Category Archives: Body Weight Exercises

Pushing The Limits! Ebook

Pushing The Limits! – Total Body Strength With No Equipment is now available in ebook format! (Paperback coming in April.)

While my last book, Raising The Bar covers all the essential bodyweight exercises that require a pull-up bar, my new book focuses on my favorite bodyweight exercises that can be done with no equipment at all.

Pushing The Limits! covers dozens of types of push-ups and squats, including one arm push-ups and one-legged squats. The book also goes over back bridges, headstands, handstands and other inversions.

Click here for more information or to purchase your copy of Pushing The Limits!

Here’s what people are saying about the book:

When people ask me about bodyweight strength training, I point them to Al Kavadlo. Pushing the Limits! is a must-have for bodyweight training enthusiasts or anyone looking to build strength without lifting weights. Al lays out dozens of effective exercises for every fitness level, while making the journey fun and encouraging.”

Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint

“Whether you are an advanced bodyweight conditioning athlete or a wet behind the ears newbie, Al’s Pushing the Limits! has something for you. Easy to follow progressions allow you to master advanced push up, squat and bridging variations. All you need is the will to do it! No gym required.”

Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Solution

“In this awesome new book, Al only asks that you find ONE piece of equipment—your body! Stoic, Spartan, perfection…this book is bodyweight strength training for the ultimate purist!”

Paul Wade, author of Convict Conditioning

“This is the book I wish I had when I first started working out. Knowing Al’s secrets and various progressions would have saved me years of wasted time, frustration and injuries. The variations of The Big Three and progressions Al lays out will keep you busy for years.”

Jason Ferruggia, author of Renegade Muscle

“I LOVE this freaking Book!!! I will use it with my athletes, with the adults I train, in my own training and with my kids. This stuff reminds me of the old school Strength & Health Magazine, I’m fired UP!”

Zach Even-Esh, author of The Bodyweight Bodybuilding Training System

“Al is a master at developing the foundations of true strength through the use of the most complex, sophisticated and powerful training tool ever devised – the human body. Pushing The Limits! is a practical and entertaining book that describes ancient methods for building futuristic strength.”

Elliott Hulse, creator of The Grow Stronger Method


Click here for more information or to purchase your copy of Pushing The Limits!

The Century Workout

Over the last several weeks, interest in the upcoming PCC workshop this June has grown beyond my expectations.

We’re still more than four months out from the inaugural certification and we’ve already filled almost all of the 75 spots allocated for the event. This is going to be a truly momentous occasion!

As the PCC course material is based heavily on the work of Convict Conditioning author Paul Wade, a key part of earning the PCC title is passing Coach Wade’s “Century” test.

The Century is a strength and conditioning challenge that consists of 100 consecutive bodyweight repetitions performed as follows:

Men                                       Women
40 Squats                              40 Squats
30 Push-ups                         30 Knee Push-ups
20 Hanging Knee Raises     20 Hanging Knee Raises
10 Pull-ups                           10 Australian Pull-ups

A lot of people have asked about how the test will be judged. Here are some guidelines to make sure you are doing things the PCC way:

  •  The exercises must be performed in the order listed above. No exceptions.
  •  Squats must be performed with a minimum depth of top of the thighs parallel to the floor and a full lock out at the top of each rep. Arms may be raised in front, crossed, or placed on top of the head. Heels must stay flat the entire time.
  •  Push-up depth must reach a minimum of 90 degrees of flexion as measured along the outside of the elbow and a full lockout must be achieved at the top of every rep. A straight body position must be maintained throughout the entire range of motion. No sticking your butt into the air or leaving your hips down on the ground.
  •  Hanging knee raises must be performed with the knees being raised above waist level and a full extension of the legs at the bottom of every rep. Swinging shall be kept to a minimum. Arms must remain straight the entire set.
  •  Pull-ups may be performed with an overhand or underhand grip. The chin must clear the bar at the top of each rep and a full extension must be reached at the bottom. Kipping will not be allowed. (Australian pull-ups are to be performed with the bar at waist height and a straight body position must be maintained throughout.)
  •  Rest may be taken in between exercises, but each exercise must be completed in a single set. You may pause briefly between reps as long as the position is held (i.e. top of push-up position, bottom of pull-up, etc.)
  •  The reps may be performed as quickly as you like as long as all the above rules are adhered to. Form first!

