It’s hard to believe another year is coming to an end. So much happened in 2015, but it all seems to have gone by so quickly…
The year began with the debut of my latest critically acclaimed book, Zen Mind, Strong Body. Then came the highly-anticipated release of Paul Wade’s Explosive Calisthenics, which I had the honor of appearing in as a featured model.
And just last month, my brother Danny Kavadlo’s fantastic new book Strength Rules, which I modeled for as well, debuted at #1 on Amazon’s top Exercise and Fitness downloads.
What’s next, you ask? The first official Kavadlo Brothers collaboration!
Danny and I are putting the finishing touches on a new book tentatively entitled Street Workout Worldwide, scheduled for release next spring.
The Progressive Calisthenics Certification continued its growth in 2015 as well. Danny and I traveled all over the US and Europe this year to bring the PCC to new places like California, Norway and the UK.
In addition to reaching new markets, many of the cities that had previously hosted PCC, like Holland and my hometown of NYC, saw even larger attendance than at last year’s events.
I also launched a 1-day bodyweight certification with Dragon Door called the Strength Calisthenics Certification, which made it’s debut last month. Look for more SCC workshops in the US and Europe in the months ahead!
My media profile keeps growing as well. My column in TRAIN magazine continues to be seen by hundreds of thousands of people every month and my articles on Bodybuilding.com have been getting a lot of attention. I was also featured in the New York Post and on the television show Chasing News this year.
2015 was a big year in my personal life, too!
In August I married my sweetheart, Grace Menendez (now Grace Kavadlo). I never thought I would meet a woman who loves calisthenics as much as I do! Connecting with Grace has been the most amazing thing to happen in my entire life. To say I feel lucky to call her my wife is a tremendous understatement.
In addition to my workshops and new book, be on the lookout for the first official Al Kavadlo – We’re Working Out! app for iPhone and Android to be released early 2016.
“If you are a bodyweight master, this is the bible you will want to go back to again and again, to keep you on the straight and narrow. If you are raw beginner—Jeez, then get this book right now, follow the rules, and save yourself years of wasted effort! Strength Rules is as good as it gets!”
—PAUL WADE, author of Convict Conditioning
“Strength Rules by Danny Kavadlo is so good you can’t ignore it. It’s minimalistic. It’s low tech. It’s simple. It’s right.”
—DAN JOHN, author of Never Let Go
“I can’t say enough good things about Danny Kavadlo. I just love his entire approach, mindset and overall vibe. And Strength Rules has to be one of the coolest, most badass fitness books I have ever seen.” —JASON FERRUGGIA
So what are you waiting for? Go get your copy of Strength Rules right now!
My only disappointment this summer has been the ongoing construction at my favorite training spot, Tompkins Square Park. Due to the closure, I have not been able to host any bootcamp classes. I’m still hoping to do one at the end of the summer, however, if the park is reopened in time.
Since TSP has been shut down, I’ve been working out at other NYC parks, like East River Park, where I filmed this fun, new workout video with Grace Menendez.
I’m very excited about the new look of this website! My books, workshops and links are now easily accessible from the main page, while all of my old blog posts and articles are readily available using the search box in the upper right corner of the blog.
Speaking of questions, a lot of people have been asking me if I will be doing any bootcamp classes at Tompkins Square Park this summer and the answer is: Yes! I’m not sure of any exact dates yet, but I plan to do at least one (hopefully more) free class at TSP some time this summer.
Make sure you follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter so you can stay up to date on the details.
Hope to see you at one of my workshops or classes soon!
Once again, my brother Danny and I have the honor of appearing on the cover of another Coach Wade book, as well as being featured models.
Senior PCC instructor Adrienne Harvey and PCC Instructor Grace Menendez are also well represented in CC3. It’s nice to finally have some females in a CC book!
With his trademark blend of old-school philosophy, hard-earned wisdom and in-your-face humor, Coach expands his infamous system of progressive bodyweight programming to break down the most coveted explosive moves, including the back flip, kip-up and muscle-up. If you want to know how far you can go training with just your own bodyweight, you owe it to yourself to get this book!
