Frequently Asked Questions

I always love hearing from fans of my blog, but it can be a lot of work replying to everyone’s questions individually. I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately and the same topics come up often, hence the creation of this handy F.A.Q. page.

I’ve written over 200 posts since starting this blog, so a lot of the answers will simply refer you to a post with a more thorough explanation. If you don’t see your question below, try the search box in the upper right corner of the screen. If you still can’t find answers, then feel free to contact me.

What is your height and weight?
I am 5’11” and I weigh around 160 lbs. Like anyone else, my weight tends to fluctuate a bit, so that’s give or take 5 lbs. I don’t weigh myself very often though because I don’t really care what I weigh. What matters to me is how I feel and how I perform.

If you’re so strong then why don’t you have bigger muscles?
Size and strength are not always correlated. Check out this article for a more detailed answer.

Do you lift weights or just do calisthenics?
My routine currently consists solely of bodyweight calisthenics, but I have lots of experience lifting weights. My three favorite lifts are squats, deadlifts and Turkish get-ups.

How much do you work out?
Pretty much every day. Read more about how I train here.

Aren’t you concerned about overtraining?
Nope! People who are not professional athletes need not have those kinds of concerns. In my view, overtraining is a myth.

What is your diet like?
I don’t have a very strict diet that I follow, but I generally try to avoid heavily processed foods. My eating habits are similar to the paleo/caveman diet, but not as restrictive. Follow the link for more of my thoughts on diet and exercise.

The human flag is so cool looking! How did you learn to do that?
Thanks! I’ve blogged extensively about the human flag! Start with this human flag post and then follow the links there for more.

How did you get so good at pull-ups? Can you help me get better at them?
I’ve been doing pull-ups for over 20 years! It takes time and patience to truly master an exercise. And no, I can’t help you get better at them – but you can help yourself! Check out the link for tips on how to increase your reps on pull-ups.

What’s up with all your tattoos? Is there some deep meaning to them?
Some of my tattoos relate to my fitness philosophy, some I got just because I think they look cool. Others showcase my sense of humor – the ink on my left hand index and pinky fingers is a good example of this. The tattoo depicts a pair of devil’s horns. I’m amazed how often people think it’s supposed to be my finger bones. Hasn’t anyone ever been to a heavy metal concert?

You can read more of my thoughts on tattoos and working out by clicking the link.

I’m considering a career in personal training. Can you give me any advice?
Personal training can be a very rewarding career, but it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Check out this post I wrote about becoming a personal trainer.

Do you practice meditation?
I tend to look at exercise – especially distance running – as a form of meditation. Anything that brings you into the present moment can be an opportunity for mindfulness. I also occasionally practice formal seated meditation (Zazen). I delve much further into this topic in my first book, We’re Working Out!

I love your books! What’s next?
Thanks! I’m working on a new book that will be released on Dragon Door Publications in 2015. Check back for more info soon!

  • Chris

    Hi Al, thank you very much for all your articles on “feats of  strenght”, it keeps me motivated to try to perform them. What do you reckon about getting too much protein (like 4 eggs for breakfast, meat or fish at lunch and diner and snacking on ham. Can it be harmful ?

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks Chris!  As long as you’re eating real food and not supplements, I don’t see a problem with eating a high protein diet.  Though too much of anything can potentially be harmful, I think if you listen to your body you’ll be fine.

  • Christ

    Thanks, I am from the French Riviera and I’ll be in NY for a few days in May 2012. I will be very happy then to get a training session with you. I hope that my free handstand and my planche would get better. Good luck for your next book (already got the first).

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Sounds good, Chris.  Definitely get in touch when you come to NYC if you want to do a training session.

  • Andytashiro

    Not attacking you at all, but why do you feel the need to eat meat? After all the buddist masters never consumed flesh of any kind!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    There are a lot of reasons I eat meat: it makes me feel good, it’s delicious, and it’s nutritious. 

