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received editing, re-editing and proofing Convict Conditioning, I barely qualify aspects of the Convict Conditioningstrength system that might seem vague or. Convict Conditioning. 72 Pages · · (zlibraryexau2g3p_onion).pdf Mindset - Dweck_ caite.info caite.infoy. Convict Conditioning: About fhis Book. Absolutely FREE caite.info . Convict Conditioning is about taking your strength and power to a level where no.
If uneven squats using a basketball are impossible. Handstand pushup: Gymnasts, soldiers, Olympic weightlifters, martial artists, yoga guys, wrestlers; even a cou- ple of doctors. The best way to offset this risk of slowing down is to perform some kind of explosive exercise from time to time. One day, maybe I will. Yet foot. If you experiment with this routine and find you need to add more recovery days to it.
Today we are going to focus on the first of The Big Six Movements: Movement One: This is meant to be a supplement to the book as it is imperative to understand the movements and the history behind them.
Nice post I was going to make something liek this for myself so I didnt have to flip pages in the eBook constantly to remind myself of form and reps.. So many fantastic bodyweight workouts, with some minimal equipment options as well. Hi Jason, I am familiar with the book and I agree, it is a very good resource for bodyweight training. Thank you for recommending it here! Results Vote. Convict Conditioning: Share this: Next Prison Day 2: Whereas pullups work vertical pulling strength.
Good Behavior v 2. Quality of training is more important than quantity. Like the other routines. Add extra rest days if you are not recuperating. It involves six workouts a week with only a single day off. This advanced version of Good Behavior is only for expert athletes who have been training several years.
These three workouts are then repeated for the next three days. This routine is really a four-day program. Insert rest days wherever you feel progress is slipping.
For those of you interested in inserting more cross- training into your workouts cardio. These routines all center around the Big Six. Both sessions revolve. Revolving Door One problem I often find with higher volume routines is that after the first two exercises.
Revolving Door is really a routine for athletes who find they have a lot of endurance.
If this is you. I can do plenty of pullups. Progressive calisthenics ain't brain surgery. Horizontal pulls should not be harder than full pullups. If this isn't the case. This isn't as complex to achieve as it might sound. In terms of difficulty. If you can comfortably make the beginner standard on jackknife pulls.
The book. If you can't easily handle the beginner standard. Work on this for a few sessions. If you are really struggling with horizontal pulls as shown in the book—pulling off a base that's hip height—try the exercise with a higher hand position. As I pointed out in the book. Keep on this way until the jackknife pulls are easy enough to work with safely. When you hit the progression standard. If the exercise is too easy to really get a strict workout with.
If an exercise is too hard to really get a strict workout with. Just find two sturdy objects at this height. In basic terms. Horizontal pulls are step 2 of the pullup series. Work this exercise hard. You work an exercise in your difficulty range until you master it. But handstand pushups. Over a hundred years ago. The bent press is a great example. Three years later he did five hundred pounds. No way—back in the days before steroids and growth hormone. The human body can bench press over a thousand pounds.
It happens to weighted exercises too—even the best ones. Never believe the naysayers when it comes to human potential. Everybody said a four hundred pound bench press was impossi- ble. Not even in the same league as impossible! Saxon was approaching nearly twice that weight! Like the handstand pushup.
Elite athletes can now bench press more than twice that much. Is this move even possible? Nowhere near impossible. If handstand pushups were as popular as the bench press. In prisons they are still more popular than the bench press in some places because you can do them inside your cell. But prison training is not gymnastics. The major- ity of very strong prison trainees prefer to preserve the majority of their energy for building their shoulders.
Despite this. They are not end points. You work your core when you do pushups. Here's the bottom line: Why the disparity? In prison culture. But hanging leg raises don't seem that hard. But you will probably find that you're happy with your waist strength by the time you reach that level. If you get to the point where you can knock out a couple sets of 30 strict hanging leg raises fairly easily.
That's all. That's why many incredibly powerful athletes don't perform specific midsection movements at all. They'll also give you a bitching six-pack if you work them hard.
This is just a fact of prison training culture. The muscles of the midsection have evolved to work in conjunction with the rest of the body.
They are a basic. Most of the "Master Steps" represent incredible feats of bodyweight strength. The "Master Steps"—all of them—are illusory. But for trainees with proportionately shorter legs. When you can do squats this way. Any ideas? If you ask an athlete who has been properly trained using the Convict Conditioning steps in the right order. This has led to some dudes mistakenly thinking that uneven squats are straight up harder than one-leg squats. Mastering the uneven squat will definitely make their one-leg squat better.
A soccer ball is a tad smaller than a b-ball. These athletes will have to find a slightly smaller ball. So in this case.
I learned to do pistols a while back. Maybe a couple of bricks. Many people who find the uneven squat an impossibility just need to make some minor adjust- ments.
