T Nation

What's the Consensus on Convict Conditioning?

I read the whole manual, and I see the philosophy behind the whole approach. What are the opinions on short intense “hard” bodyweight workouts, every day. It re-enforces motor patterns, and creates muscle tension adding up throughout the week.

What are your goals? If you want to total over 2,000 lbs at a powerlifting meet then it isn’t for you. If you want to get really good at bodyweight exercises then it will likely help you reach your goals.

I wouldn’t do the same sets/reps/exercises every single day. You will get angry elbows pretty quick with pullups and dips full blast every day. But if you rotated them you could look like a gymnast in 10 years or so. They aren’t huge, but body weight exercises can make for an aesthetic physique.

I think they could make a great addition to a tradtional strength training program. Cut back on accessory movements and do tons of body weight work.

I spent quite a bit of time focused on “hard” bodyweight workouts, and have read CC and much of what the Kavadlo brothers put out.
A typical workout:
Muscle ups 3x5, pistol squats 3x5 (super setted)
1 arm pull ups progressions, hinge dips (super setted)
Hanging leg raises, Hand stand push ups (super setted)

Also, lots of explosive push ups, 1 arm push ups, bridge work, sprints. Also used gymnast rings for dips, push ups, pull ups 1-2x per week. Did this type of stuff for a few years, at about 40 years old.

Here’s my conclusion: I felt great. I got very good at cranking out muscle ups, pistols squats, etc… Athletically, I feel like these workout really help because each move requires a bit more mind-body connection than heavy barbell lifting. People will stop and ask how to do what you’re doing all the time.

These workouts are best if: you want to get strong and more flexible, but don’t want to gain weight. Your body adapts to what you are making it do, and to be good at tough bodyweight exercises means your body mass needs to stay on the lean/low side. This happened naturally. When I do heavy barbell lifts, I get bigger and gain mass; when I do BW workouts (no matter how hard) I get better at those moves but not more massive.

I came up with what I found to be a perfect combination: tough BW workouts 3-4 times a week, and at least one day of heavy barbell pulling. High pulls, deadlifts, snatches, followed by loaded carries. This gives you the athletic/lean bodyweight look but still the upper back/trap size that really only comes from heavy pulling.


What would be your sample week and progression protocols?

A sample week:

A split might be upper push/pull and lower/core/bridge:

3x 4-6, move on to harder progression when I can get 3x6.

Example Push/pull upper:

1a) Hand stand push ups: 3x6, move to hands elevated on blocks to increase difficulty.
1b) 1 arm pull up progression: 3x3e arm. Pull up with one arm and a finger, release finger and try to ease down. I’ve never been able to get a 1 arm pull up.

2a) 1 arm push ups. 3x6. Move to 1 arm on a ring, or decline 1 arm push ups.
2b) Inverted rows. Usually just 3x8-10.

3a) Hinge dips. 3x6-8. Start on fore arms, hinge forward, then dip up.
3b) Pull ups. Maybe 3x ~8 slow.

Example Lower/core/bridge

1a) Pistols 3x4-6 each leg. Add counter weight as needed.
1b) Hanging leg raises. 3-8 or so, shin to bar.

2a) Box jumps 3x5
2b) Roll outs 3-8 or so.

3a) Bridge holds 3x10-20 seconds
3b) L-sit holds 3x10-20 seconds

Sprints or loaded carries.

I also do workouts where I’m just doing BW without super hard progressions. So it might just be pull ups/push ups EMOM. Try 20 push ups / 10 pull ups EMOM (so every other minute you’d do push ups), and shoot for 200 push ups, 100 pull ups. I like these because they aren’t as mentally taxing as 1 armed varieties, and lets me get a good workout in 20-30 minutes.

I also like to do explosive work. Like plyo push up varieties, muscle ups, and knee tuck jumps. I often do a few rounds of these at the beginning. I keep reps to 5 or less on these.

When I lived in Hanoi for a few months, I only went to the gym once a week. Five other days a week, I did short workouts of body weight exercises, martial arts, yoga, and a heck of a lot of walking (45 minute walk to work, 30 minutes to the grocery store, etc). There are parks scattered about the city with exercise equipment good for dips, chins, etc, and once of them was across the street from my apartment. At the gym I focused on clean and press, dead lifts, and rows. I could get stronger, lose weight, and eat as much as I wanted.

Doing exercises daily can improve neural firing without actually tearing the muscle fiber, therefore actually making you recover FASTER.

For example, say Monday you do a very heavy chest workout. Then the following days you do light push up based workouts, this will help you recover faster from your Monday workout as long as you are doing small and light enough pushup workouts that you aren’t tearing the muscle at all.