All posts by Al Kavadlo

Super Slow Workout

If you’re looking to maximize your training, what’s the best speed to perform your reps?

This question comes up often in strength training circles. When clients ask about rep tempo, my answer is usually to focus on proper form and not to worry about speed. If you can do fast reps and keep them clean and controlled, then go as quickly as you like. If you start losing form, then slow down.

How Slow Can You Go?

While fast reps can be helpful for building agility and explosive power, slow training can be a nice way to work on form and alignment. In fact, just three or four slow reps can often be as challenging as twenty fast ones. Going slowly also requires extreme focus, adding a meditative quality to the workout.

One who’s mastered an exercise can do reps at whatever speed they feel like. As far as I’m concerned, true mastery is only attained once the move can be performed with control at any tempo.

Not So Fast

While there are some strength coaches who claim that super-slow training is the best way to work out, I would certainly not make that assertion. As I’ve stated before, there is no one best way to do anything. There are lots of effective techniques and it’s good to mix it up.

With that in mind, I set out to challenge myself by practicing some of my favorite calisthenics moves much slower than usual. I started with basics like pull-ups and dips, then got to work on super slow muscle-ups, pistol squats and even dragon flags.

Watch the video below for more:

The Clutch Flag

The human flag is one of my favorite bodyweight feats of strength. It’s also the exercise that I get asked about more than any other. Unfortunately, most people who ask about the human flag aren’t strong enough to actually begin practicing toward it.

The clutch flag is a less difficult variation that’s still visually impressive and just as much fun to practice. Additionally, working on your clutch flag can help you get a feel for the proper body alignment needed to perform a full human flag (aka “press flag”). It can also help you build the strength you’ll need to get there.

The clutch flag is easier than the press flag for a few reasons. First and foremost, as your arms are not in an overhead position during a clutch flag, the length of your body becomes substantially shorter than it would be in the full flag (plus your head and shoulders are on the other side of the pole). This change in body positioning gives you better leverage. Additionally, the clutch grip allows you to squeeze the pole with your entire torso, not just your hands.

Though the two moves are similar, they work your muscles a bit differently. The press flag heavily stresses the shoulders (particularly on the bottom arm), while the clutch flag puts more emphasis on the biceps. It’s more of a pull than a push as far as the arms are concerned.

When you can do a clutch flag for 20 seconds or longer, you might be ready to start training for the full human flag.

Check out the video below for more:



For more information about the clutch flag, as well as the standard human flag, check out the book Convict Conditioning 2, which features Danny and me on the cover!

Street Workout

Spring is in full bloom here in NYC and there’s never been a better time for an outdoor training session.

With that in mind, my brother Danny and I spent the better part of the day yesterday strolling around lower Manhattan getting our reps in on anything and everything we could find.

We hit the bars at a few different neighborhood playgrounds and also made use of construction scaffolding and whatever else we came across.

We practiced push-ups, pull-ups, dips, pistol squats, human flags and lots of other challenging moves, once again demonstrating that you don’t need a gym or any fancy equipment to get a great full-body workout.


Get the new ebook STREET WORKOUT by Al and Danny Kavadlo!

Street Workout Book

Related posts:
Human Flags Everywhere!
Sets in the City
Sets in the City II

Al Kavadlo April 2012 Update

These last several weeks have been a whirlwind!

Between all the work that went into finishing Raising The Bar, plus keeping up with my personal training clients, I needed a vacation, so I took off to Sayulita, Mexico for a few days last week.

It was great to relax and blow off some steam, but you guys know me – I can’t help myself from getting a few reps in wherever I go!


***If you want to see more photos from my trip, check out my facebook page.***

Since returning, I’ve been busy with a few other projects. I penned a guest blog for Mark’s Daily Apple, and there’s also this interview I recently did with Mike Fitch from Global Bodyweight Training. Plus a few more things I can’t tell you about just yet…

In other exciting news, I am pleased to announce that Raising The Bar will officially be released on paperback on Friday, June 1st, 2012.

Nimble Fitness will be hosting a party to celebrate the occasion that night. All are welcome to attend!

Though the official launch will not take place until June 1, the book may actually be available a bit sooner than that. Check in with DragonDoor.com for more information as the release approaches.

