Category Archives: Rants and Raves

Learning to Tear a Deck of Cards in Half

Torn CardsLast Halloween I went to see my friend Adam RealMan perform his one-man sideshow act, which includes everything from sword swallowing and eating lit cigarettes, to bending steel and tearing decks of cards in half barehanded. Fun for the whole family!

I’d witnessed card tearing before on several occasions and found it to be entertaining and impressive, but I’d never thought to try it myself until that fateful evening.

After watching Adam’s performance, he and I got to talking and I happened to inquire about the card tearing feat. He immediately reached into his back pocket, whipped out another deck, handed it to me and told me to give it a shot.

After a quick primer on technique, I grabbed the deck as instructed and did my best to rip it in two.

“C’mon, Al – I know you’re strong! You can do this!” Adam said encouragingly, but alas he was mistaken. Instead of the cards tearing, it was the skin on my hands that tore, and I began to bleed.

“Oh yeah, that’s normal!” Adam told me. “My hands bled the first few times I tried it, too!” he continued.

After letting me struggle with the deck for a minute, Adam took the cards back from me and promptly finished what I had attempted to start, easily ripping the now twisted deck in two.

He then handed me another sealed deck from his pocket (circus people apparently carry multiple decks of cards on them at all times) and instructed me to go home and practice.

“Split the deck in half and see if you can tear 26 cards. Then build up from there.” he instructed me.

When I got home I followed his advice and was able to rip the half-deck in two. The next morning I ripped the rest of the deck in half. Then I went online and ordered a case of playing cards so I could continue practicing.

Other than the advice Adam Realman gave me on Halloween, and a few videos I watched on Youtube, I didn’t have much to go on besides my own trials and errors. So I kept working on tearing 20-30 cards at a time, and gradually started to increase that number.

Six months later I finally managed to tear a full deck of cards in half without crying, cursing or bleeding. Soon thereafter I did it on video and shared it to Instagram. It’s not pretty, but here it is:

Card Tearing Technique
After I shared that video, I sent it to Adam to get his feedback. His reply basically boiled down to, “That’s nice, but you’re doing it wrong.” Adam pointed out that when I tore the cards, the rip was beginning by the bottom of my hands and going up toward my fingers. He then informed me the correct way to do it is by initiating the tear from the top down.

I went back and re-watched those card tearing videos again and saw that Adam was right. All the guys on YouTube – including Logan Christopher, Jedd Johnson and Adam T. Glass – start the tear from the top down. It’s amazing how we can miss some of the smaller details when learning something new (even if those details are clearly demonstrated, as they are in those videos).

So the next few times I practiced tearing cards, I attempted to rip them from the top down, but no matter what I tried, the tear still started from the bottom. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.

After asking around in my inner circle, it was recommended to me that I contact Chris Rider, one of the world’s top performing strongmen, and a fantastic teacher from what I’d heard.

Turns out Chris’ coaching helped a lot. In fact, during my first card tearing session with Chris, I made as much progress as I had in the previous few months training on my own. I obviously didn’t get any stronger in one hour, but Chris helped fix my technique. I was able to apply his advice effectively because I had built a lot of hand strength from practicing on my own already, even though I’d been making some mistakes. As my brother Danny always says, Everybody Needs Training – even me!

Card Tearing S

The technique Chris taught me starts by clutching the deck horizontally with the thumb, index finger and middle finger of your non-dominant hand. If you are right-handed like me, this means you’ll clutch the deck in your left hand. Once you’ve got a tight grip on them, aim to curve the cards in toward your palm slightly, then pinch the top corner of the opposite side of the deck between the thumb and the index finger of your dominant hand. Don’t put the fleshy part of your thumb on the deck. Instead, pinch it between the thumb itself and the outside of the index finger. This was the main mistake I was making before Chris corrected my technique.

Once both hands are in place, keep a firm grip and twist the cards into an S-like position by turning the top corner upward with your dominant hand as you continue to curl the opposite end of the deck slightly downward into your palm. Use your dominant hand to tear the deck toward you, while the other hand twists away, like you were revving a motorcycle.

Initiating the tear can sometimes be easier than finishing it. The final few centimeters are often the toughest part. As such, you may need to adjust the position of your hands slightly in order to complete the tear. It can help to slide the index finger of your non-dominant hand into the tear for more leverage on that side. You’ll also want to ease up on curling the deck inward. The S-curve is helpful to start the tear, but can make it harder to finish.

Here’s a more recent tear of mine with proper technique:

Wild Card
Some of you may be wondering why a calisthenics devotee like myself would spend so much time practicing a strongman feat like card tearing.

It’s a reasonable question, and my answer is that – just like calisthenics – card tearing is simply a lot of fun!

