Category Archives: Body Weight Exercises

Air Baby Tutorial

Air Baby

The air baby is an advanced handbalancing exercise that combines strength, balance and skill.

It’s a visually breathtaking maneuver that can take years to perfect.

The air baby has origins in breakdancing, but it’s also become a trademark move of calisthenics and certain styles of yoga.

Though the air baby requires a high level of strength and control, the process of building toward the full movement can help you improve those attributes.

Here’s a 5-step progression you can use to achieve the full air baby.

Take your time with each step and be patient.

Crow Pose

Step One – The Crow Pose
The first step toward learning an air baby is the classic Crow Pose. In fact, you can think of the air baby like a one-arm/one-leg version of the crow.

Step Two – One Leg Crow
Once you can comfortably hold the crow for 30 seconds, you are ready to try taking one leg away and reaching it outward. You will need to shift more of your weight toward your fingers in order to stay balanced in this position.

Step Three – One Leg Crow with Staggered Hands
After you can do a crow with one leg extended for more than 10 seconds, you are ready to try the pose with your hands staggered. The idea here is to place less weight in your secondary arm by keeping it farther away from your body. You will also need to shift the position of your primary hand so that your fingers are facing out to the side rather than forward.

At this point you can also begin to play with turning your body slightly sideways and starting to stack your hips. You may be surprised by how much core strength this demands, particularly in the obliques on the side of your primary balancing hand.

Air Baby Progression

Step Four – Assisted Air Baby
Once you can hold the previous progression for longer than 10 seconds, you can take more weight away from your assisted hand by raising up onto the fingertips. Then you can gradually start removing fingers.

Eventually, you’ll be close enough to a full air baby that all you’ll need for assistance is one finger. Even still, it can be a pretty big jump between this step and the full air baby.

Step Five – Air Baby
Once you can hold the assisted air baby for several seconds with just one finger, you can experiment with starting to remove the assisting hand completely. Be prepared for a lot of trial and error as you learn to find the sweet spot between tipping too far forward and falling too far backward.

Additional Air Baby Tips
–You may need to experiment with the exact placement of your knee in relation to your elbow. If it is too high or too low, you won’t be able to balance.

–It can help to think about pressing the ground away with your balancing arm while crunching your obliques to keep your knee on your elbow.

–Keeping the extended leg contracted and squeeze the heel of your bent leg toward your butt.

–Don’t be alarmed if your knee and/or elbow gets chafed from the friction caused by practicing this exercise. Sometimes breakdancers will wear a wrap or pad on the elbow to help with this.

–It may be helpful to first learn the one arm elbow lever before going for the air baby, as they are similar in some ways, and the air baby is more difficult.

Watch the video below for demonstrations and more:

How to Hang from a Pull-up Bar by Your Feet

Pullup Bar Feet HangEver since I was a kid, I always wanted to be Batman. Now I’m one step closer.

The calisthenics foot hang involves hanging upside down from a pull-up bar with no contact points other than the tops of your feet.

It’s a fun and challenging exercise that can build foot and leg strength as well as confidence and mental fortitude.

Feets of Strength
In the world of calisthenics, there are some exercises that you absolutely need to do: squats, push-ups and pull-ups, for example, are non-negotiable in my book.

Then there are exercises that are “nice to do” – if you are interested. You can get in great shape without these moves, but they do have added benefits, and perhaps more importantly – they look awesome!

I’m talking about things like the human flag, elbow lever and yes – hanging upside down from a pull-up bar by your bare feet.

Hanging Leg Raise Toes to Bar
Tread Lightly
So how does one begin to train for such a move? The first thing I recommend is learning to do a toes-to-bar leg raise – even if you need to bend your knees a bit for now.

Learning the toes-to-bar is a good prerequisite, as you pretty much need to be able to do this in order to get your feet in position to begin. It will also ensure a solid baseline of core strength, which plays a key role in the calisthenics foot hang.

When you are ready to try, start by hanging from a bar, then lift your legs all the way up and hook your feet over the top of the bar. Aim to get as close to your ankle joint as possible in order to give yourself the best leverage.

From there, slowly begin loosening your grip as you actively flex your toes toward your shins and squeeze your quads, shifting weight onto the tops of your feet.

Hanging From FeetIf you feel ready, try moving one hand from the pull-up bar onto one of the side posts that supports the bar. Eventually you will be able to take both hands away from the bar, instead holding onto both posts for support. From here you can progressively put less weight in your hands over time until you feel ready to remove them completely.