Also, be sure to check out my new highlight reel video if you haven’t seen it yet:

Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics



Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics
is now available from Dragon Door Publications!


Click here to purchase and download the ebook now!


Here is what people are saying about Raising The Bar:

“With Raising The Bar, Al Kavadlo has put forth the perfect primal pull-up program. Al’s progressions and demonstrations make even the most challenging exercises attainable. Anyone
who is serious about pull-ups should read this book.”

—Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint

Raising The Bar is very likely the most important book on strength and conditioning to be published in the last fifty years. If you only ever get your hands on one training manual in your
life, make it this one. Buy it, read it, use it. This book has the power to transform you into the ultimate bar athlete.”

—Paul “Coach” Wade, author of Convict Conditioning

“Al has put together the companion manual for all the crazy bar calisthenics videos that you find yourself watching over and over again—a much needed resource. Within this book is a huge volume of bar exercises that will keep your pull-up workouts fresh for years, and give you some
insane goals to shoot for.”

—Max Shank, Senior RKC, Owner of Ambition Athletics


Click here to purchase and download the ebook now!

Raising the Bar Cover

There it is, guys: the cover of my forthcoming book, Raising the Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics (click the image to enlarge it).

The release date of the book is still to be determined, but I expect it will be available in the next several weeks. I’m currently working with the guys at Dragon Door to finish up the interior design of the book. I can’t wait for you guys to see this thing! I will let you know when an exact release date is set.

In other news, my first book, We’re Working Out! A Zen Approach to Everyday Fitness is now available in Kindle format from Fitedia. You can use the drop down menu on their product page to select a variety of e-book formats.

If you want a paper copy of We’re Working Out!, I recommend you order one soon. I only have about 100 copies left in my inventory and once those sell out, the only way to get the book will be as an electronic download.

February 2012 Update

I’m excited to announce that I have finished the manuscript for my forthcoming book, Raising the Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics.

I am also excited to announce that Dragon Door (publisher of the Convict Conditioning books) is my new publisher!

Raising the Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics will tell you everything you need to know about how to train pull-ups, muscle-ups and dips, as well as dozens of other bar exercises, many of which have not been discussed here on my blog. The book will also contain over 200 brand new full color photos as well as a section on hand-balancing.

I’m now in the process of finishing the photos for the book with photographer Colleen Leung. Once that’s done we can begin the layout and design phase. If all goes as planned, the book should be available this spring. I will keep you guys posted as soon as I know more.

In the meantime, make sure you get a copy of my first book, We’re Working Out! A Zen Approach to Everyday Fitness, if you haven’t already.

Last but not least, here’s a new video with some new moves you’ve never seen from me before:

Wrist Push-ups

Everyone knows strength training is great for your muscles, but a lot of people don’t realize that working out also does a great deal for your bones, tendons and other connective tissue. Most people are so concerned with aesthetic goals that they overlook the changes that can’t visibly be seen.

While an exercise like push-ups on the backs of your hands might seem totally insane, I believe they can make your wrists incredibly strong if implemented gradually after a solid foundation of strength has been established. Only once you get comfortable with other push-up variations like diamonds, knuckle push-ups and fingertip push-ups should you consider working on this variation.

Diamonds are forever

Wrist-y Business
Admittedly, the risk for injury is higher with wrist push-ups than most other push-up variations. The average person will be fine sticking with standard push-ups and close grip (diamond) push-ups. They are arguably the only two variations you need for everyday fitness.

Martial artists, gymnasts and other people looking to push their body to the limit of its physical potential, however, have long been known to benefit from training wrist push-ups. With increased risk, sometimes comes increased benefits. Wrist push-ups have been helping athletes perform better for quite some time.

Ease In Slowly
When starting out, I recommend training on a soft surface, as the skin on the backs of your hands will feel sensitive and chafe easily. In time you can condition yourself to do them on pavement.

Before going for a full wrist push-up, try a push-up with one hand on the palm and the other backwards. I call this a “one and one” push-up. Some people may feel more comfortable with their hand facing inward rather than completely upside down (see photo). To keep things balanced, switch which hand is face up on alternating sets. After a couple of weeks (or longer depending on individual conditioning) you may progress to full back of the hand push-ups.

