I’ve used all of these product personally and they have all made a big difference in how I eat, train and live. I wanted to share them with you because I believe they can improve your workouts or diet as efficiently as possible.
I came across Convict Conditioning over 8 years ago and it’s still my go-to manual for learning how to build real strength and muscle with calisthenics., Author Paul wade doesn’t just hand you a list of common gym-class exercises. He lays out a step-by-step system on how to progress 6 essential exercises from easy to very difficult. He also hashes out valuable training tips you won’t find in any muscle magazine.
Both his emphasis on extension chain work and smart training practices are reasons why I always recommend CC to anyone who wants to start training in calisthenics.
I recommend: Use CC as a foundation of training guidelines but feel free to make adjustments as you see fit. Even Paul Wade himself wrote “Convict Conditioning is not a program, it’s an approach.” So be a little flexible in how you apply the information. If routine calls for 2 sets, but you feel a third set is warranted then go for it. Listen to your body and use the information in CC in a way that works best for you.
Convict Conditioning 2
Paul Wade continues the journey of progressive calisthenics with exercises for the “shotgun muscles” such as the grip, neck and calf training. CC2 also covers his unique approach to joint health, stretching, human flags and nutrition.
I recommend: Some of the information in this book may be Coach Wade’s most controversial as it often goes directly against the popular practices you find in fitness. This especially applies to his take on stretching and nutrition. I was skeptical about a lot of it myself, but I encourage you to give it a try with an open mind. You’ll be just as pleasantly surprised as I was that old Coach knows what he’s talking about.
Explosive Calisthenics (CC3)
Often referred to as Convict Conditioning 3, Explosive Calisthenics is Paul Wade’s approach to building power, ability, and speed through progressive calisthenics. This book explores explosive push-ups, jumping, muscle ups and even backflips. There’s also a comprehensive section on dips to compliment your push-up training.
I recommend: Explosive exercises require a solid foundation of strength to work off of. I highly recommend becoming comfortable with the Big Six from Convict Conditioning before diving into CC3. Also, be sure to heed Coach Wade’s advice about programming. These days, the common way to practice power moves is with a lot of volume in an effort to fatigue the muscles. CC3 uses the opposite approach and it’s what I encourage you to do as well.
Contrary to popular belief calisthenics is a fantastic tool for building muscle. While CC does a great job of laying the foundation, C-Mass will help you realize your full muscle building potential. Coach Wade’s 10-commandments of building muscle applies as much to calisthenics as weightlifting and many go against conventional bodyweight training methods. Also included is a bonus chapter with simple ways you can optimize your hormone profile to build even more muscle.
I recommend: C-Mass is packed with a lot of sound information on building muscle, but it’s definitely a supplement to CC and CC2.I recommend picking this book up along with the basic Convict Conditioning books or after a few months of routine calisthenics training.
Bodyweight Master Calisthenics Gym
I was kind of jealous the first time I got to play on the Bodyweight Master. As an equipment builder myself I’ve been trying to design and build a similar concept for years. I have to admit, Dragon Door not only beat me to the punch, but they did a far better job than what I had in mind. You can perform pretty much every calisthenics exercise imaginable including dips, levers, rows and even assisted single leg work.
I recommend: You can do a lot on this thing so don’t restrict yourself to just dips and pull-ups. Take the first few weeks to experiment with it in your workouts rather than sticking to a strict routine. You’ll probably discover some variations that are more effective than what you were doing before.
Get strong is a fantastic place to get started with calisthenics. Authors Al & Danny Kavadlo have created a day-by-day 16-week plan that’s designed to get you moving and seeing results quickly. It’s also a great program to build a solid foundation to work off of which is something many intermediate calisthenics athletes lack.
I recommend: Get Strong is as simple as it gets. You just practice the exercises and take a physical test at the end of each week. If you pass you move onto the next week’s routine. If not, you simply repeat that week and try again. Be sure to stay pretty strict during the test. If you pass by doing a few sloppy reps you’ll have a much harder time the following week. When in doubt, take an extra week to pass the test with clean reps. It may seem like you’re not advancing as quickly, but doing this will ensure much more long-term progress.
This book should be mandatory reading for every athlete and fitness enthusiast. It’s essentially, the manual on how to use diet and exercise to reduce chronic stress. This isn’t a bunch of advice telling you to toughen up and just follow the rules. Instead, it lays out the ways certain diet, exercise and lifestyle habits induce or reduce stress on your body. That way, you can apply those lessons as you see fit.
I recommend: There’s a lot of advice in this book and it can be tempting to apply it all as you binge read this book. I recommend starting easy by applying these lessons in small ways for the first few weeks to establish good habits. You don’t need to overhaul your diet or workout to make progress. You just need to make a few small changes each week over time.
Fitness is a mental game that produces physical results and Christopher Logan understands this better than anyone. His experience with athletic metal training really comes through in this book. I’ve used these techniques and even had Christopher give me some hands-on training at a workshop. It’s certainly effective!
I recommend: Your mental computer is being trained 24/7 in either a positive or negative way. It doesn’t do you much good to engage in sporadic positive mental training when you spend most of your time with a negative mindset. I recommend using the techniques in this book on a daily basis. Maybe set a notification on your phone to remind you to take a moment to practice 3-4 times a day.