Toe-tal Body Tension
Make sure you are actively maintaining tension throughout your body the entire time and remember to squeeze your abs. In fact, you may find it easier to hang in a sit-up position with your torso flexed forward at first.

If you feel like you are starting to lose your footing, be ready to grab the side posts and lower yourself down carefully before you fall. However, I recommend making sure there is something soft beneath you, just in case you slip.

Bare Feat
Though the purest version of the move is performed barefoot, it may be helpful to practice with sneakers on at first.

Just like the skin on your hands when you were new to pull-ups, the skin on your feet will need to get conditioned to supporting your body weight. And yes, you can get callouses on the tops of your feet if you spend enough time hanging from them.

As is the case with all calisthenics exercises, a high strength-to-mass ratio is crucial to performing this move.

With enough practice, you can eventually get pretty comfortable hanging in this position. Then you can try doing it while simultaneously tearing a deck of cards in half.

One Arm Elbow Lever Tutorial

One Arm Elbow Lever CrocodileThe One Arm Elbow Lever (aka Crocodile) is one of my favorite handbalancing skills.

It takes a lot of practice and patience to learn to balance in this position, but once you get the hang of it, you can have a lot of fun with this move.

In fact, it doesn’t require much more effort than the two arm version once you get the feel for the balance.

Of course the first step toward learning a one arm elbow lever is to learn the standard two arm elbow lever.

Assuming you’ve got that taken care of, the next course of action is practicing a self-assisted version of the full one arm elbow lever by using your secondary arm to spot yourself.

As with the standard elbow lever, I recommend learning to do the one arm elbow lever on a bench or other elevated surface before trying it on the ground, as being elevated leaves more room for you to lift your legs into position.

Elbow Placement
The placement of the elbow for this exercise should be right by your hip – don’t go too close to your belly button, which is a common mistake. As such, you will need to lean your body ever so slightly toward your balancing hand in order to avoid tipping over in the opposite direction.

Additionally, when practicing on an elevated surface, you can experiment with wrapping your fingers around the side, or flat-palming it – one might come a bit easier to you, but both ways are ultimately worth practicing.

Self Assisted One Arm Elbow LeverOnce you have your elbow in place, tighten your abs and lift your legs. It’s best to start with your legs wide and knees bent in order to get a feel for the balance.

After both legs are in the air, you can begin to play with taking weight away from your assisting arm. I recommend going up on the fingertips to begin shifting more weight onto your primary hand. From there, you can slowly start taking fingers away.

Don’t be in a hurry to get to the full one arm elbow lever. Staying on one finger for a while can be a very helpful progression toward acquiring this skill.

side elbow lever

Be My Lever
It will take a lot of practice, but eventually you will be able to balance solely on one arm. Once you get the feel for this, you can try fully extending your legs and eventually bringing them together. Holding a one arm elbow lever with your legs closed makes the balance significantly more difficult.

After it’s no longer challenging to hold a one arm elbow lever on a bench, you can explore performing the move on the ground, or even on bars and other odd objects.

You can also try changing the angle of your body to make the move more challenging, such as rotating to a sideways position.

Watch the video below for more:

Revolving Pull-up Handles for Grip Strength

Rotating Thick Pull-up Handles
There’s a street hustle in parts of Europe where passersby are offered the chance to win 100 euro if they can hang from a bar for two minutes.

To play the game, an entry fee of 10 euro is required, which seems like a small price to pay if you’re confident in your ability to hang.

The only problem is that nobody ever wins. That’s what makes it such an effective hustle.

A two-minute bar hang is no easy task, but it’s something that any serious calisthenics practitioner can accomplish.

So what’s the catch? How come nobody wins the 100 euro?

The answer is simple, but hardly noticeable upon first glance, hence the effectiveness of the con: The bar they have you hang from is very thick and – more importantly – it rotates.

Perhaps you’re thinking that a little bit of spin shouldn’t make it harder to hang. That’s what I thought, too, which is precisely why people fall for this game.

As The Bar Turns
I recently found myself in London teaching a Progressive Calisthenics Certification workshop at The Commando Temple, a fantastic place for calisthenics training, and home to some very serious grip enthusiasts. In fact, their head calisthenics coach and PCC Team Leader, Fitsz Dubova, is also a world-record holding grip strength competitor.