In the videos below, you’ll see the Century demonstrated in real time by three different people: myself, my brother Danny, and our PCC co-instructor Adrienne Harvey.

Progressive Calisthenics

Since announcing the upcoming Progressive Calisthenics Certification, I have been getting more emails and messages than ever!

Many of the questions are about when the PCC will be coming to additional cities, others want to know what to expect when they attend. Though I don’t have any additional dates to announce yet, I can tell you that the amount of interest in this workshop has been even greater than we anticipated. It’s a safe bet that additional dates will be added. I’ll keep you posted as soon as details are confirmed.

In the meantime, Convict Conditioning author Paul “Coach” Wade (my collaborator on the PCC) has written an excellent FAQ page about the PCC that you can check out here.

I’ve also just posted the third video in my progressive calisthenics series. I saved the best for last: pull-ups!

And in case you missed them, here are the first two videos on push-ups and squats:

Progressive Calisthenics Certification

I’m excited to announce that my brother Danny and I have partnered up with Dragon Door to bring you the world’s first ever Progressive Calisthenics Certification (PCC).

The inaugural workshop will be held in St. Paul, MN on June 7-9, 2013. I will keep you posted as more dates are added. (Click here for more information or to reserve your spot.)

The PCC was created by Convict Conditioning author Paul Wade, along with Dragon Door founder John Du Cane and myself. The curriculum covers everything from pull-ups to pistol squats as well as dozens of other bodyweight exercises. (More info on the curriculum can be found here.)

Unlike weight training, where you simply add more weight to the same movements to increase the intensity, progressive calisthenics involves changing your body position to create more or less favorable leverage in order to adjust the resistance.

Through gradually working toward more challenging exercise variations, you can continue to grow stronger without using anything but your own bodyweight.

If you want to know more about how progressive calisthenics works, check out the video below to see me demonstrating a push-up progression from a beginner’s incline push-up, all the way up to some pretty advanced variations.

I’ll be posting new video clips on pull-ups and squats in the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

Click here for more info about the PCC!

Raising The Bar DVD

I’m very excited to announce the release of my new Raising The Bar DVD!

The DVD features all the essential exercises from my book Raising The Bar as well as some new variations.

In addition to detailed demonstrations and instructions, the DVD also includes new musical montages featuring the Kavadlo brothers signature brand of freestyle calisthenics.

The DVD is available through Dragon Door Publications as well as in the new Al Kavadlo store. (Check out the new shirts in the store too!)

Here’s what people are saying about the DVD:

“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 get this DVD.”

– Mark Sisson, Author of The Primal Blueprint

“This DVD is the ultimate training course on bar athletics, masterminded and presented by the man who—for my two cent’s worth—is the greatest calisthenics coach alive today. Raising the Bar is motivational and looks cool as hell, but more important than that, it’s an incredible source of instruction.”

– Paul Wade, Author of Convict Conditioning

“Al Kavadlo consistently puts out the best info on calisthenics and bodyweight training. The book Raising the Bar is a killer introduction into the world of the Bar Athlete. Now with the release of the accompanying DVD, Al has truly raised the bar to a whole new level. The DVD combines solid info along with fun and entertainment, as only Al can.”

– Mike Fitch, Founder of Global Bodyweight Training

“Al’s unique coaching style really shines through on the Raising the Bar DVD. The clear cut progressions are fantastic for both men and women at all levels—from working towards a first pull up, to mind-bogglingly difficult muscle-up variations. There is absolutely something for everyone on this DVD.”

– Adrienne Harvey, Owner of Girya Girl Fitness

Watch the sneak preview of the DVD below and click the link to get your copy:

Minimalist Workout

A lot has been going on since my last update!

First off, I’ve been getting tons of messages from people who want to know if I’m okay in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Thankfully, I’m one of the lucky ones who didn’t get hit hard. The worst I had to deal with was a few days without electricity.

Times like these help me keep perspective and it’s super flattering to know how much you guys care about me. Thank you to everyone who took the time to write me to ask how things were going over here.

