In my research for strength routines I could do without leaving my home, I found a book on Amazon called Convict Conditioning. This book introduced me to a concept called progressive calisthenics. The idea that you could build real strength with common bodyweight exercises excited me. I hope this convict conditioning review can help you see if this program is for you or not.
As a former wrestler, bodyweight exercises wasn’t new to me, just forgotten. In the past I have been more focused on powerlifting for training strength, but this book changed my mind about that. Calisthenics have made me stronger, and I feel better and lighter than I ever did when I was powerlifting.
Just to be clear, I am not saying that lifting weights are bad in any way – it is possible to do both. If you are lifting weights, why not add some bodyweight exercises to your routine? Done with the concepts in convict conditioning it will only make you stronger.
A Journey of Strength
If you’re still wondering if you can build real strength with calisthenics, I promise you that this part of the book will convince you. You get an entertaining story and a deep dive into old school calisthenics, from the time before gyms were invented. It will show you some of the great benefits you get by training with your own bodyweight as resistance.
Just a small warning in advance, «Coach» Paul Wade has a controversial view on bodybuilding. Personally I don’t bash one or the other, but progressive calisthenics has certainly improved my condition. I think his views are innovative and most people will learn a lot about strength training.
Here are a glimpse from the book, just to give you an idea of the content in this part.
«The modern fitness scene is largely defined by the presence of pumped up, muscle-bound bodybuilders, expensive exercise machines, and steroids.
It wasn’t always this way.
There was a time when men trained to become inhumanly strong using nothing but their own bodyweight.
No weights. No machines. No drugs. Nothing. If you want to know more about the real old school arts of power, read on…«
The journey of strength are entertaining, educational and highly motivating.
The Big 6 – Power Moves
«Coach» Paul Wade has stripped the convict conditioning program down to 6 exercises that will give you a total body workout. Simplicity sometimes beat complexity. The moves may not be new to you, but for me the well laid out progressions and levels really made a difference. The progressions are the key to building strength with calisthenics.
Convict conditioning will give you a well laid out blueprint to build strength and muscle without going to a gym. The big 6 are:
4. Leg Raises
6. Handstand Pushups
«You will get a complete system that starts on a level that everyone can do, and for most people the harder steps will give you a real challenge. Here is an overview of what this part will teach you (quoted from the book):
This section of the manual sets out the Big Six exercises of Convict Conditioning. Over the following chapters, you will learn everything you need to know about these fine movements, including:
• Theories and benefits for each motion;
• The ten steps for each movement-type;
• Technical instruction;
• Tips and pointers on performance;
• Desired set and rep ranges;
• Alternative variant techniques.
After absorbing this section, you will know ten times more about calisthenics techniques than the average personal trainer. It’s all here.«
Personally I learned a lot from this part, especially about how the progression works to make any exercise harder. The focus are on the Big 6 power moves, but you will get other exercises as well to add in your routines for variation.
The 10 Steps – Achieve Real Strength
You do not have to guess in any part of this program. The exercises and what step to do next in any part of the progression are explained in great detail. The book also contains pictures of all the moves and steps, and the layout are great.
Just as an example, her is the pushup progression overview;
Step 1. Wall Pushups
Step 2. Incline Pushups
Step 3. Kneeling Pushups
Step 4. Half Pushups
Step 5. Full Pushups
Step 6. Close Pushups
Step 7. Uneven Pushups
Step 8. Half One-Arm Pushups
Step 9. Lever Pushups
Step 10. One-Arm Pushups
As you can see the progression starts out easy with wall pushups and ends with the master step full one-arm pushups. You will get the full details on how to go from step 1 and all the way to step 10.
Bodyweight Strength Training Routines
You will get a lot of different alternative training routines for the convict conditioning program, even programs that you can mix with weight training at the gym. Here is an overview of the main routines:
The first, New Blood, is a two-day a week routine ideal for beginners.
The second, Good Behavior, is a three-day per week program that will help practically everybody gain strength and muscle.
The third, Veterano, is a six-day per week protocol, and will work excellently for those who are in good shape.
The fourth routine is called Solitary Confinement, and is only for advanced athletes with plenty of recovery ability.
The fifth and final routine is Supermax. It’s designed for elite trainees who wish to specialize in endurance rather than strength.
The different variations of training routines will give you the freedom to adapt the training to your life instead of the other way around.
I hope you got value from my review, check out more reviews of the Convict Conditioning Book Here. Feel free to leave me any comments or questions about the program below.
Wishing you all the best,