    For the record, I don’t consider myself a full-on Buddhist.  I agree with many of the teachings of Buddha, but when it comes to religion, I’m an atheist.

  • Nicholas

    Hey Al – greetings from Sydney, Aus. I rate your site and have just acquired your new book. Looking forward to getting into it.
    I am around the exact same dimensions as you (5 11″, 75kg) and really understand benefits and enjoy bodyweight training. Last year my enthusisam got the better of me when trying to get my pull up no’s higher. I developed a nasty golfers elbow injury that is still lingering around. I have had complete rest, physio, did strengthening exercises for forearms/wrist but, it is still not 100%. Do you have any advice on how to:
    1. Improve this?
    2. Prevent it from happening again?
    Thanks kindly and congrats on your book(s).

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks, Nicholas!  I love hearing from my Aussie fans!

    As for avoiding overuse injuries, you gotta listen to your body and give it some rest sometimes.  Hopefully you’ve learned that lesson by now!

  • GalG

    Hi Al! first of all, as a calisthenics trainer I admire you.
    Now, I read not long ago the book “convict conditioning” by Paul “coach” Wade, and there is a total gym and weights-training extermination. Now I must be honest – niether the guy from beastskills.com who is photographed for the book nor you have the “puffed-up” looking. Natural weight-lifters look more muscular. You both (and I take you both as model and calisthenics experts) do have lean powerfull body look though, and of course AWSOME athletic skills.
    Thats brings me to the question – what is your position with the CC book philosophy? How strong [now i'm talking on strengh, not muscles] calisthenics really make a person? as a calisthenics trainer, would I be strong with weights too compare to a weight-lifter?
    Btw, it would be nice if you could tell how much do you bench, squat, deadlif? 
    Thx a lot man – again, you my model, I admire you!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks!  I am a fan of the CC books and the philosophy presented in them.  You can get very strong and muscular without lifting weights.

  • Craig

    Hey there Al greetings from Amsterdam, Holland!
    Just wanted to ask – Do you have any recommendations to give for working out at home – for instance Wall mounted Pullup bar, Freestanding Pullup bar or a Power Tower with both Pullup and Dip bars?

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Hey Craig – Those all sound like good options to me!

  • Gujar_abhi

    Hi i want to know something. Can i get buff on bodyweight exercises? by buff i mean about 70kgs at 5’8 inches and abt 10percent bf?

    I am thinking of turing to bodyweight exercises as i find them more fun.

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Yes, I believe one can accomplish that with just bodyweight training.  

    The question is – can YOU?  Only one way to find out…

  • Gujar_abhi

    thanks for the prompt reply man.

  • Gujar_abhi

    Al currently i m doing this–
    10 pushups
    5 pullups
    10 bodyweight wide stance squats

    rest about 45  seconds and repeat for 22 times.  3 times per week

    It was given to me by an online seal buddy who is in gr8 shape and only does the above circuit but about 60 times.

    what do you thiink of it?


    i like the workout because of these reasons–
    1. while weight lifting i get injuries and keep geeting sidelined for days or some times weeks.

    2. the first time i did the circuit i was able to do only 11 sets. I was huffing and puffing and felt as if i had had a good workout first time in my life.

  • Nick

    Hi Al! I have your book and i am fan of yours :) I want to ask you if you can to tell me some bodyweight exercises for inner thighs ( adductor group and similar) and some progression for them if you can for example :) . Thank you very much ! 

  • Gujar_abhi

    you asked this to Al but i will tell what i know.

    Do prisoner squats with a wider than shoulder stance. try to sit down in the squat and while coming up squeeze your buttand you will engage your adductors and posterior chain of muscle.

    Also do the narrow stance squat to develop equal muscle

    just my 0.2 cents

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Sounds like a simple and effective regimen, Gujar.  Keep it up!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Good advice, Gujar!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks, Nick!  Like Gujar said, wide-stance squats are great for the inner thighs.

  • First Last

    You’re full of it.  Someone has fed you a line that you accepted blindly. 
    The “Buddhist masters” were and are quite often omnivores. 