Furthermore, learning to tear a deck of cards is actually more like getting your first muscle-up than you might think.

In fact, all the physical feats I’ve achieved it my life require the same three fundamental things:

1 – Progressive Overload
Every form of strength training operates under the principle of progressive overload, which refers to developing strength through incremental resistance increases over the course of several weeks or months. In weight training, practitioners start with a light weight and slowly add more over time. In calisthenics, beginners build a foundation with basic exercises and work their way up to harder ones (pull-ups before muscle-ups, etc.).

In the case of card tearing, progressive overload just means beginning with fewer cards, then gradually working toward the full deck. I started with a half deck, but you can start with 15 or 20 cards and build up from there if a half deck is too much. Treat it like any other exercise: Practice a few times a week, doing 3-5 sets each session (each tear counts as one set), and aim to train at around 65-80% of your maximal strength. You shouldn’t be trying to tear as many cards as possible every time. It’s easy to get carried away with this, so take a week off if you begin to feel pain in or around your elbows.

Thumb Callous2 – Tolerance for Discomfort
In the beginning, your hands will hurt, but after a while you’ll get used to the sensation of the cards pressing into your skin. You may even start to develop callouses in strange new places. It’s just like how people who are new to pull-ups experience discomfort due to hanging from the bar, but eventually their hands toughen up and it is no longer an issue.

3 – Technique/Specificity
Like anything, the more you practice card tearing, the better you’ll get. You can understand the technique theoretically, but knowing it in a deeper sense only comes from firsthand experience, so be prepared to practice a lot before it really starts to sink in. I’m still not where I want to be with this skill, but I’m enjoying the journey.

Changing of the Card
A few months into my card tearing odyssey, my mom told me that I had some old junk laying around in her attic that she wanted me to throw away. Among the boxes were a bunch of old baseball cards from when I was a kid. For a second I was going to throw them out, then I realized I could use them for tearing!

I soon discovered that the type of cards you use can significantly alter the difficulty. In tearing several different brands of baseball cards, I found that some of them were thicker and harder to rip than others. (Don’t worry, none of them were particularly valuable.)

Even within the world of playing cards, there are many different brands and varieties, and some are harder to tear than others. The same brand of card won’t even be totally consistent from deck to deck. I encourage you to experiment with a variety of cards. The nice thing about the tougher ones is that you don’t need to use as many in order to challenge yourself and effect change.

Cards Torn in HalfGrip training is some of the most functional training you can do because we use our hands throughout the day more than just about any other part of our body. Most of us carry bags, open jars and pick up random objects every day. Since I’ve been practicing card tearing, I’ve noticed all of those tasks are starting to feel a little bit easier.

Though some will dismiss card tearing as a silly trick with no practical value, I believe it’s a great way to strengthen your hands and fingers, as well as your mental fortitude.

And there’s nothing wrong with being able to keep your friends entertained at parties.

Get Strong with the Kavadlo Brothers

GetStrongCoverDo you want a simple, effective exercise program that you can do anywhere?

Have you been searching for the best calisthenics progressions to build muscle and strength?

Are you looking for a program with proven exercise sequences, exact set and rep ranges, warm-ups and rest days?

You asked for it – you got it!

GET STRONG is the latest collaboration from me and my brother Danny and the first Kavadlo Brothers book to feature a detailed 16-week program.

Here’s what others are saying about GET STRONG:

“GET STRONG is a phenomenal program. In this book, the Kavadlo Brothers will guide you from the very beginning and help you build a proper foundation. From there, they’ll gradually progress you through four phases of strength, giving you the progressions and programing details to take you beyond what you ever thought possible.”
–Mark Sisson, Author of The Primal Blueprint

“To be strong is one thing, to teach strength is another. The Kavadlo brothers embody both. They explain everything in great detail while providing clear images of them using the world as their gym.”
–Ed Checo, Founder and CEO of Barstarzz

“I have read every word the brothers have written at least a dozen times, and there is no doubt about it–this is definitely the best book they have ever produced. Both the brothers teamed up for this one, and the elite-level calisthenics knowledge and passion these men have accumulated over decades of training and coaching at the highest level really shows on every page.

It’s got all the programming you need to get to the highest possible level of bodyweight strength, plus, it’s full of the wisdom and tactics you need to be able to apply that programming. I am very, very excited to see what students of bodyweight strength–newcomers and old dogs–are gonna be able to achieve with this book!!”
–Paul “Coach” Wade, author of Convict Conditioning

Order your copy of GET STRONG now!
GETSTRONG1170x500AVAILABLE

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

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)

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.

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!

Xero Shoes Ipari Hana Review

Al Kavadlo Ipari HanaI like to keep things in my life from getting too complicated.

I use very little equipment in my workouts, I keep my diet as simple as possible, and I prefer clothing that favors comfort and performance above all else.