Rest Your Wrists
Tread lightly with this exercise when starting out as it will likely feel uncomfortable at first. You have to give your body time to adapt to new stimuli. In the beginning, the most you’ll want to work on this move is three times a week. In time your wrists will adapt and become stronger. Then you can increase your training volume or take things to the next level by starting to work toward a one arm push-up on your wrist. A master of this move would seem very unlikely to break their wrist in a fall or a fight!

As always, exercise your common sense first. If you experience pain during your training, back off.

Watch the video below for more:

Pull-up Battle

Your old buddy Al has been starting to get a little attention from the mainstream media.

If you happen to fly American Airlines this month, keep an eye out for me in the January issue of their in-flight magazine. (You can also see the article online by clicking here.)

I also appeared in a new video series about the human flag for Men’s Health.

Don’t worry – I’m still going to keep putting up new content here on my blog! Check out my newest youtube clip, featuring Danny and me in a brotherly pull-up battle:

Looking Back/Looking Ahead

Between the release of Convict Conditioning 2 and my recent articles on T-Nation, traffic on this site has been at an all-time high. In fact, this whole year has been pretty amazing!

Thanks for stopping by, watching my videos and leaving so many great comments. Interacting with you guys is one of my favorite things about blogging.

Though I still feel the same about New Year’s resolutions, here’s what you can expect from me in 2012:

1. A New Book!

I’m working on a new book, entitled Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Bar Calisthenics, which will be released in 2012. I will have more info about the new book soon.

2. More Articles!

While I don’t expect to be posting articles as often as I did during the first 2+ years of this blog, I will still post new articles here from time to time. Though I’ve probably got enough content to keep you occupied for a while. (I’ve even added an archive section to the sidebar so you can find old posts easily.) You can also expect to see more articles from me on Sherdog and T-Nation.

3. New Videos!

I plan to continue updating you guys with a new video at least once a month, hopefully more often. If that’s not enough for you, check out my youtube channel – I’ve got over 150 videos on there already. Also make sure to like the facebook page and follow me on twitter if you want more updates and exclusive extras.

Something Old/Something New

Speaking of videos, here is a classic clip from the early days of my blog:

And here’s a brand new one about one legged squats:

Check out these other posts about pistol squats and shrimp squats for more.

And as always, feel free to leave your comments for me below!

We're Working Out! E-book


At the suggestion of many of my fans and followers, I have finally decided to release my first book, We’re Working Out! A Zen Approach to Everyday Fitness as an e-book.

The e-book is currently available as a PDF download, with plans to have it on other formats (including a Kindle version) in early 2012.

Though the e-book can be purchased in any country, it has been “e-published” by a British company called Fitedia, so the price is listed in pounds. When you order, the cost will be converted into your currency.


Click here to download your copy now!



Here’s what people are saying about the book:

“Al Kavadlo’s We’re Working Out! A Zen Approach to Everyday Fitness is a phenomenal catalog of techniques, ideas and tactics for achieving peak physical ability. Possibly the best book on fitness ever – if you enjoyed my book, go buy his. You won’t regret it.”

Paul Wade, Author of Convict Conditioning

“The first time I met Al he challenged me to a one-arm chin-up! His enthusiasm for fitness is infectious no matter if you are just dabbling in exercise for the first time or are an Ironman World Champion.”

Karen Smyers, USA Triathlon Hall of Famer and Ironman World Champion

“Al’s approach combines effective exercises with a motivating philosophy that
helped me to pursue my fitness goals. Training with him reminded me how
rewarding working out can be.”

Emma Robinson, Two-time Olympic medalist in rowing

“Al’s approach to fitness is a breath of fresh air and a voice of reason.
This book is a necessary step in the documentation of physical culture.”

Randy Humola, Personal training legend


Click here to download the e-book now!

Bodyweight Bootcamp at Nimble Fitness

If you’re in the New York City area and you’ve wanted to train with me, now is your chance!

Beginning Saturday January 7, I’ll be bringing my bootcamp workout class to Nimble Fitness, NYC’s #1 personal training facility.

This 12-week series will meet every Saturday morning at 10am from January 7 until March 24. Enrollment will be limited to 15 people.

The Bodyweight Bootcamp workout utilizes old-school bodyweight calisthenics as well as the TRX suspension system to challenge your strength, agility and cardio endurance. This fast-paced 50 minute workout class will jump start your fitness in the new year and help you push yourself to the next level of strength and conditioning.