  • Jimmy Mac

    Hi Al,
    I bought your book “Raising the Bar” on-line and have read it twice. I have the recommended exercises written down and have begun the dead hang and jumping pull-up as well as using a rubber band for assistance.
    While I don’t want you to develop a training program specifically for me can you talk about reps and sets a beginner should be doing? I’m 53 and cannot do one pull-up unassisted.
    Thanks for a great book!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Hey Jimmy – Glad you enjoyed Raising The Bar! As I wrote in the appendix section, I recommend performing 3-5 sets per exercise, with up to 10 reps per set.

    Keep training hard and be patient – with practice you’ll get an unassisted pull-up and then some!

  • Joshcooper3

    Hey Al,
     I have been working out off and on since the 8th grade. I have always been in shape and strong for my size. Right now im 6’1″ and 170LBs. The biggest i have been able to is 180Lbs. But it is extemely hard for me to get there considering my metabolism is like a sky rocket. I am starting to get into bodyweight exercises because i want to build more functional strength. But i also want to get back up to 180 again. Are there any exercises you would suggest that builds more muscle than other bodyweight exercises?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robby-Taylor/44409147 Robby Taylor

    Josh, this is a good question. Honestly, the truth is, the harder the better. Front levers and planches are arguably the most elite strength moves in calisthenics. High level skills like these simply necessitate a certain amount of muscle mass in order for your body to efficiently perform them while protecting the joints. At your height, it would be very challenging to pull this off…but definitely doable. These exercises are highly effective at building strength and muscle because they are such ridiculously disadvantaged positions of leverage. Neuromuscular patterns are more heavily reinforced with bodyweight exercises than with weight training. This is because your body is moving itself through space, enhancing your proprioception and kinesthetic awareness when compared to a similar lift. However, this also means that any weight you gain makes the exercise that much harder. Thus, any additional muscle you do put on is both highly essential to the movements you are doing and highly efficient, necessitating exercises such as levers for the best results. Levers are also essential exercises used by athletes to reach even harder skills, such as the Maltese Cross in gymnastics.

    Besides that, consider the fact that it is typical for people to have to train for multiple years simply to reach the full planche and front lever. That alone means that you have to train with “easier” exercises like muscle ups, back levers, handstand push ups, and countless pull ups and dips, simply to be able to perform the front lever and planche. Just with that, you will already have been accruing all of the benefits of “lesser” exercises for years.

    Basically, set yourself whatever goal exercises you want to be at, then just use intelligent progressions to get there. Form follows function; the physique will come. Really just make sure you’re eating enough quality foods and getting enough sleep. Al has several posts about nutrition, just check out Diet and Lifestyle.

  • Jack Wilson

    Did you train in prison?

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Hey Josh – If you want to gain weight you have to increase your eating. Though personally, I think mass is over-rated. Pound for pound strength is where it’s at in my opinion.

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    No. I’ve never been incarcerated.

  • RobbyTaylor

    To expand upon this, Jasper Benincasa, at a bodyweight of 130, was really strong for a *big* guy, let alone a little guy! He could do a full chin up while holding a 265 pound man between his legs…that’s a triple bodyweight chin up (!!) among other equally ridiculous feats of strength. The only limit is how dedicated you are to achieving high level goals…and some genetics. But really, with enough time and dedication, any reasonably fit individual can achieve moves like the iron cross and planche (in fact, Jasper could do an iron cross with a 90 pound child hanging from him!). Doing high level moves like that require a certain amount of muscle mass, depending on your particular anatomy and genetics. Olympic gymnasts don’t get huge biceps from doing endless bicep curls; they’re from moves like the maltese cross!