A Forum For ‘Em
Though I haven’t been updating my blog as often as I used to, I recently added a message board forum to this site so you guys can publicly post questions for me (and each other). It’s off to a good start and I expect to see the community grow over time. If you’ve ever wanted to ask me a question about anything, go sign up for an account and start posting!

Book It
For the last few months I’ve been hard at work on my next book, tentatively titled Pushing The Limits! – Total Body Strength With No Equipment. I’ve also begun the process of assembling photos for the book. (I’m giving people a sneak peek at of a few photos in the forum.) The book will be released in the spring of 2013.

Animal or Minimal
Of course, my quest towards mastering my bodyweight continues unabated. Though most gyms were closed due to the storm last week, it didn’t impede my workouts at all.

While I’m still getting my pull-ups and dips in wherever I can, I’m taking my minimalist approach to training even further by exercising primarily (and primally) with nothing but the ground beneath my feet.

Watch the clip below to see some highlights from one of my recent no-equipment workouts:

Playing With Movement

Movement is movement. Whether you’re practicing calisthenics, doing yoga, or lifting weights, the body moves how the body moves.

There are only so many ways that our joints can bend and flex, yet when you start playing with variations on basic movement patterns, you’ll find the possibilities are limitless.

Changing one small aspect of an exercise can vary it just enough to increase the intensity. Combining moves can also create new challenges.

Get Some Play
Working out is best approached with a joyous attitude and an open mind. Movement offers an opportunity for growth and self-discovery, but it’s also supposed to be fun! Take the time to really be present for your workout and feel what your body is doing. Exercise should be one of the least stressful parts of your day. Don’t over-think things – just move!

What’s In A Name?
A lot of people ask me what I call some of the unusual calisthenics moves that I do. Many of the moves have names, but other times I don’t have an answer. It really doesn’t matter what you call things though. That which we call a kip-up by any other name would still look as sweet.

Check out the video below to see me playing with some variations on familiar moves like handstands and back bridges. Plus a few other things that I don’t even know what to call!

If you want to get sandals like the ones I’m wearing in the video, check out Xero Shoes.

Hand and Finger Strength

Hand strength is arguably the most functional type of strength out there. From carrying grocery bags to opening jars and packages, we use our hands in day-to-day activities more than any other part of the body. The hands are also a crucial component of most upper body exercises, so having strong hands will help your training all around.

Fingertip Push-ups
The fingertip push-up is a classic exercise that can take your hand strength to new heights. If you don’t have the ability to do fingertip push-ups yet, I recommend practicing the isometric plank position on your fingertips. Start with a few seconds at a time – eventually you should be able to build to a ten-second fingertip plank. Once you’ve achieved that, you’ll be ready to start practicing fingertip push-ups. Begin with just a few reps and slowly add more over time. Eventually you might be strong enough to try holding a fingertip plank on just one hand. A few select individuals can even perform a one arm push-up in this fashion.

If you aren’t able to hold the plank on your fingertips, try placing one hand flat on a slightly elevated object while the opposite hand is supported on the fingertips. Hold for several seconds, then switch hands.

It’s important to note that the term “fingertip push-up” is a bit of a misnomer. You don’t actually want to be all the way on the tips of your fingers, but rather on the pads of your fingers with the tips slightly bent back. Just don’t allow any part of your palm to touch the ground if you want it to be legit.

Pull-ups and Bar Hangs
Fingertip push-ups and hanging from the bar go together like peanut butter and bananas. Pull-ups can do a lot for your grip on their own, but if you want to give your hands some extra attention, try doing additional dead hangs after your pull-ups. When you’re strong enough, you can practice single-arm hangs as well. With any type of dead hang exercise, make sure to stay engaged through your shoulder blades. Don’t allow your chin to collapse into your chest.

Hold Everything
Once you can hold a fingertip plank for thirty seconds or more, I recommend experimenting with more difficult isometric fingertip holds. L-sits, elbow levers and even handstands are all fair game for the fingertips once you get strong enough.

Remember to tread slowly with fingertip exercises and don’t expect too much too soon. It’s a fine line between making your hands stronger and injuring yourself. Fingertip holds and bar hangs will be challenging, but they should not be painful.

Progressing from a basic fingertip plank to a fingertip L-sit or fingertip handstand can take years of practice. As always, listen to your body and take things slowly.