During one of the breaks at PCC, Fitsz showed me a pair of rotating handles that can be hung below a standard pull-up bar. Then he had me try to hang from them, so I could see for myself how they felt.

Fitsz demonstrates a one arm pull-up at PCC

Fitsz demonstrates a one arm pull-up at PCC


I was immediately surprised by how tough it was to hold onto the rotating handles, but I was still able to hang for a bit in spite of the increased difficulty.

Then Fitsz challenged me to try hanging from it on one arm.

On a standard bar, I can hang for a minute or longer on one hand, but on this thick, rotating apparatus, I was barely able to hang for two seconds!

Though I was intrigued, I didn’t get much time to play around with the revolving handles that weekend. After I returned home to NYC, however, I began thinking about them again.

I started looking around online, and came across an article on Jedd Johnson’s blog detailing how to make your own rotating grip handles. Then I went to my local hardware store and got everything I needed to assemble my own revolving pull-up bar handles.

Each handle consists of two pieces of PVC pipe – one inside of the other – with a foot and a half of chain threaded through and attached to a climbing strap with a carabiner. Placing one piece of pipe inside of the other is what causes the handles to rotate smoothly. They are cheap and easy to assemble.

Roll With It
Training with these handles has been a humbling experience. I’m no stranger to thick bar pull-ups, but the rotating nature of these handles makes them very tough to hold onto. I have pretty strong hands from decades of doing pull-ups on various types of bars, and I’ve messed around with a few kinds of grip boards and other climber’s training tools. Those of you who follow my blog also know that I recently started training to rip decks of cards in half. All of these things offer their own unique challenges, but these rotating thick grips are one of the most difficult grip tools I’ve encountered over the years.

Rolling Thick Grip

If you have a very strong grip, you might not notice right away how much harder it is to hold onto a rotating bar or rotating handles, but as soon as you begin to fatigue, it will become immediately apparent.

Think about what you do when you are hanging from a bar and start to lose your grip. Most people instinctively try to choke their hands up a bit higher on the bar for more surface contact and improved leverage.

When you try to do this on a rotating handle, however, it just spins right back to where it was, forcing you to grip from a position of unfavorable leverage. It’s impossible to utilize any type of false grip on a bar that turns.

On top of that, these 2-inch grips are too think for most people to wrap their hand completely around, which makes the idea of hanging for two minutes that much more daunting.

Though I usually prefer to grip with my thumb on the same side of the bar as the rest of my fingers, as I feel that gives me the best leverage, I’ve been practicing pull-ups and hangs on these handles with my thumb wrapped around the other side in order to purposely increase the grip challenge.

I can hang from a standard pull-up bar for close to four minutes, but so far I’ve yet to stay on these handles for a full 60 seconds.

If I ever get to two minutes, I’ll be ready to try and win that 100 euro.

Watch the clip below to see my max set of pull-ups on these revolving pull-up handles:

Get Strong with the Kavadlo Brothers

GetStrongCoverDo you want a simple, effective exercise program that you can do anywhere?

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The Top Five Calisthenics Legs Exercises

Calisthenics LegsYou don’t need to rely on lifting weights to build strength and muscle – not even on leg day. Calisthenics training is a fantastic way to build strength throughout your entire body.

There’s a plethora of awesome calisthenics leg exercises, so it was hard to narrow this list down to just five. Some of my favorite exercises like the pistol squat and drinking bird did not make the cut.

That said, the following moves are the most universally proven for building strength and muscle – and that’s the whole point of this list. They are presented in approximate order of difficulty.

Legs get to it!

The Classic Bodyweight Squat
Unquestionably the most fundamental strength building exercise for the legs, the classic bodyweight squat hits all the muscles of your lower body, and may be a mobility challenge as well. Working your way up to 40-50 consecutive bodyweight squats will set you up with a fantastic foundation to progress your lower body strength training.

Walking Lunge
The walking lunge requires a bit more body awareness than the standard squat. It also introduces a balance component, and is a great way to hit your leg muscles from different angles. Walking lunges are the perfect complement to bodyweight squats.

Archer Squat
This asymmetrical squat variation is a beautiful merger of strength, flexibility, balance and control. It’s also a great way to target your inner thighs and can be an early lead-up step toward one-legged squats. You may have seen this move referred to as a “cossack squat” or “side-to-side squat” but no matter what you call it, it’s a fantastic exercise for the lower body.

