Discussion in 'Health and Fitness' started by BILLtheSTRIKER, Aug 22, 2012.

  1. Injurytime

    Injurytime New Member

    Hi. I think I have something to say about this.

    I train this way. I don't follow Paul Wade's book, but I use progressive calisthenics and gymnastics (not much real difference, I'd argue, as strength training tools they blur together). I find that the exercises suit me better.

    As an example, I find handstand (headstand in my weak-ass case) pushups allow my shoulders and upper back more freedom of movement than overhead pressing with a barbell, and a longstanding neck and shoulder problem has almost entirely disappeared by training this way.

    I'd recommend using progressive calisthenics to anybody. Why?
    1: it's more fun. You get to learn new movements all the time, adding to the range of impressive stuff you can do (well, one day I believe this will happen to me anyway).
    2: I think that the neurological demands are different. It seems like because the 'load' moves around (the load is you, of course, but often changing the exercise means changing the angle of resistance) and the movement changes, training this way improves your proprioception more than other ways of strength training, and in that sense I do think the resultant strength is more functional.
    3: I think it's often safer. Very heavy weights do bang your joints up. With bodyweight stuff it seems you have a better chance to protect your joints from repetitive injuries caused by very heavy weights. I don't know whether, say, ring gymnastics is safer than O-lifting in terms of accidents, I'd say that being careful is safer than being dumb.
    4: I think it gives the opportunity to build strength through ranges of motion that you don't get with weightlifting, but that are advantageous to martial artists and that help to lengthen and strengthen the supporting muscles around joints. Yes, you can do this with weights too: squats and deadlifts are actually beyond the average person's flexibility quite often, and function as a kind of loaded, active stretching (the best kind). But the effects of muscleups of Korean dips are harder to replicate with weights.
    5: it's more portable. It's a lot easier to throw your rings in a bag or the boot of a car than it is to pack up your Olympic barbell and squat rack.

    Having said all of which, I strongly suspect that Paul Wade isn't a real person. There's been some controversy over this online in some bodyweight forums and the gist seems to be that he's an invention. The person demonstrating the exercises in the book is not Paul Wade, he's the guy from, who isn't lying: he has skills for days, and he is a beastly beast.

    Mr Beastskills trains with weights, kettlebells, bands, gymnastics, calisthenics, breakdancing for all I know... which is kind of my point. Dan John, a strength training legend and fierce exponent of barbell weightlifting, Olympic style, also trains with... barbells, dumbells, kettlebells, gymnastics ('tumbling is the missing element in most people's training routines' - Dan John), and for all I know he gets down to James Brown too. I know he does yoga.

    Paul Wade may not be a real person. Convict Conditioning is a strange book, full of unfounded assertations, bizzarre logical nonsequiteurs and straight nonsense. The author claims to have won many prison fights. Maybe, maybe. But that doesn't make anything he says right. Some of the exercises are genuinely good, and the baseball/basketball idea is a really good one. For many people the real virtue of the book will be that it offers a conditioning programme you can actually do right now. Many people lack the knowledge to construct their own bodyweight programmes and the equipment to follow gym/weights-based ones, and if you were a know-nothing noob and bought CC, and just did what it said to do, you'd probably make out OK. It starts with baby steps, with progressions for people who can't do a single pushup, pullup or handstand at all, which I like: it's instruction for people as they actually are rather than being aimed at those who are already athletic.

    Also the author argues in favour of training alone, which some people like and must feel validated by amongst a welter of advice to train in crowded gyms, as part of a group or with a buddy. And there's lots of emphasis on the ability to move your own body, and I think that's important.

    So CC offers a low-equipment, relatively simple training method, backed by an idea - that moving yourself is better than moving other things - and some sensible training tips. So far, so good. There's also a welter of gibberish, some dishonest claims and self-contradictions (during the pullup part of the book Wade references Arnie as a pullup fan - but what would Arnie know? he lifts weights, the big dummy). The main part of the book is broken into 6 pieces, one for each exercise progression, and it's easy and logical to follow with plenty of photos. Each exercise progression is explained and illustrated and accompanied by an 'exercise x-ray' - an 'inside tip' or piece of detailed instruction.

    There are better bodyweight training books on the market. Someone mentioned Coach (who unlike 'Coach' Paul Wade, A actually exists and B actually is a coach) Christopher Sommers' Building the Gymnastic Body, and there's no doubt: BGB is a better book by far. By FAR. But for beginners or people uncertain about how to construct a routine, CC might be a better place to start for al its many, laughable faults. And the comical jailhouse machismo might help some overcome confidence problems related to training.

    Finally, I have a friend called Mike who has both these books. He can do full levers, parallette handstand pushups for reps and is working on his planche. I have seen him at night, flying through the air in blue tights. Mike comes from a traditional, ignorant meathead weightlifting background: 10 sets of 10 on the bench press, kickbacks and skullcrushers, you name it. But he came to calisthenics strong. Strong from lifting weights. Lifting weights, then, seems to have given him the kind of rock-solid real-world strength you just can't get from lifting weights... What made Mike strong was his work ethic. He found something, anything, and worked at it. Then he found something better and worked at that. Behold the Way, folks, not for sale in any book.

    Sorry this post is kind of long, thanks for bearing with me. Too much coffee.

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