Convict Conditioning 1 (eBook)

(7 customer reviews)

Original price was: $9.99.Current price is: $9.17.

How do inmates build superior strength in a cramped cell, without the aid of weights? Convict Conditioning’s training program works on this premise.

This calisthenics program sticks to six insanely-effective exercises that each target one muscle group. It cuts out the confusing fancy schmancy exercises and routines. Simple, focused and no-fuss for beginners to bodyweight training, with step-by-step progression levels to the ultimate level.

But simple… does NOT mean easy.

Take a look at Convict Conditioning’s ultimate levels for the 6 basic exercises:

  1. One-arm pushups
  2. Hanging straight leg raises
  3. One-arm pullups
  4. Pistol squats
  5. Stand-to-stand bridges
  6. One-arm handstand pushups

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7 reviews for Convict Conditioning 1 (eBook)

  1. Customer

    I’ve been following the program for the past year, taking on board Coach’s suggestion to take it slow and methodical, and I have seen significant results. I’m at varying levels for each of the big 6 and I’ve seen positive changes in my muscular condition, in terms of shape, strength and endurance. I started lifting weights in my teens and continued to do so off and on until my late 20s, plus played a fair amount of rugby over the same period, so I was in reasonably good condition. Now in my late 40s I’m aiming to be the fittest and strongest I’ve ever been by the time I’m 50 and I’m confident that if I continue to follow this book I will definitely get there. Looking back to my teens, when I was reading the likes of Muscle and Fitness and Flex magazines, if this book had been available I would’ve started taking calisthenics seriously then and I probably would’ve achieved greater strength and size than I did with my sporadic weight training. I re-read this book regularly, to continue to motivate myself and to enhance my knowledge and understanding of what I’m going through. You will too.

  2. Customer

    I’m approaching halfway through the book’s “lessons” and discovering they really, really work. No fads or fashions, and next to no equipment needed. In my mid-forties, always active but often neglectful of fitness, it was just what I needed.

    The great part is how easy it is to get started – the biggest problem with any exercise regimen. Six basic exercises make up the programme, but each exercise has 10 “levels” – for example, the goal of one-handed pushups (level 10) starts at level 1 of simple against-the-walls pushups, gentle and a starting point for building form. Start here and you build consistent form, at the right speed (slow!) to get most benefit from the resistance of your own body.

    Secondly, the way you move through the levels (do all the level 1’s exercises first, and only move up when you reach the “progression standard” – you don’t need to wait until you reach it for all 6; just treat each exercise as its own path) stops the other problem of exercise for most people: BOREDOM. Basically, just at the point you’re getting bored of an exercise, you reach the progression standard. So you can level up. This is a great help for non-gym lovers who just want to build and maintain good physical condition. (Wade doesn’t have many good things to say about gyms, btw, and even fewer good things to say about big-box gym gear in general.)

    It’s also an easy and fun read, with excellent illustrations and photos. Of course, there’s some doubt over whether “Paul Wade” is a real person or a composite, but that hardly matters – the advice works, and even at level 1’s you start feeling the benefits of greater strength and simple enjoyment of moving your own body more easily in daily life. Highly recommended.

  3. Customer

    This is a great book for both wimpy beginners (me) and already athletic people that want to take their strength to the max. Love the progressive way it’s laid out, and the balanced full-body workout aspect.

    Warning! Not all of these could actually be done in a jail, or in my case, a dorm. The pull-ups especially, and a few other exercises, do require surfaces or furniture at certain heights and that can bear weight in certain ways. I had to be creative and find a broken fence post for one pull-up type.
    Also, some of the pictures are a bit misleading in that his body type allows him to be in positions that someone with longer limbs might not be able to do. I looked up examples on YouTube of some of the exercises to get an idea of how people are actually doing them. Try to get as close to the picture but in a position where you can still do the exercise effectively.
    Another small complaint is that when I first picked up the book, I had to read through a lot of story stuff before I got to where I could figure out how the book is supposed to be used. It’s nice if you don’t already know why calisthenics are great, but if you already know it can be a lot to wade through (no pun intended, Paul Wade). Basically the book is split into six sections of exercise types and you start on level 1 until you reach the progression standard, then you go onto the next level.
    Some of the steps also progress a bit faster than seems reasonable, but you can always stay on a lower level and build more reps until you have the strength to move on. Be patient, as with all exercise :).