Cost: $200 for 12 classes

Click here to sign up!

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

The Ultimate One Arm Push-up

One of my favorite sayings is, “In the world of the blind, the one eyed man is king.”

Well, in the world of calisthenics, the one arm push-up is king!

As I discussed in my one arm push-up tutorial, the legs are usually spread fairly wide for balance and stability during a one arm push-up.

However, the move can be made much more difficult by bringing the feet closer together.

In fact, the “perfect” one arm push-up remains an enigma in the world of calisthenics. Can a true one arm push-up be done with the heels touching?

Watch the video below to see me give it my best effort:


For more information, check out my book, Pushing The Limits! – Total Body Strength With No Equipment.

Convict Conditioning 2 on Paperback!

The wait is almost over! On December 8, 2011, Convict Conditioning 2 will officially be available in paperback!

This follow-up to the groundbreaking bodyweight training guide Convict Conditioning contains the most thorough write-up of how to train for the human flag ever in print. Author Paul Wade and I worked together to design the flag progressions, so for everyone whose written me asking for more advice on this move, make sure you pick up a copy!

The cover of the book features a photo of my brother Danny and I performing our infamous two man human flag and the inside of the book features over 50 additional photos of Danny and myself. In addition to the section on human flag training, there is lots of other useful info crammed into the 300+ pages of Paul Wade’s latest masterpiece.

You can pre-order your copy right now from Dragon Door and it will ship on the release date. This is a very exciting time!

Al Kavadlo Fall 2011 Update

I’ve been busy these last few months, but a lot of exciting things are happening!

First off, I’ve started writing my second book (that’s why you haven’t been seeing as many updates here on my blog).

The new book will include several specific workout routines as well as everything you’ll ever need to know about pull-ups, dips and muscle-ups – plus much more!

In the meantime, make sure you grab a copy of my first book!

In other news, I’m on the cover of the current issue of My Mad Methods Magazine! I’m also featured here, here and here.

Of course there’s also Convict Conditioning 2, which will be out on paperback next month. If you can’t wait that long, you can download the e-book right now!

Plus there is my newest workout video, shot by photographer/videographer Colleen Leung.

For those of you who are new here, this video will give you a good idea of what I’m all about. For those of you who’ve been keeping up with me for a while, it also includes a few variations of moves that you’ve never seen from me before!

Check it out and let me know what you think:

Convict Conditioning 2

After much anticipation, Dragon Door Publications has finally released Convict Conditioning 2!

While the actual paper book will not be available for purchase until mid-December, you can download the E-book in PDF format right now by clicking the link above!

This follow-up to the groundbreaking bodyweight training guide Convict Conditioning contains the most thorough write-up of how to train for the human flag ever in print. Author Paul Wade and I worked together to design the flag progressions, so for everyone whose written me asking for more advice on this move, make sure you pick up a copy!

The cover of the book features a photo of my brother Danny and I performing our infamous two man human flag and the inside of the book features over 50 additional photos of Danny and myself. In addition to the section on human flag training, there is lots of other useful info crammed into the 300+ pages of Paul Wade’s latest masterpiece. Check out DragonDoor.com for more info.

Active Vacation

Just because you’re on vacation, doesn’t mean you should be lazy. When I visited Punta Cana, Dominican Republic last week, I spent plenty of time relaxing on the beach and lounging in the pool, but I also got plenty of exercise.

I swam in the ocean, jogged along the sand or played tennis every day I was there. I also made sure to get my reps in using anything and everything I could find!

I did back bridges in the sand, muscle-ups on the lifeguard posts and other bodyweight calisthenics whenever I saw an opportunity.

Punta Cana is a beautiful city with some amazing scenery. The sun and surf gave me inspiration to work out and the beach offered some unique challenges.

Watch the video below for more:

Never Too Old to Work Out

A lot of people in the calisthenics community know about Tompkins Square Park. It’s where the Bar-barians train, it’s where I train and thanks to youtube, it’s become a legendary park for bar training all over the world.

There is another group that trains at TSP, however. One that you’ve probably never heard of unless you’ve spent some time there yourself. That is, until now.