Explosive Calisthenics is my personal favorite book in the CC series! Watch the video below for demonstrations of some of the exercises covered in the book and make sure to get your copy before they sell out!
Zen Mind, Strong Body is the ultimate Al Kavadlo collection, containing 26 of my favorite articles from the last 5+ years of this blog, as well as many never-before-seen photos, lots of inspirational quotes and some new sample workouts!
This book covers everything from my views on diet and supplements, to machines and free weights, to cardio options, to mental training and more!
“Al Kavadlo’s Zen Mind, Strong Body is a breath of fresh air in a stagnant forest of rote physical training books. I have had the good fortune to train and learn from some of the best in the world, and Al Kavadlo is among the few people I would travel and pay money to train with.”—Dr. Chris Hardy, author of Strong Medicine
“Al Kavadlo is a master of bodyweight training and calisthenics. If you want to gain strength and improve flexibility, and do it all without a single piece of gym equipment, Al’s the expert you should turn to.”—Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint
“Zen Mind, Strong Body by Al Kavadlo should be the first book you look at when considering the world of bodyweight work.”—Dan John, author of Never Let Go
“Zen Mind, Strong Body expertly covers the methods, the moves, the nutrition, the equipment, the benefits, the philosophy and even the culture of bodyweight training. If you are a newbie uncertain about whether to explore bodyweight, or an advanced athlete looking for a new take on the most ancient conditioning method, this is now the definitive go-to book.”—Paul “Coach” Wade, author of Convict Conditioning
Click the book cover to get your copy! (Paperback version will be on sale in March.)
As 2014 comes to an end, I find myself looking back and marveling at what a year it’s been!
This was the first full year of the Progressive Calisthenics Certification, which consisted of 9 different workshops in 6 different countries on 3 separate continents – over 200 people attended PCC this year!
“Diamond-Cut Abs condenses decades of agonizing lessons and insight into the best book on ab-training ever written. Hands down.”
—PAUL WADE, author of Convict Conditioning
“Danny has done it again! Diamond-Cut Abs is a no-nonsense, results driven approach that delivers all the goods on abs. Nutrition, training and progression are all included, tattoos optional!”
—ROBB WOLF, author of The Paleo Solution
“If you want the abs of your dreams, stop looking for the quick solution everyone claims to have and get ready to learn how to maximize your efforts towards your very own set of Diamond-Cut Abs.”
—MIKE FITCH, creator of Global Bodyweight Training
C-Mass is my favorite book that “Coach” Wade has written yet! It’s jam-packed with entertaining and insightful advice on using bodyweight strength training to gain muscle mass, and it also includes info on pure strength training without mass gain as the main objective. There is truly something for everyone in C-Mass! Get your copy today!
To stay informed of when classes will be taking place, make sure you follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter. I will update both accounts a few days before each bootcamp session to confirm that we’re on for that Saturday.
I almost forgot the best part! The new price for bootcamp at TSP is… FREE!!!
All you need to bring is a positive attitude and a willingness to challenge yourself! Adults of all fitness levels are welcome to attend. Hope to see you there!
Stretching Your Boundaries includes over 50 different bodyweight exercises to improve your flexibility, mobility, joint health, and of course – functional strength! The book was written specifically with calisthenics enthusiasts in mind!
“The ultimate bodyweight mobility manual is here! Stretching Your Boundaries belongs on the shelf of any serious athlete—it’s bodyweight mobility dynamite!” —”COACH” PAUL WADE, author of Convict Conditioning
“In Stretching Your Boundaries you’ll sense Al’s deep understanding and love for the human body. Thank you Al, for helping to bring awareness to perhaps the most important aspect of physical education and fitness.” —ELLIOTT HULSE, creator of the Grow Stronger method
“An absolutely masterful follow up to Raising the Bar and Pushing the Limits, Stretching Your Boundaries really completes the picture. Not only stunning in its color and design, this book also gives you the true feeling of New York City, both gritty and euphoric, much like Al’s personality.” —MIKE FITCH, creator of Global Bodyweight Training
With PCC off to an amazing start, my brother Danny and I have gotten a lot of press this year, including this article in the NY Times.
