking maybe my skinny body type responds differently? I’d appreciate if you can jump in and give some advice as well!

    • Yeah I had a little issue with my browser caching the page so I couldn’t see my original post and decided to rewrite it, deleted the 2nd one as it was pretty much a duplicate.

      I train someone who has similar goals to you, been training for him for a year now and he’s certainly no longer skinny, in fact he has a little but of stomach fat that he wants to get rid of. I think bulking up and maintaining a 6 pack is probably one of the hardest goals. I’m advising him to cut down on processed sugar as much as he can as that increases your insulin levels, which causes your body to store more fat. 3500 calories is a substantial amount of food so yeah I’m not surprised you’ve gained some fat eating that amount, you’ve probably gained some muscle too but if you gain fat then it’s difficult to notice.

      How long have you been training for? My mass gains didn’t happen overnight, in fact I’d say I was probably training for 6 months before I started to notice a big difference. What levels are you at with CC as well, as I personally believe you should gain strength before mass, as the more difficult variations will have a better affect on your muscles. We’re all built differently, I personally find my body doesn’t really store fat very easily but I wouldn’t say you have a genetic disposition to store fat rather than muscle, it’s probably more of a case that your muscles took what they needed to recover and grow from the training, then your fat took the rest.

      Paul will be able to answer the question on reps and sets better than me but I believe as long as you find just the right exercise to really push you for 2 sets of 12-15 then this is enough. This is where you need to use the hidden steps of CC as the difference between the progressions may be too great to be just the right amount to push you. Once you get more experience with calisthenics you soon realise that there are practically unlimited ways to tweak an exercise to make it more difficult.

      As for the number of times you train a week, you’ve got to listen to your body. Sometimes I feel really good and will train up to 6 times a week, more commonly though I’ll usually train 4 times a week. Other times my body is so knackered from previous training sessions that I’ll either do some active recovery (easier exercises and mobility stretches) or I’ll even just teach instead of training. I do think that twice a week isn’t enough if you want to see good progress though.

      Anyway, be interested to see what Paul has to say on this but hope that was of some help

      • Spike

        Yes 3500 calories is a lot but if you read up on John Berardi’s Scrawny to Brawny they’d suggest as much as 4000-5000 calories per day, which is too much for me even if I force feed myself.

        I started CC since last November as a complete beginner by following the New Blood program but it seems as though 2 times per week (pushup+leg raise and pull+squat) isn’t enough, and progress had been very slow, this coupled with undereating as well. Earlier this year I spent 3-4 weeks on binge eating (lots of carbs and proteins mainly to reach ~3500 calories/day) and as I said ended up gaining some fat around my waist.

        Since then I’ve cut down on my calories and increased the frequency of my training to every other day (1 recovery day) and alternate between pushup+leg and pull+squat exercises. Progress seems fine so far but I don’t know how long this will last.

        My CC progress:
        – Parellel dips : 3×6 (not CC but helps with my underdeveloped chest)

        – Incline pushup (step 2) : 3×12 (with close grip to take advantage of the hidden steps)

        – Flat frog leg raise (step 4) : 2×16

        – I had trouble with horizontal pull (couldn’t do more than 1-2 reps) in the beginning so I did ring row instead with gymnastic rings with adjustable length (to progressively lower the angle) and is currently doing OK, almost ready to move back and try the horizontal pulls again. I can’t even do one normal pull-up at this stage!

        – Half squats (step 4) : 2×20

        Currently I’m trying to gain 1-2 reps every time I train and I wonder if I should train on more days or keep the 1 recovery day between training days?

        Note that I kind of move on to the next step as soon as I reach 2-3 sets of 16-20 reps instead of following the progression standards set in the book since I am mostly looking to gain mass.

        Thanks a lot for your advice anyway. I’m hoping Paul could jump in and give some valuable advice as well!

  • ken

    What happen to my post from yesterday?Anyway my main question was for coach’s thinking on suspension training?Old school blast straps.Other articles I’ve read from prison workouts they use sheets tied to the bars for their trx.

    • Suspension training? Yeah, its okay, and yeah, I’ve seen folks tie shit to bars to use in various ways, not just for suspension training. (You could write a book on creative ways inmates train, not just water bottles and law manuals either.) What I would say is that suspension work should only ever be a stage–not a way of life. Once you are strong enough to handle the bar–for either horizontal work or regular pullups–drop that shit like a bad habit!