    Complaints aside, this is really a valuable book. It’s hard to tell, but I’m pretty sure I’ve noticed some definition in my little noodle arms and some added strength in my joints and lazy back muscles. It really is a whole-body strengthener and can build your confidence in yourself through having more strength.

  4. Customer

    This review pertains to the routine itself, rather than the controversy surrounding the author and whether or not he was incarcerated. I also should note that I purchased the Kindle edition, so the cost was quite reasonable. I’m an amateur powerlifter and I was looking for a way to incorporate some body weight exercises into my training in a progressive fashion. My current training is based on Jim Wendler’s “5/3/1” books, which are excellent.

    Ok, now for a brief review: Convict Conditioning does a great job of laying out a ten-step plan of how a trainee can work toward completing the full version of the very difficult “Big Six” exercises. The ten-steps for each exercise start very easy, but will teach the skills and build the strength required to do some very challenging body weight exercises. The progression will also work great for women, especially with upper-body exercises, which are often more difficult for the ladies than for men. The first steps will seem very elementary and easy for those of us who already have a training background, although some “easy” work at first might do some good for our joints.

    Even though this book is about body weight training, its purpose is building a great deal of strength and athleticism. Of course, it’s possible to build great endurance using body weight exercises, but the routines in this book are geared toward building functional strength.

    Overall, I’m happy with the book because it gives the reader a useful, progressive, step-by-step program.

  5. Customer

    Is Convict Conditioning perfect? No, but IMO it is a must read for those interested in bodyweight, especially when you consider there’s now a second volume which adds more items to your bag of tricks.

    I’d certainly recommend trying the program, providing you’re the patient type who will approach it with the right mind-set. Quicker strength gains are perhaps possible, but also riskier. I think the best audience for the book is someone who’s new to strength training and will follow the advice to the letter. It would also be good for someone who’s fed up with poor results of namby pamby `toning’ approaches or wants to avoid the injuries that accompany the `no pain, no gain’, cookie cutter approaches. CC is slow and steady bodyweight. Plan on giving it a good six months before you decide on how good it is. And, don’t assume you grasp it completely after you’ve read the book the first time.

    CC is a whole body system with a focus on progressing slowly and steadily while adapting the tendons and ligaments to support the added strength in the muscles. As such, it’s very much a health and safety first approach. By looking resolutely backwards to classic old school strongman methods, CC was ahead of its time in it’s critique of contemporary training. CC eschews the quicker gains beginners may get from weights/machines/Crossfit/TRX in favor of whole body functional strength. Since most of the time you’re working in an endurance modality (adding reps rather than working in a low-rep, pure strength modality) to build a solid base for your strength increases, CC is not a super fast track program. In the beginning stages, it doesn’t push you anywhere near maximum intensity. For that reason, it’s been criticized as a strategy that will strand some students on a plateau. There’s some merit in that criticism, but I think careful reading of the coaching tips will help the student climb out of any plateau, at least prior to the late stages. And some of the late stages are well beyond what almost anybody, including the critics, can do… One arm pull ups anyone?

    For me, it was a good base since my special focus was older, deconditioned Tai Chi students who had never really trained in Martial Arts prior to their exposure to an “internal” tai chi school (i.e. a school that at the time neglected jiben gong or basic training).

    Most were also dealing with age-related muscle loss (sacropenia) and from my point of view badly needed fundamental work. From that perspective, I sometimes disagree with a few of the CC progression steps, but most of them are solid, and I always consider Paul Wade’s advice valuable.

    My first trainee was myself. By the time I started training, I had lost a lot of upper body strength and lean muscle mass (while retaining good lower body strength and mass). So, I struggled to do a few good form pushups while being almost strong and flexible enough to perform a pistol squat (the master step in CC’s squat progression). As for pull ups, I could get NO movement at all from a dead hang on a bar and holding a dead hang for 1 minute was a near maximal effort.

    In many ways, a program like CC (as opposed to the body wisdom in the general advice) is only as good as its progressions, so here’s my take on the 6, bearing in mind my special focus… Some of these caveats might not apply to younger fit people. Younger people can get away with all manner of crazy training, at least in the short run, while the oldsters need to be very cautious. Ironically, most people who try programs like CC are the young and the fit , while it’s the elders who need it the most.