That’s why I was so excited to find out that my favorite manufacturer of minimalist footwear, Xero Shoes, has just released their first ever closed-toe shoe!

I’ve been wearing the new Xero Shoes Ipari Hana for the last few days and I like them a lot! They’ve definitely got that “almost-barefoot” feel that Xero Shoes wearers will know and love. They also feel better the more that I wear them, which is a good sign. I haven’t worn them enough to say for certain yet, but they seem very durable so far. The Ipari Hana are available for both men and women.

The Ipari Hana – Click the photo for more info!

The Ipari Hana – Click the photo for more info!

One thing to know before you purchase the Ipari Hana, is that Xero Shoes are cut larger than many mainstream footwear brands. That’s part of why they work particularly well for folks like myself who have fairly wide feet.

It’s also of note that the more your feet acclimate to the freedom these shoes provide, the more your toes may spread out and your foot will begin to fully stretch. This can cause your feet to feel wider, even if they technically don’t get bigger.

The Xero Shoes Ipari Hana are great for working out, but they’re also great for any occasion. They look as good with a pair of jeans as they do with workout pants. You can probably even wear them to work if your company isn’t too uptight with their dress code.

If you are looking for a shoe that feels as close to being barefoot as possible, the Ipari Hana from Xero Shoes is the perfect choice.

Al Kavadlo 2015 Recap

Al-Sit

Hey hey hey!!!

It’s hard to believe another year is coming to an end. So much happened in 2015, but it all seems to have gone by so quickly…

The year began with the debut of my latest critically acclaimed book, Zen Mind, Strong Body. Then came the highly-anticipated release of Paul Wade’s Explosive Calisthenics, which I had the honor of appearing in as a featured model.

And just last month, my brother Danny Kavadlo’s fantastic new book Strength Rules, which I modeled for as well, debuted at #1 on Amazon’s top Exercise and Fitness downloads.

What’s next, you ask? The first official Kavadlo Brothers collaboration!

Danny and I are putting the finishing touches on a new book tentatively entitled Street Workout Worldwide, scheduled for release next spring.

Kavadlo Bros Pistol Squat

The Progressive Calisthenics Certification continued its growth in 2015 as well. Danny and I traveled all over the US and Europe this year to bring the PCC to new places like California, Norway and the UK.

In addition to reaching new markets, many of the cities that had previously hosted PCC, like Holland and my hometown of NYC, saw even larger attendance than at last year’s events.

Look for more PCC workshops all over the world in 2016!

PCC Holland

I also launched a 1-day bodyweight certification with Dragon Door called the Strength Calisthenics Certification, which made it’s debut last month. Look for more SCC workshops in the US and Europe in the months ahead!

My media profile keeps growing as well. My column in TRAIN magazine continues to be seen by hundreds of thousands of people every month and my articles on Bodybuilding.com have been getting a lot of attention. I was also featured in the New York Post and on the television show Chasing News this year.

Chasing News Kavadlo

2015 was a big year in my personal life, too!

In August I married my sweetheart, Grace Menendez (now Grace Kavadlo). I never thought I would meet a woman who loves calisthenics as much as I do! Connecting with Grace has been the most amazing thing to happen in my entire life. To say I feel lucky to call her my wife is a tremendous understatement.

Couples Calisthenics

In addition to my workshops and new book, be on the lookout for the first official Al Kavadlo – We’re Working Out! app for iPhone and Android to be released early 2016.

Make sure you follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date with all the latest news.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me on this journey. It’s been a pleasure to connect with all of you. I wish you all a happy, healthy holiday season!

We’re Working Out!

Al Kavadlo Planche

Strength Rules

Strength Rules

The wait is over! My brother Danny Kavadlo’s new book Strength Rules is now on sale in both paperback and ebook formats!

Strength Rules showcases Danny’s colorful personality and out-of-the-box philosophy on strength training and nutrition. It’s my personal favorite of Danny’s books so far!

Here’s what others have to say about Strength Rules:

“If you are a bodyweight master, this is the bible you will want to go back to again and again, to keep you on the straight and narrow. If you are raw beginner—Jeez, then get this book right now, follow the rules, and save yourself years of wasted effort! Strength Rules is as good as it gets!”
—PAUL WADE, author of Convict Conditioning

“Strength Rules by Danny Kavadlo is so good you can’t ignore it. It’s minimalistic. It’s low tech. It’s simple. It’s right.”
—DAN JOHN, author of Never Let Go

“I can’t say enough good things about Danny Kavadlo. I just love his entire approach, mindset and overall vibe. And Strength Rules has to be one of the coolest, most badass fitness books I have ever seen.” —JASON FERRUGGIA

So what are you waiting for? Go get your copy of Strength Rules right now!