Once you've hit the progression standard there. If uneven squats using a basketball are impossible. But even for most shorter- limbed or differently-built dudes. You can test this yourself if you want. If you weigh a solid Put this into perspective. When you put one hand behind your back to perform a one-arm pushup.
But the regular one-arm pushup—with the feet spread. A lot of guys say 50 to 65 percent. Simple answer—because this is what I learned to do behind bars. When this happens they get pissed. They find themselves unsteady. Doing your pushups the prison way forces you to keep your hand under your body. The reality is that most athletes have trouble with the prison pushup because they lack the strength. If it really was impossible to retain equilibrium during a the positive upwards motion of the prison pushup.
In some circles. Why is the Convict Conditioning one-arm pushup done with the feet close together? I thought you were meant to spread your feet wide on this exercise. A lot of athletes who can easily perform regular one-arm pushups. Often they tip to one side. But this is kinda recent. But many athletes discover that they can do a strict negative on the prison pushup. This is false. In modern jails you might see a lot of bench pressing in the yard gym.
Even today. This prevents the larger pectorals from doing all the work. Because the exercise is a part of calisthenics. I learned my system from an older generation. This was purely due to my mastery of the proper. Forget feet-wide pushups. I often scratch my head when guys expect to approach this Master Step seemingly overnight.
There are pro bodybuilders who can't do anything near that. This means that. That's a LOT of strength. How many gymrats do you know who can close press ? And yet most guys drop to the floor and expect to do the bodyweight equivalent in a coupla weeks. This is how. In the joint I used to surprise people because I could bench press three wheels per side—welded on!
By no means impossible. All the big. Remember also. Think about how that kind of force would equate to a barbell lift—the bench press. It's much more like a close grip bench press. Most men—strong guys. It would take a lot of time and dedication. The stability factor is another significant issue.
Think about this. Always keep your feet together from day one. Possibly years of intelligent. A friend of mine who edited the original manuscript took a look at it and split it into two parts. This was just too damn big for the world of modern publishing. I became real passionate about this idea. Yes and no. This portion will be published as Convict Conditioning 2.
Back when I was in jail—this was the late 90s—somebody told me I should write down all my training knowledge in a book. I put this book together.
The books complement each other. Athletes who enjoyed CC will probably want to take a look at CC2. The main strength training portion was further polished and this was put out as Convict Conditioning.
There will be another book coming. In the Solitary Confinement routine. Seems like everywhere people are talking about grip power. What's up? In the original manuscript. If you plan on getting into a fight.
In jail. I included bodyweight programs for working the grip. Convict Conditioning 2. But if you want to know how to specialize on these areas using bodyweight-only progressions. This is a good thing. If you are working the Big Six hard.
Grip strength is a key part of total strength. CC2 will teach you everything you need to know. Yet foot. At least the modern training world is getting turned on to the importance of hand strength. I'll give you the prison perspective. But the trend for grip specialists today seems to be based around machines. Every time you lift a weight or move. Due to space constrictions.
My grip program will show you how to turn your weak digits into steel vices. That's why boxers. The same might be said of neck work. By "functional" I mean that cardio drills are designed to mimic real-life prison situations. Prisoners have understood this for a long time. Do you approve of cardio? I am a fan of cardio exercise. For those who are still stalling. The most fundamental form of bodyweight cardio is running.
Long-term aerobic stamina is pretty useless in a hall- way confrontation. I think that everyone who works out with weights—even die-hard iron fanatics—would benefit from adding bodyweight work into their routine.
You might find it useful. I've included lots of information in Convict Conditioning 2. Running in a jail cell isn't practi- cal. The idea of long periods of ass-numbing cycling.
I included some programming tips on how to integrate bodyweight into your in-gym workouts in Convict Conditioning towards the end of chapter The best kind of cardio is bodyweight. Trust me. This is NOT the same as aerobic exercise. I wrote an article a while back detailing some bodyweight sub- stitutes for regular weighted exercises.
Check it out here. For those who want a little more info on how the convicts do their cardio. Compare this to a boring. By "intense" I just mean that the training conveys cardio ability geared to maximal bursts over a smaller time frame.
Forget the expensive computerized machines that now line every gym. Perform a set of stand-to-stand bridges followed by high-rep squats. I'll tell you now that while training in prison I built up many ideas about nutrition that are com- pletely at odds with the status quo.
The modern training public are usually fed a complete load of bullshit about the kind of diet that's essential for muscle and strength. How do these guys get so big and strong on a crummy prison diet?
You're right. A lot of extremely muscular prison athletes survive and thrive! So what's going on? The topic is too complex to discuss here. I've seen a lot of very scary-looking athletes working out behind bars. All the other stuff people say you need—like high protein—is bullshit.
I still eat the way I ate in prison—three squares a day. Many athletes and nutritionalists—and especially supplement companies—sure as hell won't like what I have to say. I've met record holders who achieved their PRs on fairly "insubstantial" diets full of "low quality" grub. These sacred cows are care- fully constructed and protected for one reason. The magazines promoting high protein and whey powder and shakes and fat loss pills. I was speaking to Pavel about this.