Watch the video below for more:

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Bodyweight Deadlift Alternatives

Neck BridgeI’ve met a lot of guys over the years who’ve been banged up from lifting weights and wanted to try switching over to calisthenics-based resistance training. Though these folks recognize the benefits of bodyweight training (improved joint health, increased mobility, greater proprioception, etc.), putting down the weights for good often comes with some hesitation.

One of the most common concerns I’ve heard about dropping the iron in favor of bodyweight training is that there’s no way to replicate the classic deadlift. Push-ups can replace the bench press, squats can be done on one leg to add resistance and pull-ups are better than any pulling movement you can do with a weight anyway. But that deadlift is a bit of a doozy.

Though the specificity principle still applies, you can in fact work your posterior chain and strengthen all the same muscles as the deadlift without any external weights.

Back Bridges
Anyone who’s got a solid back bridge can probably deadlift a respectable weight without too much trouble, though you’re unlikely to see too many guys who are even capable of getting into a full back bridge if all they’ve been doing is lifting for years. The bridge will challenge your flexibility as it simultaneously strengthens your hamstrings, glutes, lower-back, upper-back and shoulders.

Click the link for more info on back bridges.


One-Legged Bodyweight Deadlifts
While many weightlifters dismiss this exercise as being too easy, the one-legged bodyweight deadlift is a fantastic way to build strength in your hamstrings, glutes and lower back. If done slowly and with strict attention to detail, performing a dozen or two one-legged bodyweight deadlifts can be a serious challenge even for someone who’s used to moving some heavy metal. They’re also an excellent balance and stability challenge.

Click the link for more info on one legged bodyweight deadlifts.

Pistol Squats
That’s right, the pistol squat is such a well rounded exercise, it can fill in for both squats AND deadlifts. The pistol also requires considerable core strength (that means lower back too, not just abs!) in addition to strong glutes and hamstrings. Of course the pistol is a big time quad exercise as well – you get a lot of “bang” for your buck with pistols!

Click the link for more info on pistol squats.
Back Lever PCC

Levers
There are many ways to perform lever holds and they all require a strong back, powerful core and total body control. The elbow lever is typically the easiest for beginners to start with, though the more advanced back lever is especially demanding on the posterior chain. Try pulling into a back lever from the bottom up and tell me it doesn’t feel as hard as deadlifting a bar with twice your bodyweight.

Click the link for more info on back levers.

Alternatives Rock
While exercises like pistol squats and back levers require some strength to even begin training, newcomers can start practicing one legged deadlifts and back bridges early on in their training. As you get stronger, you can add assisted pistols and modified back levers into your routine, eventually working to the full versions.

Anyone who consistently trains these four exercises will no doubt build a powerful posterior chain that any weightlifter ought to respect. And if you really love deadlifts, there’s no reason you can’t use them in addition to these other moves; it doesn’t have to be an either/or scenario. Bodyweight training and weightlifting can happily coexist in the same program.

Watch the video below for more:

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Jumbo Shrimp Squats, Wolverine Push-ups and More!

It’s no secret that animal exercises have been a part of my training for a while now. I’ve crawled and climbed all over Tompkins Square Park and the rest of NYC many times, but there is always more to try!

Lately I’ve been playing around with some new moves, including a version of the shrimp squat that several readers have asked me about. The “jumbo shrimp squat” involves performing the move on an elevated surface to allow for additional range of motion.

I’ve also been messing with thumbless fingertip push-ups, which I’ve dubbed “wolverine push-ups” as well as a few other things. Check out the video below for more:

Twist Holds

Since the release of Convict Conditioning 2 last fall, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the exercise demonstrations I provided for the book. Most of the questions are about the clutch flag and human flag holds, but I’ve also gotten quite a few about author Paul Wade’s “trifecta” progression, particularly the twist holds.

There are several variations leading up to the full twist hold and I recommend beginners practice the basic versions for at least a few weeks (probably longer) before moving ahead. It’s important to take your time with each step to avoid setbacks and injuries.

Do The Twist
Twist holds give you a lot of bang for your buck, providing a fantastic stretch for your spine, hips and shoulders, as well as giving you a little extra core work. Along with the bridge hold and L-hold, twist holds are one of just three stretches that Coach Wade finds necessary for peak performance. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but he provides an entertaining (and pretty convincing) argument for this approach in the book.