Old Dogs, New Tricks
A lot of people write to me with concerns about starting strength training later in life. In the video below, you’ll see three men in their 50’s and 60’s busting out some high level calisthenics. One of the fellows featured didn’t even begin this type of training until his 50’s.

You don’t stop working out because you get old, you get old because you stop working out.

Prepare to be amazed:

Natural Movement and Functional Exercise

During a recent workout at Tompkins Square Park, I observed a father and son playing catch. The dad was around my age and the boy looked to be about three years old.

At one point the child missed the ball and the dad went to retrieve it. I watched him bend down with his back rounded, shoulders slumped and knees pitched way over his feet. (What you might call “bad form” on a squat or deadlift.)

A few minutes later, the boy missed the ball again, but this time the father let him retrieve it himself. When the tot picked up the ball, he squatted down from his hips with his chest up tall and lifted it without the slightest bend in his back – or any overt awareness of the movement pattern. It seemed to happen very naturally. He certainly had no idea what he’d just done can be difficult for many personal training clients!

Child’s Play
Lots of the exercises I teach my clients are movement patterns that children instinctively know, yet through years of neglect, the adult body has forgotten. However, with practice the movements usually return, and with them come increased strength, flexibility and of course, functionality.

Kids typically perform squats and deadlifts without anyone having to show them how. Yet when a deconditioned adult tries to perform these movements, they may feel very unnatural. We’ve spent our entire lives sitting in couches, chairs and cars, steering our bodies away from natural movement patterns. We’ve done this to the point where we’ve unlearned instinctive habits like lifting from the legs, and replaced them with lower back pain and hip ailments.

Functional Exercise
The best exercises are those which mimic natural movement patterns, like the aforementioned squat and deadlift, but sometimes functional exercises aren’t natural movement patterns. A pistol squat certainly isn’t something the body “naturally” does, but it’s a fantastic exercise nonetheless. The pistol takes a natural movement pattern and exaggerates it, making it more difficult, thereby causing the body to adapt and improve. That’s what makes it a functional exercise – it has carryover into real life scenarios. The pistol improves balance and makes each leg individually strong, so when you need to use them together, they can be an even stronger team.

Function or Fashion?
While taking a natural movement pattern and adding difficulty to it is a great way to bring a practical element to your workout, sometimes “functional training” gets so far removed from the original source that it misses the point. Standing on one foot on a bosu ball while doing an overhead dumbbell press is probably less functional than just using heavier dumbbells on stable ground.

Don’t fall for a “new exercise” just because it looks complicated or involves high-tech equipment. You don’t need anything fancy to get functionally fit. Real-life scenarios might involve standing on a shaky surface or pressing a heavy object, but they rarely involve both at the same time. A heavy standing overhead press is already a stability exercise – it demands that you use your entire body!

If you want to mix up your pressing routine, a handstand push-up might be a better choice. Admittedly, being upside-down isn’t something that will come up in day to day activity for most of us either, but the HSPU demands a high strength-to-weight ratio as well as stability and full body control. The HSPU also requires you to push yourself away from the ground, rather than pushing a weight away from your body, which will automatically engage your scapular musculature and build rotator cuff stability. You’ll be much less likely to make the mistake of pressing with your neck instead of your shoulders. Like all inversions, another benefit of the HSPU is that it can improve circulation.

Have Fun(ction) With It!
There are many ways to take natural movement patterns and increase their difficulty in a functional context. Adding weight, bringing in a plyometric element or using a stability component are some of the best ways to accomplish this. But remember, you don’t need wobble boards and other such gadgetry. Be weary of any fitness equipment that isn’t a weight or some type of pull-up apparatus. As a general rule, the more equipment that is required to perform a given exercise, the less functional it’s likely to be.

Below are some examples of functional exercises in each of the categories mentioned above:

Natural Movement + Weight
Squat
Deadlift
Clean and Press
Natural Movement + Plyometrics
Jump Lunge
Plyo Pull-up
Clap push-up
Natural Movement + Stability
Pistol Squat
Ring Muscle-up
One Arm Push-up

Final Thoughts
This list is just the tip of the iceberg! The world of functional fitness includes endless variations on these and other exercises. There might be some that are more effective for you than others. Experiment for yourself and let your body be your teacher.