I’ve been a regular contributor to Bodybuilding.com for most of 2013 and I’ve recently landed a monthly column in their new partner publication, Train magazine. The debut issue is on newsstands now throughout the US, Canada and the UK. I’ll be sharing a new bodyweight workout in every issue, as well as an occasional extended feature.
While 2013 has undoubtedly been the biggest year of my career, next year is shaping up to be even bigger!
I’ve got a full calendar of workshops and certifications lined up for 2014, including events in Germany and New York City. Additional dates will be added in the months ahead. Check my upcoming workshops page for the complete list of events.
Over 60 calisthenics enthusiasts from half a dozen different countries showed up for a 3-day crash course in calisthenics and a chance to take on The Century to earn the title of PCC Instructor.
The event was Dragon Door’s best-attended European certification in the company’s thirteen-year history of producing fitness workshops.
This workshop also featured the debut of our indoor scaffolding set-up, which allows for a one-of-a-kind calisthenics “Street Workout” style experience.
The good vibes and mutual inspiration were at an all-time high. Every single attendee set new personal achievements and perhaps more importantly, we all had a great time and made new friends along the way! Thank you to Fredrik Högström for helping organize this amazing event.
When I first began my website and Youtube channel just over 4 years ago, I never would have dreamed something like this could be possible.
It’s been a pleasure and a blessing to connect with so many amazing people and we are still just getting started! Click the link for a list of all my upcoming workshops.
One more thing! If you haven’t been following my Youtube channel, make sure you subscribe so you can continue to get videos like the new “Ask Al” series seen below.
“Danny Kavadlo’s training helped me to discover strengths I never knew I had, and I can take those lessons with me wherever I go, for the rest of my life. The wisdom and insight contained in Everybody Needs Training not only relates to being a successful fitness trainer, but can be applied for peace and success in many of life’s ventures. Danny is the best!”
—ELIZABETH GILBERT, New York Times #1 Best Selling Author, Eat, Pray, Love
“Like Danny himself, this groundbreaking book is incredibly smart, brutally honest, laugh-out-loud funny, and totally out of left field… you owe it to yourself to grab a copy of this masterpiece. I cannot recommend it highly enough.”
—PAUL WADE, Author, Convict Conditioning
“Everybody Needs Training is quite ‘something.’ I don’t think I have ever seen this kind of depth in the field. It’s both obvious and ‘wow’ as you read it. Amazing stuff. It fills a gap in the community that, frankly, surprises me no one has really filled.”
Since releasing my book Raising The Bar (and the companion DVD), dozens of people have written to tell me how my training advice helped them achieve their first muscle-up. Oftentimes they will send video footage along with it. I love getting these types of messages!
As we’ve discussed before, however, many peoples’ first muscle-up ain’t always so pretty. Though I am happy to grant some leeway on form when someone’s learning a challenging new exercise, I don’t want people all over the world doing ugly muscle-ups (“ugly-ups” as I like to call ’em) and crediting me with having taught them that way.
Clean and Clear
While getting your first muscle-up is a wonderful fitness objective to work toward, simply getting your torso over the bar shouldn’t be the end goal. Once you’ve achieved your first muscle-up, it’s time to work on improving your form.
But before we get to cleaning up your technique, let’s go over the two most common issues people new to the muscle-up kingdom may encounter:
While allowing one arm to come up before the other can sometimes be a helpful gateway to cleaner muscle-ups, it is generally not a good long-term strategy. Though it may be the only way you’re going to get a feel for the crucial transition from below the bar to being on top, it’s best to try to shake this habit as soon as possible.
Almost everyone needs to kip a bit to do their first muscle-up, but once you can perform a few reps you should aim to steadily reduce your kip. Though a little kipping is certainly acceptable if you’re doing reps on the bar, do your best to keep it to a minimum. If your knees are bending more than an inch or two or your legs are casting out too far in front of the bar, you need to clean it up.
Fixing Your Form
Even if you’re pretty good at muscle-ups, chances are you can benefit from the following training tactics. I recommend these three techniques for getting rid of the common form flaws and establishing yourself as a muscle-up master.
Just like in your early pull-up practice, negatives are a great way to establish a movement pattern in your nervous system. Start at the top of a muscle-up and lower yourself slowly to the bottom of the dip position with your chest leaning over the bar. Brace yourself and transition as carefully as possible from having your chest above the bar to the top of a pull-up position. Squeeze your abs tight and reach your legs away from the bar to counterbalance. At first you may not be able to control it much, but with time you will eventually get the hang of going slowly through the transition. Once this happens, controlled muscle-ups will soon follow.
Gradual Kip Reduction
Don’t expect to suddenly go from your first sloppy muscle-up to replicating the opening of Andreas Aguilar’s 1991 World Pro gymnastics routine. The only way to significantly minimize your kip is to do it slowly and gradually. If you find yourself bending your knees during your muscle-ups, focus on keeping your legs straight(er). If you’re bucking your hips too much, imagine there is a wall a foot or two in front of the bar that you don’t want to crash into.
When the objective is to improve your form, focus on performing fewer reps at a time. Sets of just one or two reps will allow you to focus on the subtle details of the movement pattern without getting fatigued. Like the old saying goes, “quality over quantity.”
False Grip It’s great to practice explosive muscle-ups but slowing the movement down can add a whole new challenge, allowing you to build more strength in the transition from below to above the bar, which is the most crucial part of the exercise.
In order to do this, it’s helpful to use a false grip, which entails bending your wrists over the bar so your hand won’t need to roll around it during the transition. When you get to the top of the pull-up phase, your hands will already be in the right position. Some people even find an exaggerated false grip with closed fists resting on the bar to be ideal.
If you have access to them, learning the muscle-up on gymnastic rings can be a useful tool to help perfect your bar muscle-up. While the two skills are each unique in their own ways, there is a lot of carry-over from one to the other. If you don’t have rings, practicing a false grip muscle-up between two parallel bars can give you a similar feeling.
I’ve been getting emails from people all over the world asking when the PCC will be coming to their neck of the woods. Sit tight – PCC will be visiting many different cities over the next several years. Click here for a list of all upcoming PCC dates and watch for more announcements in the months ahead.
Danny is putting the finishing touches on his debut book, tentatively entitled Everybody Needs Training – Expert Tips for Personal Trainers. Look for Danny’s book to be released by Dragon Door Publications later this summer.
I’ve also been hard at work on my next book, entitled Stretching Your Boundaries – Flexibility Training for Extreme Calisthenic Strength. That book will be available later this fall or early next year.
This summer is the last time that I’ll be holding outdoor bootcamp workout classes at Tompkins Square Park. If you’ve ever wanted to train with me at Tompkins, this is your chance! There are only 8 more classes left. Contact me if you’d like to attend.
The clutch lever is a unique bodyweight strength skill that works the entire upper body as well as the core muscles, especially the lower back.
A hybrid between a clutch flag and a front lever, the clutch lever is an intermediate-level skill that’s less challenging than the full front lever much in the same way that clutch flags are a good precursor to the human flag – but that doesn’t mean it’s gonna come easy!
Before you’re ready for this move, you’ll need a fairly high level of strength in your upper body, abs, glutes and grip. Make sure you’ve got a good foundation in push-ups, pull-ups and dips prior to beginning your clutch lever training.