To perform a basic twist hold, sit on the ground with your left leg straight in front of you, then bend your right leg and cross it in front of the other. Reach your left arm across your right knee while squeezing your obliques to rotate your trunk as far as you can. You can also play around with leveraging your elbow against your leg to get deeper into the stretch. Try to keep your chest tall and avoid shrugging your shoulders. I find it helpful to breathe slowly, gradually lengthening my spine with each inhale, and trying to squeeze a little farther into the twist each time I breathe out.

Twist Ending
The last step in the twist hold progression is to reach your arm beneath your top leg, while simultaneously reaching the opposite arm around behind your back, eventually clasping your hands. (It’s fine to use your other arm to help get the first one under your leg.)

There are a few other stretches that can help you out along the way, including the yoga “noose pose” (seen in the photo on the right), which helps you practice the shoulder mobility without having to twist as far as you need to in the full twist hold, and the more commonly known “triangle pose,” which provides the opposite benefit.

Even once you achieve the full twist, you can still work on increasing the stretch by trying to get your hands farther behind you and higher up on your back (two things I’m still refining myself). My twist hold still leaves plenty of room for improvement, but I intend to keep practicing.

Check out the video below (and get a copy of Convict Conditioning 2) for more info:

Kip-up Tutorial

The kip-up is a bodyweight skill that comes up in many disciplines including calisthenics, martial arts and parkour. It’s a great way to work on explosive power, hip drive and total body coordination. Plus if you ever fall on your butt during your training, returning to your feet via kip-up is the best way to redeem yourself.

On the other hand, you’ll probably look pretty dumb while trying to learn to kip-up, so if you’re shy about flailing around in public, better to practice this one at home. I also recommend using a soft surface for training this technique.

Kipping It Real
As the kip-up is a fairly advanced technique, I don’t recommend working on it unless you are already fairly lean and strong (and have healthy joints). I also suggest getting comfortable with back bridges first to make sure your spine is ready.

To perform a kip-up, begin by lying on your back with your palms flat on the ground on either side of your head. From there, roll your thighs up toward your shoulders and get ready to explode from your hips. To land a successful kip-up, you’ll have to kick your legs up and out as hard as you can and push off with your hands a split second later.

Kipping Point
Think about whipping your legs around in a circle so you land toward your toes. You want to try to get your feet under your center of gravity so you don’t fall backwards. Timing is crucial to landing this move and it takes a lot of trial and error. As always, be patient and keep at it. I’m still practicing toward putting more pop in my kip-up; fitness training is always a work in progress.

Watch the video below for more:

Raising The Bar on Paperback!

I’m excited to announce that my new book Raising The Bar is now available on paperback!

The book release party is still scheduled for June 1, but due to popular demand, Dragon Door has decided to make the book available sooner. They are also offering a discount to anyone who orders the book before the end of the month!

Raising The Bar goes over everything you ever wanted to know about pull-ups, dips, muscle-ups and dozens of other exercises.

Click the link for more info on Raising The Bar.

If that’s not enough for you, I’ve also got a brand new workout video featuring my brother Danny and me in a calisthenics battle.

Check it out and leave your comments below!

Speed Reps

Last week, I wrote about super slow strength training. Today I want to focus on the other end of the spectrum.

While super slow strength training can emphasize form and stability, speed reps can help build explosive power and agility. Both are important things to have if you aim to be well rounded in your fitness.

Speed training is similar to plyometric training in that the movements are performed fast and explosively. Unlike plyometrics, however, you do not get airborne when you perform speed reps. In fact, when performing speed reps on exercises like pull-ups and dips that involve gripping a bar, I recommend holding on tightly!

Additionally, it can help to think about doing the negative portion of the rep as fast as possible, which will engage the antagonist muscles. This means if I am doing speed pull-ups, I will think about pushing myself down away from the bar at the top of each rep.

Before attempting speed reps of any exercise, make sure that you can first perform the exercise at a normal tempo with proper form. It’s also a good idea to thoroughly warm up before this type of training.

In the video below, you’ll see me doing some of my favorite warm-up drills before getting in my speed reps. I’ve borrowed some elements of parkour training as well as some Animal Flow movements, adding my own personal style as well.

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

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:

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.