Category Archives: Pull-ups!

Revolving Pull-up Handles for Grip Strength

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fitsz demonstrates a one arm pull-up at PCC

Fitsz demonstrates a one arm pull-up at PCC


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rolling Thick Grip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Tompkins Square Park Calisthenics Bootcamp

My Tompkins Square Park Calisthenics Bootcamp is back!

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

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

To stay informed of when classes will be taking place, make sure you follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter. I will update both accounts a few days before each bootcamp session to confirm that we’re on for that Saturday.

I almost forgot the best part! The new price for bootcamp at TSP is… FREE!!!

All you need to bring is a positive attitude and a willingness to challenge yourself! Adults of all fitness levels are welcome to attend. Hope to see you there!

We’re Working Out!
Al

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:

Al Kavadlo Fall 2012 Update

I’m excited to announce that the DVD companion to my book Raising The Bar is finished and will be available this November.

The DVD will include all the most important exercises and progressions from the book, plus a few new moves and new trainer tips.

Seeing the exercises performed in real time will be helpful for a lot of people, plus there are several entertaining musical interludes!

It’s almost like an hour long version of these two youtube videos, but better and shot in high definition.

Here’s what people are saying about the DVD:

“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

“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

We’re Working Out!
I’m also excited to announce that I will be leading a bodyweight strength workshop at Q Crossfit in Randolph, NJ on Jan 12, 2013.

The workshop will cover the muscle-up, elbow lever, pistol squat, human flag and more.

Space is limited so reserve your spot asap!

Time Flies
October 2012 marks three years since I started this blog. In that time, I’ve written over 250 posts, had over 300,000 unique visitors and reached over 2,000,000 total views on Youtube.

I’ve gone from being a successful local personal trainer who started a blog in his free time, to a full-time writer/blogger/trainer with followers in dozens of countries. I’ve gotten messages from people all over the world who I’ve inspired to work out and empowered to improve their lives. It is truly a blessing to connect with so many people in such a positive way.

In the last three years, I’ve not only grown as a coach and a writer, but also as a student of movement.

Thanks for stopping by, commenting and showing your support!

We’re Working Out!
Al

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!

Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics



Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics
is now available from Dragon Door Publications!


Click here to purchase and download the ebook now!


Here is what people are saying about Raising The Bar:

“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 read this book.”

—Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint

Raising The Bar is very likely the most important book on strength and conditioning to be published in the last fifty years. If you only ever get your hands on one training manual in your
life, make it this one. Buy it, read it, use it. This book has the power to transform you into the ultimate bar athlete.”

—Paul “Coach” Wade, author of Convict Conditioning

“Al has put together the companion manual for all the crazy bar calisthenics videos that you find yourself watching over and over again—a much needed resource. Within this book is a huge volume of bar exercises that will keep your pull-up workouts fresh for years, and give you some
insane goals to shoot for.”

—Max Shank, Senior RKC, Owner of Ambition Athletics


Click here to purchase and download the ebook now!

Pull-up Battle

Your old buddy Al has been starting to get a little attention from the mainstream media.

If you happen to fly American Airlines this month, keep an eye out for me in the January issue of their in-flight magazine. (You can also see the article online by clicking here.)

I also appeared in a new video series about the human flag for Men’s Health.

Don’t worry – I’m still going to keep putting up new content here on my blog! Check out my newest youtube clip, featuring Danny and me in a brotherly pull-up battle:

Backyard Pull-up Bar Part III

Last summer my brother Danny and I built a backyard pull-up bar at his home in Brooklyn. The original set-up featured two bars of different heights connected by crossbeams for extra stability.

Recently, Danny had the idea to make an adjustment to the backyard pull-up bar set-up by switching the crossbeams on the right side into parallel beams. This one minor adjustment has opened up a lot of new possibilities for our backyard workouts.

In addition to practicing various types of pull-ups, muscle-ups and levers, we can now work on human flags off the parallel bars as well as using them for assisted one arm pull-ups.

Watch the video below to see some highlights from one of our recent training sessions:

Related Posts:

Building a Backyard Pull-up Bar

Backyard Pull-up Bar Part 2: Back to the Bar