To perform a clutch lever, stand next to a sturdy vertical pole and wrap your arm around it, clutching it tightly. Keeping your elbow fairly close to your body with your hand just above shoulder height, reach your opposite arm behind your back to get a solid grip on the pole right outside your hip. Squeeze tightly with both hands and lean your trunk back, using your forearm beneath you for leverage to lie back into a horizontal position. Allow your top arm to extend as you lean back; feel free to experiment with varying degrees of elbow flexion.
To achieve a successful clutch lever, you’ll need to maintain tension through your entire body. Also, be careful not to lean your weight too much toward the pole. Doing so can lead you to spin out of position. Though it may take some time to get the hang of this exercise, with practice you will be able to gradually work up to longer holds.
Over 50 fitness trainers, athletes and exercise enthusiasts from all over the world showed up for a crash course in calisthenics and a chance to take on the Century workout to earn the the title of PCC certified instructor.
The enthusiasm of the attendees was overwhelming and the positive energy was impossible to ignore. Dozens of attendees achieved their first muscle-up, lever or human flag and many other personal bests were set during this groundbreaking event. It was truly a weekend I will never forget. Along the way, challenges were overcome, new friendships were formed and lives were forever changed.
The event blew away my expectations; between the wonderful attendees and my co-instructors Danny Kavadlo, Adrienne Harvey and Steven Low, this was the most impressive group of athletes I’ve had the pleasure of working with in my career so far.
Congratulations to the first class of PCC instructors! I can’t wait to do it again in August!
In other PCC news, our first European workshop has been confirmed and will take place this November in Gothenberg, Sweden.
I’ve begun work on my fourth book, tentatively titled Stretching Your Boundaries – Flexibility Training for Extreme Calisthenic Strength. The book will be released on Dragon Door Publications in early 2014.
My brother and fellow PCC master instructor, Danny Kavadlo, is also working on a new book. Danny’s book, Everybody Needs Training – Expert Tips for Personal Trainers, will be out this fall. I’m writing the foreword for the book and I’ve also been helping Danny with the photos.
Additionally, I’ve become a regular contributor to Bodybuilding.com. My recent article on handstands has generated a lot of interest in bodyweight training amongst the bodybuilding crowd. I’m very excited to get to spread the word about calisthenics over there!
Plus I’ve got two new YouTube videos for you to check out!
“Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless, and add what is uniquely your own.” – Bruce Lee
Throughout my life, I’ve experimented with dozens of different exercise modalities.
I’ve used barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, sandbags, and just about every other heavy object I could think of to try lifting.
I’ve done parkour, martial arts, Marathons and yoga. I even tried a Triathlon.
I believe my various experiences have helped me become a more well-rounded physical specimen, but after all of those things, I always come back to the simplest, most direct way of training I’ve ever known – calisthenics.
I love calisthenics training because it requires nothing more than your body, your mind and your warrior spirit.
You don’t need to buy anything, go anywhere or put on any special clothing. Anybody can start right now.
As Maya Angelou once said, “Ain’t nothing to it but to do it.” (Or was that Ronnie Coleman?)
There’s a lot to love about calisthenics, but my favorite thing is how it keeps you in the present. When you’re working on developing a new skill, you need to give all of your attention to the task at hand.
When you are completely focused on your training, the division between body and mind breaks down and everything else seems to fall away.
This phenomenon has been called different things by different people. Whether you call it mindfulness, samadhi, flow state or any other name, it’s a beautiful thing when it happens.
Over the years, I’ve learned and absorbed many things from different places, taken what’s worked for me, and used it all to develop my own theories and methods, which continue to adapt and take shape before my eyes. I’m constantly working to refine and expand my movement repertoire and I still look for inspiration in new and varied places.
I owe a thank-you to anyone I’ve ever trained, trained with, worked with, worked-out with or known in any capacity whatsoever. Some people have obviously had a greater impact than others, but everyone I’ve ever interacted with (even electronically!) has in some way shaped who I am today.
The video below shows a variety of exercises I’ve picked up (and in some cases modified) from different bodyweight disciplines, all blended into seamless, flowing movement.