    * * *

    1. Push-up progression: excellent. The beginning step (wall pushups) is gentle enough for anyone. My only caveat, is the general avoidance in CC of negatives (eccentric training), forgoes an important tool in strength training.

    My earlier sorties with pushups often led to shoulder soreness. On my 2nd. pass through CC, starting with some latent elbow tendon issues, I followed the progressions very closely, avoiding any free-lancing. I worked up to full pushups with no shoulder or elbow issues at all. After full pushups, some may want to pursue the harder variations or simply maintain their level.

    2. Pull ups progression: I could easily write 10 pages on training pull ups for the person who’s lost (or never had) the ability. Again, I would criticize the lack of negative training. Negatives seem to me to be absolutely essential for that kind of trainee. I’m skeptical that said trainee who’s met the progression standard of step 3 (3 x 20 jacknife pulls) could really progress to step 4 and do even one half pull up. Again, huge topic…

    3. Squat progression: I didn’t really follow it. Here, I very much freelanced and worked with some tai chi variations of squats and hip opening. The program I followed is not suitable for most people, and even though I was starting out fairly strong, I tweaked my knees slightly, several times. My only gripe about CC is that it’s very hard to create a progression for everyone without also assessing the student’s ankle and hip mobility. CC, unlike some books or programs, doesn’t go into much detail on that. Good mobility in those joints is essential for safe squatting and many people need auxiliary work to open up.

    Also, for me the beginning step (inverted knee tucks) was not suitable for my target group. I’m not overweight, but do have stiff area mid-spine. When I tried step 1, I experienced a kind of weird `collapsing’ effect late in the last set. It was neither painful, nor caused any harm, but made me realize there’s no way I would ever put a weak, overweight person into an inverted pose just to do introductory leg work. And, step 2 doesn’t really seem much different than step 3. Basically, I don’t see any reason not to start with arm-assisted, full squats (sometimes called Amosov squats, after the joint mobility pioneer). After that, the progressions seems OK, although, as I said, I didn’t follow it.

    If you’re coaching yourself or others towards pistols I’d also recommend reading Steve Maxwells `pistolero’ blog article (using narrow gauge squats and working from the bottom up). And, I’d recommend, when you’re close to full pistols, performing many sets of 1 or 2 ultra slow (20 sec. up) full squats to move you up the last crucial bit on the strength curve. Try doing a set during every commercial break while watching a football or basketball game on TV. Unpleasant at first, but when you adapt and they become easy, you’ll be close. If you have the required hip mobility you should then be able to do full negative pistols without risk.

    But, that’s outside the scope of this review…

    4. Bridge progression: very good, especially in terms of recommending it as one of the big 6 essential bodyweight exercises. As an ex-grappler, I’d forgotten how great it felt to work the spinal muscles this way. Bridging is completely neglected in most training regimens. As a Tai Chi/Qi Gong practitioner, starting to gently bridge again was a great adjunct to only working the spine using TCC/QG. One caveat: moving from step 3 to step 4 was such a big jump I thought there was an actual editorial error in the book. Step 4, the head bridge, shows the same end point as step 5 (supported bridge) and step 6 (the full bridge). How can this be, when in step 4 the student is actually starting *lower* than in step 5? That would make 4 harder 5 and almost identical to step 6, except that you’re starting on your head.

    The verbal description doesn’t really support the error thesis, but IMO step 4 makes more sense as gently going into and out of a head bridge, not into a full bridge hold. Then progressing to step 5, working the top half of the full bridge. BTW, this is close to the progression that Al Kavadlo recommends (check his vid). Still, kudos to Paul Wade for recognizing the importance of bridging, and you should also check out the good stuff on bridging in Convict Conditioning 2 (holding the bridge vs dynamic bridging using reps).

    5. Abdominial progression: I don’t really care much about abdominal work, but the progression seems fine except that the 1st. stage would be difficult for weak trainees. It’s definitely not as gentle a start as wall pushups, doorway pulls and arm-assisted squats. In fact, step 2 seemed trivially easy after getting up to 40 reps in step 1. I breezed through it adding 5 reps/set and moved on to step 3, which didn’t seem that hard either.

