Category Archives: Body Weight Exercises

PCC Australia

The Progressive Calisthenics Certification is heading down under!

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

Click here to sign up!

I’ve been getting emails from people all over the world asking when the PCC will be coming to their neck of the woods. Sit tight – PCC will be visiting many different cities over the next several years. Click here for a list of all upcoming PCC dates and watch for more announcements in the months ahead.

The Clutch Lever

The clutch lever is a unique bodyweight strength skill that works the entire upper body as well as the core muscles, especially the lower back.

A hybrid between a clutch flag and a front lever, the clutch lever is an intermediate-level skill that’s less challenging than the full front lever much in the same way that clutch flags are a good precursor to the human flag – but that doesn’t mean it’s gonna come easy!

Before you’re ready for this move, you’ll need a fairly high level of strength in your upper body, abs, glutes and grip. Make sure you’ve got a good foundation in push-ups, pull-ups and dips prior to beginning your clutch lever training.

To perform a clutch lever, stand next to a sturdy vertical pole and wrap your arm around it, clutching it tightly. Keeping your elbow fairly close to your body with your hand just above shoulder height, reach your opposite arm behind your back to get a solid grip on the pole right outside your hip. Squeeze tightly with both hands and lean your trunk back, using your forearm beneath you for leverage to lie back into a horizontal position. Allow your top arm to extend as you lean back; feel free to experiment with varying degrees of elbow flexion.

To achieve a successful clutch lever, you’ll need to maintain tension through your entire body. Also, be careful not to lean your weight too much toward the pole. Doing so can lead you to spin out of position. Though it may take some time to get the hang of this exercise, with practice you will be able to gradually work up to longer holds.

Watch the video below for more:


The PCC Has Arrived!

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

Over 50 fitness trainers, athletes and exercise enthusiasts from all over the world showed up for a crash course in calisthenics and a chance to take on the Century workout to earn the the title of PCC certified instructor.

The enthusiasm of the attendees was overwhelming and the positive energy was impossible to ignore. Dozens of attendees achieved their first muscle-up, lever or human flag and many other personal bests were set during this groundbreaking event. It was truly a weekend I will never forget. Along the way, challenges were overcome, new friendships were formed and lives were forever changed.

The event blew away my expectations; between the wonderful attendees and my co-instructors Danny Kavadlo, Adrienne Harvey and Steven Low, this was the most impressive group of athletes I’ve had the pleasure of working with in my career so far.

Congratulations to the first class of PCC instructors! I can’t wait to do it again in August!

Al Kavadlo – June 2013 Update

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

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

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

Write On!
I’ve begun work on my fourth book, tentatively titled Stretching Your Boundaries – Flexibility Training for Extreme Calisthenic Strength. The book will be released on Dragon Door Publications in early 2014.

My brother and fellow PCC master instructor, Danny Kavadlo, is also working on a new book. Danny’s book, Everybody Needs Training – Expert Tips for Personal Trainers, will be out this fall. I’m writing the foreword for the book and I’ve also been helping Danny with the photos.

Additionally, I’ve become a regular contributor to My recent article on handstands has generated a lot of interest in bodyweight training amongst the bodybuilding crowd. I’m very excited to get to spread the word about calisthenics over there!

Plus I’ve got two new YouTube videos for you to check out!

Zen Fitness

“Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless, and add what is uniquely your own.” – Bruce Lee

Throughout my life, I’ve experimented with dozens of different exercise modalities.

I’ve used barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, sandbags, and just about every other heavy object I could think of to try lifting.

I’ve done parkour, martial arts, Marathons and yoga. I even tried a Triathlon.

I believe my various experiences have helped me become a more well-rounded physical specimen, but after all of those things, I always come back to the simplest, most direct way of training I’ve ever known – calisthenics.

I love calisthenics training because it requires nothing more than your body, your mind and your warrior spirit.

You don’t need to buy anything, go anywhere or put on any special clothing. Anybody can start right now.

As Maya Angelou once said, “Ain’t nothing to it but to do it.” (Or was that Ronnie Coleman?)

There’s a lot to love about calisthenics, but my favorite thing is how it keeps you in the present. When you’re working on developing a new skill, you need to give all of your attention to the task at hand.

When you are completely focused on your training, the division between body and mind breaks down and everything else seems to fall away.

This phenomenon has been called different things by different people. Whether you call it mindfulness, samadhi, flow state or any other name, it’s a beautiful thing when it happens.

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

Over the years, I’ve learned and absorbed many things from different places, taken what’s worked for me, and used it all to develop my own theories and methods, which continue to adapt and take shape before my eyes. I’m constantly working to refine and expand my movement repertoire and I still look for inspiration in new and varied places.

I owe a thank-you to anyone I’ve ever trained, trained with, worked with, worked-out with or known in any capacity whatsoever. Some people have obviously had a greater impact than others, but everyone I’ve ever interacted with (even electronically!) has in some way shaped who I am today.

The video below shows a variety of exercises I’ve picked up (and in some cases modified) from different bodyweight disciplines, all blended into seamless, flowing movement.

Be present for your training, have fun and find your own path.

We’re Working Out! with Jack Arnow

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

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

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

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

Watch the video below for more:

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: