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Convict Conditioning: How to Bust Free of All Weakness--Using the Lost Secrets of Supreme Survival Strength Paperback – November 15, 2012
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Chances are that whatever athletic level you have achieved, there are some serious gaps in your OVERALL strength program. Gaps that stop you short of being able to claim status as a TRUE man. Paul Wade has laid out a brilliant 6-set system of 10 progressions which allows you to master these elite levels. And you could be starting at almost any age and in almost in any condition! Paul Wade has given you the keys—ALL the keys you'll ever need— that will open door after door after door for you in quest for REAL physical accomplishment. Yes, it will be the hardest work you'll ever have to do. And yes, 97% of those who pick up Convict Conditioning, frankly, won't have the guts and the fortitude to make it. But if you make it even half-way through Paul's Progressions, you'll be stronger than almost anyone you encounter. If you're a 3-percenter, in particular, then this book is for you. Have at it!
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Top Customer Reviews
I purchased the book about two weeks ago and read it in five days. When researching Convict Conditioning the main negative I found was folks complaining about the "prison" aspect of the book. I saw some reviews which commented about how the prison related stories were false and that Coach Wade was most likely a fictitious character. Personally, I dismissed the prison aspects of the book as marketing hype and focused on the training material (these days you need some kind of marketing angle to get your product noticed by the right crowd). The information is excellent. The exercise progression is worth the price of the book (I purchased the Kindle edition for under $20). It starts off with exercises which are very easy on the body (My elderly, overweight, diabetic, triple bypass, high blood pressure, father could follow this program without risk of injury). This was key for me. I am looking to workout with little to no risk of injury...and, hopefully, to strengthen previously injured joints to prevent future injury.
I have been following the plan for almost 2 weeks. I am on level 3 of pushups and squats, level 2 of pull-ups, and still on level 1 of leg lifts (my abs are obviously weaker than I realized). Per the recommendation in the book I will hold off on bridges and handstand pushups until I am further along with the other 4 movements.
So far I love this workout! I can work out right in my living room, during commercial breaks, for most exercises (except for pull ups). The workouts are short and simple. I am building "functional" strength... as well as "demonstrate-able" strength (In the future I can easily demonstrate my strength by dropping and doing one arm pushups, or pistol squats...I'm certainly not above doing a little showing off.) I no longer have the fear of injury while doing these exercises.
I'm looking forward to buying Convict Conditioning 2 (when a Kindle edition is available - Which I hope will be VERY soon.) so, someday, I can start working on doing "Flags" (talk about demonstrate-able strength!!).
3/5/13 Update: I've been following the program for over a year and I still love it. I reached the master phase for leg raises about a month ago. As of today I can do 1 hand pushups on the floor, but my feet are not together yet...I am still working on that. I figure I'm still 6 months to a year away from reaching the master phase of squats (due to lack of ankle flexibility) and pull ups (still need to develop more strength). I am probably at least 2 years away from the master phase for bridges and hand stand pushups.
I have had no injuries since starting the program. I feel strong and my wife has commented that I have gained muscle mass. The pain I had in my knee, back and shoulder have faded away over the last year (that alone was worth 50 times the price of the book).
I love the ongoing challenge of slowly (and safely) working my way through the progression. I purchased Convict Conditioning 2 and read it, but I won't start working on those exercises until I have mastered pushups, pull ups, squats, and leg lifts from the first book.
I don't miss weight training. I wish I had a book like this when I was a teenager.
9/22/2014 Update: I've been following the program for over 2 years now. I have also begun to incorporate other gymnastics movements into the my routine.
Pushups: I have been doing great with 1 arm pushups, but as many others have found, doing them with the feet together seems nearly impossible. Instead I am doing 1 arm/1 leg pushups.
Pull Ups: I still haven't mastered 1 arm pull ups. I am still working with one hand on a low towel and archer pull ups.
Leg Raises: I mastered the straight leg raises and have moved on to Dragon Flags (not mentioned in the book).
Pistol Squats: Due to lack of ankle tendon flexibility I have struggled with pistols. However, I am very close to doing my first pistol squat with my heal on a 1 inch block. I can squat down very slowly, and then give myself a slight push off the floor and stand back up. I expect I will get my first pistol very soon.
Bridges: I have stuck with doing bridges for sets of 10 reps (stage 5). I am in no hurry to get to the master phase of this exercise. I will focus on it when I've mastered the core 4 exercises.
Hand Stand Push Ups: I am doing handstand pushups regularly. It will be quite a while before I can do a 1 arm hand stand push up.
I am still injury free and my joints still feel great (I am 45 years old). The combination of the Paleo/Primal lifestyle and the calisthenic has added a bit more muscle mass in the chest/back/arm/shoulder areas (haven't noticed much gain in the legs).
I recently purchased "Complete Calisthenics: The Ultimate Guide to Bodyweight Exercise" by Ashley Kalym. This book has similar progressions to Convict Conditioning but includes several gymnastics exercises (Levers, Planche, Human Flag, etc). I am incorporating some of the routines in this book into my weekly schedule.
I still don't miss weight training. For me Calisthenics have given me much better results without the injuries/aches and pains.
11/5/2015 Brief Update: I am doing freestanding pistol squats (with my heal on a 1/2 block) regularly. I'm still a long way off from doing 1 arm pull ups & 1 arm handstand push ups. I am doing bridges for reps (bridge push ups) with my feet raised 6 inches off the floor (on a bar on the on my power rack) which work the back of the shoulders very well and give me a great back stretch. I can do very high leg raises (touch toes to the bar) at this point, plus I'm doing dragon flags. I am still injury free and feeling great. I am doing a mix of other body weight exercise along with the CC workouts. I am now doing 1 arm push ups with my feet on a 10" block as well as 1 arm/1 leg push ups.
6/10/2016 Update: This may be my last update. As my workout routine evolves I continue to expand my routine with new exercises. However, I cannot say enough good things about this book. It was, for the most part, the start of my body weight training journey which I know I will continue for the rest of my life. I will keep working toward 1 arm pull ups. I don't worry about 1 arm handstand push ups. I recommend this book often to people with whom I talk about health and fitness. I'm 47 years old now. I'm lean and strong and will remain this way for a very long time, thanks in part to the information provided in this book. Advice to anyone just starting out: Stick with it. The system works well and will improve your life.
According to the author, an ex-convict, "The average gym junkie today is all about appearance, not ability. Flash, not function. These men may have big, artificially pumped up limbs, but all that the size is in the muscle tissue; their tendons and joints are weak. Ask the average muscleman to do a deep one-leg squat-ass-to-floorstyle-and his knee ligaments would probably snap in two. What strength most bodybuilders do have, they cannot use in a coordinated way; if you asked them to walk on their hands they'd fall flat on their faces."
This is an extraordinary book about functional bodyweight training. By functional I mean you are taught to be strong for everyday life -- not muscular for the sake of appearance.
Like the author, I've seen beefy guys and gals at the gym walking ahead of me looking like they could hardly move because they had so much muscles on their legs. They walked like a fat person whose thighs rub against each other. Not a pretty sight.
The author continues, "To become hugely powerful, you don't need weights, cables, fancy machines, or any other crap that the industry or the infomercials are brainwashing you into thinking you can't do without. You can gain Herculean strength-genuine brawn and vitality-with no special equipment at all. But to unlock this power-the power of your own body-you need to know how. You need the right method, the art.
Such a method does in fact exist. It's based on traditional, ancient forms of training, techniques which are as old as training itself. This method has evolved by trial-and-error over the centuries, and has proved its superior ability to transform flimsy men into steel-forged warriors time and time again. This method is progressive calisthenics-the art of using the human body to maximize its own development. Calisthenics today is seen as a method of aerobics, circuit training or muscle endurance. It isn't taken seriously. But in the past-before the second half of the twentieth century-all of the world's strongest athletes earned the bulk of their power through performing calisthenics progressively-to become stronger and stronger, day by day, week by week, year after year."
He then teaches you, step by step, how to go from zero to elite with nothing but bodyweight. He says that the fitness industry promotes weights and other gadgets to make money.
If you read the history of bodybuilding, you'll read how the Weider brothers and many before them made a good deal of wealth selling supplements and various types of muscle building equipment.
On the other hand, people like Charles Atlas sold a simple bodyweight program that taught people to look and feel great using their own bodies. Of course, in all fairness, Atlas became rich too.
Here are the contents:
1. Introduction: A Journey of Strength
2. Old School Calisthenics: The Lost Art of Power
The Convict Manifesto: Bodyweight Training vs Modern Methods
4. Convict Conditioning: About This Book
PART II: THE BIG SIX:
5. The Pushup: Armor-Plated Pecs and Steel Triceps
6. The Squat: Elevator Cable Thighs
7. The Pullup: Barn Door Back and Major Guns
8. The Leg Raise: A Six-Pack From Hell
9. The Bridge: Combat Ready Your Spine
10. The Handstand Pushup: Healthy Powerful Shoulders
PART III: SELF-COACHING
11. Body Wisdom: Cast Iron Principles
12. Routines: Workout Programs
As you can see, the book is packed. One of the many things I like about it is that it starts the reader out at a very easy to perform exercise. One that's easy to do yet very effective. It takes you to very serious exercises in a way that really works --- by using progression.
The book has lots of pictures in it with easy-to-understand instructions. It's not only fun to read but it's also very interesting. Not only for the knowledge of the exercises, but for the history it shares and the unique perspective of the author.
Unfortunately, the author directs the book to men and makes no mention of training women. Perhaps that's understandable. But the training applies to women as well.
A number of comments have been made in other reviews questioning whether or not the author is really an ex-convict. Well, it could be a marketing ploy. But there are many reasons an ex-con would not want to use his own name in writing this, or any, book.
As to the British English that is used in some parts --- the editors are from Australia and perhaps some in the U.K. It's poor editing, of course, to put an American writer in British English. But it's done only in a few parts. It sounds like it's been edited by numerous people. If so, they didn't catch many misspellings that they should have.
But to me, those are small issues. True -- a book as expensive as this one should be error-free. But we live in a world of poor editing. The value of this book is in the information.
If you're interested in bodybuilding, fitness or bodyweight training, you need to add this book to your library. My guess is it's one you'll put to work right away and use often.
You can continue with your weights if you want. The book doesn't say you should choose one over the other. But it's likely you'll develop a new respect for getting functional strength by using nothing but your own body, in your own time and totally on your own. And that's convict conditioning. It works for them. It will work for you.
-- Susanna K. Hutcheson