    Some have complained that the CC master step is not really that advanced, but again check out CC2. It’s easy enough to adjust your master step to beyond 90 degree double leg raises hanging from the bar. Just make your abs go to 11 instead of 10 :). Interested students can check out Al Kavadlo on youtube.

    6. Handstand Push Up progression: also seems pretty good, but, for me, step 1 (the head stand against the wall) is a double no go. It’s way too unsafe for certain students, and I also disagree with putting the cervical vertebrae under any kind of compession for older students, even if they’re fit. OTOH, handstand pushups are really not as essential as push ups, pull ups and squats and are probably only suitable for select, ambitious trainees.CC recomends not even starting this progression until you’re at step 6 on pushups.

    Because I didn’t want to do the head stand, I started with step 2 (crow stands), which was difficult, given many past hand, wrist and finger injuries and incipient arthritis. At first, I could only go up for short periods on a soft surface, but worked up to 5 min. in 4 sets. The result, along with the bar hanging in pull ups, was much improved grip strength and healthier feeling hands in general. Step 3, kicking up into a handstand against a wall, felt weird after decades of not doing a handstand, but in time it too felt great, and added more benefits for the hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders. I’m still moving slowly through this progression.

    * * *

    Beyond the progressions, the general recommendations of CC are as good as it gets. The later chapters on self-training are wise advice, if read carefully and followed. Some people will be too impatient to really adhere to the system, but the ideas are good. What’s the difference if you arrive at your challenging step, a few months later than you might have if you had risked your rotator cuffs or tendons? To cite Wade, “Don’t be in a hurry. Learn to milk every step of the progression. The harder step isn’t going anywhere.”

    Most of complaints I’ve heard, have been touched on above, but there are a few others.

    – Dragon Door products are too pricy…
    Agreed, if you don’t take to the program it would be a lot to pay. If you do, it’s well worth it. But, since you can buy the kindle version, it’s not a big deal. The kindle version is more usable anyway.

    – It glorifies convicts…
    I consider the whole book an advocacy for old-time strength methods and a critique of the modern industrial gym, not as something that puts prisoners on a pedestal. Wade doesn’t really glorify anybody except those who excel at bodyweight. Instead he notes that through special circumstances, the old time strong man culture was preserved in prison as if in a time capsule…

    – The one hand handstand pushup is bogus. Even Jim `Beastskills’ Bathorst, who posed for the pictures can’t do it…
    Don’t know about this one. I’ll be happy to get to full handstand pushup again, which I haven’t done since immediate post-college days. In the old days I could go onto 1 hand, but could never balance it.

    – Paul Wade is a phony, he doesn’t exist or he didn’t do what he said he did…
    Try the system and seek to fully understand it. There’s a ton of good advice and a lot of substance in the book. In the end you’re your own trainer, change things up, but be aware of the rules you’re breaking when you free-lance.

    Summary: Convict Conditioning is a solid foundation to build on. The big 6 are well chosen to completely work your entire body. Working up to the full version of each of the exercises (usually step 5 or 6) will give you a great base. From there, you can work toward the master steps or go off and explore your own interests. Convict Conditioning 2 is worth a look, too, after you’re at least up to the full versions of most of the 6. It contains some excellent topical coverage of training the lateral muscles and add’l thoughts on bridging, working the calves, working the neck, improving your grip strength and improving your mobility. CC is highly influential work which will lead you to explore the works of the younger generation of bodyweight-first trainers such as the Kavadlos and trainers like Steve Maxwell who has always advocated keeping bodyweight in the mix.

  6. Customer

    My friend recommended this book. He is able to do one arm pull-ups and he is not a body builder. I thought I would give it a whirl. I have been dealing with rotator impingement/tendonitis issues for many years. I started out once last year on this program and was doing really great until I reached the wrong way (not from the program) and had to start all over after getting an injection. I am back on the path to a stronger shoulder.

    I totally agree that starting slowly is going to be the best approach to getting my shoulder in tip-top condition. As a women, I would think the abdomen exercises are going to be great. I am on phase one but hope to get to phase two by July. This is a slow process but I feel it is completely worth it. I want to build my muscles slowly to prevent damage especially since I am over 50. I will never get to one-arm pull ups because I don’t feel the need at my age but keeping my muscles strong is very important. I look younger than my age and I want the strength of my body to match my appearance.