I'm not an expert on kettlebells. And that's exactly how kettlebells were first used in America. I'm not an RKC. The Roman strategist Vegetius describes hand-weights used as a part of the Roman army's military calisthenics training. Shaolin monks used stone padlocks arcane devices not dissimilar to kettlebells in combination with kung fu bodyweight exercises.
Back when free weights were first invented. But the soldiers didn't curl these primitive dumbbells—they ran and jumped with them. If you're going to use free weights. As far back as Tang Dynasty China. It was only later that free weights and body- weight work became estranged opposites. He explained that when you press or pull a kettlebell.
It's just my two cents worth. One of my major bugbears with regular bodybuilding is the "elbows splayed" position.
Kettlebells are easy to combine with one-leg squats. Back in the day. They were used purely to enhance bodyweight skills. The ancient Celts used ring-stones in a similar fashion. So if you are going to use a free weights program alongside Convict Conditioning. To me. The handstand pushup is a good example. Although gymnasts are often muscular and are ferociously strong. Progressive calisthenics is a stripped-down solo training method designed to build as much raw power and muscle as possible.
Prison strength trainees tend to favor relatively low skill movements. Since that time. These different purposes result in substantially different training approaches. Most prison athletes like to find a wall or ideally. Maybe the essential dis- tinction to remember is that gymnastics is a much more complex pursuit than progressive calis- thenics. Progressive calis- thenics is about building maximum strength and performance through developing the muscles and their tendons.
What are your thoughts on gymnastics training? I have a huge amount of respect for gymnasts and their art-form. To perform to a high level in pro- gressive calisthenics. By contrast. Gymnasts are the opposite. These are just a handful of basic differences. I know as much as any man alive about prison bodyweight training. They would rather devote their energy to building monstrous muscle and power. Convict Conditioning is about the basics. It comprises hundreds of techniques. Although plyometrics and even isometrics are employed from time to time.
Sporting gymnastics contains many sub-disciplines. Both disciplines are derived from a larger. Let me tell you. Jim Bathurst is another top guy who understands gymnastics. He does it all—weights. This knowledge only survived in the prison environment because there are very few alternative training options to distract people most of the time.
No pilates classes, no aerobics. Everybody on the outside now talks about prison gyms, but trust me, these are a relatively new import and where they do exist they're poorly equipped. One of my mentors was a lifer called Joe Hartigen. Joe was seventy-one years old when I got to know him, and was spending his fourth decade in prison.
Despite his age and numerous injuries, Joe still trained in his cell every morning. And he was strong as hell, too; I've seen him do weighted pullups using only his two index fingers for hooks, and one-arm pushups using only one thumb were a regular party trick of his. In fact he made them look easy. Joe knew more about real train- ing than most "experts" will ever know. He was built in the old gyms in the first half of the twen- tieth century, before most people had even heard of adjustable barbells.
Those guys relied largely on bodyweight movements-techniques that, today, we would regard as part of gymnastics, not bodybuilding or strength training.
When they did lift "weights," they didn't lift seated on com- fortable, adjustable machines; they lugged around huge, uneven objects like weighted barrels, anvils, sandbags and other human beings. Lifting like this calls into play qualities that are impor- tant for power, qualities that are missing in modern gyms-things like grip stamina, tendon strength, speed, balance, coordination and inhuman grit and discipline.
This kind of training-done properly, with the right know-how-made the old-timers hugely strong. In St. Louis in the s, Joe worked out with The Mighty Atom, one of the most famous strongmen of all time. Standing at just 5'4" and weighing Ibs. He performed feats on a daily basis that would make modern bodybuilders cry for their mom- mies. He broke out of chains, drove spikes into pine planks with his palms, and bit penny nails dean in half.
On one occasion in , he prevented an airplane from taking off, by pulling on a rope attached to it. He didn't even bother to use his hands-he tied the rope to his hair.
Unlike modern gym junkies, The Atom was strong all over, and could prove it anywhere. He was famously able to change a car tire with no tools-he unscrewed the bolts bare-handed before lift- ing the car up and slipping on the spare! In the mid nineteen-thirties he was viciously attacked by IOlfIRG six burly longshoreman, and he hurt them so badly that as a result of the brawl all six had to be sent to hospital.
It was lucky he was never sent to prison for it, because he regularly bent steel bars like hairpins. These were phenomenal feats for a pre-steroid era.
Like Joe, The Atom didn't need phony muscle drugs and as a result he was frighteningly strong well into his later years. In fact, he didn't quit performing as a strongman until he was in his eighties. Over many long recreation peri- ods, Joe regaled me with tales of the feats of strength of the depression-era strongmen he knew and trained with, world-class power-men whose names are now lost in the mists of history.