One Arm Push-up Training

Single limb exercises are a great way to add a challenge to your calisthenics regimen. Along with the pistol squat and the one arm pull-up, the one arm push-up rounds out the trifecta of isolateral bodyweight exercises.

While a certain amount of asymmetry might be unavoidable (a right handed person is almost always going to be right dominant), training movements like the one arm push-up can go a long way towards building a strong, balanced body.

Triangle Tango
It’s important to note that the form of a one arm push-up is a bit different than the standard two arm variation. Your legs will likely need to be a bit wider than a regular push-up position and your hand should be directly under your body, rather than off to the side. The three points of contact with the ground (foot, foot, hand) will make a triangular formation. Very strong individuals may be able to keep their feet a bit closer together. The ultimate one arm push-up is performed with the feet touching.

Incline One Arm Push-up
Like any other difficult bodyweight exercise, a great way to work towards a full one arm push-up is to practice using a position where you will have better leverage, thus making the movement a bit easier. The best way to do this with the one arm push-up is by practicing on an inclined surface, such as a rail or bench.

Self-Assisted One Arm Push-up
Using your secondary arm to spot your primary pushing arm is another tried and true method for perfecting the one arm push-up. This can be done by resting your opposite arm on a brick, medicine ball or other nearby, slightly elevated object.

L7 Diamond Push-up
Another type of self-assisted one arm push-up is what I call the “L7” push-up. This variation is similar to a diamond push-up, except one arm will rest on the back of the hand instead of the palm (when done with the right hand turned over, your fingers will look like the letter “L” and the number “7”). Since having a lot of weight on the backs of the hands can be uncomfortable, this variation forces you to push more with the opposite side.

Negative One Arm Push-up
Slow, controlled negatives are another excellent technique for building to a full one arm push-up. With your feet spread apart, perform a diamond push-up, then take one hand off the floor and lower your chest to the ground as slowly as possible. Bring the second hand back in when you reach the bottom, perform another diamond push-up, then do a negative on the other side.

Pistol Position One Arm Push-up
This move isn’t much easier than a standard one arm push-up, but if you’re real close it could help put you over the top. Get into the bottom position of a pistol squat, then place the hand opposite your squatting leg flat on the ground. Lean over towards that hand, bringing your nose right to the floor and then press yourself back up. For a full body workout, try doing a pistol squat in between each push-up.


For more information, check out my book, Pushing The Limits! – Total Body Strength With No Equipment.

Backyard Pull-up Bar Part III

Last summer my brother Danny and I built a backyard pull-up bar at his home in Brooklyn. The original set-up featured two bars of different heights connected by crossbeams for extra stability.

Recently, Danny had the idea to make an adjustment to the backyard pull-up bar set-up by switching the crossbeams on the right side into parallel beams. This one minor adjustment has opened up a lot of new possibilities for our backyard workouts.

In addition to practicing various types of pull-ups, muscle-ups and levers, we can now work on human flags off the parallel bars as well as using them for assisted one arm pull-ups.

Watch the video below to see some highlights from one of our recent training sessions:

Related Posts:

Building a Backyard Pull-up Bar

Backyard Pull-up Bar Part 2: Back to the Bar

Elbow Levers

Al Kavadlo Elbow LeverThe elbow lever is a unique hand-balancing skill that will challenge your core strength as well as your coordination.

It’s a great skill to practice concurrently while learning the freestanding handstand, but it also looks pretty neat in its own right.

Before attempting an elbow lever, I recommend getting comfortable with the crow pose. Once you can hold a crow for 10 seconds or longer, you may be ready to move onto the elbow lever.

As the name implies, an elbow lever is performed by leveraging your bodyweight against one or both elbows while balancing on your hand(s) with your body stretched out in a horizontal position. Though it looks similar to a planche, the elbow lever is a less difficult skill due to the fact that your upper-body is resting on your arm(s).

Elbow Lever Technique
Make sure to keep your abs contracted and engage your lower back as you raise yourself off the ground. It is also important to pitch your upper-body forward in order to counterbalance the weight of your bottom half.

Though this move can be performed on a variety of surfaces, I recommend starting out by practicing on a bench, step or any other flat, raised object. This will allow you more room to lift your legs into position, as opposed to the limited amount of space when starting with your hands on the floor.

