Dragon Door Bodyweight Master Pull-up Bar Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Animal Movements for Strength and Conditioning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch the video below for more:

Xero Shoes Prio Review

Xero Shoes PrioI first discovered Xero Shoes several years ago during my search for a minimalist running sandal. I’d just read Born to Run, and like many others who were inspired by that book, I decided to get rid of my overly-cushioned running sneakers.

I wasn’t ready to run barefoot through the streets of NYC, but I was looking for the closest approximation. I wanted to “feel the world” without the risk of cutting the bottoms of my feet on broken glass or stepping on a syringe.

While doing an internet search for “barefoot running sandals” I came across Xero Shoes (who at the time were called “Invisible Shoes”) and immediately contacted them to place an order. The first pair I owned was just a thin piece of rubber with a single string attached to it through a few small holes. I loved those sandals!

Running in Xero Shoes PrioOver the years, Xero Shoes has grown considerably as a brand, and they’ve continued to improve and refine their products. Those simple sandals they originally offered are now much more durable, and the fastening system has come a long way from that single piece of string. (Check out the latest running sandals from Xero Shoes to see how far they have come.)

With the introduction of the new Prio running sneaker, Xero Shoes have come full circle. Instead of just offering an alternative to the traditional running sneaker, they are now offering a better running sneaker.

The Prio is Xero Shoes’ follow up to their first closed-toed shoe, the Ipari Hana, which was introduced to the world last fall. While the Hana feels more like a casual/athletic shoe hybrid, the Prio definitely feels like a full-on sneaker, albeit an extremely lightweight, flexible one. With the Prio, Xero Shoes have found the perfect balance between their ultra-minimalist sandals and the conventional running sneaker.

Al Kavadlo Xero Shoes PrioLike all Xero Shoes, the Prio is cut fairly large and is great for people who have wide feet.

Unlike a lot conventional running sneakers, however, the Prio molds to the shape of your foot, rather than forcing your foot to mold to the shape of the sneaker. It’s a very adaptable shoe that provides a more natural feel than most standard running sneakers.

Of course you can do more than just run in these bad-boys! The Prio is great for calisthenics training or any other physical activity that requires agility and/or foot movement.

The Prio is available for both men and women, in a variety of colors.

Watch the video below for more, then click here to get yourself a pair.

(Disclaimer: Al Kavadlo is an official sponsor for Xero Shoes)

The Top Five Ab Wheel Exercises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch the video below for more:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch the video below for more:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch the video below for more!


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Al Kavadlo 2016 Year in Review

PCC1
“The best reason to look back is to see how far you’ve come.” – Unknown

Whoa! 2016 has been one helluva year!

My first major event was flying to Beijing, China to lead Asia’s first ever Progressive Calisthenics Certification (PCC) in January. It was an honor and a privilege to spend 3 days teaching and training bodyweight calisthenics with over 40 of my most dedicated Chinese followers.

Plus I got to eat authentic Peking Duck! The entire weekend was an experience I’ll never forget.

I also returned to many of my favorite cities for workshops in 2016, including London, Sydney, New York and Los Angeles.

I have a bunch of workshops lined up for next year, with more to be added in the months ahead!

Follow the link for info on all on my upcoming PCC workshops in 2017.

We’re Working App
This year saw the much anticipated released of the official Al Kavadlo – We’re Working Out! App for both iPhone and Andriod.

The app features an animated version of me that talks you through dozens of different workouts and exercises. The current version contains more than 35 unique workouts and over 90 different progressive bodyweight exercises.

Hey hey hey! We’re working out!

AlPhone2

Book Rapport
This year also saw the release of my latest book and first full collaboration with my brother Danny Kavadlo, Street Workout. This is by far the most thorough and comprehensive book I’ve been involved with to date.

At nearly 400 pages, Street Workout covers everything you ever wanted to know about bodyweight strength training. If you haven’t got your copy yet, go get one right now!

In addition to the release of Street Workout, several of my other titles were released this year in foreign language translations. Pushing The Limits! is now my most translated title, with versions released this year in several new languages, including Czech, Chinese and Slovakian.

AlKavadloBookCovers

Bar With Me
My publisher, Dragon Door Publications, also released a new freestanding pull-up unit in 2016 called the Bodyweight Master Pull-up Bar, which I currently have set up in my living room. So now I’m doing even more pull-ups than ever!

Watch the video below for more info:

Click the link for more info on the Bodyweight Master Pull-up Training System.

Beard Battle
In September, my brother Danny and I had the unique honor of being guest judges at the annual Coney Island Beard and Moustache contest.

In addition to judging the contestants, we got to perform a bodyweight strongman show in which we demonstrated some of our most notable partner exercises.

I can now scratch “perform in the Coney Island sideshow” off my to-do list.

Kavadlo Beard and Moustache Contest

Shortly after the contest, I decided to change up my look and go back to rocking big sideburns like the ones that I had when I first began this blog.

If you loved the beard, don’t worry – I’ll beard back!

More, more, more!
As usual, I’ve continued writing articles and making appearances on various websites this year.

Here are links to a few of the most noteworthy:

Lifehacker – Four Bodyweight Alternatives to the Deadlift

Bodybuilding.com – The Best Motivational Tip Ever

Progressive Calisthenics Blog – Ten Tenets of Calisthenics Skill Training

I’ve got a lot up my sleeve for 2017, including lots of workshops and a brand new book collaboration with my brother Danny, tentatively titled GET STRONG.

We are hoping for a spring 2017 release. I’ll have more information in the months ahead.

Til then – We’re working out!

Al Kavadlo 2016

Wim Hof’s The Way of The Iceman

WayoftheIcemanI’m excited to announce that my publisher, Dragon Door Publications, has just released a fascinating new title by Wim Hof, The Way of The Iceman.

As someone who enjoys bare-chested, outdoor winter calisthenics workouts, Wim Hof’s extreme cold weather feats immediately appealed to me. Hof holds several world records for cold-endurance, including running a marathon above the arctic circle in Finland wearing nothing but a pair of shorts!

In this new book, Hof and his coauthor discuss not only the methods that allow Hof to perform his otherworldly feats (breathing techniques, mental training, etc.), but also the science behind them.

I’ve been meditating and doing breath work for a long time, but a third of the way into reading The Way of The Iceman, I suddenly felt compelled to take a cold shower. I’ve been taking one every day since and loving the effects.

Wim Hof’s Method is so simple that anyone can get started right away. And the results are so palpable that once you start, you’ll almost certainly want to keep going.

After a few weeks of practicing Wim’s method, I found myself training outdoors in the snow with nothing but a pair of shorts!

Watch the video below then click the link to get your copy of Way of The Iceman.

Hand and Wrist Warm-ups for Calisthenics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Calisthenics Training?

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

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

We’re working out!