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Free+Style: Maximize Sport and Life Performance with Four Basic Movements Hardcover – July 15, 2014

4.9 out of 5 stars 108 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Carl Paoli was born in the U.S., but grew up in Spain, where he became an elite gymnast who trained and competed on the national circuit for more than fifteen years. He received numerous gymnastics accolades, including a National Gold Medal for Vault. Carl also studied environmental science at Universidad Miguel Hernandez and specialized in genetic engineering and coral reef ecology. After university, Carl returned to the U.S. to pursue a career in marine biology. Even though Carl found work that related to his studies, his mind never strayed far from his love of sport and fitness. He reentered the world of gymnastics in 2004 in San Francisco, where he lives and works as a strength and conditioning coach for his own practice in collaboration with San Francisco CrossFit and AcroSports. In 2010, Carl launched GymnasticsWOD.com, currently the largest online resource for gymnastics-movement training and conditioning for CrossFit coaches and athletes. He has coached thousands of athletes around the world through the GymnasticsWOD website and by way of his Freestyle Connection seminars. In 2011, Carl was part of the coaching team for Annie Thorisdottir, who went on to become the first two-time winner of the CrossFit Games in 2011 and 2012.
Anthony Sherbondy holds a PhD from Stanford University where he studied Engineering and Neuroscience. His research focused on finding new methods for measuring and visualizing the "wiring diagram" of the human brain, which he has published in several articles and given numerous talks on around the world.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Victory Belt Publishing (July 15, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1628600209
  • ISBN-13: 978-1628600209
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 1.4 x 10.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book, having ready Kelly Starett's 'Supple Leopard' and looking for some other books on foundational fitness concepts. This is not it. I was expecting Mr. Paoli to lay out some basis for his choice of the four movements he considers important 'basic' movements. The pistol squat, handstand pushup, burpee, and muscle up are his foundational four...not a lot of logic behind these highly advanced movements, which the average person may never achieve, with the exception of burpees. So, let me hit the negative first...but, stay with me long enough to hear the positive.

Most people that are not CrossFit folks will find this a strange place to start. For the initiated CrossFitter, these are the pinnacle moves (minus pull-ups and double unders) that every athlete hopes to achieve. Pictures atop a kettlebell with a load overhead doing a pistol squat is the iconic CrossFit move. For the everyday fitness person looking to improve their general fitness, movements like the pistol squat, muscle up, and handstand pushup are not on their 'to do' list. These are very, very advanced movements that require significant practice to become proficient. Minus dancers, gymnasts, and children - attempting these movements will be very discouraging. They are true 'end range' movements that require significant strength and skill to accomplish well. Additionally, you will have to have access to rings, pirouettes, plyo boxes, etc to work on these, which the average person does not have at their local or home gym. So, from a foundational perspective, Free+Style falls short...it is a book for the advanced athlete, CrossFitter, or someone who is looking at the long game and wants to learn some challenging and new skills.
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Format: Hardcover
Great Book. I am an Instructor in the Kinesiology Department at Big XII institution. The courses I instruct include Biomechanics, Intro to Exercise Physiology and and and Applied Exercise Science course. I also coach CrossFit and am currently a member of CFHQ's Kids Seminar staff. None of this makes me special but I do spend a great deal of time teaching foundational principles of physiology and movement mechanics and how they can be applied in the teaching and coaching of the general public. Carl Paoli and Anthony Sherbondy have made a great contribution to our industry with "freestyle". The book builds off of a solid scientific foundation into a coherent structure of movement progression and the application of progression. There are several excellent books on the market that teach progression toward specific movement outcome. "freestyle" includes movement progressions but goes a giant step forward in identifying a template for development of new progressions. It has been my experience that the best strength and conditioning coaches and authors (Siff, Dan John, Zatsiorsky, Glassman, Tsatsouline, Simmons, Kilgore, Starr, Starrett, etc...) share a common thought that you must learn from good coaches by being with them in the gym to really understand what they do and why the do it, on top of reading their material. I believe part of that is because great coaches are able to create new progressions as needed - but struggle to pass that information on formally. Carl has done that in this book. No set of strict rules of progression or movement but the "art" and "feel" that we all know exists but find so difficult to express. A MUST read for serious coaches and athletes. I could write much more but will simply end with read the book....and apply it!
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Format: Hardcover
Reading it now...just tried the rolling pistol and made it back up! Excited to work through the book and see where my progress was a problem of setup and technique (lack of) vs. a strength issue. This will help improve my moment in martial arts and running and help me understand and connect with my kid in gymnastics. Side note, as an animator and technical artist my job revolves around creating and understanding movement,this book is giving me a new way to think about, discuss and breakdown movement for my professional life.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is profoundly excellent. His "shift-connect-flow" vision is absolutely gorgeous and everyone should memorize it! It's essential and yet so commonly overlooked. Everyone could benefit from this. It's not a book you sit down and just read so much once you get to the meat of it as it is a reference book. It's one thing to google proper forms and progressions and its a whole other thing to understand fundamentally the intent of the coach. If the content wasn't fantastic enough the graphic design leaves me speechless. As a designer myself, the layouts, the tone of the writing, the visual language and "sticks" the helpful diagram man all come together to leave a unified, single minded experience through the mind of the authors. I would seriously recommend this to anybody, not just fitness enthusiasts but anybody dealing more specifically with questions of biomechanics and bodyweight leverages would find his insights keen and infinitely helpful.
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Format: Hardcover
This book could be called the Crossfit Bible as it's big enough and comprehensive enough to earn that title. Note that it's by Carl Paoli, who has a ton of cool exercise videos at his YouTube channel titled "Freestyle Connection." Carl is an amazing teacher both via his videos and in this book. My only negative on this book is that it doesn't come out and just say "This is a guide to the essential principles of Crossfit." But that's a small point: the book is comprehensive and thorough if you're interested in bodyweight/gymnastic exercise.

The author is an established and experienced gymnast (Carl Paoli), and he goes through many principles of body movement that are essential to body form and control. Keep in mind that this is an illustrated book using photos, but it is a book you need to read: it has a lot of text and is easy to read.

At its core, this book promotes four main movements: the pistol (one legged squat), the burpee, the handstand push-up, and the muscle up. What's terrific about the book is that you can come to it from any level, as the author is a strong promoter of PROGRESSIONS. This means that he outlines various ways to progress, step-by-step to accomplishing something like a muscle up or burpee, even if you're not close to doing them yet.

Body weight workouts and gymnastic training are a real fad right now, and rightly so. These are great approaches to getting fit that you can accomplish outside of the gym, staying healthy and feeling great about yourself.

I'm not an exercise physiologist, but I will say (as a middle-aged dude who's in pretty good shape) that some of these movements strike me as unattainable. I think I'd blow my knees if I got into pistols squats. With that said, I see this book as a great way to think about progressions toward the muscle up and handstand push up.

It's a great book!
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