It may take some time to get used to the sensation of having your elbows jutting into your abdomen; beginners tend to find it especially unpleasant. With practice, however, you can eventually learn to make peace with it.

One Arm Elbow Lever
Though breakdancers and other skilled hand-balancers have a way of making this move seem effortless, the one arm elbow lever is a very challenging feat, so be patient if you endeavor to add this one to your arsenal.

Just like the two arm version, start out by simply trying to get your feet off the floor to get a feel for the balance before attempting to fully extend your body.

It may be helpful to spot yourself with your free hand in the beginning by reaching it to the side and resting one or several fingers on the surface upon which you are balancing.

Holding your body in a triangular formation with your legs in a straddle can make it a bit easier to find the balance with this exercise. With practice, you’ll improve to the point where you can work on bringing your body into a straight line.

Watch the video below for more:

SWBanner1

The Twenty Pistol Squat Challenge

Those of you who’ve been keeping up with me may recall the twenty pull-up challenge. Now I’m throwing down a twenty pistol squat challenge!

People often write to me wanting to know how to get better at pistols. The best way is simply to practice! Do this challenge as often as you can and you will quickly get better at them.

In the beginning, give yourself a rest day between efforts if your legs are sore afterwards. Over time you may build to practicing this routine daily. There is no trick – you just gotta keep working on it.

Ready, Aim, Fire!
The great thing about this challenge is that anyone strong enough to do just one pistol squat can participate. Even if you can’t do a single pistol yet, you can try the challenge with self-assisted pistols holding a pole, suspension trainer or other sturdy object for support.

There are three variations on the challenge; those of you starting with self assisted pistols should be able to perform an unassisted pistol by the time you’ve mastered the advanced version. Then you’re ready to go back to the start and do the challenge without assistance!

Beginner
Alternating legs, perform 40 total pistol squats (20 each leg) in as little time as possible. Rest in between reps only for as long as you need to in order to maintain good form. This may be anywhere from a couple of seconds to a couple of minutes depending on your fitness level. You can break the reps up however you like. Do them one at at time with long breaks in between if you need to – however you do it is fine as long as you get your reps in. With enough practice you should be ready to move to the next step relatively quickly.

Intermediate
Perform 10 consecutive pistols on each leg in a single set with as little time between reps as possible. Don’t sacrifice good form to do them quickly – keep your reps clean. Rest for as long as you want and then do the other leg. Take another break and then do it all over again.

Advanced
For the advanced version, the objective is to perform 20 consecutive clean reps on each leg without stopping. A true master of this challenge will be able to perform all 40 reps in less than two minutes. I’m still working on perfecting it, but I’m getting close.

Watch the video below to see me give it a shot:


For more information, check out my book, Pushing The Limits! – Total Body Strength With No Equipment.

Freestyle Calisthenics Workout

I was so sore after the 5B’s Pull-up Jam this past Saturday that I actually decided to take a few days off from training. Though it’s common for me to train every day, we all need to rest once in a while. My body was telling me to take it easy, so I listened!

After taking the time to fully recharge, I went to the one and only Tompkins Square Park this morning for a freestyle calisthenics workout. I worked on all different kinds of push-ups, including handstand push-ups as well as front levers, muscle-ups and dips.

Watch the video below for more:

5B's Pull-up Jam 2011

This past Saturday I took the #4 train into Brooklyn for the annual 5B’s Pull-up Jam at Lincoln Terrace Park.

Unlike last year’s contest, however, I didn’t enter the actual competition. This time I just went to hang out, be a part of the good vibes and of course, get my reps in.

As always, there was lots of good energy, good conversation and of course, “good money!”

While the contest was happening in one part of the park, a crowd gathered near another set of bars for an informal freestyle exhibition. A lot of big names from the extreme calisthenics community were on hand to represent. There was no shortage of pull-ups, muscle-ups, levers and many other advanced moves.

All in all, everyone had a good time and a great workout. Thanks to all who entered and attended, and especially to everyone behind the scenes who made this event so much fun!

Watch the video below for more:

Front Lever Training

The front lever is one of the most difficult (and coolest looking) calisthenics exercises of all time. Performed either as a static hold or for reps from a hanging position, the front lever involves pulling your whole body up til it’s parallel to the floor, almost like you are laying down…on air!