I was lucky enough to learn a huge amount about their training philosophies, too. For example, Joe emphasized the fact that a lot of the old-timers focused on bodyweight training to get really strong. They might have demonstrated their power by unleashing it on external objects like nails and barrels, but in many cases they actually built that basic strength through control of the body.
In fact, Joe hated barbells and dumbbells. That's the way the ancient Greek and Roman athletes trained-and look at the muscles on the classical sculptures from that era. The guys in those stat- ues were bigger and more impressive than all these drugged-up jerks you get these days! The model athletes who posed for those sculptures were clearly hugely muscular, and would easily win natural bodybuilding contests today.
And the adjustable barbell wasn't invented until the nineteenth century. If you still don't agree, check out a modern male gymnast. These guys almost exclusively use their bodyweight in training, and many have physiques which would put bodybuilders to shame. Joe is no longer with us, but I promised him that the best of his training wisdom wouldn't die out.
A lot of it is in this book. Rest in peace, Joey. I've talked with a vast number of real veterans-many of them elite-level athletes-for whom training is a religion, a way of life. Over the years I've picked up a great number of advanced tips and techniques which I've slowly incorporated into my system. It's fair to say that I've gleaned as much conditioning acumen from prison life as anybody has.
But prison life is rarely easy or safe. I never rested for a single day; I always translated my knowledge into pain and sweat, experimenting on myself.
As a result, I was always known as being in superb condition, the guy who was nuts about training. Any incident I got involved in with was over quick, because I was so explosive, in such good shape. All this gave me a mystique over time which ensured I got much more respect than I would have done without my training.
I even got some admiration from the hacks guards for my lifestyle and ability. In the nineties, I was in Marion Penitentiary, which was in permanent lockdown following the murder of two guards.
By "permanent lockdown," I mean that all inmates were left in solitary confinement for twenty-three hours per day, every day. To crush any potential trouble, the hacks did the rounds checking out the inmates every forty min- utes.
There was a running joke in Marion that the hacks would see me doing pushups, and return forty minutes later, and I'd still be doing them-the same set. In my last few years in prison this reputation as an athlete got me a lot of daily requests for coaching, mainly from fresh inmates.
They had all heard that I could teach them how to get prison tough in no time, and for a modest fee. They wanted to know the lost art lost on the outside! I've seriously coached many hundreds of convicts in my time, and this gave me a lot of experi- ence I couldn't have gained from just training alone.
It allowed me to see how my techniques applied to different body-types, different metabolisms. I learned a lot about the mental aspects of training, about motivation and the distinct approaches that separate one student from another.
I developed principles that allowed me to quickly tailor my methods to any individual's needs. By doing this I was able to fine-tune my system, and break all my knowledge down in a way that was easy to pick up by anybody, whatever their level of development. The book you are holding now-which is mostly my secret "training manual" which I wrote while on the inside-represents the fruits of those countless hours of teaching.
It's my baby. And it works. My system had to world If I failed to train anybody to their maximum toughness, the con- sequences would not be a missed lift at a tournament, or second place in a bodybuilding competi- tion.
Prison is rough. The goal of being strong and in peak shape is survival. To be weak, or per- ceived as weak, in the joint can literally mean death. And all my trainees are alive and thrivin', thank ya very much. I could write a whole book on how important strength and the aura given off by a male in true hardcore condition can be in prison. One day, maybe I will. But this is not a book about prison life, it's a book about physical training.
I've discussed some prison experiences only to try and demonstrate the kind of brutal, isolated, strangely traditional environment in which many of the old school training tech- niques have survived. You don't need to get yourself incarcerated to use the system in this book. Far from it. But it's a safe bet that if my method of condition- ing works for athletes in the harshest, most vicious environ- ment known to man-lockup- then it can work for you.
It will work for you! The word itself has been used in the English language since at least the nineteenth century, but the term has very ancient origins. It comes from the ancient Greek kallos meaning "beauty," and 5thenos, which means "strength. Convict Conditioning is, essentially, an advanced form of calis- thenics designed to maximize power and athletic ability. Unfortunately modern calisthenics is not really understood as a hardcore strength training technology.
If you mention calisthenics today, most people would think only of high repetition pushups, crunches, and less taxing exercises like jumping jacks or running on the spot. Calisthenics has become a secondary option, a cheap form of circuit training more like an aerobic exercise. But it wasn't always this way. Ever since prehistory, when the first men wished to develop and display their power they did so by demonstrating their control over their body; lifting the body up, bending the knees and jumping, and pressing the body away from the surface of the earth using the strength of the limbs.
These actions eventually evolved into what we would recog- nize today as the art of calisthenics. Calisthenics was never seen as an endurance training method by the ancients-it was primarily understood as a strength training system.
It was the art used by the finest soldiers to develop max- imum fighting power and an intimidating musculature. IOBDrG One of the earliest records of calisthenics training was handed down to us by the historian Herodotus, who recounts that prior to the Battle of Thermopolylae c.
To the amazement of Xerxes, the scouts reported back that the Spartan warriors were busy training their bodies with calisthenics. Xerxes had no idea what to make of this, since it looked as though they were limbering up for battle. The idea was laughable, because beyond the valley lay Xerxes' Persian army, numbering over one hundred and twenty thousand men.
There were only three hundred Spartans. Xerxes sent messages to the Spartans telling them to move or be destroyed. The Spartans refused and during the ensuing battle the tiny Spartan force succeeded in holding Xerxes' massive army at bay until the other Greek forces coalesced.
You might have seen a dramatization of this battle in Zac Snyder's epic movie The Spartans are still widely regarded to have been the toughest warrior race to have ever existed, and they were not too proud to focus their training on calisthenics. In fact, their ancient style of calisthenics training was a major reason why they were such impressive war- riors.
And the Spartans weren't the only ancient Greeks who had faith in calisthenics. It was docu- mented by Pausanius that all the great athletes of the original Olympic Games were trained in calis- thenics; including the finest boxers, wrestlers and strongmen of the ancient world. Surviving images from Attic pottery, mosaics and architectural reliefs contain a great many scenes which unmistak- ably illustrate serious calisthenics training.
The physical ideal we know today as the "Greek god" comes from these images, which were originally modeled on the athletes of the Games-athletes who would have reached their level of development via training in calisthenics. The Greeks under- stood that the practice of calisthenics developed the physique to its maximum natural potential; not in an ugly, bloated way like today's bodybuilders, but in perfect proportion with the harmony of natural aesthetics.
It achieves this harmony effortlessly, because the resistance used by the body is the body itself-not too light, not too heavy. Mother nature's perfect level of resistance. The Greeks knew that that calisthenics produced not only great power and athleticism but also grace in movement and beauty of the physical form.
This, of course, is the source of the term calisthen- ics, which combines the Greek words for beauty and strength. The arts of calisthenics training-as with so many things-were passed from the Greeks to their antecedents, the Romans. While the Roman army represented the pinnacle of martial organiza- tion, the cream of the athletic arts was reserved for the gladiators-the fighters competing at the public amphitheaters.
The Roman historian Livy described how these "super warriors" of their time worked in the ludi training camp day in, day out using bodyweight exercises that we would today class as advanced calisthenics.
Through the constant repetition of their techniques, the glad- iators reportedly became so strong that the crowd passed around hushed stories that these power- houses were the illegitimate offspring of mortal women and Titans-the mighty giants who BIBS 11 warred with the gods before humanity came to be.
The enormous physical toughness bestowed on the gladiators by calisthenics combined with their combat training nearly undid the Empire in the first century BC, when Spartacus and his gladiators rose up and challenged the order of the Emperor. The hardcore warriors of the gladiator army were so physically powerful that they laid waste to numerous Roman legions, despite being ill-equipped and horribly outnumbered.
There were doubtless many different systems of calisthenics training used by the ancients. What we do know from the surviving descriptions and images was that the bodyweight training per- formed by these legendary warriors and athletes bore little resemblance to what is known as "cal- isthenics" today. Rather than being a relatively soft form of aerobic training, their systems would have looked more like gymnastics, and would definitely have been geared more solidly to the pro- gressive development or power and strength.
The Tradition of Strength This form of physical training continued long after the fall of the classical civilizations. For most of human history it was simply taken as accepted fact that the ultimate way for an athlete to become stronger was by manipulating bodyweight according to progressive principles.
Centuries passed, and the knowledge of the ancients remained alive in the military training camps of Byzantium and Arabia. It returned more fully to Europe via the crusades, a half-forgot- ten friend reintroduced to warlike Europeans more hungry than ever for knowledge of power. It is well known that a major part of a squire's schooling to become a knight would have involved physical training, and there is a great deal of evidence that his training would have been based around calisthenics.
Illuminated manuscripts and tapestries exist showing squires performing pullups from trees and wooden apparatus, as well as accomplishing inverse feats of strength that look like handstand pushups.
The fact that medieval soldiers trained for powercenturies before the invention of the barbell or dumbbell-is beyond dispute.
The Western armies of the Middle Ages had unbelievable strength; the longbowmen beloved of Henry V were said by contemporary commentators to be so strong that they could pull a tree up by its roots. This may have been pro- paganda, but later longbows salvaged from Henry VIII's ship The Mary Rose have been estimated to have a draw weight of up to Newtons; which is roughly lbs.
No archer alive today is capable of handling a bow like that. Throughout the Renaissance, these old methods lived on through military use, and were further disseminated around Europe by minstrels; traveling acrobats, singers and jugglers who would per- form feats of strength and gymnastics at villages, towns and courts for their daily bread. This spread of knowledge continued, as would be expected, through the Enlightenment era, a period when all knowledge on every subject was seen to be a blessing and of value to humanity.
IOllDlG During the nineteenth century, bodyweight training for strength was still alive and well. In fact, if the classical days of ancient Greece were the first Golden Age of physical culture, there can be no doubt that the late nineteenth century represented the second great Golden Age. All over the rapidly changing world, health experts were recognizing and beginning to scientifically document the unsurpassed value of bodyweight training.
In Prussia, legendary ex-military commander Friedrich Ludwig Jahn began formalizing the practice of bodyweight training with minimal apparatus; the horizontal and parallel bars, the vaulting horse and the balance beam. The sport of "gymnastics" as we know it today was cre- ated. The tradition of the traveling strength show, popularized by the Renaissance minstrels, lived on in the circus, and the era of the strong- man was born.
Scores of phenomenal athletes littered the globe; this period spawned legends such as Arthur Saxon, Rolandow, even Eugen Sandow-the man whose mighty physique informs the Mr. Olympia statue, the highest prize in the sport of modern body- building. These men were as powerful as human beings have ever been-more powerful even, than modern steroidiunkies. Saxon could press lbs. Calisthenics played a significant role in building up all these men.
Remember, plate-loading barbells and dumbbells weren't even invented until the twentieth century. Before this innovation, the vast majority of the world's most muscular upper bodies were developed by hand-balancing and work on the horizontal bar. Twentieth Century Greats Even during the first half of the twentieth century, most of the true legends of strength were built by bodyweight training. In those days you weren't considered "strong" unless you could do one-legged squats and puUups easily, or stand on your hands.
Yes, barbells and dumbbells were used, but only after bodyweight feats had been mastered. Back then, even the super-heavyweights were masters of advanced calisthenics. British strongman-turned-wrestler Bert Assirati wowed crowds in the thirties by bending over backwards into a bridge before kicking himself up into a one- arm handstand-and he weighed in excess of Ibs.
Assirati remains the heaviest athlete in history to perform the incredibly difficult "iron cross" hold on the hanging rings.
CT COl! Hepburn is considered to be one of the greatest pressers of all time, jerking lbs. Despite practically crushing the scales at a weight of nearly lbs. Although he excelled at lifting weights, Hepburn attributed his freakish pressing power to his mastery of handstand pushups. During his workouts, he used to perform handstand pushups without support, and regularly did those pushups on special parallel bars which allowed him to descend deeper than is normally possible.
This giant of a man proved once and for all that muscular bodyweight is no barrier to excellence in calis- thenics. Despite all his size, Hepburn never became muscle- bound or slow, because he took bodyweight training seri- ously-an attitude sorely lacking in most modern body- builders. Siciliano sold hundreds of thousands of mail-order "Dynamic Tension" courses through the fifties and sixties.
His method was a hybrid of traditional calisthenics with some isometric techniques. He taught a whole genera- tion of comic-book readers that they didn't need to train with weights to stop getting sand kicked in their faces. But he was the last of a dying breed. They began to die out. In many ways, this loss was a direct and inevitable consequence of the Industrial Revolution. Following the Industrial Revolution, human life began to become increasingly dominated by technology.
This was as true in the field of exer- cise and strength development as anywhere else. The twentieth century saw a veritable explosion in new forms of training technology, and our approach to exercise altered accordingly. At the core of these changes were the good old plate-loading barbell and dumbbell. Barbells and metal free weights have been around for centuries, but the twentieth century approach to fitness was truly ushered in during when British athlete Thomas Inch invented the plate-loading barbell.
Before long, cables and weight stacks were added to the mix, and shortly after their incep- PART I: In the nineteen-seventies, nobody was anybody who didn't train on Nautilus machines-resistance devices so named because their primary cam lever was shaped like a Nautilus mollusc shell. During this era, Nautilus gyms grew up all over America, and now hardly any gym in the world can be found that isn't mostly populated with complicated and confusing strength machines.
Even barbells and dumbbells have had to take a back seat. And as for bodyweight exercises? Despite a handful of advocates-like Charles Atlas-progressive bodyweight training slowly moved towards extinction as the twentieth century wore on.
The Di fference Between "Old School" and "New School" Cali stheni cs All of these changes have altered the way we exercise very radically in a very short space of time, and we have lost something extremely valuable along the way.
For many thousands of years-almost all of human history-men who wanted to get big and strong trained themselves with bodyweight exercises.
Great systems of knowledge and sophisticated philosophies regarding training methods and techniques were passed down from generation to generation.
Impressive and supremely effective methodologies evolved, methodologies which were based largely around strength and power; methodologies which were intelligent and progressive, the product of many centuries of trial and error. These priceless arts were designed to make an athlete stronger and stronger, until he achieved the peak of human ability-not only in strength, but in agility, motive power and toughness. This is what I mean when I talk about old school calisthenics.
When the barbells and machines began to really take over in the second half of the twentieth century, all of this hard-earned ancient knowledge became considered redundant. Immaterial to the modern age. Dazzled by the new gadgets and the methods associated with them, fewer and fewer people continued using these ancient old school methods and they began to die out.
Today, bodyweight strength training has been almost totally replaced by weight-training with machines, barbells and dumbbells. Bodyweight training is seen as the feeble sibling of these newer approaches, and has been relegated to the sidelines. The old school skills and systems dwindled through disuse and became lost. All that survived was the basic minimum. Today, when people- even so called strength "experts"-talk about bodyweight training, they only really know the beginners' movements-pushups, deep knee-bends, etc.
To this they add a few useless and pathetic modern exercises, like ab crunches. These exercises are given to school children, weak- lings, or are done as warm ups or to develop light endurance. Compared to the traditional, strength-based attitude, this approach could be called new school calisthenics.
Old school calis- thenics-which involved bodyweight systems designed to progressively develop inhuman power and strength-have almost died out.
IOIrIllG The Role of Prisons in Older SystemsPreserving the There was one place that the old school calisthenics never died out; a place where the older sys- tems were perfectly preserved, like an ancient insect trapped in amber-in prisons. The reason for this is obvious. The massive revolution in training technology which killed off old school calisthenics on the outside never occurred in prisons. Either that, or it occurred very late. The barbell and dumbbell-based gyms that became the rage in the fifties and sixties?
Not in prisons. Very primitive weight pits didn't start appearing until the late seventies. The "indispens- able" strength training machines upon which most gyms became built in the seventies and eight- ies are still largely absent from prison gyms. In effect, this means that-while the rest of the strength training world was undergoing a huge "modernization" during the twentieth century-prisons were like a bubble. The traditions that were being killed off in gymnasiums up and down the country stayed alive in prisons, because they weren't choked to death by technology and the money associated with novelty gimmicks.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the guys who got incarcerated and knew how to do true bodyweight training based on strength-the gymnasts, acrobats, circus performers and strongmen-passed their knowledge on to other inmates.
This knowledge-old school calisthen- ics-was gold in prisons, where no exercise equipment at all was to be found, with the exception of the bars overhead and the floor below. And being physically strong as well as agile was essen- tial-those days were tough. Life in prisons today is harsh, but going back a century or so, things were even harder.
Beatings and cruel treatment were a part of the expected daily grind, and inmates killed and seriously wounded each other as a matter of routine. The handful of guys who trained for strength in their cells did so to literally stay alive.
They trained furiously and with enormous seriousness-being powerful was a life or death matter! In this sense, those inmates from our past were no different from the Spartans led by Leonidas sixty-eight centuries ago. They all depended on their power to survive, and in order to develop that power they trained in traditional calisthenics. The Origin of Convict Conditioning To this day, prisoners all over the world still train using old school calisthenics. During my decades inside the nation's prisons, I've been obsessed with strength and fitness.
Over time, this changed into an obsession with bodyweight training--calisthenics. Only after several years inside did I begin to understand the true nature and value of productive bodyweight exercise, and it took years after that until I was able to piece together the "secret history" of old school calisthenics, and the role that prisons have played in preserving these arts.
AliT I: BIlCS 11 In my time, I've read everything I can about training and exercise, and ways of developing the body with little or no equipment. I've had the privilege of seeing how hundreds of unbelievably strong and athletic prison-trained men work out, using only their bodyweight.
Many of these guys have had phenomenal ability and practically Olympian strength and fitness; but you'll never see them or get to read about their training in magazines due to their personal histories and lowly place on society's ladder. I've seen what these men can do, and spoken to them in depth about their methods.
I've been honored to befriend and spend long periods with the previous generation of convicts, guys who were old enough to remember the strongmen who were actually trained by the strongmen of the second Golden Age of physical culture; guys who met the old strongmen, heard their theories and knew how they exercised.
Following their lead, I've trained myself day and night with merciless techniques until my body ached and my hands bled; I've coached hun- dreds of other athletes, further honing my knowledge of bodyweight exercise. I've made it my job to find out more about old school calisthenics than any other man alive. Over the years, I've collected dozens of notebooks and taken the finest ideas and techniques from all the systems I've learned on the inside, to develop the ultimate form of calisthenics This system represents the best of the best of what I've learned.
It is the system which is known today as Convict Conditioning, and it's the subject of this book. But despite the name and the ori- gins, Convict Conditioning isn't just for prisoners-it has a whole host of benefits to offer any- body who wants to become extremely powerful and fit while staying at the peak of health. Lights Out! I've found that when I talk to people on the outside about the kind of gritty, hardcore, push-till- you-drop bodyweight exercise programs that are still regularly performed in prisons, I'm, invari- ably met with a wave of enthusiasm.
Guys love to hear about it! After a spirited discussion, lifters and athletes tell me with a serious look in their eye that they'll dedicate themselves to mastering bodyweight work.
Then I find out-only weeks later-that they never even tried calisthenics. They're back in the gym working exclusively on machines and free weights, on the same unpro- ductive routines everybody else is doing, getting nowhere.
I can't really say I blame them. People find it difficult to commit themselves to a method of training that's so individualistic-something that nobody else on the outside seems to be doing. What most trainees need in order to really psychologically invest some energy in old school calis- thenics is a good dose of reality. They need to know the differences between the unproductive, costly and damaging new methods of working out and the productive, free and safe arts of pro- gressive bodyweight training-"traditional" arts that will become tomorrow's cutting edge.
I'll discuss the differences between calisthenics and more modern methods in the next chapter. DlIliARIBS 19 am living proof that you don't need to get to the gym and use modern machines and gimmicks to gain a lot of muscle and power.
My many "students" working out in pris-. But my methods are so far from the status quo now that a lot of trainees will have trouble accepting them. There's a reason for my opinions being so out of step with the "norm.
A harsh, tough environment where men have only their bodIes and a hell of a lot of aggression and spare time to build up their muscles and maximize their strength. I, and many others, have achieved these goals-but we did it by looking back, and using our bodies plus traditional, time-tested techniques, not by turning to flashy equipment and gadgets.
Some people will never accept that old school calisthenics works, because they've been brain- washed into thinking that they need free weights and modern gym eqUIpment to reach their full potential. If you're going to embrace Convict Conditioning, you'll have to be prepared to put any indoctrination and preformed opinions to one side-at least long enough to give my methods a shot. In this chapter I'm going to show you why what you might have been taught about modern training is misleading, false, or downright wrong.
But when I take a look at the direction training and ath- letics are headed in the outside world, it almost makes me want to head to San Quentin and bang on the main gate to go straight back inside. When old school calisthenics began to die out, so did The world of physical conditioning has never been in such a desper- ately low, pitiful situation as it is today.
Some disagree with this opinion, presenting the elite athletes and world record holders of the modern era as proof that the science of conditioning has never been so highly advanced. But for a moment, forget the modern champions and pro athletes you see playing sports on TV. Thanks to recent media reports and exposes, the general public are finally beginning to grasp the fact that most of the top guys whether you believe it or not only achieve their temporarily high level of ability due to performance drugs such as anabolic steroids, testosterone variants, growth hor- mone, insulin and numerous other substances.
Even a short way into their career, virtually all of those involved in intense, competitive sports find themselves held together by painkillers, corti- sone, tranquilizers and other analgesic and relaxant chemicals which allow their joints to again, temporarily cope with the unnatural stresses of training and competing.
This is not to mention the recreational drugs that are now flooding pro sports-drugs like alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, and even crack! And as for training methods? Despite what you may have read or heard, very few pro athletes know how to condition themselves all that well. From the high school level and even before the majority of precociously talented future pros are taken on and trained full-time by coaches and trainers who do the thinking for them.
Kill the Gym So let's ignore the pros and modern-day Olympians for right now. For a while, let's also ignore convicts and their training methods. What about everyone else? The rest of us are told-by the magazines, TV shows, fitness gurus and even government health agencies-that if we want to shape up, we need to "get to the gym. Generally speaking, it involves two things these days; cardio machines and weights work- either free weights, or expensive resistance machines.
It's difficult to think of anything more futile, depressing and tedious than the cardio machine section of a modern gym. You've all seen the drill; rows and rows of gym members silently rowing nowhere, spinning their wheels or stepping up non-existent stairs with very little intensity and winning hardly any gains by way of real-world results. And as for the weights work? There tend to be two types of approaches to this. Firstly, there's the generalized, feminine "toning" attitude--get into a machine on its lowest setting or pick up the teeniest dumbbells you can, and begin the monotonous counting.
This charade might look good in a chrome-clad gym if you are covered in spandex but trust me, it does zero for your health Then there's the "macho" school of weight-training; heavy bench presses and plenty of biceps curls are the rule, here.
Never mind that these exercises ruin the joints and actually do little for genuine functional strength; never mind that modern "bodybuilding" either neglects or damages those muscles which are most cru- cial for authentic power and athleticism-the spinal erectors, the waist, the hands and feet, the neck, and the deeper tissues of the human system like the transversus or rotator cuff muscles. As long as you look pumped up in a T-shirt, that's all that matters, right?
Throw in a little bit of silly, non-committal stretching between stations that does about as much good as a dead dog, and there you have something approaching the average gym workout every- body is supposed to be doing. I applaud anyone who gets off the couch to go out and train, but just take a look at the results of the average person who goes to the gym.
You might even be such a person yourself. How much headway towards their fitness goals do they really make? The sad truth is that most people make negligible conditioning gains from the kind of workout described above.
The dedicated ones trudge to the gym, week in, week out, but perhaps beyond a minor initial improvement they hardly ever seem to change at all, let alone attain their peak potential. And these are the trainees who keep at it! Ninety percent of those who join a gym quit within two months due to lack of results. But who can honestly blame people for getting de-motivated with such lackluster results, from methods that-to cap it off-are boring, too?
Back in California In the fifties, there was a chain of gyms offering lifetime memberships for a modest fee.