      Ken–sorry about the post. All I can say is that I’ve eyeballed the admin page, and it wasn’t deleted by us man. I would reckon it just got lost in the disqus system–it has happened to me, and many other posters. Sorry about that shit.

    • Ken

      Hey coach,thanks for responding my first post had a little of my training background.I’m old school,57 years old been workingout since I was about 15 Jack Lalane,Steve Reeves influence.Always believed Reeves was how a man should look.I’ve done all kinds of workouts in the years and always come back to bodyweight .My longest training method has been navy SEAL pt.As you mention in CC it was a SEAL who got you started,by the way why was he in prison?just curious.As for suspension training I use it with all my other pushups pull ups dips etc.Trx was invented by a SEAL also,but suspension straps have been around for a while,I also use the perfect push up handles also invented by a SEAL,but I want you to know CC is my favorite workout book of all,including the SEAL workout books.I really like what you have to say and could read your articles all day.My training has always been outside the box,not afraid to try new ideas or go against conventional wisdom.I like to mix it all up,and I really like your no bullshit wisdom,thanks for passing it on I look forward to reading more from you.More prison workout stories would be good,any arm wrestling competitions in there?Again thanks Ken

      • Sounds a lot like the TRX is working for ya Ken, and Hell, if a SEAL invented it it has gotta be good shit! Ah, Jack and Steve–the greats! I was a Grimek fan, although less as I age. Now I also admire men like Jack who loved bodyweight and who get better as I get older. Also in my 50s, I need older heroes and its gettin tougher to find the bastards!

        The SEAL I learned my stuff from, Dave, was in jail for criminal battery, which, at the time, was a felony due to the person involved. Very tough man, but also very kind and he taught me that the two can go together. A mistake-maker rather than someone malicious or involved in the gangs/drug life as so many of us were. I had no contact with him after my first stay in SQ.

        Arm wrestling stories? Amazingly, no. We must hook up and I’ll take ya on my man!

        Take care,


      • f***ing love this guy. My wavelength.

  • Will

    Coach Paul,
    After pumping iron for about 25 years I am a body weight convert for almost 3 years now. I have both CC I and II and have read them multiple time. I was pretty far along in the big 6 when I took 8 weeks off at the beginning of the year to recover from surgery for a hiatal hernia. When I resumed training I started back at the beginning. I am trying to combine my routine for the big six with the ancillary work outlined in CC II. My current program looks like this
    Sunday – Push ups (kneeling), Leg Raises (Flat Bent), Finger Tip Pushups (Incline) and Bar Hangs
    Monday – Cardio
    Tuesday – Bridging (straight) and Head stands – will add neck work when I get back to a full bridge
    Wednesday – Cardio
    Thursday – Pullups (Jackknife) Squats (Close), Finger Tip Pushups (Incline) and Bar Hangs
    Friday – Cardio
    Saturday – Rest
    I would like to add flagging but I am not sure where to fit it in. Do you have suggestions for a comprehensive work out that includes exercises from both books?
    I am totally sold on body weight work. I only wish I had picked up these books when I was a teenager instead of the book on weight lifting. It would have saved me about 15 years of aching shoulders and knees.
    Thanks for your help,

    • Owsky

      Just FYI there is one on page 281 of CC1.

      • This guy Owsky is a CC scholar! Let’s give him a cookie!

        Great work, Owsky.

    • Will, your story made me smile–it is great to hear that you are kickin ass and takin names with old school bodyweight, and it is a goddam honor to have you in the PCC community!

      Your programming looks fine to me…nicely spaced out which means you’ve given yourself options, specially if ya start easy with the clutch hang progressions, which you should. They shouldn’t really “eat” into anything else, at least at first. To progress quick, I’d build to five or six reps on Sunday, Tuesday AND Thursday.

      This week only play with the hold technique, on Thursday. Next week, try two reps of the clutch hang, on Tuesday and Thursday; try to get it RIGHT rather than working HARD. The week after, 3 reps three times per week. Then four, then 5-6.

      You cannot go wrong here, Will. Send me a photo of that press flag!!

      • Will

        Thanks a lot. Looking forward to the third book.

  • A R

    Hello Coach.
    Thanks for your support. I can get three reps with my right arm and two with my reps. I’ll keep working and keep you posted. Do you know if it’s possible to purchase a transcript of the DVD?
    Keep the gems coming Coach. Thank you.

  • Rodolfo Oliveira

    Coach, what do you think about using Isometric exercises to warm-up? I have a very good 30-minutes full body isometric workout that I am thinking of adding as a warm-up before my CC sessions…

  • xgeryx

    Hey coach, long time since I read this blog, but as last time the quality of information on the site is undeniably the best in calisthenics. I’m getting back to the good old days of pull-ups in the park in the process of rehabilitating my lower back injury. In fact it gets better with every practice as long as good form is kept. Nothing happens without a reason so it’s not I get to read this article now. I love these kinda stories about old (i.e. experienced) tough, wiry stud marines and other studs. Thsnks for sharing Joe’s method and a little about his background. I for one -but certain others too – would love to read more stories about him and his training. Yea those tweets hit home, really like them. Oh and mentioning dynamic tension and muscle control really warmed my heart. I too was a fan of old time body builders like Grimek, Parks or Reeves. Parks even had a little chest expander training thrown in his routines so did Grimek. Though going back to this simple, progressive routine of 5,4,3,2,1 got a few questions about some subtlety in programing.

    1. how often would Joe had trained a week using this template?

    2. would you recommend this progression method for the big six exercise?

    3. if you would use this template for CC exercises, how many exercises per session you recommended?

    4. taking the muscle tension factor for me mix things up a bit. I too been practicing muscle control and othet stiffness to such extent that I would exhaust myself with two strict pull-ups. Thst might be goof for strength, but maybe not for hypertrophy. What is your take varying tension on the same exercise within this template?

    I think that’s all for now that needs clear up, sorry for ranting this much.

    Take care,

    • Gergely,

      brother, I am sorry for the late reply! I kinda lose track of my blogs after the next weeks blog shows up. Dumb like that, my bad!

      It means a lot to me that you enjoy the Joe stories! And your questions are great.

      1. Hm. the most important question is: how often should most people train! Four times a week would be good.

      2. No! I’d recommend the CC progressions! But yeah, Joe’s method can work, but you need to use more hidden steps.

      3. 2-3. You need to go big on fewer exercises.

      4. Remember, Joe only used the tension to warm up–to make an exercise tough. He didn’t use it on hard exercises where the load was enough, and he varied his tension enough to warm up, not exhaust himself…

      Great to answer your query dude, and thanks for the compliments. Don;t you be a stranger, now!


      • xgeryx

        Hey Coach, thank you for your reply. All clear now, it’s really not rocket science it’s just people tend to overcomplicate things even when everythings on track. So do I. Thanks again for your time. Gergely

  • Justin

    Coach Paul Wade. I just came across your book and I love it. I had left knee surgery 5 years ago and I turned to weight training to rehabilitate. I have the same injury on my right knee now. Its an ACL tear and I plan on using old school calisthenics to get back to normal. My question isn’t about physical training. You mention you were addicted to drugs. I’m currently addicted to alcohol. I’m an alcoholic and it’s a struggle everyday between training and drinking. My question is how did u finally defeat drugs? Did training play a role. If so I would like to know how. Maybe it can help me. I know it’s deep and personal but it would really help me.

    Thank you.

    Justin Gopaul

    • Justin my man! Thanks for posting your question. Your question is very, very close to my heart. My advice to you is–get help. Straight away. If you are really serious about quitting the booze (and I think you are), go to your doctor to get help. That’s the second step–the first step is acknowledging the fucking problem, and you have done that.

      I am an additive person. Training has helped me stay clean, because at (some, not all) times in my life, I swapped the drugs for the training. But for me, the problem was complex. Moving away from toxic contacts–and having an amazing support group in a PO and my family–were the key. Believe it or not, John and Dragon Door have also been a huge support.

      One thing which is universally true is that our strength lies in our addictions. If we kill our addictions, we get all our power back. I believe that 100%, because I have experienced it.

      I believe in you Justin. I know you can overcome your addictions.

      Now get help and go fix that fuckin knee. I’m often around the blog if you need me.


    • Good luck Justin. <3 Don't give up!

  • A R

    Hello again.Sorry to keep bothering you Coach.
    I’d like to do the PCC if it comes to England, but in the meantime is it possible to purchase the manual from anywhere?
    Also, some people seem to suggest that high-rep one legged squats damage the knees in the long run, and suggest adding wight with a kettlebell or the like. This sounds a bit strange…What are you thoughts on this?
    Thanks for your Coach.

  • V Kishore Vancheeshwaran

    Hey Coach.

    I read Dead or Alive. It’s nice. I have some more questions
    for you.

    1. Why do you recommend straight sets in convict
    conditioning? Why not supersets or drop sets in the convict conditioning

    2. Why do you recommend split routines in convict
    conditioning? Why not full body workouts?

    3. How did you take care of your sexual frustration
    (horniness) in the prison? Will releasing it reduce the chances of building
    muscle and strength? Will it reduce the production of testosterone? How do I take
    care of my frustrations?

    Thank you


  • VKV

    Hey Coach.
    I have some questions for you.
    1. Why do you recommend straight sets in convict conditioning? Why not supersets or drop sets or circuit training in the convict conditioning approach? What are the pros and cons of each for building strength and muscle?
    2. Why do you recommend split routines in convict conditioning? Why not full body workouts? Again, their pros and cons for muscle and strength?
    3. What are your views on yoga and pilates? Do they build strength too?
    4. How to build lower back and hamstring and glute strength? supermans and hyperextensions? or do you have anything in mind?
    5. How do you comment on the ‘conjugal visits’ as mentioned in CC2? How can I take care of my frustration? How did you take care of it?
    Thank you

  • Leo

    Dear Paul Wade,
    I’m working on wall pushups to strenghten my weak wrists and elbows.
    1. I’m also not far away from the full clutch flag (Step 6) and wondered, if I could begin the press flag series afterwards. I tried the first step and the shoulder strenght required is enormous. Is there a way that strenghtens my shoulders enough for this move, WITHOUT involving the wrists much? I don’t think I’m able to do HSPU’s in the foreseable future.
    2. How do I progress beyond the straight bridge hold from the trifecta (on the knuckles)?
    I tried Flat Palm Bridges against a Wall, but it gave me some back pain.
    I don’t know why, I have a solid straight bridge hold, started hanging Bent Leg L-Holds and can grab my wrist during Step 5 of Twist Holds without pain.
    I already worked my neck with manual resistance head raises and want to begin neck bridges as soon as possible.
    3. When can I start Tuck Front lever (Pull ups)?
    4. When CC3 is out, I wanna start plyometrics. Again, which explosives don’t involve bending the wrists back?
    5. Can I hang from the bar everyday for twenty seconds for the L-Holds, after a brief joint circling warmup? I got some calluses on my hands, which may make my pull up and grip workouts harder.
    6. Can I go to the PCC with my pains? There will be intense elbow lever, L-Sit, Headstand, Handstand and Push up sessions.
    How can I pass the century test (push ups)?
    Should I start headstands on my knuckles?
    7. Should I strenghten my fuckin’ wrists with wrist push ups?
    Sorry for the long comment, but I hope you can answer it.
    Greetings from germany

    • Hey Leo–thanks for the repost. Always the man! I can see from your post that you are still training hard–that makes me happy, kid. Please don’t quit!

      1. If you can’t hold a one-arm pullup in the top position for ten seconds, and the one-arm handstand against a wall for ten seconds, don’t even try the press flag. Get going with pullups and handstands first!

      2. Good work on the twists–some folks get some aches when they step up to bridges–it’s natural, you are moving forwards! As long as you are not injuring yourself, go slow with the wall work and take it as easy as you need to. Aim for some work, rather than an injury and your body will learn the trick.

      3. The front lever series is pretty advanced, kid. Unless you can do ten strict close pullups and ten PERFECT slow straight leg raises, don’t waste your time. Stick with the basics for faster progress, Leo!

      4. Kips, clapping pullups and all jumps. As a beginner work with jumps to learn all total-body explosiveness before you move to advanced shit. Once a week is fine to get the feel of it.

      5. Hanging is a good exercise. Watch your joint pain and consider at least a couple days away from it during the week. Rest is good, too.

      6. Lots of people carrying nagging injuries have blasted through them and passed the PCC! But without being you, I cannot tell for sure how limiting your injuries are. You should be able to do handstands on your palms if you do them right–very little weight should be going through the hands or arms in a correct handstand. If your wrists DO still hurt from it, try the yoga version, with your hands clasped around your neck/head:

      7. Kid, if your wrists are too bad to do your basic pushups, wrist pushups aint a good idea. Have you been to the doctor about this yet? If not, please go. If you have a broken wrist, there’s no point me telling ya to work through it, huh?

      Now get training–safely!


      • Leo

        Thank you for your valuable answer, as always.
        In Nr 6., do you really mean that very little weight is going through the hands on a HANDSTAND, or on a HEADSTAND?
        Whatever the case, should I start them right now?

        • My bad, man! Yeah, you’re right–I meant headstands! This was in response to whether you can stand the headstands on yer knuckles.


  • V! Hey my good buddy!

    1. You can use the techniques you mention. They work! But straight sets should be the backbone of your training. Straight sets have been used by strongmen since day one, because they don’t exhaust the muscles excessively, they allow athletes to focus, and they are simple!

    2. I like full body workouts, and I recommend them in some places!

    3. Try not to do it during pullups, and you can slip off the bar. Okay?

    4. How do most guys take care of it?! Seriously, science seems to say that jerking off should be good, as it may actually increase test. I don’t agree with excessive jacking, as I think it reduces energy. Exactly what the right balance is depends upon the dude in question. Moderation in all things, bro!

  • Rodolfo Oliveira

    Thanks Coach! You rock!

  • Portagee Slim

    Thank you Coach Wade, for writing the Convict Conditioning books. They have allowed me regain strength, mobility, and stop using analgesics twice daily. I can now manage most of my pains with essential oils. But most of the time I am pain free. Thank you, I look forward to becoming stronger, and even more athletic as time goes on.

  • Vasily

    Greetings from Belarus to you, Coach Paul. I want you to give me advice about knee problem. Some years ago I have a little injury on my knee. It didn’t hurt a lot, but after that I noticed that I have some crunching in the lowest point of squats. Like I said, it doesn’t hurt, but it takes a lot of discomfort to me. I am doing CC nearly half a year already (and nearly 2 years of just simple bodyweight workouts). In CC I hit 6 step on squatting but then I decided to return to step 2 and make progress slower in order to give my knee some reabilitation. Also I had some therapy on my knee but it didn’t help. What can you advice to me, mr. Wade? Hope you will answer. Thank you to all your articles and books, they really teach me a lot. From Belarus (it’s near Russia, Poland and Ukraine) with love.

  • Blake Celestian

    Hey coach, I was wondering what you thought about what time of the day is the best to train during? I know some people like to train early in the morning, before eating anything. Do you think the time that you train is of any significance or is it just whatever is convenient? Did you ever experiment with that? Is there a certain time to train that gives the best performance or recovery?
    Future calisthenics master, Blake, living abroad in China 😉

  • Hey Coach,

    How’s it hangin’ these days? On my end, staying busy and still training hard!

    You asked me to give and update on progress using good ol’ Joey’s approach, so here it is. I finally got to where I could nail it just right with uneven pullups. So I started putting the assisting hand lower on the working arm and finally worked back up to the reps called for. I milked them this way for a while and then started feeling out the PCC progression for horizontal pullups a bit more.

    Since then, I’ve gotten to where I’m finally able to perform one arm Australian pullups with knees bent, and supported one arm pullups. I’ll keep working those until I develop the proficiency and strength in them to be able to tighten up form more, then later make them a bit tougher.

    Still, I know I should likely get strict on applying the Hartigen method to one of these. I think I’ll work the horizontals a bit more, unless you have some advice! Another idea that someone gave me was jackknife one arm pullups, but I’ll have to see if I can pull those off yet.

  • Mattias

    Hi Coach & blog readers

    I’m using the Hartigen method with the goal to obtain the beginner standard of CC L5 HSPU.
    I find full range L5 HSPU very challenging. One problem I face is that there is a ‘point of no return’ on the negative part of the movement. And bending my elbows further introduces a substantial risk that I cannot lower myself further safely and I risk free-falling… Landing on my head…

    To overcome I use a trick I learned elsewhere on this blog. I pile a set of books under my head to a certain height. This height limits the movement, creating a safe ROM where I lower myself to a depth which is challenging but from which I can push myself up. I measure the height with my index fingers. When I obtain the progression standard of the Hartigen method I lower the height with one finger and start over.

    I’ve used this to go from a height of 8 fingers to 6 fingers in about 5 months.
    The plan is to go back to cc style training when reaching the 0 finger height.

    Any feedback on this approach?

  • eisa

    Hey… coach what are your thoughts on masturbation??
    And how to train like diesel 20 with CC??
    Greetings from Pakistan.

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