    I am not stopping.

  7. Customer

    I have been following the program laid out in the book to the best of my understanding for the previous 22 weeks. I write “to the best of my understanding” which leads in to the only drawback I can find about it. It is somewhat hard to take instructions concerning body movements from reading. I have found that I need to return and carefully read sections over and over to settle some concern I encountered. I have realized after weeks that I did a particular exercise wrong. Or started on some other which Coach Wade doesn’t recommend considering the level I am at. I am pretty sure that always flipping the pages of this book makes me appear a bit manic.

    I have sometimes been saved that I have had access to some acquaintances at the office that also follow this program. We briefly discuss and compare our understandings, share experiences and also give tips how to rig a good training environment. It is through such discussions I have discovered some mistakes, but also been encouraged to experiment with the exercises. E.g. your grip in horizontal pulls makes some difference. Yet, I have made no mistake in understanding convict conditioning is a solitary practice. And each body faces its own challenges. Socializing around the methods the book teaches aspects is very valuable. But I hope I have been very careful about not turning such discussion into bragging forum, about the level or number of reps I can do etc. I believe I would otherwise risk negatively impact me and my friends’ training.

    Apart from these very minor negatives, my experience is the “promises” in the book have been fulfilled on every aspect. I have realized that when I started training I was in a poor shape. My body was hurting in numerous ways, mostly from practicing a field sport and also doing unbalanced weight strength training too hard. I have had aches in almost every joint like toes, ankles, knees, calves, back, tennis elbow, right shoulder, thumbs, and fingers. I had even developed a little limp due to my right toe was hurting. Still I deem my muscles and cardio-vascular was in pretty decent shape.

    Hence I was in desperate need of rehabilitating my body, and at the same time very restless since I deem I had quite a bit of capacity for a person in my age (I’m in my late thirties). I was also facing that my job and my family required more of my presence. I couldn’t practice my favorite field sport, nor fit long hours in the gym, not even considering that I have 24 hours access to one very close to where I live.

    For these reasons the method this book teaches fitted me perfectly. And as I said it has delivered. After only 22 weeks all nagging pains have receded completely. Furthermore I have strength wise surpassed the capacity I had before entering the program. I think this is formidable results considering most of the time I have invested in the program is by doing the entry level exercises. But of course I have also been learned to rest more in between work-outs. I have thoroughly learned that resting is the key in training.

    I have also recently found that muscles grow on my body. This wasn’t really my incentive for starting the training. I don’t consider myself vain – the size of my muscles is not something I worry about. But it has recently dawned on me that I grow in a peculiar way. I rarely wear shirt and tie. I have a few that have been hanging in the closet for some years, but very recently find occasions to wear them. The other day I was going to attend a formal Christmas party which mandated wearing a white shirt and tie. To my big surprise I could not do the top button on two out of the three white shirts I own! My neck simply did not fit any longer. The shirts were also too tight cross the chest.

    But the most peculiar side effect of following the program laid in the book is that I have been forced to change my sleeping habits. After a long life of falling asleep facing the mattress, I now find this extremely uncomfortable. My back complains, but not by feeling painful, it is more of my spine is feeling like a very tight spring. It just doesn’t want to be bended – it wants to remain straight. It is only satisfied with me if I am sleeping on my back. But I sleep very well like that.

    A very similar experience is concerning my work situation. I am an office slave. I am stuck behind my desk for the most of my time. Since I have started to train I have found that sitting is also very uncomfortable. But fortunately my office is equipped with elevatable desks. I have started to use the top position, standing behind the desk for most of the day, and some days only sitting when I am away from my desk during meetings.

    In summary, in only 22 weeks I have rehabilitated my body and it appears my muscles started to grow so I no longer fit into some of my clothes, and I have adopted healthier habits. I feel deeply satisfied with sometimes making progress in the program and mastering a new exercise. And I feel extremely encouraged by these results I have obtained so far and I expect I will continue my training, flipping the pages of the book for years to come. Bottom line I can deeply recommend the book to anyone reading this review.

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