  • RobbyTaylor

    I started out with a doorway bar, and it’s fine really it’s all you absolutely need. Now I have a power tower and I hang gymnastic rings off of its pull up bar. If you have somewhere to hang them I’d highly suggest gymnastic rings; not only are they necessary for elite moves like the iron cross and other ring skills, but they are more versatile than a pull up bar for lower level skills, such as ring flies. Also, the instability they provide makes for a more challenging workout for most people…ring dips, for example, are something else. I also find muscle ups on rings to be more manageable than on a bar…but if you can do a kipping bar muscle up that’s easier than a slow ring muscle up for most people.

  • J Wilson

    You can delete this – I was just kidding.

  • Joshcooper3

    Ok, thanks. I’m think pound for pound strength is good too. I’m just trying to gain lean mass as well as strength. I do eat a lot…..I’m in the army and they like to run us a lot so I think that is what is slowing any gains. Thanks for the advice though!

  • Nanna

    Hi Al!
    I was wondering if you have some good exercises for loosing fat around the belly area? I have heard that sit ups does not help, and that only running or cycling helps, because it burns fat, is that correct? I am attending a sports high school in Norway and I could not find anything about it in our school books.. I love working out, the harder the better and I do it almost every day (I have one day “off” from climbing, on those days I usually run or do strenght training). Last school year I spent in Canada with a family where healty nutrition was not imortant and I was not able to stay in the shape I wanted. My goal is to get my six pack back before this spring/ summer :) I hope you can give me some good advice! I also have to say that I love your videoes! Keep up the awesome work! :)
    Cheers from Norway!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks, Nanna! I love hearing from my international fans!

    Check out this post I did last year about losing weight: http://www.alkavadlo.com/2010/08/the-best-exercise-for-weight-loss/

  • J. Wilson

    I have heard that parallel-grip pull ups produce less strain on the elbows. Is that true?

    Thank you,

  • RobbyTaylor

    Yes, most people find neutral grip pull ups to put the least amount of torque on the joints. The reasoning for this can be seen if you have ever done a ring pull up. At the bottom of the pull up, your palms have a natural tendency to face away (pull up grip). As you come up, your hands naturally rotate so that, at the top, they are facing you (chin up grip). The neutral grip is the “average” approximation of this, so that at no individual point in the movement is there a significant deviation from the natural movement pattern. Personally, I find it even better if you can situate your hands on a 90 degree axis. For example, on the doorway pull up bars with neutral grip, have one hand on the neutral grip handle, palm facing inward, with the other hand on the main bar, palm facing inward. Of course, ring pull ups would be optimal for this purpose.

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    I’ve heard that as well. However, in over 20 years of doing pull-ups, I’ve never had any issues from doing pronated or supinated grips. But every body is unique and some people have had better results with different grips than others. The bottom line is the same as it always is: listen to your body!

  • ggaona27

    I cant always get to the gym but I can always do body weight workouts, I like getting out and breathing somewhat fresh air. Thanks for your help in keeping it fresh.Strenght and endurance is where its at.

  • http://www.goldmedalbodies.com/ Andy Fossett

    You can say that again. Nothing beats getting outside and moving and interacting with the environment.

  • lewispeek

    hey al, greetings from Britain! hope everything is all good in these times of turbulent weather, it sounds pretty crazy! cant wait to order the DVD when the time comes. keep up the awesome work! peace

  • http://www.goldmedalbodies.com/ Andy Fossett

    Yeah, this probably isn’t the best day to be practicing your human flag out at TSP…..

  • tombola

    Hey man, quick word of thanks for all the tips and motivation. Those battles with your brother are brilliant btw

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks, Tombola!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Charlielatt Charlie Lattimore

    How is the dvds coming? Any updates read your second book nice work mate. Cheers Charlie

  • http://www.goldmedalbodies.com/ Andy Fossett

    Hey Charlie, it looks like Al’s got the first shipment of DVDs already. Check this out: http://www.alkavadlo.com/forums/topic/raising-the-bar-dvd-available-now/

  • http://www.facebook.com/Charlielatt Charlie Lattimore

    Cheers Andy do you think he will have some preview etc of the dvd up soon?

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    I’ll be posting a little teaser clip on the blog next week.