One Leg Box Squat
Having a box, bench or other object beneath you is the perfect way to begin training single leg squats. It’s common for beginners to lose their balance at the bottom of a one leg squat. As such, the box can provide safety and stability as you build the strength and control to perform a freestanding, unassisted one leg squat.

Hover Lunge
The hover lunge is more of a pure strength exercise than other single leg squat variations like the pistol squat and shrimp squat, which have a much greater mobility component, hence their exclusion from this list.

You can think of this almost like a lunge where your rear foot remains hovering in the air. You’ll need to lean forward a bit more than in a standard lunge in order to stay balanced while on one leg. Reaching both arms forward helps with the balance as well. Be careful to lower yourself down with control – especially during those last few inches – to avoid any impact on your rear knee.

Watch the video below for more:

GETSTRONG1170x500AVAILABLE

Dragon Door Bodyweight Master Pull-up Bar Review

Dragon Door Bodyweight MasterAs much as I love pull-ups, I hadn’t actually had a proper pull-up bar in my current apartment until recently. My place doesn’t have the type of door frames that can accommodate a doorway pull-up bar, and since I live close to Tompkins Square Park, I’d been happy to head there for all my pull-up bar needs.

That changed recently when I received a Bodyweight Master Pull-up Bar from Dragon Door. As a long time member of the Dragon Door family, I was fortunate enough to get my hands on one before they went on sale to the general public. So I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with the Bodyweight Master prior to compiling this review.

After having the Bodyweight Master Pull-up Bar from Dragon Door at home for the last few months, I can definitively tell you that it is the best freestanding pull-up unit that I have ever used. Besides being great for all kinds of pull-ups (including neutral grip), the Bodyweight Master has attachments that allow for parallel bar dips, Australian pull-ups and even human flag training.

Bodyweight Master human flagBuild-A-Bar
The Bodyweight Master arrives unassembled but doesn’t take very long to build. I’m not particularly handy, but I was able to put it together in about 90 minutes with the help of my wife. Someone with more experience building things could probably have done it faster.

The bar itself is made of steel and it is 1.5 inches in diameter. It has a rough feel to the touch, which makes it easy to grip. The unit weighs 104 pounds and can support up to 350 pounds, according to the manufacturer’s website.

The Bodyweight Master pull-up bar is adjustable in height, so it can accommodate users of all sizes (the bar can be set as high as 8’4″). While it is much sturdier than other freestanding pull-up units that I’ve used, the taller you set the bar, the less stable it becomes. Additionally, if you are practicing explosive calisthenics on this bar, be prepared for it to shake a little bit. Unfortunately, this is the nature of any freestanding, adjustable pull-up unit. A bar that’s fixed to the ground or mounted to a wall will always be more stable than one which is not.

There are holes on the bottom of the Bodyweight Master that allow it to be bolted down for maximum stability. However, I rent an apartment and have my unit set up in the living room, so that’s not a viable option for me.

Grace Kavadlo Dip
Big Dipper
As mentioned earlier, part of what makes the Bodyweight Master so unique compared to other home pull-up units are the attachments which allow for parallel bar dips. These dip handles are easy to take on and off, and are very stable. They can also be set to any width you like, which further adds to the versatility of the unit.

Beyond that, the Bodyweight Master includes a low bar that allows for Australian pull-ups, which is very easy to put on, take off and adjust. When the low bar is in place, it can also be used in conjunction with the high bar to practice a parallel grip human flag or other exercises that require two bars which are stacked vertically. You can even use the low bar to elevate your feet for incline push-ups or other such exercises.

All in all, I highly recommend the Bodyweight Master to anyone who’s looking for a freestanding pull-up unit. Compared to other products of a similar nature (like the TAPS unit, for example) the Bodyweight Master is a fantastic value and a superior product.

Watch the video below to see the Bodyweight Master in action:

Click the link for more information on the Bodyweight Master from Dragon Door

Five Animal Movements for Strength and Conditioning

Al Kavadlo AnimalPart of what makes calisthenics training so much fun is how it helps us reconnect with our animal instincts.

Crawling, climbing, running and jumping are hardwired into our DNA. There’s just something special that happens when we tap into our primal roots. It feels good to move!

The realm of bodyweight training is not limited to strength based movements like push-ups and pull-ups, or even advanced skills like the human flag or handstand. Far from it! The spectrum of human movement is virtually infinite.

The following animal inspired exercises combine strength, conditioning, mobility and body control in a fun and surprisingly challenging way.

You can practice them for time and/or distance, as they don’t lend themselves to strict sets and reps as well as many classic calisthenics exercises. Focus on keeping your movements fluid and controlled – and don’t forget to have fun!

Animal Crawl
Start on all fours with your knees below your hips and your palms directly under your shoulders. Lift your knees a few inches from the floor and begin crawling forward, while keeping your back flat and level with the ground. Try this one moving backwards for an added challenge.

Crab Walk
Sit on the floor with your knees bent so your feet are flat in front of you. Place your palms just below your shoulders and lift your hips up, putting all your weight in your hands and feet. Push down with your shoulders to maintain your posture and begin crawling forward. The crab walk works well in reverse, too.

Frog Hop
Get into a deep squat and place your hands on the ground just in front of you. Shift your weight into your hands and hop your feet in between them, using your arms to help pull yourself forward. As soon as your toes touch down in between your hands, reach your arms forward again and repeat, taking the momentum from each hop into the next repetition.

Lateral Frog Hop
Get into a deep squat then straighten one leg, reaching it all the way out to the side. Place your hands on the ground outside your bent leg, then jump your legs and hips into the air, switching the position of your legs in the air so you land with your opposite leg extended. Then shift your weight across and repeat. Make sure to practice in both directions.

Three-Legged Dog
Get into a “downward dog” position (like a push-up with your hips raised into the air) then lift one leg as high as you can. From here, take a small hop forward with your grounded foot, then gently slide both hands forward, making each hop flow right into the next. Make sure to work both sides evenly.

Watch the video below for more:

The Top Five Ab Wheel Exercises

Standing Ab Wheel RolloutA lot of people know that I’m not a fan of fancy training equipment – that’s part of why I love bodyweight exercises!

The ab wheel, however, is one of the few calisthenics accessories that I deem worthwhile. It’s a very simple, portable piece of equipment that can help facilitate a fantastic full-body workout.

That’s right, the “ab wheel” actually works much more than just your abs. The exercises below will challenge your arms, shoulders, chest, back, glutes and even your legs, as well as your midsection.

Here are my top 5 ab wheel exercises, listed in order from least to most difficult:

Ab Wheel Plank
If you’ve never used an ab wheel before, this is probably where you should start. Get into a standard push-up position, only with your hands gripping the handles of the ab wheel instead of being placed on the floor. You may be surprised at first by how much the instability of the wheel increases the difficulty of the plank. (If you aren’t able to hold an ab wheel plank yet, you can modify the exercise by placing your knees on the ground instead of your toes.)

Walking Ab Wheel Plank
Once you get a feel for holding a plank on an ab wheel, you can experiment with moving in that position. Take small steps and grip the handles tightly to avoid tipping over. Maintain a straight back the whole time, keeping your hips in line with your shoulders and legs.

Kneeling Ab Wheel Roll-out
There are essentially two types of ab exercises: The first finds the abs performing some kind of trunk flexion. Crunches, sit-ups, and knee tucks are all examples of this type of ab exercise. The second type are exercises in which the abs are used primarily in a stability/anti-extension role. These include planks, hollow body holds, and front levers.

The classic ab-wheel roll-out gives you the best of both: It involves flexing and extending the trunk (like the exercises in the first category), but the most intense part of the movement happens when your body is extended horizontally, with the abs working in an anti-extension capacity (like the exercises in the second category).

Begin in a kneeling position with the ab wheel beneath your chest, then roll the wheel away from your body as you pivot from your knees, bringing your hips and torso down toward the ground. Avoid arching your back or piking your hips in the air. The lower you go, the harder the move becomes, so feel free to start with a partial range of motion at first. Eventually the plan should be to reach your arms completely overhead with your body hovering about an inch above the ground.

Reverse Ab Wheel Roll-out
For this variation you will once again begin in a plank position, except with your feet on the handles of your ab wheel instead of your hands. From there, carefully tuck your knees toward your chest, then extend your legs back into a plank position. Go slowly in order to avoid toppling over.

Standing Ab Wheel Roll-out
This is the granddaddy of all ab wheel roll-outs! Extending the range of motion by raising up onto your toes significantly increases the difficulty of an already tough exercise. As with the kneeling version, avoid arching your back or piking your hips in the air when performing this exercise. In fact, it is not uncommon for the lower back to fatigue before the abs when performing ab-wheel roll-outs, so be mindful of your lumbar region when performing this exercise.

The full standing ab-wheel roll-out may very well be the single best exercise for developing your midsection, but you’re going to have to work your way up to it gradually.

Watch the video below for more:

If you would like to get an ab wheel like the one I’m using in the video, check out Fitwood. They are currently offering a ten percent discount to my followers! Simply use the code AL10 at checkout to receive the discount.

The Top Five Push-up Variations for Building Strength and Muscle

Push-up1The push-up is one of my all-time favorite exercises. It’s simple, effective and doesn’t require any equipment besides the floor beneath your feet.

Push-ups are fantastic for building strength and muscle in the entire upper-body, particularly the chest, shoulders, triceps and abs.

My other favorite thing about push-ups is that they can be infinitely progressed and modified to keep your muscles guessing…and growing!

Though there are countless variations on the basic push-up, the following five are among the very best for building strength and muscle:

1 – Classic Push-up
The classic two arm push-up will never go out of style! Make sure you maintain a straight line from the back of your head to your heels throughout the entire range of motion. Also be sure to lower yourself all the way to the bottom and achieve a full extension of your arms at the top.

2 – Feet Elevated Push-up
Elevating your feet during a push-up changes the weight-to-limb ratio, placing more of your weight in your hands, and thereby increasing the strength and muscle building potential of the standard push-up.

3 – Archer Push-up
This variation finds one arm doing the bulk of the pushing while the opposite arm remains straight, acting as a kickstand of sorts to help stabilize the body. You can think of the archer push-up almost like a self-assisted one arm push-up.

4 – One Arm Push-up
By removing one arm from the equation entirely, you automatically double the amount of work performed on your other arm. Taking away a contact point also forces your abs and other core muscles to pick up the slack, thereby giving added benefit to this challenging movement.

Check out my full one arm push-up tutorial for more.

5 – One Arm/One Leg Push-up
Taking away a leg makes the one arm push-up even more challenging, and can help take your strength and muscle gains to the next level!

Remember to use cross-body tension to stay balanced during this difficult variation. That means that when you are pushing with your right arm, you will balance on your left leg, and vice versa.

Watch the video below for more:


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The Top 5 Pull-up Variations for Building Strength and Muscle

Al Kavadlo Pull-up MuscleIt’s no secret that pull-ups are my favorite exercise. There are an endless number of ways in which you can alter or modify the classic pull-up – and I love them all!

Still, the question remains: What are the very best pull-up variations for building strength and muscle?

Though all types of pull-ups work the entire upper-body (including the abdominal muscles), the following 5 variations are the very best for building strength and size:

Pull-up
The classic overhand pull-up has been a strength training staple for as long as the concept of “working out” has existed. Focus on driving your elbows toward your hips to fully engage your lats.

Chin-up
This underhand version of the classic pull-up is a great way to add emphasis to the biceps. It can also be a less difficult variation for beginners who struggle to perform pull-ups with the overhand grip.

Commando Pull-up
For this variation you will grasp the bar with your hands facing one another in a close grip, and your body positioned in line with the bar. This means you will have to pull yourself toward the side on the way up, which creates a unique challenge. Make sure to alternate which side of the bar your head passes with each rep.

L-sit Pull-up
The L-sit pull-up is a fantastic way to increase the demand on your abs, while also increasing the strength and muscle building potential for your entire upper body. Due to the change in leverage, all of your muscles will have to work harder than in a standard pull-up.

Archer Pull-up
The archer pull-up is an advanced variation that involves keeping one arm straight while relying primarily on the opposite side to do the bulk of the pulling. Begin like you’re performing a very wide pull-up, but bend only one of your arms as you pull your chin over the bar. This means your torso will shift toward that side while the opposite arm stays straight. The hand of your straight arm may need to open and roll over the bar at the top of the range of motion, depending on your wrist mobility.

Watch the video below for more!


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Hand and Wrist Warm-ups for Calisthenics

Al Kavadlo Straight HandstandWhen performing handstands, push-ups and other calisthenics exercises, the hands and wrists bear most of the burden.

Even when we hang from a pull-up bar, our hands and wrists play an important role.

For this reason, it is important to warm them up properly before your calisthenics or handbalancing practice.

In the video below, I demonstrate six simple warm-ups you can perform for your hands and wrists before beginning your practice:

–Wrist rocks
–Wrist rolls
–Wrist circles
–Side-to-sides
–Reverse side-to-sides
–Fist spreads

I recommend performing each of these movements several times in each direction before beginning your training. Also feel free to perform additional reps while you rest in between efforts.

The exercises in the video go by fairly quickly, so you may need to watch it a few times.

Why Calisthenics Training?

There are so many reasons to love calisthenics! From the freedom to workout anywhere, to the playful element of bodyweight training, to the positive energy of the calisthenics community, there are more reasons than ever to embrace calisthenics.

In this new video, my wife Grace Kavadlo and I discuss some of our favorite things about bodyweight workouts, and share some motivational tips.

We’re working out!

STREET WORKOUT

Street Workout Book

STREET WORKOUT – the first official Kavadlo Brothers collaboration – is now available!

STREET WORKOUT covers everything you ever wanted to know about progressive bodyweight training using nothing but your own environment. Danny and I discuss everything from basic exercises like push-ups, pull-ups and squats, up through advanced exercises like muscle-ups, planche progressions the human flag.

If you’ve never read any of my books before, this is the one to start with. And if you have read and enjoyed any of my previous books, I promise you are going to love STREET WORKOUT!

Here’s what people are saying about STREET WORKOUT:

“Al and Danny Kavadlo—bodyweight coaches extraordinaire—have done it again. Their new book Street Workout is an incredibly comprehensive collection of calisthenics concepts, exercises and programs. In addition to their masterful demonstrations of every exercise, the Kavadlo brothers’ colorful personalities and motivational talents leap off of every page. If you’re serious about bodyweight training, you’ve gotta get this book!”
–Mark Sisson, Author of The Primal Blueprint

“Al and Danny Kavadlo are acknowledged worldwide as masters of urban bodyweight training, so it’s no surprise that this book is, without question, the new “bible” of the movement. This work is the greatest manual on progressive calisthenics available on the market today. It’s loaded with incredible progressions, stacked with tips and techniques, and overflowing with philosophy and wisdom. The programming sections are beyond extensive. Street Workout is THE magnum opus of the two greatest calisthenics coaches on the planet today. All serious athletes and coaches must buy this book!!”
–Paul “Coach” Wade, Author of Convict Conditioning

“I truly LOVE this book – it is utterly sensational and brilliant! Al and Danny Kavadlo have a fun and informative way of explaining and demonstrating the key calisthenics exercises for a fit, healthy and happy life. Their sharp instructional images are joyfully inspirational and always motivate me to bust out some reps on the spot! I truly wish there had been a comprehensive workout guide like this when I first discovered the miracles of bodyweight training.”
–Marcus Bondi, Two Time Official Guinness World Record Holder (Weighted Chin-ups & Rope Climb)

“Once again, an outstanding addition to our field of fitness from Danny and Al. I am a barbell/kettlebell guy first and foremost, but the Kavadlo brothers have finally convinced me of the pure value of using the body only as load.”
–Dan John, Author of Never Let Go

“This book brings together the vast knowledge and experience of two guys that definitely embody the whole street workout culture – hardcore, sometimes gritty but always extremely welcoming, with a whole lot of individual style and flare.”
–Mike Fitch, Creator of Global Bodyweight Training and The Animal Flow Workout

Explosive Calisthenics

Explosive Calisthenics, the third book in the Convict Conditioning series, is finally here!

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

My new ebook, Zen Mind, Strong Body, is now available!

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!

It also includes a brand new foreword from Global Bodyweight Training creator Mike Fitch.

Here’s what people are saying about Zen Mind, Strong Body:

“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.)

Also available for Amazon Kindle!

Diamond-Cut Abs is Here!

My brother Danny Kavadlo‘s new book,
Diamond-Cut Abs, is now on sale in both paperback and ebook formats!

Everyone is talking about Diamond-Cut Abs!

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

More PCC Workshops Announced!

It’s been just over a year since the first-ever Progressive Calisthenics Certification was held in St. Paul, MN.

In that time, my brother Danny and I have led PCC workshops all over the world, including Sweden, Australia, Ireland and Germany.

We just wrapped up our first cert in my hometown of NYC and there’s a lot more excitement ahead!

Here are all the events we have scheduled for the rest of 2014 and 2015:

October 26, 2014:
Kavadlo Bros 1-day Workshop in NYC*

*Not a PCC event

November 7-9, 2014:
PCC in Milwaukee, WI

January, 23-25, 2015:
PCC in Encinitas, CA

February 27 – March 1, 2015:
PCC in Mountain View, CA

March 27-29, 2015:
PCC in Minneapolis, MN

April 17-19, 2015:
PCC in Munich, Germany

April 24-26, 2015:
PCC in Alessandria, Italy

May 1-3, 2015:
PCC in Dundalk, Ireland

May 15-17, 2015:
PCC in Dallas, TX

June 5-7, 2015:
PCC in NYC

More workshop dates will be added soon!

