The Marriage of Bodyweight Training Methods

by Steven Low on March 19, 2013

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Al Kavadlo and Adrienne Harvey ‘Overcoming Gravity’ with Bodyweight Strength

My name is Steven Low, author of Overcoming Gravity: A Systematic Approach to Gymnastics and Bodyweight Strength. I will be one of the senior PCC’s in June.

As I am sure you are all aware, I am just one author on the subject of bodyweight strength training. Paul Wade, Al Kavadlo, and others have written various articles and books on bodyweight strength training and have developed their own systems. Many of those looking to learn about bodyweight strength training have told me that they have a lot of the different book materials from a variety of the listed authors.

Thus, one of the questions that many people ask me is – what is the best program?

To answer this question let me give you some more of my thoughts on the bodyweight strength communities.

I personally do not think that the market of bodyweight strength books, DVDs, and online material is a competition. Everyone has their own take on exercises and programming methods which work. The key point is that the best program is the one that you will stick with to make progress. Any experienced trainer will tell you flat out that this is the truth.

Essentially, the best “program” is whatever helps you progress towards your goals whether it be Overcoming Gravity, Convict Conditioning, Raising the Bar, or other training methods.

One of the main criticisms of my book is that it has almost to much information, especially for newer people looking to get into bodyweight training. I completely agree. Learning how to train and construct routines can be a daunting task for a person new and interested in bodyweight strength training.

One of the terms we like to use in fitness is paralysis by analysis. If there’s too much information, it’s very hard to sift through it. This goes along with the concept that the best program is the one you will stick to.

There is no such thing as a perfect routine. There’s many reasons why this is true.

  1. All systems have their positives and negatives with regard to sets, repetitions, volumes, frequency, etc. Not everyone responds the same to the same program.
  2. Everyone is coming from a different athletic background or even none at all. A sedentary person is different from someone who has performed gymnastics – who is different from someone who played basketball.
  3. Programming should vary depending on the level of ability you are at. You don’t train a beginner with the volume of an elite athlete. If you throw 40 hours of gymnastics or any other sport at at a new person they would get injured within the first week.
  4. Previous injury history plays an important role as well as potential dysfunctions that people have that are not injuries. The highest predictor of injury is a previous injury. This tells me that someone who has had previous back or shoulder pain may have different needs than your typical average healthy person. Additionally, a desk job worker with poor posture may not respond well to specific training until their dysfunctional posture has been fixed.


Different people have different training needs.

Essentially, all good training materials have ways of getting people started. The three key variables that are involved with a good starting program are:

  1. Focused towards your goals, and
  2. Made in a such a way that keeps you injury free, and
  3. Made such that you will stick to the program.

Get rid of all of the analysis. You will essentially learn as you train. In any sport or discipline you need to know how to do things – that is what the books and training materials are for. The other component that is often left out for many is that you actually have to put those things into practice as well. You cannot have one without the other.

Focus a program towards your goals, listen to your body, and train!


About Steven: Steven Low, author of Overcoming Gravity: A Systematic Approach to Gymnastics and Bodyweight Strength, is a former competitive gymnast who, in recent years, has been heavily involved in the gymnastics performance troupe, Gymkana.  With his degree from the University of Maryland College Park in Biochemistry, Steven has spent thousands of hours independently researching the scientific foundations of health, fitness and nutrition.  Currently Steven is pursuing a doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of Maryland Baltimore which provides him with insights into practical care for common injuries.  His training is varied and intense with a focus on gymnastics, parkour, rock climbing, and sprinting.  He currently resides in his home state of Maryland. His website is

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  • jim perry

    Steve… glad you’ll be at PCC.. I am a starting w/bodyweight training.. and I think it’s a great way for the over 60 crowd to ease into physical training and awareness, develop strength, and improve the way we move as we get older. I bought your book and I like it.
    The info is well orgainzed and sure thing,,, there’s lots of it…!! whether it’s ‘too much’ or not depends on the appetite of the reader..!! Looking forward to the sessions..

    • Steven Low

      Awesome. See you there. 🙂

  • Well said, my man: “There is no such thing as the perfect routine.” Agreed.
    Lookin forward to seeing you in St Paul. It’s going to be epic.

    • Steven Low

      Looking forward to meeting you guys too!

  • Paul John Wade

    Steven, if Al Kavadlo is the world’s greatest calisthenics coach, I got not doubt in my mind that you are the world’s greatest bodyweight training ideologist. I can’t believe how fortunate we are to have you on the PCC team.

    For those few bodyweight enthusiasts who don’t know Steven, he is the author of an incredible book on gymnastics-style strength training called “Overcoming Gravity”. That book is unbelievable, and when one of my students sent it to me, I immediately contacted Steven to tell him that his book, as a progressive gymnastics resource, would never be surpassed. I personally begged this dude to join team PCC and it’s a real honor to have him here. I would ask that all fans of Convict Conditioning warmly welcome Steven here, and definitely check out his book.

    Trust me, this is a historic day for progressive calisthenics!!!

    • Steven Low

      Thanks for the compliments Paul. You’ve been a big help to me as well. I hope I’ll get to meet you sometime in the future.

  • Yusuf

    Wisdom and experience are obvious here. Thank you! Elegant piece and needed perspective. Curious if your book addresses some of your favorite fixes for locked thoracic? For those of us that started training later in life and have logged years of sedentary living without regard to posture, are there some tested progressions for successful bridging, fully articulating the thoracic spine? I can bridge but all of the extension is through the lumbar. I have a working knowledge of the body so I understand the theory behind the different potential culprits: breathing, tight pecs, lats, weakness in end ranges – just curious if you have a few favorite techniques for improving t-spine extension? Or should I keep bridging with mindfulness and overtime expect better extension?

    • Steven Low

      It really depends on what your particular issues are. If you’re really, really, really gummed up in the T-spine you should go with some low load long duration type stretching where you lie on a foam roller for 15-20 even up to 30 minutes to allow the tissues to just relax. I like a lot of forced scapular retraction as well.

      There’s a bunch of mobility work in the book, but it might not all apply to your specific case.

      I would not suggest buying the book straight up for the mobility work though… The real value is mostly about how to construct a workout routine, injury prevention (of which mobility is a component) and exercise progressions with sample programming.

      Hope that helps.

  • doc

    Great Stuff. It’s also PE class 1963

  • Robb


    I’m sorry if the question might not be appropriate, but concerning hypertrophy, does Overcoming Gravity style of training able to provide muscle growth ? I love the idea of calisthenics and gymnastic-style training, but would also like to put on some muscle.

    I’d really appreciate if you can answer this question,

    Thank you,


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