Be present for your training, have fun and find your own path.
There’s also this piece I wrote for the PCC blog about my experiences in the fitness industry.
If that’s not enough, I’m the featured coach this month on Breaking Muscle. Look for lots of content over there from me during the next few weeks.
We’re Work(shop)ing Out!
The inaugural PCC workshop this June has sold out and a second PCC in St. Paul has been confirmed for the weekend of August 23-25. Additional PCC workshops in other cities will be announced in the weeks and months to come.
Danny and I are also leading a couple of smaller, non-certification workshops on the East Coast this month. We’ll be at Nimble Fitness in NYC on April 14 and we’ll be in Milford, Connecticut for two workshops on April 28th. There are still spots open for these workshops.
While my last book, Raising The Bar covers all the essential bodyweight exercises that require a pull-up bar, my new book focuses on my favorite bodyweight exercises that can be done with no equipment at all.
Pushing The Limits! covers dozens of types of push-ups and squats, including one arm push-ups and one-legged squats. The book also goes over back bridges, headstands, handstands and other inversions.
When people ask me about bodyweight strength training, I point them to Al Kavadlo. Pushing the Limits! is a must-have for bodyweight training enthusiasts or anyone looking to build strength without lifting weights. Al lays out dozens of effective exercises for every fitness level, while making the journey fun and encouraging.”
“Whether you are an advanced bodyweight conditioning athlete or a wet behind the ears newbie, Al’s Pushing the Limits! has something for you. Easy to follow progressions allow you to master advanced push up, squat and bridging variations. All you need is the will to do it! No gym required.”
“This is the book I wish I had when I first started working out. Knowing Al’s secrets and various progressions would have saved me years of wasted time, frustration and injuries. The variations of The Big Three and progressions Al lays out will keep you busy for years.”
“I LOVE this freaking Book!!! I will use it with my athletes, with the adults I train, in my own training and with my kids. This stuff reminds me of the old school Strength & Health Magazine, I’m fired UP!”
—Zach Even-Esh, author of The Bodyweight Bodybuilding Training System
“Al is a master at developing the foundations of true strength through the use of the most complex, sophisticated and powerful training tool ever devised – the human body. Pushing The Limits! is a practical and entertaining book that describes ancient methods for building futuristic strength.”
A lot of people have asked about how the test will be judged. Here are some guidelines to make sure you are doing things the PCC way:
The exercises must be performed in the order listed above. No exceptions.
Squats must be performed with a minimum depth of top of the thighs parallel to the floor and a full lock out at the top of each rep. Arms may be raised in front, crossed, or placed on top of the head. Heels must stay flat the entire time.
Push-up depth must reach a minimum of 90 degrees of flexion as measured along the outside of the elbow and a full lockout must be achieved at the top of every rep. A straight body position must be maintained throughout the entire range of motion. No sticking your butt into the air or leaving your hips down on the ground.
Hanging knee raises must be performed with the knees being raised above waist level and a full extension of the legs at the bottom of every rep. Swinging shall be kept to a minimum. Arms must remain straight the entire set.
Pull-ups may be performed with an overhand or underhand grip. The chin must clear the bar at the top of each rep and a full extension must be reached at the bottom. Kipping will not be allowed. (Australian pull-ups are to be performed with the bar at waist height and a straight body position must be maintained throughout.)
Rest may be taken in between exercises, but each exercise must be completed in a single set. You may pause briefly between reps as long as the position is held (i.e. top of push-up position, bottom of pull-up, etc.)
The reps may be performed as quickly as you like as long as all the above rules are adhered to. Form first!
In the videos below, you’ll see the Century demonstrated in real time by three different people: myself, my brother Danny, and our PCC co-instructor Adrienne Harvey.
Al Kavadlo is not liable for any injuries or damages that individuals might incur by attempting to perform any of the exercises or feats of strength depicted or discussed on this website.
Any individual attempting to does so at their own risk. Consult with your physician before beginning an exercise regimen.