In the continuum of bodyweight strength training, a static front lever hold ranks amongst the most difficult feats. I’d put it somewhere between the human flag and a full planche.

First Things First
Achieving a front lever requires serious back strength as well as total body control. Before you consider front lever training, you should be able to perform at least 10 dead hang pull-ups and several full range of motion hanging leg raises. I also recommend you learn to do a back lever and a dragon flag first.

Tuck Front Lever
The easiest variation on the front lever is the tuck front lever. Hang from a pull-up bar and squeeze your legs into your chest while rolling your hips back until your torso is parallel to the ground. Try to stay up and hold this position for as long as you can.

More advanced variations can involve extending one leg while keeping the other tucked or keeping both legs in a half-tuck position. There are many steps in between the tuck front lever and the full position.

Straddle Front Lever
By opening your legs during a front lever, you’re not only changing the balance, you’re also shortening the lever, both of which make this move slightly easier than a full front lever (though still more difficult than the tuck lever). You’ll need better than average hip mobility to pull off a decent straddle front lever, so make sure you’re stretching regularly.

Front Levers for Reps
When building up to a front lever hold, performing front levers for reps can be a very useful tool. Keep your whole body tight as you use your lats to pull your body into the lever position, then lower back down to a dead hang and repeat. The movement pattern is similar to a dumbbell pullover, except you’re moving your entire body instead of just a dumbbell!

When your form breaks down, switch to hanging leg raises. This can make for a very difficult superset.

Front Lever to Muscle-up
The front lever to muscle-up is a great way to work towards improving your front lever hold, as well as a bad-ass move in its own right. It’s easier to do the muscle-up first, then lower yourself into the lever, maintaining total body tension the whole time. Hold the lever position, then pull yourself back over the bar and repeat. Try using a false grip for this maneuver.

Practice, Practice, Practice
Working your way up to a front lever hold can take a very long time. Be patient and gradually build to several seconds on each step before moving onto the next one. If you find yourself getting stagnant in your progress, take a break from front lever training while you continue to work the basics (pull-ups, push-ups, etc.) then come back to it after a few weeks. In the big picture, a little time off can sometimes give you a renewed focus. The front lever is a very difficult move and I am still working on perfecting it myself!

Check out the video below for more:

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Turkish Get-ups

If you’re looking for a great full body exercise, you’d be hard-pressed to find one better than the Turkish get-up.

Turkish get-ups involve full-body strength, flexibility and coordination in a way that few other movements offer. They’re especially good for your shoulders and core, and they can have functional carryover for handstands and handstand push-ups.

If you’re new to this exercise, start with no weight or use a very light weight until you get a feel for the movement pattern. Some people will get it quicker than others, so be patient if you struggle at first. Remember, it’s always beneficial to have one-on-one instruction from an experienced personal trainer when learning a difficult new exercise.

Get Up
Originally developed as a military technique for self defense, the Turkish get-up has become a viable tool for athletes and strongmen of all kinds. The lift involves moving from a position where you are flat on your back into a full standing position, the whole time keeping a weight extended above you in one hand.

Get On Up
Though there are a few different variations on specific techniques, the classic Turkish get-up starts with the lifter bending the leg on the same side where the weight is being held. That foot is used for leverage to roll the torso up onto the opposite hip and elbow. From here, roll onto your palm, bridge your hips, and drag the far leg under your body. Complete the move by standing up just like you were coming up out of a lunge.

Make sure you keep the arm holding the weight straight during the entire lift. Think about actively pressing through that shoulder the whole time. Keep your eyes on the weight, maintaining a tight grip with your arm vertical.

Get Down!
Once you get to a standing position, you’ll need to return to the ground to complete the lift. Take it slow and controlled. Sometimes getting down can be harder than getting up!

Trainer Tips
Don’t worry about going for high reps on these, a few at a time is plenty. You might be surprised how quickly you’ll fatigue, even with a light weight. As always, form first!

Once you are comfortable with this exercise, it can be used to assess your strength. If you can do even half your bodyweight on a Turkish getup, you are extremely strong! (When going heavy, use your free arm to get the weight into position before starting the lift.)

Watch the video below for more:

Thanks to Nimble Fitness for letting me shoot this video in their facility.