Follow the PCC Blog for updates and new calisthenics articles every week!

C-Mass: Calisthenics Mass

Convict Conditioning author “Coach” Paul Wade has just released a new ebook that features me and my brother Danny on the cover!

C-Mass: Calisthenics Mass is now available for purchase in PDF ebook format as well as on Amazon Kindle. A paperback version is expected later this summer – most likely July or August.

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!

Tompkins Square Park Calisthenics Bootcamp

My Tompkins Square Park Calisthenics Bootcamp is back!

Classes will meet at the jungle gym near the Northeast corner of NYC’s Tompkins Square Park at 10am on select Saturday mornings beginning April 12.

Due to my travel schedule for the Progressive Calisthenics Certification, I will only be able to offer bootcamp classes once or twice each month.

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!

We’re Working Out!
Al

Stretching Your Boundaries

I am very excited to announce the release of my new book, Stretching Your Boundaries – Flexibility Training for Extreme Calisthenic Strength.

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!

Here’s what people are saying about Stretching Your Boundaries:

“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

Get your copy of Stretching Your Boundaries now!

PCC Sweden

The Progressive Calisthenics Certification made its European debut last weekend in Gothenburg, Sweden.

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.

Kavadlo Brothers Workshops

Danny and I just returned from leading a Progressive Calisthenics Certification (PCC) workshop in St. Paul, MN.

It was an amazing event that involved groundbreaking personal achievements from every single person who attended!

The most exciting part?

We’re just getting started!

Danny and I have several additional workshops and certification opportunities scheduled for the months ahead:

If you’ve ever wanted to train with the Kavadlo Bros in person, this is your chance!

Click on the links below to register or find out additional information:


November 1-3, 2013 – PCC in Gothenburg, Sweden

November 16-17, 2013 – Kavadlo Bros 2-day Calisthenics Workshop in Pasadena, CA

January 18, 2014 – Kavadlo Bros 1-day Calisthenics Workshop in Randolph, NJ

February 21-23, 2014 – PCC in Melbourne, Australia

April 25-27, 2014 – PCC in St. Paul, MN

May 9-11, 2014 – PCC in Dundalk, Ireland

More 2014 workshop dates will be added soon!

Clean Up Your Muscle-up!

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:

Uneven Arms
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.

Excessive Kipping
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.

Negatives
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.

Watch the video below for more:


For more information about muscle-ups, pick up a copy of my book, Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics.

Related posts:
Getting Your First Muscle-up
Kartik’s First Muscle-up

PCC Australia

The Progressive Calisthenics Certification is heading down under!

Danny and I are extremely excited for the chance to travel to Melbourne, Australia to teach the PCC workshop on February 21-23, 2014.

Click here to sign up!

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.

The Clutch Lever

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.

Watch the video below for more:

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The PCC Has Arrived!

The inaugural Progressive Calisthenics Certification workshop this past weekend was an amazing success!

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!

Al Kavadlo – June 2013 Update

This year has been going by so fast, it’s hard to believe summer is practically upon us. So much has been happening and so much more excitement is on the horizon!

This weekend, I’ll be leading the first ever Progressive Calisthenics Certification. You can read more of my thoughts on this groundbreaking event on the PCC blog.

In other PCC news, our first European workshop has been confirmed and will take place this November in Gothenberg, Sweden.

Write On!
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!

Zen Fitness

“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.

This is actually the subject of my first book, We’re Working Out! A Zen Approach to Everyday Fitness.

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.

We’re Working Out! with Jack Arnow

My brother Danny and I recently had the pleasure of meeting and training with legendary bodyweight strongman (and fellow Brooklyn native) Jack Arnow.

A training partner of Jasper Benincasa, who’s considered by many to be the strongest pull-up bar athlete of all time, Jack is well-known for his accomplishments in the world of one-arm chin-ups.

Jack was actually one of the first people to ever write about the subject; his article on one arm chin-up training predates my book Raising The Bar by several years.

In his prime, Jack was known to perform a one arm chin-up while holding a 35 lb. weight. Now, at age 70, he’s still stronger than 99% of guys, regardless of age.

Watch the video below for more: