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Broke Strength Training Guide

Ditch the Gym – Get in Shape for Free!


Open Source Athletics homepage: https://www.opensourceathletics.org/

Originally created and copylefted by Owen Johnston in 2018. No rights reserved.


E-Mail: owenjohnston@opensourceathletics.org

It is possible to get in shape for free, as you can train with just your own
bodyweight. You don't need gym memberships or expensive, specialized equipment;
many exercises only require floor space! You can train in your own home, yard, at a local
park, out in nature, or while traveling. Bodyweight training is the primary focus of the
guide, but creative uses of the environment, and DIY equipment are also covered. It is
possible to construct your own training gear on a non-existent budget, if you know
where to look. General fitness advice, a few example workouts, links to free downloads,
and more, are included.

"Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and
rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat
you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is
gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can
get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.
That's how winning is done!" - Rocky Balboa

Order Prints
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Short link - http://bit.ly/brokestrengthprint


About this Guide

Broke Strength Training Guide


Fitness Instruction
Copylefted 2018 Owen Johnston.

No rights reserved. Every part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed,


or transmitted in any form or by any means imaginable, without the prior written
permission of anyone. You may modify the guide and redistribute it in any format.

This work is licensed under:


CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)
Public Domain Dedication
https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

The aim of this guide is to help others learn how to get in shape for free! You are
welcome and encouraged to share this document and all of our free downloads. You may
also upload any of the files to other sites. Help me change the world one life at a time :)

Short link to this book - http://bit.ly/brokestrength


Our website’s file folder - https://www.opensourceathletics.org/file-cabinet
Short link to the file folder - http://bit.ly/fitnessdownloads

"But to change the world in a way that means anything that takes more time than
most people have. It never happens all at once. It’s slow. It’s methodical. It’s exhausting.
We don't all have the stomach for it." - Mr. Robot

About the author


I have over 10 years of teaching experience, including martial arts, strength
coaching, gymnastics, and personal training. I also hold black belt rank in Heiwado
Karate, which I obtained in 2004. I have worked with many types of athletes and fitness
enthusiasts over the years, with varying levels of experience. More about Heiwado -
http://www.thefullwiki.org/JIKC

You’re welcome and encouraged to e-mail me any questions that you may have. I
will answer as soon as my schedule allows.
owenjohnston@opensourceathletics.org

Videos

Many of the “Open Source Athletics” versions of articles in this guide contain
useful videos. The page below also contains links to YouTube playlists.
https://www.opensourceathletics.org/videos
Disclaimer and legal waiver

This document is intended for people of good health and physical condition. The
training methods and advice in this document may not be for everyone. Always consult
your physician or other qualified healthcare professional before starting a new diet or
exercise program. Nothing in this document should be taken as medical advice, or a
substitute for medical advice from your personal physician. Also, this document is not a
replacement for formal instruction. Seek out a competent, qualified instructor who may
carefully observe your progress and provide feedback. This document is intended
primarily to be a supplement to, not a replacement for, formal training.

By reading this document, you agree the author cannot be held legally liable for
your own actions. If you engage in any physical exercise or activity, you do so at your
own risk and assume the risk of any and all injury and/or damage you may suffer,
whether while engaging in physical exercise or not. This includes injury or damage
sustained while and/or resulting from using any premises or facility, or using any
equipment, including injuries or damages arising out of the negligence of your trainer,
whether active or passive, or any of your trainer’s affiliates, employees, agents,
representatives, successors, and assigns. You assume the risk of your participation in
any activity, class, program, instruction, or event.

You agree that you voluntarily participate in physical activity and assume all risk
of injury, illness, damage, or loss to you or your property that might result, including,
without limitation, any loss or theft of any personal property, whether arising out of the
negligence of your trainer or otherwise. You agree that this waiver is intended to be as
broad and inclusive as permitted by the law in the state or country in which you reside
and that if any portion thereof is held invalid, it is agreed that the balance shall,
notwithstanding, continue in full legal force and effect. You acknowledge that you have
carefully read this waiver and fully understand that it is a release of liability, and express
assumption of risk.
Contents

Introduction
Health and Fitness Advice
Free downloads and online resources
Nutrition Resources
An Essay on Flexibility
Structured Workout Design
Progressive Calisthenics – A Concise Explanation
Calisthenics training tactics
Calisthenics exercises sorted by muscles / parts of the body
Equipment
Hand balancing for strength and skill – "quick start guide"
Street Workout - minimalist training, anywhere!
Calisthenics progressions
Advanced goals past the progressions
Calisthenics tutorials
Training Programs

"Caveman Conditioning":
Caveman Conditioning: Uncivilized, Minimalist Training Methods
Minimalist Grip Work
Caveman Conditioning Workout Ideas
DIY Strength Training with Repurposed Materials
Strength Training Resources – Single Page
Karate Training Guide:
Karate Approach to Calisthenics
Karate Approach to Calisthenics, part 2
Outline of a well rounded system
Hojo Undo: Supplementary training exercises for karate
Hojo Undo Project: Wall mounted car tire makiwara board
Hojo Undo Project: Car tire kicking setups
Mental and spiritual training
Additional Recommended Exercises for Karate Training
Setting up training programs
Martial Arts and Fitness Resources – Single Page

Guide "To Do List"


Introduction

It is possible to get in shape for free, as you can train with just your own
bodyweight. You don't need gym memberships or expensive, specialized equipment;
many exercises only require floor space! Also, workouts don’t have to be very long. Just
a few basic exercises, performed for 2 or 3 sets each, are all you need to build strength.
You can train in your own home, yard, at a local park, out in nature, or while traveling.

Bodyweight training is the primary focus of the guide, but creative uses of the
environment, and DIY equipment are also covered. It is possible to construct your own
training gear on a non-existent budget, if you know where to look. General fitness
advice, a few example workouts, links to free downloads, and more, are included.
Health and Fitness Advice

Getting started

Set clear exercise goals, and start with a few basic exercises. It is recommended to
start with a full body strength training program, performed 2 or 3 days times per week,
or a basic training split (such as upper/lower). Goals should be specific and measurable.
Write some long term goals down and develop short term goals that will help you meet
them. Day by day, week by week, you can meet these goals. The progress will get
addictive! It will help to make notes of how your exercise and nutrition go each day or
each week. This can help you chart your progress and easily measure it.
Getting proper nutrition and rest are the other main components of any
successful fitness program.

Nutrition

It is possible to prepare healthy meals very cheaply, using staple foods such as
beans and rice. There are plenty of "budget recipes" online that are simple to prepare,
such as salads, bowls, and quick healthy snacks. Check the price per ounce for each
ingredient if possible and figure out what is in your budget. Of course, feel free to modify
recipes based on personal taste and/or any food allergies you may have. Gradually
replace processed foods with a variety of affordable whole foods.

Recovery Time

It is important to take at least one day off from training each week. A physical
activity that is not too taxing, such as walking or stretching, is still fine on days off.
Schedule a deload week after every 4-6 weeks, or more frequently if needed, to recover
and rebuild. You can use one or more deload protocols or just take an "active rest" week.
In either case, focus on mobility work and therapeutic modalities.

Deload protocols include but are not necessarily limited to: less volume (sets /
reps), less frequency (training days per week), less intensity (regressions of any kind),
less variety (less exercises)

Active rest: ideas include but are not limited to pickup games of your favorite
athletic sport, taking a Yoga class, getting in some light walking, and yard work or
household chores. If you're in good physical condition and accustomed to a high
workload, you can build up to training 6 days per week while still engaging in an athletic
sport. Of course, in this case, it is even more important to pay attention to your body.
Get plenty of sleep and quality nutrition.
Health and Fitness Advice, page 2

Warmups

Warming up properly prevents injury, energizes you for the workout, and
improves the elasticity of the muscles. Start with an exercise that will get your heart rate
up and get the blood flowing, to warm up for stretching and training. Ideas include brisk
walking, cardio, skipping rope, small space exercises, and light calisthenics. Next,
perform joint rotations, such as shoulder circling. This helps lubricate your joints with
synovial fluid and increase blood flow to the muscles.
Begin stretching after joint rotations. Only stretch to the mild to moderate
discomfort. Pain is a sign that something is wrong or that you are over stretching.
Gradually increase your range of motion and balance. Try to stretch as many muscles
and joints as you can before a workout, or whenever it feels good. However, if time is
short, at least stretch the parts of the body you will be working. After stretching, perform
warmup sets, then your work sets. Also, stretch lightly after each workout.
It is recommended to use cushions for comfort and to ease into certain stretches.
Folded up towels and pillows work very well. You could also use yoga straps, blocks,
and/or bolsters if you have any already, but these are not strictly necessary.
Ideas for cardio include brisk walking, jogging, high intensity interval training,
and small space exercises. A few ideas for small space exercises: animal moves (such as
bear crawls and bunny hops), "mountain climbers", skipping rope, high knees, jumping
jacks, burpees, and agility drills that can be performed in a small space. Small space
exercises can also be added to the workout, depending on your fitness goals.
General Workout Tips
Wear sneakers and comfortable clothing. Some forms of exercise will require
certain apparel. Bring a workout towel with you if needed, and stay hydrated, especially
when exercising outside in hot weather.
Safety precautions – these include, but are not limited to, sunscreen or insect
repellent spray, having emergency contact info with you at all times, checking safety of
training area, practicing situational awareness, adapt training habits and adapting your
workout to the weather.
During workouts – 1) Active rest between sets and between exercises. Walk
around your training area and/or perform light stretching, to keep your circulation up
and your muscles loose. 2) Breathe deeply during exercise and take stretch breaks when
needed. 3) Don’t push through pain or signs of overtraining.
Designate an area in your home for exercise. It can be as simple as floor space!
Also check for local parks and recreation departments, if you want to train outside.
Search online for local fitness groups or classes. Also, rec departments often have a
variety of activities to choose from. Some churches offer free exercises classes.
Options for finding cheap or free exercise equipment include: browse Craigslist,
check free stuff groups on Facebook, or sign up at Freecycle and ask around.
A few ideas for when you hit a plateau: lighten the intensity and focus on form,
perform plateau busting workouts, change exercises or other variables in a workout
Health and Fitness Advice, page 3
Lifestyle tips
Eat a variety of whole foods
Avoid empty calories
Take time to read the labels on products
Take a B12 or Super B-Complex supplement daily
Try to walk and/or stretch every day
Big changes don’t have to be made all at once; small changes day by day add up
Shake things up now and then to boost motivation
Keep long term goals in mind – consistency is key
Allow time each week to relax and be mindful
Research intermittent fasting
Free Downloads and Online Resources

Print out a set of charts to post on a wall, and/or put document(s) of choice on a
mobile device for quick reference.

List of training goals (includes PDF download link):


http://chrissalvato.com/2009/12/skill-guidelines-for-building-strong-useful-
adaptable-athletes/

Progression charts and Convict Conditioning Super FAQ (includes workouts):


https://archive.org/details/Convict-Conditioning-Charts
https://www.dragondoor.com/pdf/Convict_Conditioning_SUPER_FAQ.pdf

Training books and manuals:


https://archive.org/details/FM_21-20_Physical_Fitness_Training
https://archive.org/details/MoldingAMightyGrip
https://archive.org/details/YorkHandbalancingCourseComplete
https://www.dieselcrew.com/articles-pdf/dieselHMGD.pdf
http://www.bodyweightbundle.com/pdf/essential-parkour-techniques-
ebook.pdf

Sites with excellent training manuals:


https://superstrengthtraining.com/
https://www.dragondoor.com/

Convict Conditioning progression videos:


https://www.youtube.com/user/dragonflowyoga/videos

Support the author of Convict Conditioning by ordering a copy of the book:


https://www.dragondoor.com/b41/

Recommended YouTube channels: OfficialBarstarzz, FitnessFAQs, GKCgoju,


Calisthenicmovement, GymTactics Videos: Bounce Gymnastics Girls Team, Yoga with
Adriene, Calisthenics & Weight Training, LegendaryStrength, prehabexercises

Additional Resources:
https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/First_Aid
https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/a-simple-guide-to-periodization-for-
strength-training
https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/oldtime-strongman-exercises/
https://pccblog.dragondoor.com/
https://preparednessmama.com/disaster-apps/
https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/garage-gym/
http://www.rosstraining.com/articles/equipmentandlinks.html
https://www.sportpsych.org/nine-mental-skills-overview
https://calisthenics-parks.com/
http://stevenlow.org/the-fundamentals-of-bodyweight-strength-training/
Health and Nutrition Resources

Free downloads:
https://myvegandreams.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/50_Vegan_Recipes-
Updated.pdf
https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/InteractiveNutritionFactsLabel/factsheets/Vita
min_and_Mineral_Chart.pdf
https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/sites/default/files/usda_food_plans_cost_of_food/FoodP
lansRecipeBook.pdf
https://www.farmsanctuary.org/wp-
content/uploads/2016/10/AA_VeganStarterGuide_WebVersion.pdf
https://www.farmsanctuary.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Recipes-for-Life.pdf
https://thefriendlyfig.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/ff-vegan-shopping-list.pdf
https://archive.org/details/40DaysOfGreenSmoothies
Send or download document(s) of choice to a mobile device for quick reference.
Recommended YouTube Channels:

Mic the Vegan -


https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGJq0eQZoFSwgcqgxIE9MHw

Bianca Taylor Fitness -


https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpH8ZxojD647KtAFFLWQJCQ

Plant Based Athlete - https://www.youtube.com/user/PlantbasedAthlete

Additional Resources:
https://thefriendlyfig.com/2014/08/28/save-money-vegan/
https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Cookbook:Table_of_Contents
https://www.vrg.org
https://nutritionfacts.org/
https://www.worldofvegan.com/how-to-go-vegan/
http://plantbaseddocs.com/
https://plantbasedonabudget.com/
https://www.healthline.com/
https://myfooddata.com/
https://www.verywellfit.com/
https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Alternative_medicine
An Essay on Flexibility

As an experienced martial artist, I have had the good fortune of learning and
testing out many kinds of stretching. I have found that it is important to have a variety
of "active flexibility" stretches where one uses muscular control to help affect the range
of motion of the stretching technique. Yoga and Pilates postures have been very effective
for me and my martial arts students in helping "open up" not only the hamstrings and
shoulders, but correct postural problems in our backs and help strengthen the back
muscles while doing so. This is very desirable for practicing martial arts, and for many
types of resistance training. I can imagine that performing many types of Olympic lifts
would be greatly assisted by improving one’s posture, back strength, and spinal health.

Static stretching, from my experience, is not conducive to resistance training,


which is supported by research. I have found that performing dynamic stretching – joint
rotations and so forth – form an integral part of any warmup routine. This is very
important for warming up the joints and muscles that are specific to the workout, and it
also lubricates the joints with synovial fluid, allowing for improved function of the
joints.

This is necessary for skill work such as in martial arts, gymnastics and so forth, as
well as resistance training of almost any kind. As an example, before we train any Aikido
techniques, we carefully practice wrist rotations and wrist stretches. These help prevent
injury to the wrists when practicing the various wrist lock techniques, and the stretches
also help to further ingrain the motions of the techniques. In this way, such stretches
have "joint specificity". There are many examples of such joint specific stretches that
assist in martial arts techniques.

As far as resistance training goes, we have indeed found that it does contribute to
increased joint flexibility. I previously mentioned Yoga and Pilates. These disciplines do
tend to help build strength throughout the full range of motion of the exercises, as well
as balance and posture. Similarly, other disciplines of body weight movements have
been very helpful in not only building strength in "natural" movements, but balance,
coordination, and agility. Such movements include various pushing, pulling, and
squatting exercises, and many more.

As an example, I generally start most new, untrained students with a short list of
gentle stretches and kneeling pushups, or wall pushups if necessary. Such pushups are
fairly remedial exercises that allow students to learn the basic form, and help stretch out
the muscles and joints while using the muscles to stay in control of the motion.
Developing muscular control is a very important concept in both flexibility and martial
arts. There are remedial variations of almost any exercise one can imagine, especially in
calisthenics. The position, leverage, and range of motion may be adjusted in any
calisthenics technique such that it can be made more difficult (progressing the
technique) or less difficult (regressing the technique).
An Essay on Flexibility, page 2

Of course, during pushing movements, the antagonistic muscles hold some


tension, and the stabilizer muscles also get some training via holding correct posture
and balance. Once a set of pushing movements is completed, pulling movements are
practiced to help stretch out the muscles and joints on the other side. An example
remedial exercise for pulling is standing pulls, where one places one’s hands on either
side of a pole, beam, or any other sturdy object or piece of furniture that one can safely
put one’s hands around.

As the student progresses in muscular control, his or her technique improves and
will be able to perform more "high quality" repetitions. Also, as the student continues
practicing these techniques, his or her range of motion will generally deepen, allowing
him or her to make the exercise more difficult, as well as improve his or her own active
flexibility. An example is performing wide stance body weight squats half way down at
first. This functions as not only a resistance exercise, but also a stretch for the
quadriceps where most of the muscles of the legs are involved in the exercise.

Another great exercise is body weight calf raises. These help stretch out the calf
muscles as well as the Achilles tendon. Any menu of squats and calf raises is greatly
supplemented by ankle rotations and "runner’s stretches" (similar to lunges). As
flexibility and muscular control improve in calf raises, one can practice them with one
foot and / or off a step. Of course, it takes time and dedication with squats and calf
raises to build up balance, and flexibility in the ankles. The key point is not to rush
things and gradually develop the flexibility needed to keep the heels planted in the
bottom portion of squats. Calf raises and ankle rotations help immensely with this.

Naturally, connective tissues will get stretched and strengthened by practicing


such techniques. Simply holding tension (via muscular control) will work the ligaments
and tendons. Also, going through the proper ranges of motion in these techniques
stretches them and helps one’s body learn correct movements and postures. As such, not
only can one build muscular control, posture, balance, general proprioception and
kinesthesia, flexibility, and skill, but joint integrity and strength in ligaments and
tendons. This helps maintain joint health and prevent injury.

Maintaining strength balances in the body allows one, also, to maintain natural
ranges of motion. Asking any gymnastics coach about building shoulder health and
flexibility will certainly yield much useful advice on the topic. It can be argued,
especially from a gymnastics perspective, that excellent upper body flexibility is required
to learn more advanced body weight techniques. Also, to quote an article by a gymnast,
"Keeping the shoulders (glenohumeral / scapular articulations) operating optimally is
the key to bodyweight strength success."

Referenced article - "The Fundamentals of Bodyweight Strength Training" by


Steven Low, posted at – http://www.eatmoveimprove.com
An Essay on Flexibility, page 3

Light, gentle stretching as a part of cool downs has helped me and my martial
arts students reduce post workout pain. This usually involves partner assisted stretching
and massage to help "detox" the affected joints and muscles of waste products and so
forth. So, as you can see by my approach to body weight training, calisthenics can be
very holistic in nature, help with flexibility, and provide light, moderate, and even very
high levels of intensity for strength training. My overall approach to strength and
flexibility is based on years of experience in martial arts, progressive calisthenics, and
gymnastics, as well as experience and research into other disciplines (ballet, parkour,
Yoga, Pilates, etc.), and training with other instructors.
Structured Workout Design

Primary steps / factors: Goal setting, Long term training plan, Workout
template(s), Progressions, Exercise selection
Account for these training principles: S.A.I.D. (specific adaptation to imposed
demand), progressive overload, individual differences
Include: deloading protocols, safety measures, proper nutrition, recovery
Modes: bodybuilding, skill, therapy, strength, endurance
Training protocols include: Ladders, pyramids, circuit training, interval training
Other factors: Kinesiology, body mechanics, lifestyle, motivation, consistency

Mechanics and principles of progression – some have overlap with each other:
Leverage, positioning, range of motion, alignment, vector, center of gravity, points of
contact, time under tension, weight to limb ratio, cadence, single joint (emphasis /
isolation) or complex movement, symmetry (lateral, unilateral, or transitional),
assistance (self and/or partner), wide or narrow base, inter-set rest, volume, frequency

Set up a training plan: Include workout routines, recovery time, and proper
nutrition. Tailor the plan to your goals and progressively work towards them. For
workout templates and specific workout routines, you can choose from performing a full
body workout 1-3 times a week, or a training split. There are pros and cons to each type
of workout structure. Workout and training split templates can be modified based on
goals and/or available equipment. Specific exercises may be substituted, based on
movement or muscles worked. Include 5-10 minutes of mobility and prehab work at the
end of each workout.

Adapt: Test abilities every few weeks. Adapt the training program according to
current fitness and energy levels, as well as current goals.

Periodization: Linear, Undulating, Conjugate

List of training goals (includes PDF download link):


http://chrissalvato.com/2009/12/skill-guidelines-for-building-strong-useful-
adaptable-athletes/

Concise tutorial on periodization:


https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/a-simple-guide-to-periodization-for-
strength-training

The below article has a straightforward explanation of leverage:


http://stevenlow.org/the-fundamentals-of-bodyweight-strength-training/

The below article includes training split ideas:


https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/the-rules-of-bodyweight-
bodybuilding.html

Mobility / prehab exercises: https://www.youtube.com/user/prehabexercises


Progressive Calisthenics – A Concise Explanation

Progressive calisthenics is a strength oriented approach to bodyweight training. It


also focuses on minimalism – little to no equipment, but high rewards. Your body is its
own very versatile form of training equipment! Balance, agility, and coordination also
gain a lot of benefit. Popular examples of calisthenics exercises include pushups and
pullups.

Exercises may be trained progressively by building volume (sets and reps or hold
time), and increasing difficulty through adjustments to technique (such as hand or foot
positioning). With these in mind, body mechanics, and movement, one may use
progressive calisthenics to achieve very high levels of functional, full body strength and
coordination. This is primarily because calisthenics use natural movements that act on
multiple joints, and force many stabilizer muscles to be used. Lastly, calisthenics help to
improve posture, as well as build supple strength and tension in the tendons, ligaments,
and joints.

Naturally, it is also possible to make exercises easier. This is especially important


if you are working around an old injury, and want to build up your strength again in
particular joints. Making an exercise easier is also useful when you want to work on your
form.

The key thing to remember is that progressive calisthenics – like with weight
training – is that multiple methods of progression may be used. The basic methods of
progression in calisthenics are 1) a double progression, which involves building up reps
in an exercise, then moving on to a harder one, and 2) calibration, which involves
making an exercise slightly harder (or easier, as needed) through the use of intensity
variables and "hidden steps". When you start on a harder variation, you will generally
not be able to perform as many to repetitions, and have to build up reps again.

Every exercise in a progression can become the basis for its own, using
calibration, creativity and experience. Let’s use incline pushups for an example of a
miniature progression. Gradually use lower and lower objects until you are performing
full pushups on the floor. This is also an example of adjusting the "weight to limb ratio",
one of the principles of progression. There are endless possibilities for hidden steps that
can be used!

Everyone is different – you have your own unique body type, goals, needs,
metabolism, and so forth. As such, feel free to use the progressive approach to
calisthenics to help you develop your own personalized routines. Remember the key
concepts to the approach – using a double or multiple progression method to build
strength and skill in various types of movement, while also collecting knowledge of body
mechanics, kinesiology, and "intensity variables" or "tougheners" to adjust leverage,
range of motion, and positioning to make the movements progressively harder or easier.
There is a seemingly infinite number of ways to adjust your techniques, and continue
gaining strength from them for years to come.
Progressive Calisthenics, page 2

At first, when you learn a new movement, it is important to take it slowly while
getting an understanding of the body mechanics behind the exercise. Then, practice it
repetitively to gain skill, strength, coordination, improved posture, and balance in the
required positions. From there, you can learn new variations. The benefits to balance,
coordination, and strength in postures help in not just athletic sports, but every day life
as well.

Lastly, I want to emphasize that, to achieve total fitness, calisthenics alone are
not enough. Keep in mind that you will want to make needed lifestyle changes in diet,
nutrition, rest, recovery, and so forth to help improving overall health in body, mind,
and spirit. Scientific research has helped to develop many useful therapeutic modalities.
However, we should not entirely discount or deny age old wisdom and practices. This
includes meditation, prayer, solitary hiking – anything that helps you to cope with day
to day stress and strengthen your spirit.
Calisthenics Training Tactics

"Bodybuilding" tactics - hypertrophy with a focus on the muscles:


The goal is to exhaust the muscles with high reps of simple to moderate
complexity exercises that allow you to perform a moderate to full range of motion, and
generate intense muscle contractions. While the intensity should be kept high, it should
also allow you to perform enough sets and reps to exhaust the muscle(s). The sets you
perform each exercise for should be kept low to moderate, while the reps should be kept
high, and the rest periods between sets (inter-set rest) should be kept relatively short.
If you are a beginner, perform 1 or 2 beginner bodybuilding workouts on
nonconsecutive days, and build up to 3 non-consecutive training days. This allows your
muscles time to recover and become accustomed to training. Experienced bodybuilders
may train up to 6 days per week with a well designed program that targets different
muscles each day.

Useful tactics:
Supersets – perform two exercises that work opposing muscle groups without
stopping. in a row without stopping. It is possible and often recommended to create one
long superset with multiple pairs of exercises.

AMRAP - "as many reps as possible", using good form, within a specific time.
Rest pauses allowed. Choose exercises based on your current strength level.

Repetition goal AFAP - "as fast as possible" with good form. Rest-pauses allowed.
Burner sets - do all of your work sets back to back with no rest.
Even higher reps - use ladders, drop sets, or other tactics as needed.
Ladders - sets of increasing reps.
Death sets – high intensity exercise for high reps. Rest-pauses allowed.

Extended sets - use one or more of the following: eccentrics/negatives, isometric


holds, restpause sets, partial reps, forced reps, change of positioning (grip style, grip
width, stance change, etc) and/or drop sets.

Very slow reps – for example, when performing a pullup, take 10 seconds to reach
the top position, hold this position for 10 seconds, and take 10 seconds to lower to a
dead hang.

Muscular exhaustion work – perform at the end of a workout, such as performing


lunges or duck walks after a leg workout

Emphasis on a muscle or muscle group – add specialization exercises

Going through a strength training cycle - stronger muscles can use higher loads
and generate more intense contractions.
Strength training tactics - hypertrophy with a focus on the nervous system:
The goal is to perform slightly high sets of low to moderate reps of the most
difficult compound (multi-joint) movements that you can do with good form in each rep.
The rest periods between sets should be just long enough to allow you to practice
"fresh". An example number of sets and reps for strength training – 2-5 sets of 1-6.
Training frequency can be built up to a moderate amount. Multiple weekly sessions are
viable since the muscles aren't being worked to complete exhaustion.
As a rule, you are focusing on ingraining these intense movements into your
nervous system. Gradually tighten up form. Of course, it's still important to utilize high
rep sets for warmups to gradually prepare the mind, muscles, and nervous system for
the hard work to come.

Useful tactics: Pyramids (sets of decreasing reps), grease the groove, high
intensity interval training, skill work, isometrics (such as flex hangs, eccentrics
(negatives)

Technique: Tension, bracing, breathing methods, laser focus, muscle synergy

Skill training tactics:


Aim for neuromuscular efficiency. Don't think of it as working out your muscles,
but working on technique. Take slightly longer rest periods between sets than you would
during strength training or bodybuilding, so that you can practice fresh. Aim for
technical perfection each rep. Remember that strength is a skill! Do not train to failure.
Instead, train to improve your neuromuscular efficiency. Perform skills for high sets of
low reps.

Useful tactic - "Grease the groove" (synaptic facilitation):

"Specificity + frequent practice = success"- Pavel Tsatsouline

The "grease the groove" approach involves frequent, fresh practice of an exercise
or skill for sub-maximal repetitions or intensity. Aim for multiple sets spaced out
throughout the day. Use this approach for one or two skills or exercises, at most, in the
same training cycle (1 or 2 weeks).
Calisthenics exercises sorted by muscles / parts of the body
(“ROM” = range of motion)
Shoulders - hand balancing, handstand pushup progression, Korean dips, straight arm
side plank, planche progression, planche pushup progression
Rear shoulders emphasis - rear delt iron cross (floor), rear delt iron cross (wall)
Back emphasis – back extensions (hyperextensions), supermans, forearm bridges,
bodyweight good mornings, back lever leg raises, reverse elbow pushups
Back, biceps, and forearms - pullup progression, back lever progression, horizontal
pullup progression, back lever pullups, swan pullups, rope climbing
Posterior chain - bridging progression
Upper body – pushup progression, dipping progression, elbow lever progression,
planks, Russian dips
Pectorals emphasis – parallel dips with chest emphasis (torso forward etc), V bar
dips (chest emphasis), straight bar dips, full ROM / Jowett pushups, bodyweight flies
Biceps emphasis - bodyweight curls, training for a one arm pullup (asymmetrical
exercises), horizontal pullups (supinated / palms facing grip), supinated back lever
Triceps emphasis – variations of bench dips (bent knees, straight knees, feet
elevated), close pushups, sphinx pushups, tiger bend handstand pushups, reverse
pushups, bodyweight skull crushers (aka "roll unders" and Bodyweight triceps French
presses), parallel dips (torso upright and elbows close to torso), impossible dips
Midsection - Dragon Flag progression, leg raise progression, parallel bar leg raises,
front lever progression, midsection hold progression, hollow body holds, hanging
midsection holds, full extension pushups (long arm pushups), full extension plank
Lateral chain – side lying leg raises, side plank pulses, straight arm side plank, side
elbow plank, side lateral raise, clutch flag progression, human flag progression,
windshield wipers (hanging or lying, with straight or bent legs), perfect circles
Lower body – Squat progression, lunges, plyometrics, sprints, animal exercises
(especially duck walk, bunny hop, and horse walk), squat holds, squat variations
Quadriceps – Wall sit, natural leg extensions, sissy squats
Glutes/hamstrings – glute bridges (aka short bridges), hip thrusts (shoulders
elevated glute bridges), glute ham raises, one leg deadlifts, reverse leg lifts, prone leg lift,
reverse hyperextensions (prone leg lifts with torso elevated), step-ups, single leg deadlift
Calves - calf raises (floor, off step, one leg or two)
Shin muscles - shin flexes (dorsiflexion) - standing, elevated (such as using steps),
seated, seated with manual resistance – hand or opposite heel
Neck – Standing / sitting exercises (neck flexion, neck extension, lateral neck flexion),
supine neck flexion, prone neck extension, lying lateral flexion, angled bridge, head
bridge, isometric exercises (self or partner resistance - extension, flexion, and lateral
flexion), wrestler’s bridge variations, front bridge variations (may add lateral flexion),
front neck plank
Trapezius – bodyweight shoulder shrugs (scapular retraction). These include standing
shoulder shrugs, prone shoulder shrugs, seated shoulder shrugs, scapular pullups,
scapular pushups (pushup shrugs), dip shrugs, pike shrugs, and handstand shrugs.
Hand specializations - wrist holds, wrist pushups, fingertip holds, fingertip pushups,
knuckle pushup holds, knuckle pushups
Forearm specializations - hang grip work, finger pullups, and towel pullups
Calisthenics exercises continued

View videos of many of these exercises on the Google Sites version of the exercise list -
https://www.opensourceathletics.org/calisthenics/articles/calisthenics-exercises

The page below has links to exercise playlists, including one based on the previous page.
https://www.opensourceathletics.org/videos

For tutorials on the hand specializations, view “Karate Approach to Calisthenics” as well
as the Karate section of the tutorials article. For tutorials on the forearm specializations,
view the “Minimalist Grip Work” article.

The list of exercises may be used to help structure workouts and training splits.

A few ideas:
Back workout – include pullups and bridging at minimum; add neck and/or glute work
depending upon fitness level and goals
Muscle group specialization workouts – such as grip training, biceps, or triceps
Push / pull / lower body split
Full body splits

Recommended articles:
“Structured Workout Design”
“Calisthenics Training Tactics”
Equipment

Creativity is the number one tool. Use your environment as well as any safe and
sturdy objects that are available. Ideas include: a walkway, park benches, a step or rung,
a towel, a ball, a wall, a brick, even a tree. For many exercises, all you need is floor space!

Parallettes are useful for some midsection holds, pushups, and hand balancing
skills. Exercise benches and park benches may be used for exercises from a wide variety
of progressions, including – squats, elbow lever, planche, Dragon flag, pushups,
handstand pushups, dips, midsection holds, hip thrust, leg raises, and so forth. Parallel
bars and rings are useful for a variety of progressions and exercises. These include
dipping, pullups, levers, midsection holds, and leg raises.

An exercise or park bench can be used for some glute / hamstring exercises. A
low bar can be used for roll unders. A low bar or pole can be used for self assistance in
some squat variations. A towel(s) can be used for some grip exercises. Any low raised
surface, a brick(s), medicine ball, or similar can be used for some pushup variations.

Full ROM pushups: park benches, sturdy chairs, pushup handles, parallettes, or
other safe and sturdy objects instead, but make sure that they are the same height.
Elevate the feet for added difficulty. Use shorter / less objects for less ROM to make the
exercise easier. Gradually increase range of motion. Higher objects make the exercise
easier, and lower objects make it harder. Build up to Jowett Pushups, which are
performed for a full ROM with the feet elevated (to about the same height as the hands).

Full ROM handstand pushups: safe and sturdy objects that are the same height
(such as parallettes, park benches, pushup handles, or plyo boxes), or any sturdy raised
surface that you can safely access. One example is using a park bench for full ROM pike
HSPU with the feet elevated. The hands will be placed on a seat, and the feet will be
placed up on the table. Push up into the top position. Lower under control until your
head is past your hands. Gradually build up range of motion. The same idea may be
applied to steps, a raised walkway (such as at a park), a porch, etc. Start with your feet
and hands at the same level if needed.

Decline situps, inverted situps, back hyperextensions, and reverse hypers can be
performed on almost any raised training surface, as long as it is safe and sturdy. Ideas
for training surfaces include a raised walkway, a vault table at a gymnastics club, and a
ring at a boxing gym. Your legs will need to be "anchored" for back hyperextensions and
the situp variations. Ways to anchor the legs include a training partner holding your legs
down, using a couch, and using dumbbells of sufficient weight. You could also perform
partner hanging situps and inverted situps on bars.

Add cushioning for the back, abdomen, knees and/or thighs if needed, such as a
mat(s), pillow(s), or folded up towel(s). Always perform these exercises under control,
especially in the descent. Back hyper extensions and reverse hyper extensions may be
performed with a Roman chair or other back extension equipment. Decline benches may
be used for situp variations. However, such equipment can get expensive.
Equipment, page 2

Less intense variations of these exercises may be performed standing or on the


floor. Easier versions of back hyperextensions include bodyweight good mornings,
prone back extensions and the superman exercise. Easier versions of reverse hypers
include reverse leg lifts and prone leg lifts. The classic situp may be performed instead of
decline or inverted situps.

Pullup and horizontal pullup progressions: almost anything safe and solid that
you can get a grip on will work. Ideas include poles, hand rails on walkways, sturdy tree
branches (should be low enough to reach and drop from safely), and exercise equipment
at public parks. You can also use a door for pullups, or doorknobs for some horizontal
pullup variations. Grip each doorknob, straddle the door with your legs or feet, and
begin the exercise. You can also loop a single towel around each doorknob, and perform
the exercise with each hand gripping one side of the towel. This allows you to put your
body at a lower angle to the ground, making the exercise harder. The forearms are also
worked more because of having to grip tightly onto the towel. Using a thick bar will work
the forearms more. Performing pullups from rafters is a high level feat of strength.

Dipping progression: Use a low base for bent dips and straight dips. For feet-
elevated dips, use a low base for your hands, and a low base for your feet. For V bar dips,
you can use hand rails on a walkway that form a "V" shape (perpendicular to each
other). Any pair of safe and sturdy objects that are the same height can be used for
parallel dips. Examples include metal folding chairs, parallel bars, a pair of plyo boxes,
and park benches.

Midsection hold progression: Floor space is all you need for the first 5 exercises.
You can use parallettes, a safe and sturdy chair (preferably with arm rests), a floor bar,
plyo boxes, park benches, or parallel bars for the raised exercises. If you’re using plyo
boxes or park benches, make sure they are the same height. Lower objects are harder.

Dragon flag progression: The exercises can be performed on a park bench or


exercise bench, but almost any safe and sturdy bench will work. You can also use hand
rails on a walkway for this progression, but place a folded up towel, pillow, or mat under
your shoulders and neck if needed for comfort. You could also build up to performing
Dragon flags from hanging.

Bodyweight flies: gymnastics rings, exercise sliders, equally loaded EZ bars, or


towels on a smooth surface.

Bodyweight curls, reverse grip bodyweight curls: rings, straight bar, or a "V-Bar".

Bodyweight hammer curls: rings or bar with parallel grips.

Neck exercises: cushion your head as needed for wrestler’s bridge variations,
front bridge variations, and neck plank. Ideas include a folded up towel, pillow,
cushioned floor, or exercise mat.
Equipment, page 3

Glute ham raises: these can be performed on the floor. Ask a training partner to
hold your feet down, or use a safe and sturdy object to brace your feet. Cushion the
knees as needed.

Calf raises – You can perform calf raises on the floor, or you can use a block or
step, to allow for a deeper range of motion.

Wrestler’s bridge - Cushion your head as needed.


Equipment, page 4

Bleachers have a variety of uses, such as pushup, handstand pushup, and squat
progression exercises
Equipment, page 5

Overhead bars can be used for many calisthenics progressions, including pullups, back
lever, front lever, and leg raises
Equipment, page 6

Sturdy surfaces such as walkways can be used for many bodweight exercises - ideas
include bent dips and incline pushups
Equipment, page 7

Straight bar / horizontal bar - if it is low enough, it can be used for horizontal pullups
(bodyweight rows)
Equipment, page 8

Perpendicular bars ("V bars") at a public park - can be used for "V bar dips”
Equipment, page 9

Various types of bars and rails can be found in urban environments; of course, make
sure you have permission to exercise or that it is a public space
Equipment, page 10

Pinch grip hold using a log on a barn. Try building up time with each arm and/or
performing "pinch grip" bodyweight rows.
Equipment, page 10

Rafters can be used for a variety of bodyweight exercises that improve grip strength.
View the article “Minimalist Grip Work” in this guide or view the “Bodyweight Grip
Work” page on the site.
https://www.opensourceathletics.org/minimalist-training/grip-work
Hand balancing for strength and skill – "quick start guide"

Mechanics and Variables

Alignment / posture
Points of contact
Wide or narrow base
Back arched or flat
With or without wall
Use of equipment or found objects
Partner assistance
Hand walking (on floor or up stairs)
Awareness of how your body is moving in space and relative to your environment
Shifting your center of gravity as needed for variations of exercises
Ways to get into and out of a handstand
Skill progressions, partner cues, and spotting are necessary in the learning stages.
Kick up
Straddle up
Pike up
Tripod up
On rings, parallettes, parallel bars
Pirouette out
Kick out
Back or forward roll out

Strength and Skill Progressions


Other progressions may be developed and/or used as needed.

Midsection holds
Planche
Elbow lever
Handstand pushups

Partner cues
Use your own creativity, experience, and expertise to make up your own partner cues.
Imagine a straight line (placement of line will depend on variation)
Look at a certain point (wall, floor, toes, etc.)
Keep pushing through your hands
Keep your feet lined up with your hands (spot trainee and manually adjust technique)
Street Workout – minimalist training, anywhere!

My references for this article:


On Street Workout by Danny Kavadlo -
http://pccblog.dragondoor.com/on-street-workout/

Street workout – Wikipedia article -


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Street_workout

A "street workout" involves practicing minimalist calisthenics and athletics in


outdoor parks and public facilities. Street workouts can be very difficult and effective,
without requiring a single cent – your body is the only machine you need! Not only can
it be healthy and beneficial, it can also be done almost anywhere with some creativity
and knowledge of the principles of progression.

The modern fitness industry preaches isolated movements, useless gadgets, and
expensive machines, and ineffective training methodologies. Don’t fall into this trap!
One does not have to spend a cent on gadgets, machines, overpriced supplements, or
gym memberships. Also, instead of isolating muscles, such as leg extensions, learn to
use them together with compound movements that use the body as a cohesive unit,
which is how it was designed to work. By recruiting more muscles, you build greater
overall strength and improve neuromuscular efficiency, which is essential to athletics.
Strength is a skill – just look at gymnasts!

The artistry and freedom of personal expression in street workouts is another


great, and very satisfying, benefit. It’s gratifying and impressive to be able to pull off a
human flag, gymnastics style pullover, or other high skill / high strength moves almost
anywhere! Street workouts, while often very difficult and rewarding, are also a lot of fun!
What’s better than going outside and having a sense of play about your workout? Lastly,
there is also a great sense of community and kinship amongst street workout
enthusiasts. It’s amazing and rewarding to be able to share the adventure and creativity
with your "bar brothers and sisters"!

There is an endless variety of exercises one can practice in a street workout. It is


only limited by your imagination, knowledge of progression, and where you find
yourself. There is a lot in common with progressive calisthenics – many different
dynamic movements (pullups, dips, squats, etc.) and static holds (levers, bridges, etc.)
are practiced.
Street Workout, page 2

Calisthenics

Pulling exercises and other uses for bars


Hand rails, monkey bars, jungle gyms, parallel bars, and even overhead bars in
batting cages can be used for many, many exercises. These include grip training, various
types of pullups, pullovers, rollovers, dips on parallel bars or a horizontal bar, front lever
and back lever variations, variations of hanging leg raises, and other types of midsection
work.

Hand rails are great for horizontal pullups, aka Australian pullups, inverted rows,
and bodyweight rows. Hang grip holds can be practiced from any bar that you do
pullups on. Monkey bars are amazing for building a powerful, explosive grip as well as
athletic skills.

Monkey bars – a few ideas


Hanging leg raises
Parallel grip pullups
Front lever progression
Back lever progression

Various flags – clutch flag, human flag, dragon flag


Clutch flags and human flags can be practiced anywhere you can find a sturdy
horizontal base that you can wrap your arms or hands around, such as light poles,
smaller trees, playground equipment, and so forth. Dragon flags can be practiced
anywhere you can find a bench. Flags are amazing for building overall body strength,
especially in the lateral chain, shoulders, arms, and abs.

Pushing exercises

Dips can be practiced on parallel bars, between two sturdy objects – such as park
tables or chairs, or using a single chair or table. There is a seemingly infinite number of
pushup variations. Some of my favorites are deep pushups, decline pushups, weighted
pushups, one arm pushups, and partner resisted pushups. A variation of decline
pushups is called Marion pushups, where you get into a pushup position with your feet
against a wall. To make the exercise harder, move your feet a little further up the wall.
Once you have built up strength in pushups, start exploring ways to move to
unilateral work (one arm pushups) and/or planches. Work up to HSPUs (handstand
pushups) by putting time into pushups and basic hand balancing skills.
Street Workout, page 3

Here is an example progression.

Close / diamond pushups – build up to 2 sets of 15-20 or 3 sets of 8-12


Frog stand – build up to 30 seconds
Tripod – build up to 30 seconds
Headstand against wall – build up to a minute
Pike handstand – build up to a minute
Pike handstand with feet elevated – build up to two minutes
Handstand against wall – build up to two minutes
One-half pike handstand pushups – build up to 2 sets of 15-20 or 3 sets of 8-12
Pike handstand pushups – same
Pike handstand pushups with feet elevated – build up to 2 sets of 12-15 or 3 sets
of 8-12
One-half handstand pushups against wall – same as above
Perform HSPUs against the wall at first or with a spotter. Do them with hands at
shoulder width until you build up to at least 2 sets of 12 -15 or 3 sets of 8-12.

Hand balancing
Short list of ideas for hand balancing -
Frog stand, headstand, handstand, handstand to bridge, wall walking to
handstand, L-sit, elbow lever, planche

You hold yourself parallel to the ground in elbow levers. Unlike the planche,
though, you use your elbows as support points for your body, making it much easier
then the planche. Any sturdy horizontal base or even hand rails or other bars can be
used for practicing exercises in an elbow lever progression. There isn’t a direct carryover
of strength between the elbow lever and planche, but practicing elbow levers does help a
lot with improving balance for planches. Elbow levers could also be used to help learn
how to hold tension for flags.

Planches require a great deal of upper body strength and balance. The idea is that
you try to hold your body parallel to the ground. You can use parallettes, parallel bars,
any sturdy horizontal base, hand rails, or even the ground! Straight arm handstand
presses and pseudo planche pushups are two exercises that are useful in building
strength for the planche.

Midsection
L-sits, planks, levers, leg raises (flat or hanging leg raises, knee tucks, partner
resisted etc)

Lower body
Squats, lunges, plyometrics, sprints, hill sprints, car or truck pushing, partner
resisted exercises, park bench exercises, tire training, etc.
Street Workout, page 4

Bridging
Bridge curls, partner assistance, partner resisted bridges
Backbends, wall bridges, back walkover – have at least one spotter

This isn’t a comprehensive list of minimalist calisthenics, but hopefully it gives


you a lot of great ideas! Keep it progressive, safe, and fun!

Progressions

Progression charts and Convict Conditioning Super FAQ (includes workouts):


https://archive.org/details/Convict-Conditioning-Charts
https://www.dragondoor.com/pdf/Convict_Conditioning_SUPER_FAQ.pdf

Training books and manuals:


https://archive.org/details/JackDempseyChampionshipFighting
https://archive.org/details/FM_21-20_Physical_Fitness_Training
https://archive.org/details/MoldingAMightyGrip
https://www.dieselcrew.com/articles-pdf/dieselHMGD.pdf

Print out a set of charts to post on a wall, and/or put document(s) of choice on a
mobile device for quick reference.

Francesco Vaccaro has created playlists for the "Big 6" progressions of Convict
Conditioning. These progressions are similar to mine. Find him on YouTube or visit his
playlist page – https://www.youtube.com/user/dragonflowyoga/playlists

Similar YouTube channel -


https://www.youtube.com/user/ConvictConditioning/playlists

Support the author of Convict Conditioning by ordering a copy of the book. I


don’t make a cent recommending it. The book contains a wealth of information about
bodyweight training, and hey, he’s got bills to pay, like the rest of us.
https://www.dragondoor.com/b41/

Athletics, lifting, and more

Sprints, hill sprints, sports / agility drills, partner work (wrestling style
pummeling, partner assisted or resisted exercises, etc.)

Found object / odd object lifting – park bench exercises, car or truck pushing, tire
training, hammer training, stone training, etc.

The Encyclopedia of Underground Strength and Conditioning by Zach Even-Esh


includes a variety of exercises for odd objects, as well as workouts.
https://www.dragondoor.com/b76/
Street Workout, page 5

Parkour
Parkour can be practiced anywhere, but usually in urban areas, and essentially
treats the training area as an obstacle course. The goal is to go from point a to point b in
as efficient manner as possible. It requires all around strength, agility, technique, and
explosiveness. Fortunately, there are plenty of great training drills as well as facilities
that one can visit to receive competent instruction in this art.

My reference – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkour

Free Parkour ebook -

http://www.bodyweightbundle.com/pdf/essential-parkour-techniques-ebook.pdf

"Where do I start?"
The first thing to do is set training goals. Do some research on the listed
progressions and select at least one goal each for pushing, pulling, legs, abs, and statics.
Try to be consistent with workouts, and that balance out exercises – at least one pushing
exercise and at least one pulling exercise, for instance. Beginners should keep workouts
simple, and train 1 or 2 times per week until endurance has improved. Full body
workouts are recommended. Find a competent instructor, personal trainer, or coach
with experience in calisthenics and/or gymnastics.

List of training goals (includes PDF download link):


http://chrissalvato.com/2009/12/skill-guidelines-for-building-strong-useful-
adaptable-athletes/

Routines
There is a potentially unlimited number of workouts you can put together, from
beginner to advanced. Below is an example advanced routine using only park benches.
Take a short rest between sets and between exercises (1 to 2 minutes, or 2 to 3 minutes,
depending on goals).

Advanced Park Bench Workout – pushing / abdominals


Incline one arm pushups – 2 to 3 sets of 6-10
Dragon flag – 2 to 3 sets of 6-10
Parallel dips between two benches – 2 to 3 sets of 6-10
Raised tuck planche (between two benches) - 2 to 3 sets of 6-10 seconds
Bodyweight triceps extensions – 2 to 3 sets of 8-12

The site below also has a solid routine:


https://ironandgrit.com/2017/08/18/beginner-street-workout/

Find a calisthenics park near you – https://calisthenics-parks.com/


Calisthenics Progressions

You do not have to work with every exercise in a progression in order to become
proficient at that progression. The order of exercises does not have to be strictly adhered
to. While there are no prescribed repetition goals in the progression charts, the articles
linked below provide guidance on goals. Also, the additional progression charts that are
linked below contain repetition goals. Send or download documents of choice to a
mobile device for quick reference.

List of training goals with a PDF download link:


http://chrissalvato.com/2009/12/skill-guidelines-for-building-strong-useful-
adaptable-athletes/

The Convict Conditioning "Big 6" progressions are similar to some of the
progressions on following pages. As such, the following resources may be useful.

Convict Conditioning progression charts and videos:


https://archive.org/details/ConvictConditioningCharts
https://www.youtube.com/user/dragonflowyoga/videos
https://www.youtube.com/user/ConvictConditioning/playlists

Convict Conditioning Super FAQ, which also includes workouts


https://www.dragondoor.com/pdf/Convict_Conditioning_SUPER_FAQ.pdf

Alternative charts – pictures included:


https://archive.org/details/TheConvictConditioningCheatSheetPullUps
https://archive.org/details/TheConvictConditioningCheatSheetPushUps
https://archive.org/details/TheConvictConditioningCheatSheetSquats

This article contains sections on sets and reps, as well as routine construction:
http://stevenlow.org/the-fundamentals-of-bodyweight-strength-training/

List of progressions in order:


Pushup progression
Pullup progression
Leg raise progression
Squat progression
Bridging progression
Handstand pushup progression
Horizontal pullup progression
Dipping progression
Midsection hold progression
Back lever progression
Front lever progression
Dragon flag progression
Pushup progression
Wall pushups
Incline pushups
Kneeling pushups
Pushups (full pushups)
One leg pushups
Close pushups
Uneven pushups
Lever pushups
Archer pushups
One arm incline pushups
One arm kneeling pushups
Straddle one arm pushups
Gecko pushups (one arm with opposite leg up)
Snake one arm pushups
Ultimate one arm pushups (legs together, no twisting out)

Pullup progression
Straight / standing pullups (vertical pulls)
Angled pullups
Leg assisted pullups
Horizontal pullups
Leg elevated pullups (jackknife)
Partner assisted pullups
Pullups (aka full pullups)
Close grip pullups
Commando pullups
Diagonal (side to side) pullups
Round the worlds
Uneven pullups
Archer pullups
Leg assisted one arm pullups
Leg elevated one arm pullups
Partner one arm pullups
Self assisted one arm pullups
One arm pullups

Pullup flex hangs (isometrics) and negatives (eccentrics) can be very useful in
working up to the next exercise in a progression. A negative is the lowering phase of an
exercise. Variations of dead hangs and scapular pullups may also be useful in
progressing to a harder exercise.
Leg raise progression
Remedial: six inches and supine hollow body hold

Seated knee tucks


Bicycles (floor)
Flat knee raises
Flat bent leg raises
Flat straight leg raises (one leg)
Flat straight leg raises
Hanging bicycles
Hanging knee raises
Hanging frog raises
Hanging leg raises
Reverse frogs
Hanging frog raise to pike lift
Pike lifts (full ROM hanging leg lifts – toes to bar)
Solid rollovers

You can hold the bottom position or another position of an exercise, such as pike
or L. Parallel bars or park benches may be used instead of a bar for some leg raises.

Reverse frogs – leg raise to L-hold, tuck knees in to the upper arms or elbows,
reverse

Pike lifts – basically toes-ons / full range of motion leg lifts; drill flexibility for
this

Solid rollover – this exercise is a harder variation of the chinup pullover and
should be completed as one smooth movement. Grab onto a high overhead bar, and
from a dead hang, perform a full range of motion leg raise, move into inverse front hang.
From there, pull with the arms until your hips are on the bar. Complete the exercise by
bending at the hips, rolling over the bar, and straightening up your upper body into
front support position.

Remedial exercises: you can pattern abdominal and full body tension through
two very short and easy to learn drills. One drill is rolling from a pushup position to a
"hollow" leaning plank, and the other is moving from "six inches" to "supine hollow
body hold". If you find it difficult to hold the plank, regress it by placing your hands on a
chair or bench. Try to hold it for at least 10 to 15 seconds.
Squat progression
Shoulderstand squats
Jackknife squats
Partner squats
Self-assisted squats (supported)
Parallel squats
Full squats
Close squats
Cossack squats
Split squats
Elevated split squats
Shrimp squats
Raised one leg squats
Partner-assisted pistols
Bench pistols
Self-assisted pistols
Press pistols
Pistols
Wushu pistols

"Pistols" is another name for one leg squats with the off leg in front.

Bridging progression
Remedial stretches: seal stretch, cat stretch, camel backbend

Short bridge hold


Short bridge
Table bridge (tabletop)
Table bridge pushups
Straight bridge
Straight bridge pushups
Wall bridge
Angled bridge
Angled bridge pushups
Head bridge
Head bridge pushups
Full bridge
Full bridge pushups
One leg bridge
One arm bridge
Gecko bridge
Wall walking
Closing bridge (backbend)
Stand-to-stand bridge
Handstand pushup progression
Wall headstand
Partner headstand
Tripod headstand
Frog stand
Crow stand
Wall handstand
Handstand wall walking
Pike pushups
Elevated pike pushups
Decline pushups (chair or bench)
Decline pushups (wall)
Jackknife pushups (90°)
Partner HSPU
Wall supported HSPU
Reverse HSPU
Reverse HSPU with hands close
Full pike pushups
Full jackknife pushups
Full HSPU

HSPU stands for handstand pushups. "Full" means to perform the exercise at a
full range of motion, by using parallettes, two park benches, or two plyo boxes. Elevate
your feet as well during full pike pushups. Your back will be facing the wall in Wall
handstand and Wall supported HSPU. Perform these with your hands at shoulder width.
Your abdomen faces the wall in Handstand wall walking and Reverse HSPU. Also
perform these with your hands at shoulder width. Additional exercises that are helpful:
handstand shrugs, full extension pushups
Horizontal pullup progression
Standing pullups (aka vertical pulls)
Angled pullups
Horizontal pullups with bent legs
Horizontal pullups
One leg horizontal pullups
Diagonal horizontal pullups
Archer horizontal pullups
One arm horizontal pullups with bent legs
One arm horizontal pullups
Tuck front lever pullups
Front lever pullups

This progression includes only variations of horizontal pullups, also known as


bodyweight rows. These exercises help build the arms, shoulders, and upper back,
although the lats still get plenty of work. This progression can be used in place of, or
supplement, the previous pullup progression.

Dipping progression
Bent dips (knees bent)
Straight dips (knees straight)
Feet-elevated dips
Self-assisted parallel dips
Partner-assisted parallel dips
Parallel dips
V bar dips (perpendicular bar dips)
Straight bar dips (horizontal bar)

Midsection hold progression


"Six inches"
Supine hollow body hold
Lying jackknife hold
Bent leg pike hold
Pike hold / V-up hold
Raised bent leg hold
Raised straight leg hold
Raised N-hold
Raised uneven N-hold
Raised L-hold
N-hold on floor
Uneven N-hold on floor
L-hold
Back lever progression
Hang unders
German drop
German hang (also known as "skin the cat")
Inverse pike
Inverse pike raises
Inverse back hang
Diagonal back lever
Curled tuck back lever
Flat tuck back lever
Straddle back lever
Bent leg back lever (half lay back lever)
One leg back lever
Back lever (full lay back lever)

Front lever progression


3 point hang
Inverse front hang
Upside down deadlift
Diagonal front lever
Curled tuck front lever
Advanced tuck front lever
One leg front lever
Frog front lever
Piked straddle front lever
Straddle front lever
Bent leg front lever (half lay front lever)
Horizontal front lever raise
Full ROM front lever raise
Front lever (full lay front lever)

Prerequisites: Before starting the back lever or front lever progressions, you
should be strong at pullups, as well as midsection holds or hanging exercises from the
leg raise progression.

Dragon flag progression


Dragon flag negatives
Dragon flag holds (isometrics)
Tuck Dragon flag
Bent leg Dragon flag
Dragon flag

Prerequisite: Before starting this progression, you should be strong at flat straight
leg raises (leg raise progression) and pike holds (midsection hold progression).
Advanced goals beyond the progressions
High level calisthenics skills and feats of strength
ROM = Range of motion; HSPU = Handstand pushups; Full HSPU = full ROM HSPU

“Go beyond” the progressions by working towards one or more of these difficult
bodyweight exercises. You do not have to work with an entire progression before
training for a high level skill or feat of strength. Each goal will still have, of course, a
requisite level of strength and technical proficiency.

Pushups – Ultimate one arm pushups, decline one arm pushups, elbow lever
Pullups – pinch grip pullups from rafters and other feats; see the “Minimalist
Grip Work” article for more information and goals
Leg raises – progressions for Dragon flag, Front lever, and Human flag
Dragon Flag – Shoulder flag, Front lever progression, Human flag progression
Squatting – Jumbo shrimp squats (standing on a chair or other sturdy raised
surface for greater range of motion), Dragon squats
Bridging – Bridge kickover, back walkover, more difficult back tumbling skills
(such as back handspring)
Dipping – Korean dips, Impossible dips, muscleups
Clutch flag and human flag - clutch lever, human flag pullups and typewriters
Karate Approach to Calisthenics progressions – Bruce Lee Pushups (one arm
fingertip pushups on just the thumb and index finger), one arm wrist pushups, one arm
knuckle pushups, Jackie Chan pushups, advanced bridging exercises, advanced
squatting exercises, additional explosive calisthenics progressions, higher level kicking
skills and drills
Handstand pushups – Pure strength development without the high requirements
for balance, with the goal of a wall-supported one arm HSPU

Potential one arm handstand pushup progression after Full HSPU:


Uneven pike pushups
Uneven jackknife pushups
Uneven HSPU
Lever pike pushups
Lever jackknife pushups
Lever HSPU
Archer pike pushups
Archer jackknife pushups
Archer HSPU
One arm pike pushups
Partner assisted one arm HSPU
One arm HSPU (theoretically impossible)

You may also explore hand balancing and tumbling skills rather than strength.
This includes, but is not limited to, goals such as: planche, press to handstand, hand
walking up stairs, frog press to handstand, one arm handstand, and one arm elbow lever
A third option is a combination of the handstand pushup progression and a hand
balancing progression, up to free standing HSPU or other high level goal
Advanced goals, page 2

View video tutorials of many of these skills on the Google Sites version of this article -
https://www.opensourceathletics.org/calisthenics/progressions/advanced-goals

Free resource – skill guidelines (PDF download link included) -


http://chrissalvato.com/2009/12/skill-guidelines-for-building-strong-useful-
adaptable-athletes/
Calisthenics tutorials

While this article is not comprehensive, the Google Sites version includes videos.
https://www.opensourceathletics.org/calisthenics/tutorials

Progressions

Pushup progression

Tougheners include – hands closer together, transitional work (working towards


one arm pushups), performing pushups in a declined position, performing slow reps

Regressions include – less range of motion, perform pushups with hands on a


safe, sturdy object (higher objects are easier, lower objects are harder)

Tutorials -

Wall pushups – Place your palms on the wall, with your hands at about the level
of your shoulders. Your arms should be straight and shoulder width apart. Keep your
back straight and your feet together. Bend your shoulders and elbow slowly until you are
about an inch or two from touching your forehead or chest to the wall. Push away from
the wall, back to the start position. Remember to perform repetitions at a slow cadence.
Hands should be at about shoulder height and shoulder width. Keep the body braced.
Breathe in going down, and out when moving back up.

Incline pushups – use a chair, bench, bed, solid fencing, work surface, or any
other safe object or furniture. It should be solid enough to hold you up during the
exercise. A higher incline makes the exercise easier, and a lower incline makes the
exercise harder. You can gradually use lower and lower objects until you are performing
pushups on the floor. If possible, start with a safe, sturdy object or raised surface that is
about hip height.

Start with your feet together and your body kept in a straight line as you practice
this exercise. To get into the start position, lean over and place your hands on the object.
Your arms should be straight and shoulder width apart. Keep your back straight and
your feet together. Bend your shoulders and elbow slowly until you are about an inch or
two from touching your forehead or chest to the object. Push away from it, back to the
start position.

Kneeling pushups – Keep the body in a straight line from the shoulders to the
knees. You can check your form by straightening the knees and feeling out whether your
body is in a straight line, then simply bending your knees until they touch the floor
again. If your waist is bent, you can rock forward slightly and flex the hips until your
body is aligned. It helps to squeeze the glutes as you straighten your back. Keep your
core tight throughout. A training partner or coach can also help cue you in to correct
form.
Calisthenics tutorials, page 2

Full pushups – maintain a tight back and core so that you do not "sag". Imagine a
straight line from your neck to your shins.

Close pushups – thumbs and index fingers touching. You can progress from full
pushups to close pushups by moving your hands slightly closer each workout.

Uneven pushups – get into pushup position, then support yourself on one arm as
you put your other hand on a small, solid object or short elevation. Bricks, pushup
handles, a basketball, the first step of a porch, and so on work quite well. Make sure you
have both arms directly below your shoulders so that you are stable. Keep your weight
evenly distributed between both hands, and bend the elbows and shoulders until your
chest touches the top of the hand on the object. holding on to the basketball. Pause for a
second, then push back up. This is one repetition. Make sure to work both sides equally.

I recommend using a brick for this exercise. Once you build strength in this
exercise, you can add another brick to make it harder. Build up to using three bricks.
Once you feel strong enough in uneven pushups, start using a basketball, which makes it
harder, since you have to stabilize the ball during the exercise.

You can progress from uneven pushups to lever pushups by gradually moving
away from the object each workout by straightening the arm out more. Once you can
perform the progression standard for lever pushups, start working archer pushups ("off
hand" not elevated).

Incline one arm pushups – you can gradually use lower and lower objects until
you are performing one arm pushups on the floor. If possible, start with a safe, sturdy
object or raised surface that is about hip height.

Archer pushups – regressions include bending the straight arm.

Straddle one arm pushups – Keep the core engaged and back tight. Gradually
move the feet closer together and reduce "twisting" each workout if possible.

Ultimate one arm pushup – legs together, as little "twisting out" as possible when
pushing up.
Calisthenics tutorials, page 3

Pullup progression

Tougheners include – hands closer together, transitional work (working towards


one arm pullups), performing slow reps

Regressions include – less range of motion

Tutorials -

Standing pullups

Start with an overhand grip and imagine you're rowing a boat as you practice.
The imagery isn't as important as the mechanical principle you're trying to drill. The
idea is that you're gripping and "rowing the boat" into your armpits with each finger and
the thumbs.
Activate the shoulders as you do this and try to get the entire chain of muscles
involved in the movement. Have someone put the fingers of one of his or her hands
between your shoulder blades to spot you. Try to squeeze his or her fingers with your
shoulder blades as you start a repetition of the exercise. Try to pull the bar into your
sternum as you pull your elbows into your armpits.
Also focus on gripping hard with the little fingers as you pull into the bar.
Imagine that you're trying to "corkscrew" your hands through the bar and turn your
palms up (supination of the wrists). This will help you recruit more muscles.
Keep the hips locked out and the midsection braced throughout the movement,
especially the negative portion. Take a deep breath in through the nose before pulling
into the bar (positive), hold the "flexed" position for 1 second (focus on bracing), and
exhale from the navel as you reverse the "corkscrew" motion and return from the bar
(negative).
Remember to maintain bracing and muscular coordination at every part of the
movement. These basic tips will help you with the rest of the progression. The next
exercise involves you stepping your feet under the bar some and trying to get "hollowed
out" at a 45 degree angle to the floor, or close enough. This makes the exercise harder.
The closer you get to fully horizontal and under the bar, the harder.

Angled pullups are done with your body at about a 45 degree angle to the ground.
Aim for at least a few reps in as hollow a position as you can.

Horizontal pullups are done with your body below the bar and hollowed out.
Make the exercise harder by getting parallel to the ground (you can use a block, folded
up cheese or similar to put your feet on) and/or by using a lower bar (perhaps lower a
bar at gymnastics). To make the exercise easier, use a higher bar (perhaps raise a bar at
gymnastics) and/or bend at the knees (this gives you a better position for pushing down
through the legs to assist the movement).
Calisthenics tutorials, page 4

Once you become proficient with horizontal pullups, perform them with an
underhand grip and the hands next to each other. Perform them normally (elbows into
armpits and so forth) until you become proficient with this variation. This will help
build up the biceps. Once you feel good about these, move on to harder exercises.
Remember the same lessons you learned about breathing, bracing, grip, and pulling into
your armpits.

Have a partner assist you with pullups, or perform leg assisted pullups. Either
variation will help you strengthen and learn how to engage the lats. The key point to
remember is to still pull your elbows down into your armpits. Imagine you're trying to
pull the bar into your chest.

With leg assisted pullups, use a bar low enough that you can at least partially
squat down while holding onto the bar. You will want your elbows and shoulders to be
fully extended. Stand straight up as you pull your elbows straight down into your
armpits. As you get stronger, pull more with your arms. Remember to not push away
from the bar at any point so that the exercise does not revert to a variation of horizontal
pullups. The motion should be strictly up and down.

Once you feel comfortable with this, move on to bent leg "jackknife" pullups.
From a leg assisted pullup position, keep your hands on the bar and move your feet
forward. The thighs should be parallel to the ground and the heels should be planted.
Ideally, your shins will be perpendicular (90 degree angle) to your thighs. Your legs can
still assist with the motion, but put more of the focus on pulling straight down through
your arms.
Also feel free to ask a partner to give you a spot between the shoulders. If you are
having trouble with this exercise, even with a spot, try at least one of these: 1) ask for a
heavier spot; 2) go back to horizontal pullups and perform the reps very slowly, with a
focus on holding the "flexed" position at the top for a few seconds (train this with
different hand positions)
Once you feel proficient with this exercise, fully extend the knees. If the bar is low
enough, or you have something safe and sturdy to place your heels on, you can get your
body into a full "jackknife" position (hips are bent at a 90 degree angle). Using a higher
bar will make the exercise easier, as long as your feet are still in contact with the floor at
the top (fully flexed) portion of the movement. Not elevating your feet will also make the
exercise easier, since they are in a better position to assist, as you push through your
heels.
Elevating the legs higher than horizontal makes the exercise harder, as the legs
are not in a good position to assist. You will have to focus even more on pulling down
through your lats. Using a lower bar can also make the exercise harder, as long as you
are able to fully extend the elbows and shoulders at the bottom position of the
movement.
Start with your feet on the floor. At first, keep your feet in contact with the floor
throughout the entirety of this exercise. Try to fully master this exercise before adding
the next "toughener".
Calisthenics tutorials, page 5

Make sure you do not push away from the bar when using your legs to assist. If
you are having trouble with this, and have a training partner or coach that you are very
comfortable with, you could ask him or her to spot you. What he or she will do is place a
hand on each side of your ribcage and help you stay vertical. He or she should cue you to
pull straight down and bring your elbows into your armpits. He or she could instead
place one or both hands on your back and give you the same cues as he or she pushes
straight up.

The next "toughener" is to only push down through your heels during the bottom
portion of the upwards phase and allow the feet to hang down (if possible) or tuck the
feet under you as you ascend. This will make the exercise closer to a full pullup without
self assistance. A training partner or coach can give you a light or heavy spot behind
your shoulders or torso, or give you a spot under your ankles as you ascend. Build up to
doing 2 sets of 10 repetitions this way.

Uneven pullups – grasp the bar tightly with one hand, and the off hand will will
grasp the wrist of the working arm. The elbow of the off hand will naturally be bent
much more than that of the working arm. The thumb of the supporting hand will be just
below the opposite palm, with the fingers below the back of the hanging hand. Both
elbows will be out in front of you. Use your off hand to help perform pullups this way.
Make sure to perform the same number of reps on each side. Because you are
supporting your body weight from one hand during uneven pullups, practicing them
helps you to begin transitioning to one arm pullups. If you find it hard to keep hold of
the bar, go back a step in the progression, and build up your sets and reps. I also
recommend practicing some hanging grip work.

Self assisted one arm pullups – hold on to a vertical base with your free hand
(such as the vertical pole of a pullup unit). Keeping the assisting hand closer to you
makes it easier to push downwards, as does keeping it higher. You could instead use a
towel looped over the bar. As you get stronger at this exercise, lower the assisting arm
and/or have it further away from the working arm. Work up to only pushing through the
concentric sticking point with the assisting arm. Using a towel or rope for self assistance
makes the exercise harder, as either would be an unstable "base" to push downwards on.
Another way to make the exercise harder is keeping an L-hold position with the legs
during the exercise.
Calisthenics tutorials, page 6

Leg raise progression

Tougheners include – straight legs, hanging exercises, support hold variations,


full range of motion in hanging exercises, combinations with front lever, adding lateral
movement

Regressions include – partial range of motion, perform "frog leg raises", raise one
leg at a time

Tutorials -

A remedial exercise – if you're deconditioned, you may want to start with a static
hold called "six inches", where you lay flat on your back, with legs extended and knees
straight. Then, lift your feet a few inches off the floor and hold for time. This will gently
condition your abdominals and get you used to the start position for leg raises.

Flat knee raises – lie back flat on the floor, put your legs together, and your arms
down by your side. Bend your knees at about 90 degrees, and keep the feet a few inches
of the ground. Press hard on the floor using your hands if needed, to keep your body
stable. From there, bring your knees up smoothly until they are over your hips, and
exhale as you do this.

Pause briefly, slowly lower your feet to the start position, and make sure to inhale
as you do this. Keep your abdominals tight, and your knees at a 90 degree angle
throughout the exercise. If this is too hard at first, raise one knee at the time, then the
other. Once you can perform knee raises for 2 sets of 20, straighten your legs out a little
each workout until you can perform straight leg raises.

Hanging knee raises – Slowly raise your legs as far as you can. As your abs get
stronger you can increase your range of motion in this exercise, until you are doing full
range of motion leg raises (where you touch your feet or shins to the bar).

Reverse frogs – leg raise to L-hold, tuck knees in to the upper arms or elbows,
reverse

Pike lifts – basically toes-ons / full range of motion leg lifts; drill flexibility for
this

Solid rollover – this exercise is a harder variation of the chinup pullover and
should be completed as one smooth movement. Grab onto a high overhead bar, and
from a dead hang, perform a full range of motion leg raise, move into inverse front hang.
From there, pull with the arms until your hips are on the bar. Complete the exercise by
bending at the hips, rolling over the bar, and straightening up your upper body into
front support position.
Calisthenics tutorials, page 7

"Support hold" leg raises – many leg raise exercises can be performed in a
support hold position using parallel bars that are at least about waist height.
Alternatives include two park benches or plyo boxes that are the same height, a safe and
sturdy chair with arm rests, a low pullup bar, and any safe and sturdy raised surface that
allows you enough room to perform leg raises. It is recommended to become proficient
with the midsection hold progression before performing leg raises from support.

Squat progression

Do not allow the knees to buckle inward during squats. Also, do not rush to build
range of motion. The knees can be prone to injury, so allow them time to adapt and use
proper technique.

Tutorials -

Shoulderstand squats

This is the first exercise in the squat progression, but it may be quite difficult at
first due to the position your body is in. Continue working on the shoulderstand position
and getting accustomed to it. Over time you will build flexibility and endurance in
shoulderstand squats.

1st level: place a cushion under your lower back and work on the bottom position.
Also place a cushion under your neck and shoulders, if needed. It may take time to
develop the flexibility needed to get your knees down to head or shoulder level. Ask a
qualified coach or strong training partner to gently support you. Hold the deepest
position you can for at least a few seconds, and slowly roll into a lying down position
when you are done. Make sure you don’t "crash" down onto your training surface.
2nd level: press up into the top position. Get as straight as possible and build up
to at least 30 seconds. If needed, use a cushion and have someone support you. Fold
down slowly into the bottom position when you are done and safely return your back to
the floor.
3rd level: get into the top position, then fold into the bottom position, and press
back up again. This is one repetition of shoulderstand squats. Gradually build up
repetitions.

Keep the back fairly straight as you bend at the knees. The arms should help
support you throughout the movement. Maintain tension in the back and legs, even at
the bottom position. The goal is to touch the backs of your thighs to your calves. If you
are not quite this flexible, try to go at least an inch or two deeper each week.
Calisthenics tutorials, page 8

Jackknife squats
Stand in front of a chair, table, or something similar that comes up to about the
level of your knees. Make sure it is safe and sturdy. Your legs should be straight and
shoulder width apart. Bend forward at the waist and lightly rest your palms on the
object. This will put some of the load onto your upper body, thus making the squats a bit
easier on your legs. It also helps maintain balance.

Squat down as deeply as you can without pain. This is the bottom position. Press
down through your hands and heels to return to the top position. This is one repetition.
Try to squat down further each week until the backs of your thighs touch your calves in
the bottom position. If you're having trouble making it out of the bottom position, use a
little more arm strength to take some of the load off your legs as you come out of the
bottom position. As you build leg strength, you will rely less on your arms.

Keep your heels planted throughout the exercise. This stretches out your ankles.
Improving ankle flexibility will help to master the lowest position of a full squat. Keep
your back straight throughout the exercise and don’t bounce. This helps to prevent
injury and builds good habits for later exercises.

Once you feel comfortable working with this type of squat, start using a higher
object – such as a desk, back of a chair, or similar. Again, your legs should be straight
and about shoulder width apart, with your arms out straight, holding on to your object
of choice.

A harder variation of this exercise includes a stretch, and requires no equipment.


Stand up straight with your feet at about shoulder width apart. Keep your back and
knees straight as you bend forward at the waist. Try to touch your feet with your hands,
but it is fine if you can’t do this just yet. Just go as far as you can without pain. When
you reach your limit, bend at the knees as much as you can.

Self-assisted squats (supported squats)


Performance is similar to the previous exercise, but the legs carry more of your
weight. Ideally, use a sturdy object about the height of your chest or solar plexus. As you
bend at the waist and knees, keep your back straight, and try to touch your lower legs to
your calves. This will be the bottom position. As you stand back up, press down with
your hands.

You can also hold onto a door frame, hand rail, low bar, or an overhead bar that is
low enough to allow you to get into a deep squat.

As your strength and balance improve, try different hand positions.


Calisthenics tutorials, page 9

Full squats – Stand with your feet at shoulder width apart, and squat down as far
as possible, with your upper body aligned, then return to standing position. Make sure
your knees bend outwards and that your heels remain on the floor throughout the
exercise.

Cossack squats

This is the first movement in the squat progression that puts more load on one
leg than the other. Start standing, and move your feet outside of shoulder width. Your
feet should be kept in a straight line from one another. Turn at the waist to one side, flex
the same side foot upwards, and bend at the opposite knee. For example, if you turn
your upper body to your right, you will bend your left knee and point the toes of the
right foot up. Continue bending at the knee, and also bend at the waist, as you keep your
back as straight as possible. Get as low to your training surface as flexibility allows.
Press through the heel of the bent leg as you return to the initial stance. Perform a
Cossack squat on the other side. Perform an equal number of Cossack squats on each
leg.

Tougheners: 1) Elevate the back foot, such as placing it on a bench. 2) As you


begin standing up from the bottom position, lift the back leg off the ground, instead of
using that leg to help you stand. Start performing another squat as you gently return the
back foot to the ground. This variation can be helpful in working towards further
exercises in the squat progression. Feel free to use a sturdy object for support at first. 3)
As your balance improves, try different hand positions.

Split squats – to progress from split squats to shrimp squats, gradually press
through the back foot less, until you are performing squats with one leg.

Shrimp squats – from standing, raise one foot up behind you by bending at the
knee, and "find" it with the same side hand. Gently pull the foot in as close as possible to
the upper leg. Bend at the knee of the standing leg and at the waist. The goal is to bring
the knee of the other leg close to the ground. It is fine to squat to parallel at first (thigh
of standing leg parallel to ground), and gradually build range of motion. If you feel the
need to work on balance in this position or throughout the squat, use a sturdy object or
wall for support. Even with support, however, maintain a straight back throughout the
exercise. Work both legs equally.

Regression: As you are squatting down, let go of the foot and gently place the ball
of the foot on the ground. This will look like the bottom position of a split squat. As you
stand back up, pull your foot in with your hand again as early as you can with good form.

Toughener: Perform the exercise on a sturdy raised surface or a safe and sturdy
object. The goal is to get the knee of the off leg below the surface or object that you are
using. The increased range of motion can make the exercise considerably tougher. This
variation is called Jumbo Shrimp Squat.
Calisthenics tutorials, page 10

Raised one leg squats

Regressions include – lower objects / surfaces

Tougheners include – higher objects / surfaces, raise the off leg

Tutorial -

Stand parallel to a safe, sturdy object or raised surface. Plant one foot on it and
leave the other foot planted on the ground. This is the start position. If you are using
steps, place one leg on a higher step. From the start position, press down through the
raised leg and come to a standing position on only that leg, before bending at that hip
and knee again until you return to the starting position. Work both legs equally.
Start with a low object or raised surface. When you use lower objects / surfaces,
you are not pushing up as much weight, and the off leg can help with balance. Use
higher objects / surfaces as your balance, flexibility, and strength improve. For instance,
you could work up to using gymnastics blocks, the higher part of a park bench, a raised
walkway at a park, or plyo boxes. The goal is to build up to a full range of motion.

Raised pistol squats

Regressions include – lower objects / surfaces

Tougheners include – higher objects / surfaces

Tutorial -
This exercise is similar to the previous one, but the off leg is raised as you reach
the bottom position. Gradually build up to keeping off leg raised as you stand back up
with the working leg. Raise the off leg more as your strength, balance, and flexibility
improve. As your balance improves, try different hand positions. Work both sides
equally.

Partner assisted pistols – have a training partner 'spot' you as you start working
on halfway down one leg squats. Keep the body aligned, with your arms straight out.
Your partner will stand beside you and place his or her palms under the arm on that
side. Put one foot out in front of you, at about the height of your other thigh.
The raised leg should remain locked, and held off the ground, throughout the
exercise. Slowly bend at the hip and knee of your standing leg, until the knee is at about
a 90 degree angle. Pause briefly and push back up. Your partner should help you
maintain your balance, as well as give some assistance in coming back up.
As you get stronger, increase your range of motion and/or depend on your
partner less.
Calisthenics tutorials, page 11

Self assisted pistol squats – stand close to a safe, sturdy object that you will use
for support. Ideas include a door frame, hand rail, low bar, the vertical pole of a pullup
unit, or an overhead bar that is low enough to allow you to get into a deep squat. Try to
have the off leg at a 90 degree angle to the torso at the bottom position. As flexibility
improves, straighten out the knee of the off leg.

Press pistols – these involve the use of safe, sturdy objects or raised surface
beside the working leg. Do not lean into the object(s) or surface, but instead maintain
good posture throughout the exercise. As you lower into the bottom position, "find" the
object(s) or surface with the closest hand. Use that arm to assist with balance if needed.
To return to a standing position, press down on the object(s) or surface and straighten
out the working leg. As you improve, gradually decrease the amount you press with the
assisting hand. Work both sides equally.
Higher objects / surfaces make the exercise easier, and lower objects / surfaces
make the exercise harder. Ideas include walkways, plyo boxes, a basketball, a porch, and
a step. Gradually use lower objects or surfaces, until you don’t need anything for
support. Another idea is to use bricks or books stacked on top of one another, and
gradually using less as you get stronger.

Pistol squats – as your balance improves, try different hand positions. Work both
sides equally. To make the exercise harder, reach for the raised foot with the same side
hand and gently grip onto the toes or tip of your shoe. Perform pistol squats with this
hand and foot position. This variation is called Wushu Squats. You can also make the
exercise harder by adding an isometric hold at the bottom and/or in the middle.

Bridging progression

Tutorials -

If you’re having trouble with early steps, practice camel backbend and seal pose
to help open up the back and legs.

Wall bridge is useful in developing the spinal flexibility and movement patterns
needed for later steps. Stand just within arm’s reach of a wall, facing away from it. Reach
your arms over head, squeeze the glutes, and extend the hips. You should now have
some backbend. Allow your knees to bend as you do this. Arch your neck and look up at
your hands, as you place them on the wall with the fingers pointing down to the floor.
Stay here for a few seconds if it already uncomfortable, then push off with your hands
and return to an upright position. If it doesn’t feel like much of a stretch yet, move your
hands one by one down the wall, but just a few inches. Repeat this until you feel a deep
stretch in your lumbar spine. Have a partner spot you for this exercise as needed at first,
especially when returning to an upright position.
Calisthenics tutorials, page 12

"Wall walking" is basically a wall-supported closing bridge. Get into a wall bridge
and go deeper by walking your hands down towards the floor. Keep your back arched,
stay balanced, and follow your hands. Try to get deeper each time you practice, until you
are able to touch the floor. This may take a few months, but be patient! Once you can
place both palms on the floor, hold the bridge for at least a few seconds. Come down
slowly to the floor or mat, then stand back up for another repetition of wall walking
down.
Once you feel proficient with wall walking down, start working on walking back
up. Walk down the wall with your hands, just as before, until you are in a bridge
position. Place a hand on the wall, and push down on it to start lifting yourself off the
ground. Follow with the other hand. Gradually walk your way up the wall until you can
push off and rock forward into a standing position.

The next step is closing bridge. You will ultimately want to teach your body to not
rely on support from the wall, but it is still helpful at first as you are learning the
mechanics and building flexibility. As you improve, gradually depend on the wall less
and less. Once you feel as if you barely need the wall, ask a strong spotter to spot you for
a closing bridge. He or she will put one arm under your shoulders and another under the
small of your back. They should also cue you to keep your back arched and follow your
hands. If necessary, revisit the full bridge. Try to deepen it by "walking" your hands a
few inches closer to your feet. Perform your reps very slowly with a focus on squeezing
out a deep bridge every time in the top position.

Once you have the closing bridge, you can revisit wall walking to help learn the
stand-to-stand bridge. Get into a full bridge with your chest as close to the wall as you
can get it, and start walking up the wall with your hands. Try to take less steps with your
hands each time you practice this until you barely need the wall for support. Feel free to
ask a training partner to help you work on this. The key is learning how to shift your
weight forwards while contracting your abdomen while returning to an upright position.

Handstand pushup progression

Pike handstand pushups


Tougheners include – full ROM, feet elevated, alternate sides each rep
Regressions include – partial range of motion, perform divebomber pushups,
perform Hindu pushups (aka Dands and cat pushups), hold top position for time

Handstand pushups
Tougheners include – full ROM, alternate sides each rep, transitional work
(working towards one arm handstand pushups), freestanding handstand pushups
Regressions include – partial range of motion, partner assistance, handstand
shoulder shrugs
Calisthenics tutorials, page 13

Horizontal pullup progression


Tougheners include – asymmetry, lower bar, biceps emphasis, one leg
Regressions include – higher bar, get closer to standing, bent legs

Dipping progression

Tougheners include – Holding the legs in an "L" position during parallel dips, V-
dips, or horizontal bar dips; straight legs and/or legs elevated in early exercises

Regressions include – Less range of motion, bent legs in early exercises, partner
assistance, self assistance

Tutorials -

Bent dips (knees bent), Straight dips (knees straight), Feet-elevated dips –
Benches, tables, and chairs work for these exercises. You can also use an adjustable bar,
porch, or a walkway. Sit with your back to the object of choice and place your hands on
it, with your fingers pointing to the front. Keep your back straight and close to the
object. Place your feet in front of you and plant your heels, while pointing your toes up.
To perform a repetition, bend at the elbows while staying close to the object, until your
elbows are bent at least 90 degrees. Next, push through your hands until your elbows
are locked out.

How much you straighten your knees will depend on how difficult you want to
make the exercise. Keeping your legs bent makes the exercise easier, as you can press
through your feet more. Straightening your legs out will make the exercise harder.
Elevating your feet, such as on another bench, table, or chair, will also make the exercise
harder.

Partner assisted or self assisted dips – One idea for self assisted dips is to put a
gymnastics block or cheese under you while you're performing dips on parallel bars, so
that you can use it to force a lessened range of motion or to take some of the pressure off
of your upper body. If the bars are low enough, you can also use your legs to assist you in
the upward phase of the dips. The same idea can be used for dips performed between
benches or other sturdy objects.

Parallel dips – you can use parallel bars, or a pair of plyo boxes or park benches.
Other safe and sturdy objects should suffice. Use objects that are about the same height.
Slowly bend at the elbows, until they are lined up with your shoulders. From there, push
yourself up until your elbows are almost completely locked out.

V-dips – these are performed on perpendicular bars. Some hand rails at parks
form this angle.
Calisthenics tutorials, page 14

Midsection hold progression

These exercises develop core compression and overall body tension. The leverage
becomes increasingly demanding as you move up in the progression, forcing the
abdomen and hip flexors to contract more intensely to compensate. The arms also get a
share of the work starting with the raised exercises.
The importance of generating and holding tension throughout the entire
midsection cannot be overstated. In martial arts, you must have a strong midsection in
order to throw powerful strikes and to absorb a body blow without getting seriously
hurt. In progressive calisthenics, full body tension is an essential aspect of most skills,
and as such, in progression. In gymnastics, you must have a strong midsection in order
to maintain hollow in many positions.

Remedial exercises: you can pattern abdominal and full body tension through
two very short and easy to learn drills. One drill is rolling from a pushup position to a
"hollow" leaning plank, and the other is moving from "six inches" to "supine hollow
body hold". If you find it difficult to hold the plank, regress it by placing your hands on a
chair or bench. Try to hold it for at least 10 to 15 seconds.
Focus on deep breaths and bracing your abdomen in each exercise. Gradually
build up time in a hold and tighten up form (less wobble, straighten knees as you
progress, etc). When you can comfortably hold with good form for the progression goal,
you are ready to move to the next exercise.
A side benefit of the straight leg exercises is a stretch under load for the
hamstrings, while the hip flexors and abdominal muscles have to contract. This makes
the progression useful for helping with training the muscles needed for kicking skills.
Another benefit of this progression is overall body awareness, as a result of balancing on
your hands in later exercises.
If you still have trouble moving to the next exercise, stay with the current one and
make it a little harder. For instance, in the bent legs exercises, try to straighten your
knees by an inch or two by lifting your feet and squeezing with your thighs. Try to get
closer to a straight leg hold each workout.
Another example is the raised straight leg hold, where you could start progress
towards raised uneven L sit by getting into straight leg hold and simply tuck in one knee.
Do this on each side. Try to raise the straight leg at least an inch or two each workout in
this easier version of raised uneven L sit.
For the raised exercises, you could start with a safe, sturdy chair with armrests, or
parallel bars that are at least about waist height. You could also use two park benches or
plyo boxes that are the same height. If you are having trouble moving from the raised
exercises to the floor exercises, try to use lower objects each workout. This makes the
exercises harder. Parallettes, pushup handles, floor bars, and even walkways are useful
in progressing towards floor exercises. Each exercise is itself a progression.
Calisthenics tutorials, page 15

Jackknife hold slightly resembles the pike hold, but the torso is still partially on
the floor. To progress to pike hold, reach towards your ankles as you lift your legs and
contract your midsection until you are in a pike position. You could also explore a
tucked position, where you draw your knees in until you are in a bent leg pike hold.

Back lever progression

Two methods to help progress from advanced exercises to full back lever -
From a tucked or bent leg back lever, straighten out one leg, then the other, and
hold for at least 1 second. Perform this for repetitions or short holds. From a straddle
back lever position, bring your feet closer together by at least one or two inches and
hold. Gradually work towards bringing the feet together.

Front lever progression

Tutorials -

Horizontal front lever raise – perform the front lever as a dynamic exercise. Start
from a dead hang. Tense your midsection, and retract your shoulders. Keep the body
straight as you push the bar towards your waist and lever up to a front lever position
before lowering back down to a dead hang.

Full ROM front lever raise – as above, but finish in the inverse front hang
position and hold it for at least 1 second before levering back down. To make the
exercise easier, move into tuck front lever on the way up to the bar, then extend into
inverse front hang.

Methods to help progress from advanced exercises to full front lever -


From a tucked or bent leg front lever, straighten out one leg, then the other, and
hold for at least 1 second. Perform this for repetitions or short holds. From a straddle
position, bring your feet closer together by at least one or two inches and hold.
Gradually work towards bringing the feet together.

Negatives are another useful method for building proficiency in lever exercises.

Form is the top priority; don’t focus on the numbers. Frequent practice +
practicing "fresh" = success. This can be applied to many skills and exercises.
Calisthenics tutorials, page 16

Dragon Flag progression

Do not pull the training surface into your neck during any of these exercises.
Instead, use your abdominals to lift and/or hold your body up.

Tutorials -

Dragon Flag negatives – Shoulderstand is the start position for this exercise. Lie
flat on the bench, and reach back with your hands. Grip the sides or end of the part of
the bench that you are lying on. The shoulders will act as the fulcrum point for the
exercise. Start actively engaging the shoulders and abdominals. Bend at the knees by
sliding or stepping your heels, until they are at a 45 degree angle or less to your
hamstrings. In one motion, fold at the hips and roll your knees backwards as you fold
into an "upside down squat". Squeeze the glutes and hamstrings as you straighten your
knees to lockout.
To perform negatives, lower under control until your feet are an angle of about 30
to 45 degrees to your bench. Hold this for at least 1 second. This is one repetition. When
you come out of the hold, land softly under control. If you’re having a hard time
controlling the movement, have a spotter help you on the way down and cue you to keep
your hips locked during the negative. Throughout the movement, you will need to
maintain full body tension, and control your breathing. You will also need to keep your
hands, shoulders, and hips locked in.
As your form improves, add range of motion until your legs are just above the
bench. Gradually build up your repetitions. Aim for perfect practice!

Dragon flag holds (isometrics) - Hold the bottom position of a negative, and build
up to at least a ten second hold. You could also perform holds at different points of a
Dragon flag.

Bent leg Dragon Flag – lock in your hands and shoulders, tuck your feet in close
to your hips, then slightly bridge up by pushing through the feet. You will need to get
your hips straight and locked in. Take a deep breath and squeeze the abs tight while
maintaining the tension in the arms, shoulders, hips, and glutes. Start raising your
knees up while keeping the hips locked in straight and squeezing hard with the arms and
abs. At the top position, straighten the knees.
Lower under control and hold the bottom position for a few seconds, then bend
your knees and place your feet back on the bench, and repeat the exercise for reps. Once
you’ve built up your reps in this exercise, tighten up form.

Dragon Flag – your knees will be locked out throughout the entire movement.
Start with very low reps, but very high concentration and intensity. Again, ask a spotter
to help if needed while you’re building your strength in this movement. As you improve,
add a rep here and there. Continue tightening up form. As you improve, start making
each rep longer and more intense.
Calisthenics tutorials, page 17

Karate Approach to Calisthenics

Knuckle pushups – also known as fist pushups


If you are already proficient at pushups, you can start with knuckle pushups on
the ground or floor. It is recommended to perform knuckle pushups on some form of
cushioning, until your hands and wrists become accustomed to the exercise. A carpeted
area, a folded up towel, or a mat are a few ideas. Sand and grass are also suitable. You
should be decently strong at pushups on your palms before performing them on your
fists. Knuckle pushups allow for a slightly greater range of motion, and also work your
wrists a bit more. As such, most trainees will find these harder than pushups on the
palms. This results in doing less reps at first, but as your muscles and joints adapt, you
will be able to build up volume.
Regressions - work through the pushup progression on your knuckles until you
are able to perform knuckle pushups on the floor. Another way to make knuckle
pushups easier is to perform them on the palm of one hand and on knuckles of the other
hand.
Progressions - one way to progress knuckle pushups is to perform twisting
knuckle pushups. Perform these on sand (such as at a playground), carpeted area, a
folded up towel on the floor, or similar. Start at the top of a pushup on your fists, with
your backs of your hands facing forward. As you bend your elbows, rotate your hands
such that your palms are facing each other. Push back up as you rotate your wrists and
return to the starting position. The motion resembles twisting your wrists for punches. I
recommend performing these at least once per week to further condition the joints.
Another way to progress knuckle pushups is to perform second knuckle pushups.
This variant is useful for developing these knuckles for strikes. Begin working with
second knuckle pushups on a carpet, folded up towel or mat, sand, grass, or similar. You
can regress this variant by performing it with the palm of one hand and the second
knuckles of the other on the contact surface. You can progress second knuckle pushups
by performing them without any form of cushioning, or by performing one knuckle
pushups.
Wrist pushup progression
Regressions – you can regress wrist pushups by performing them on the palm of
one hand and the back of the other hand.
Progressions – you can progress any of the exercises by balling your hands up
into fists in the top position. It is also possible, with hard work, to build up to
performing one arm wrist pushups.
Incline wrist pushups – gradually use lower objects until you are performing
these on the floor.
Wrist pushups – perform these on a cushioned floor, carpet, folded up towel,
grass, or sand at first. A high level goal is to build up to performing Jackie Chan
pushups.
Calisthenics tutorials, page 18

Uneven wrist pushups – while this exercise is not listed as part of the wrist
pushup progression, it is a great way to start working toward one arm wrist pushups,
which are a high level feat.

Finger pushups

You should be decently strong at pushups on your palms before performing them
on your fingers. Due to the added strain on the grip and joints, these are harder than
pushups on the palms. This results in doing less reps at first, but as your muscles and
joints adapt, you will be able to build up volume.
I recommend working through the pushup progression on your fingers. However,
if you are already quite proficient at pushups, you can start with finger pushups on the
floor or other training surface. You can regress this exercise (make it easier) by having
one palm on the training surface. Practice this way on both sides to maintain symmetry
in training. useful for developing the fingers for spearhand strikes and similar
techniques. You can progress this exercise by performing it on less fingers, and/or by
working towards one arm finger pushups. A highly elite goal is Bruce Lee pushups.
These are performed on one arm using only the thumb and index finger.

Additional exercises

Full extension pushups – upper body/midsection


Fully extend your arms and slowly lower your body without arching your back.
Try to get within a few inches of the floor or training surface before pressing back up.
Minimum requirements for this exercise: you should be able to perform flat straight leg
raises, full pushups, and Sphinx pushups. You can regress this exercise by performing
"negatives" (only the downwards portion of the exercise). The exercise may be made
harder by performing it on your fingertips.

Jowett Pushups – chest emphasis


Plyo boxes, sturdy chairs, parallettes or pushup handles and a step, or similar can
also be used. The feet are raised and the pushups are performed for a full range of
motion. The feet should be at about the same height as the hands. You can regress this
pushup by not elevating the feet. Hold the stretch at the bottom position for at least one
second. The increased range of motion and loaded stretch help build muscle.

Sphinx pushups, also known as tiger bend pushups – triceps emphasis


From the top position of a normal pushup, move each hand forward just enough
so that your elbows will line up with your shoulders in the bottom position. When
pressing back up to the top, do not allow your elbows to flare outwards.
Calisthenics tutorials, page 19

Bodyweight skull crushers (aka "roll unders" and Bodyweight triceps French
presses) - triceps emphasis

These are similar to Sphinx pushups, but with a greater range of motion. The goal
is to "roll under" the bar or other training surface. Normally, a bar is ideal since you can
get a solid grip on it. Do not "bow" at the hips, arch the back, or flare the elbows outward
at any point during this exercise. Basically, try to only bend at the elbows. Gradually
build up range of motion. Build up to performing these with only one arm and/or use
this exercise to help work towards harder exercises.

Tougheners include – low incline, deeper range of motion, build up to performing


with one arm, hold the bottom position for time each rep
Regressions include – higher incline, partial range of motion, perform an easier
triceps exercise (such as Sphinx pushups)

Plyometric pushups – Perform these at an incline at first, such as using a bench.


Quickly push off the bench before softly touching down on the bench again, then
"rebounding" for the next rep. Use gradually lower objects until you are performing
plyometric pushups on the floor. Variations include clapping pushups. It is
recommended to build up strength in the pushup progression before working plyometric
pushups.
Training Programs

While there is no "one size fits all" routine, I would still like to provide some
training programs. Bodyweight training can be performed almost anywhere for free, and
DIY strength training equipment can be put together at little to no cost. Even if you do
not have access to a pullup bar, just some creativity will go a long way! Check out the
Equipment article and the “Calisthenics Exercises” YouTube playlist for ideas. This
playlist and others are linked to from our videos page:
https://www.opensourceathletics.org/videos
Of course, I cannot emphasize enough the need for formal instruction and proper
technique. Ask a local, qualified instructor or coach for help with learning exercises.
Consult a physician or other qualified healthcare professional before starting a new diet
or exercise program. I am not a physician, and as such, nothing I say should be taken as
a substitute for medical advice.

The Google Sites version of the training programs include links to videos.
https://www.opensourceathletics.org/workouts

Mobility and prehab exercises - https://www.youtube.com/user/prehabexercises


Remedial Training Program

This program is intended for those who are coming in from a sedentary lifestyle,
just starting again after an injury, or new to calisthenics. Each workout consists of one
exercise progression. Always warm up and stretch for at least 10 minutes before a
workout. I recommend jogging and walking for the light intervals. If jogging is not
feasible, you can perform other exercises. For example, you could walk briskly for 30
seconds, followed by walking at a slower pace. Another is to perform a small space
exercise (such as mountain climbers) followed by joint circling. The goal is to keep the
heart rate at least slightly elevated.
Recommended stretches include seal stretch, camel backbend, butterfly, seated
forward fold, and child’s pose. Don’t rush to make progress! The goal is to gradually
build up joint strength, flexibility, and overall endurance.
After training, perform light stretching and prehab for at least the areas of the
body that you worked. For example, if you performed wall pushups, focus on at least the
wrists, elbows, shoulders, and chest.

Training Schedules
Feel free to change the days you perform the exercises. Start with the low
frequency schedule at first if needed.
Low frequency schedule:
Week 1
Monday – Wall pushups; Tuesday – off; Wednesday – walk; Thursday – build up
to at least 10-15 minutes of lower body stretches and prehab; Friday – off; Saturday –
walk; Sunday – off
Week 2
Monday – Seated knee tucks (use a chair or bench); Tuesday – off; Wednesday –
walk; Thursday – Standing pulls; Friday – off; Saturday – walk; Sunday - off

Moderate weekly schedule:


Monday – Wall pushups; Tuesday – work towards shoulderstand
Wednesday – walking or light intervals; Thursday – Standing pulls
Friday – Seated knee tucks; Saturday – walking or light intervals; Sunday – off

Recommended weekly schedule:


Monday – Wall pushups and walking or light intervals
Tuesday – Shoulderstand squats
Wednesday – walking or light intervals
Thursday – Standing pulls; Friday – Seated knee tucks
Saturday – walking or light intervals; Sunday – off

Recommended goals before moving on to another program:


At least 1 mile or 15 minutes of walking, 3 days a week
Wall pushups – 3 sets of 50; Shoulderstand squats – 3 sets of 50
Seated knee tucks – 3 sets of 40; Standing pulls – 3 sets of 40
A basic full body strength program
Always warm up and stretch before working out. Perform one or two warmup
sets for each progression. Choose exercises that are easier than your workout exercises,
or perform less repetitions. Perform light stretching of the muscles you worked after you
finish training. After training, gently stretch and perform prehab exercises for 5-10
minutes.
Take up to a 2-3 minute rest between sets, and a 2-3 minute rest between
exercises. Do not sit still or lie down when resting. Walk around your training area
and/or perform light stretching, while taking deep breaths. This helps keep the
circulation up and the muscles loose.
Perform the workout two or three times per week on non-consecutive days. The
other days may be used for sports practice, or an activity of choice. Take at least one rest
day each week.
Choose the most difficult exercises you can perform for a few reps or hold for a
few seconds, using good form. If you are new to a progression, it is recommended to
begin with the first exercise. If you can only perform one set of an exercise, add a set
each week, and gradually work up to the volume range listed. Once you can perform the
upper end of the volume range, add a toughener, tighten up form, or move on to a
harder exercise in the progression. When you reach advanced exercises in the
progressions, reps may needed to be lowered. For example, instead of performing 6-10
reps per set, aim for 5-8 reps per set.

Workout
Exercise Volume Range
Pushup progression 4-5 sets of 6-10 reps
Pullup progression 4-5 sets of 4-5 reps
Squat progression 4-5 sets of 6-10 reps
Leg raise progression 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps
Bodyweight grip work 3-5 sets of 4-6 reps or 2-4 sets of 10-60 seconds
Another basic full body strength program – more exercises
Always warm up and stretch before working out. Perform one or two warmup
sets for each progression. Choose exercises that are easier than your workout exercises,
or perform less repetitions. After training, gently stretch and perform prehab exercises
for 5-10 minutes.
Take up to a 2-3 minute rest between sets, and a 2-3 minute rest between
exercises. Do not sit still or lie down when resting. Walk around your training area
and/or perform light stretching, while taking deep breaths. This helps keep the
circulation up and the muscles loose.
Perform the workout two or three times per week on non-consecutive days. The
other days may be used for sports practice, or an activity of choice. Take at least one rest
day each week.
Choose the most difficult exercises you can perform for a few reps or hold for a
few seconds, using good form. If you are new to a progression, it is recommended to
begin with the first exercise. If you can only perform one set of an exercise, add a set
each week, and gradually work up to the volume range listed. Once you can perform the
upper end of the volume range, add a toughener, tighten up form, or move on to a
harder exercise in the progression. When you reach advanced exercises, reps may
needed to be lowered. For example, instead of performing 6-10 reps per set, aim for 5-8
reps per set.
Caution: Do not perform intense neck exercises more than twice a week. Skip
neck training when needed to allow the joints to recover.
Calf raises: the volume range listed is for calf raises on both feet. For calf raises
on one foot, perform 2-4 sets of 10-80 reps each side. For calf raises off a step using both
feet, perform 2-4 sets of 10-60 reps. For one leg calf raises off a step, perform 2-4 sets of
10-40 reps each side.

Workout
Exercise Volume Range
Pushup progression 4-5 sets of 6-10 reps
Pullup progression 4-5 sets of 4-5 reps
Squat progression 4-5 sets of 6-10 reps
Leg raise progression 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps
Calf raises 2-4 sets of 10-100 reps
Shin flexes 2-3 sets of 10-20 reps
Bridging progression 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps or 10-60 second holds
Neck work (front, back, sides) 2-3 sets of 6-10 reps per exercise
Bodyweight shoulder shrugs 2-3 sets of 6-10 reps
Bodyweight grip work 3-5 sets of 4-6 reps or 2-4 sets of 10-60 seconds
An Abbreviated Full Body Workout

Perform the workout 2 or 3 times per week on non-consecutive days. Refer to


progression charts for repetition goals. Print out charts for at least pushups, pullups,
and squats. An alternative is to send or download documents of choice to a mobile
device for quick reference.
Warm up and stretch, then perform one or two warmup sets for each progression.
Choose exercises that are easier than your workout exercises, or perform less
repetitions. After training, gently stretch and perform prehab exercises for 5-10 minutes.
Rest up to 5 minutes between sets and exercises. As your conditioning improves,
decrease your rest times. Do not sit still or lie down when resting. Walk around your
training area and/or perform light stretching, while taking deep breaths. This helps keep
the circulation up and the muscles loose.

Workout
Pushup progression
Pullup progression
Squat progression

Convict Conditioning progression charts and videos:


https://archive.org/details/ConvictConditioningCharts
https://www.youtube.com/user/dragonflowyoga/playlists

Convict Conditioning Super FAQ, which also includes workouts


https://www.dragondoor.com/pdf/Convict_Conditioning_SUPER_FAQ.pdf

Alternative charts for the above progressions – pictures included:


https://archive.org/details/TheConvictConditioningCheatSheetPullUps
https://archive.org/details/TheConvictConditioningCheatSheetPushUps
https://archive.org/details/TheConvictConditioningCheatSheetSquats
A Basic Bodybuilding Program – Full Body

Always warm up and stretch before working out. Perform one or two warmup
sets for each progression. For the warmup sets, choose exercises that are easier than
your working sets or perform few repetitions. After training, gently stretch and perform
prehab exercises for 5-10 minutes.
Take up to a 90 second rest between sets, and up to 2 minutes rest between
exercises. Do not sit still or lie down when resting. Walk around your training area
and/or perform light stretching, while taking deep breaths. This helps keep the
circulation up and the muscles loose.
Perform the workout 2 or 3 times per week on non-consecutive days. Start with
performing the workout once per week if needed. The other days may be used for sports
practice, or an activity of choice. Take at least one rest day each week.
Choose the most difficult exercises you can perform for a few reps or hold for a
few seconds, using good form. If you are new to a progression, it is recommended to
begin with the first exercise. If you can only perform one set of an exercise, add a set
each week, and gradually work up to the volume range listed. Once you can perform the
upper end of the volume range, add a toughener, tighten up form, or move on to a
harder exercise in the progression. When you reach advanced exercises, reps may
needed to be lowered. For example, instead of performing 6-10 reps per set, aim for 5-8
reps per set.
Bodybuilding tactics: use at least one, such as drop sets, "amrap" (as many
reps as possible in a given time), "afap" (rep goal as fast as possible), etc
Grip training: progressively work up to including a variety of exercises, grip
styles and/or equipment (towel, thick bar, rafters, DIY setup, etc)
Hybrid training: the program may be supplemented with weights, such as
holding a weight plate during wrestler’s bridges, or using a wrist roller after performing
bodyweight grip work

Workout

Exercise Volume Range


Dipping progression 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
Horizontal pullup progression 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps
Squat progression 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps
Bridging progression 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps
Leg raise progression 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps
Grip work 3-5 sets of 10-60 seconds or 3-5 reps
Another Basic Bodybuilding Program – more exercises
Always warm up and stretch before working out. Perform one or two warmup
sets for each progression. For the warmup sets, choose exercises that are easier than
your working sets or perform few repetitions. After training, gently stretch and perform
prehab exercises for 5-10 minutes.
Take up to a 90 second rest between sets, and up to 2 minutes rest between
exercises. Do not sit still or lie down when resting. Walk around your training area
and/or perform light stretching, while taking deep breaths. This helps keep the
circulation up and the muscles loose.
Perform the workout 2 or 3 times per week on non-consecutive days. Start with
performing the workout once per week if needed. The other days may be used for sports
practice, or an activity of choice. Take at least one rest day each week.
Choose at least moderately difficult exercises that you can perform for a few reps
or hold for a few seconds, using good form. If you are new to a progression, it is
recommended to begin with the first exercise. If you can only perform one set of an
exercise, add a set each week, and gradually work up to the volume range listed. Once
you can perform the upper end of the volume range, add a toughener, tighten up form,
or move on to a harder exercise. When you reach advanced exercises, reps may needed
to be lowered.
Bodybuilding tactics: use at least one, such as drop sets, "amrap" (as many
reps as possible in a given time), "afap" (rep goal as fast as possible), etc
Calf raises: the volume range listed is for calf raises on both feet. For calf raises
on one foot, perform 2-4 sets of 10-80 reps each side. For calf raises off a step using both
feet, perform 2-4 sets of 10-60 reps. For one leg calf raises off a step, perform 2-4 sets of
10-40 reps each side.
Grip training: progressively work up to including a variety of exercises, grip
styles and/or equipment (towel, thick bar, rafters, DIY setup, etc)
Hybrid training: the program may be supplemented with weights, such as
holding a weight plate during wrestler’s bridges, or using a wrist roller after performing
bodyweight grip work.

Workout

Exercise Volume Range


Dipping progression 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
Horizontal pullup progression 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps
Triceps exercise 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
Biceps exercise 2-3 sets of 6-10 reps
Back exercise 2-3 sets of 6-10 reps
Squat progression 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
Glutes/hamstrings 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
Calf raises 2-4 sets of 10-100 reps
Leg raise progression 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps
Neck work (front, back, sides) 2-3 sets of 6-10 reps or 10-60 seconds/exercise
Bodyweight shoulder shrugs 2-3 sets of 6-10 reps
Bodyweight grip work 3-5 sets of 4-6 reps or 2-4 sets of 10-60 seconds
Gymnastics style skill training program
These routines may all be performed on the same day as part of gymnastics
practice, or on separate days. As needed: switch out or add skill progressions, add
conditioning at other events, and add shaping drills. Take at least one rest day each
week.

Warm up and stretch for at least 5 minutes before a workout, then perform a
warmup set for each progression. After training, gently stretch and perform prehab
exercises for 5-10 minutes.

If you can only perform one set of an exercise or skill, add a set each week, and
gradually work up to the volume range listed. Once you can perform the upper end of
the volume range, add a toughener, tighten up form, or move on to a harder exercise.
Where "Various" is listed, the rep range will depend on the chosen exercise and
tougheners.

Workouts
Bars Volume Range
Pullup progression 4 sets of 4-6 reps
Leg raise progression 4 sets of 4-6 reps
Chinup pullover progression 8-10 sets of 1-3 reps
Dipping, muscleup, or gymnastics kip progression 5-6 sets of 3-5 reps

Floor conditioning Volume Range


Pushups 4 sets of 4-6 reps
Midsection holds (focus on hollow body) 4 sets of short holds
Squat and/or jump progression Various
Tension-flexibility exercises 5-10 minutes

Tumbling Volume Range


Bridging progression 4-6 sets of short holds
Front tuck progression 4-6 sets of 3-6 repetitions
Back tuck progression 4-6 sets of 3-6 repetitions
Hand balancing and transitions Various
A Complex Bodyweight Bodyuilding Program – Circuit Workouts
Workout 1. Chest and triceps focus.
Pushup progression
Knuckle pushups
Full extension pushup and/or regression exercise(s)
Chest work
Triceps work
Finger pushups and/or wrist pushup progression
Workout 2. Lower body.
Calves
Shins
Glutes/hamstrings
Squats
Quadriceps
Plyometrics or walking lunges
Workout 3. Back, biceps, forearms.
Back lever progression
Pullup progression
Horizontal pullups
Biceps work
Back work
Grip work (1-4 exercises)
Workout 4. Shoulders, neck, and core.
Handstand pushup progression
Shoulder work
Neck work (front, back, sides)
Bodyweight shoulder shrugs
Midsection work (3-5 exercises; include holds and movements)
Lateral chain work
Joint recovery: Skip neck, finger, and/or wrist training when needed
Mobility/prehab: 5-10 minutes after each workout
Bodybuilding tactics: use at least one, such as drop sets, "amrap" (as many
reps as possible in a given time), "afap" (rep goal as fast as possible), etc
Grip training: progressively work up to including a variety of exercises, grip
styles and/or equipment (towel, thick bar, rafters, DIY setup, etc)
Hybrid training: the program may be supplemented with weights, such as
holding a weight plate during wrestler’s bridges, or using a wrist roller after performing
bodyweight grip work
Example training schedules:
Daily Double Split – perform days 1 and 2 up to three times per week
Day 1 – Workout 1 in the A.M. or early P.M.; Workout 2 in the P.M.
Day 2 – Workout 3 in the A.M. or early P.M.; Workout 2 in the P.M.
4 Way Split – Mon. - Workout 1; Tues. - Workout 2; Wed. - Off;
Thurs. – Workout 3; Fri. – Workout 4; Sat and Sun - off
Caveman Conditioning
Uncivilized minimalist training on a non-budget
Contents:
Caveman Conditioning: Uncivilized, Minimalist Training Methods
Minimalist Grip Work
Caveman Conditioning Workout Ideas
DIY Strength Training with Repurposed Materials
Strength Training Resources – Single Page
The page below has links to video playlists, including one based on this section:
https://www.opensourceathletics.org/videos
Caveman Conditioning: Uncivilized, Minimalist Training Methods

Caveman conditioning revolves around rather uncivilized and minimalist, but


very rewarding, strength training methods. Why bother with a gym or expensive
equipment when you can get your exercise out in nature or the park? No matter where
you go, you can get in a high intensity workout. Bodyweight training can be performed
anywhere for free, and "odd objects" (such as stones and logs) can be found in many
different environments. With some creativity and knowledge of proper exercise
technique, you can make the most of what you have available. While the primary focus is
training in nature, exercise ideas may be adapted to other environments.

Precautions
Dress for safety and for the weather before training outdoors. Always make a
safety check of your training area or the obstacle you want to navigate. Avoid and/or
remove debris or other safety hazards. If you will be outside during daylight for more
than an hour, bring a bottle or packets of sunscreen, and take any other needed
precautions to prevent heat related injury. It is also recommended to take a first aid
course from a qualified instructor and become familiar with wilderness first aid.
The minimum supplies to bring to an outdoor workout include: water, a small
bottle of hand sanitizer, an external battery for your mobile phone, and an outdoor first
aid kit. Making a small kit is simple and affordable. Use a sturdy bag or pack, and add a
shoulder strap if needed. Check warning labels on products before purchasing.
Regularly check supplies and replace items that are damaged or past expiration.

Disclaimer
You are responsible for your own actions and accept the risks. I am in no way
liable for your actions or the consequences of those actions. There is always a risk of
injury, disease, and even death when training, taking any class, or visiting any property.
Always take proper safety precautions before training, or constructing training tools.
Consult a physician or other qualified healthcare professional before starting a new diet
or exercise program. I am not a physician, and as such, nothing I say should be taken as
a substitute for medical advice.
I recommend against training or looking for materials at abandoned or renovated
properties because of legal and safety issues. Trespassing and theft are crimes. You
could be fined, jailed, or both. However, if you are going to visit any property, or collect
or train with any materials, get permission first and take safety precautions. Legal
alternatives include training at public parks, nature trails, constructing your own
obstacle course, and training with friends or family at a property they own. I also
recommend against dumpster diving for the same reasons. If you are going to do it,
however, check local dumpster diving laws, get permission from property owners, and
take safety precautions. Of course, obey "no trespassing" signs. More tips:
http://trashwiki.org/
A safe, legal alternative is to shop at thrift stores and flea markets for materials
and hardware. You can often find great deals!

Training methods start on the next page


Caveman Conditioning, page 2

Training Methods

Bodyweight training
Run through and navigate the natural obstacle course that the woods provide –
this includes jumping ditches. Climb trees for grip work and overall agility. Hang a rope
from a tree and learn some rope climbing exercises to train your grip and overall body
strength even more. Ropes are also useful in mud run style obstacles. Look into army
training and drills for ideas.
Sprint through an abandoned field. Before doing so, clear a straight path of
anything that you could trip over or that could pierce shoes or skin. Also wear
sweatpants and running shoes with excellent heel support. If the woods are in a hilly
area, you can go for hill sprints, which are great for explosiveness!
Other "natural movement" skills include crawling, jumping, rolling, and
balancing. Try crawling along the ground in various ways, or under an obstacle.
Jumping can be performed bodyweight-only, or you can jump over obstacles. Start with
easy obstacles and make sure the area(s) used are clear of debris and other safety
hazards. Practice landing softly, as well as rolling safely. Balancing ideas include walking
across a fallen tree or a plank.
You can use a relatively low but very sturdy tree branch for pullups, leg raises,
various gymnastics exercises, and so forth. You could also perform a burpee, jump up to
the branch explosively, do a pullup, drop, and repeat, for a full set. A rope or towel could
be looped over a low, sturdy tree branch for pullup variations.
Clear any straw and or leaves in a particularly shady and grassy area that could be
used for various calisthenics – just remember to wear long shirts and pants for this. Also
make sure that if you’re going to use the area and regularly, spray it for ticks using
Permethrin or another recommended pesticide.
Some excellent calisthenics in such an area include using a tree for support when
practicing gymnastics backbends or various handstand exercises. You could also wrap a
length of heavy rope around a tree to use for striking practice. Get instruction from a
qualified martial arts instructor before trying this and wear hand protection, such as
wrist wraps.
Old beams or planks of wood could be used as a calf raise step (put it next to a
tree or wall that you can use to assist in balance). Check for nails first. Bricks can be
used in some hand balancing exercises, and as support in one leg squats. Old chairs can
be used for a variety of calisthenics exercises. These include decline pushups, chair dips,
gymnastics L-sits, uneven pushups, lever pushups, and so forth. Heavy tires could also
be used for used for dipping exercises. Creativity is the only limit!
Caveman Conditioning, page 3

Moving external loads - found object lifts and more

Work with bodyweight-only exercises for at least a few months before working
with external loads. Start light. Always use object(s) that you can lift with good form for
at least a few repetitions. Sandbags may also be used for many of these exercises.
There are many found objects that can be used for lifts, such as stones, cinder
blocks, bricks, logs, and grindstones. Lifts include squats, deadlifts, pinch grip lifts,
curls, cleans, presses, shouldering, Zercher good mornings, bear hug good mornings,
and bent over rows. To use multiple cinder blocks, you can put a long wooden dowel
rod, metal rod, or barbell through the cinder blocks. Put an equal number of blocks on
each side. One arm bent over rows may be performed instead of with both arms (work
both sides equally).
There is also a variety of loaded carries that can be performed. These include
fireman’s carry, Zercher carry, bear hug carry, shoulder carry, overhead carry, and
farmer’s walk. Performing lunges while carrying an object makes the exercise harder.
Heavy, awkward objects can be used for a variety of lifts. Ideas include kegs,
barrels, anvils, heavy tires, large stones, and heavy sandbags. As awkward objects are
not made to be easy to get a grip or lift, training with them can help to develop grip
strength. Start light with sandbags and gradually add sand as you build strength.
You could drag fallen trees by hand to get a full body workout, but be sure to wear
work gloves or similar. Another idea is to drag a heavy tire using a towing strap or drag
cinder blocks using heavy rope. Alternatives include dragging cinder blocks using a
towel or rope, and dragging loaded sleds. You could also push a car down a path through
the woods, or along a mountain path that is not highly trafficked. It is amazing for both
cardio and giving you a whole body workout! Chopping wood and hitting car tires with a
sledgehammer are two other ideas that can make for a whole body workout.

Free Downloads
Send or download document(s) of choice to a mobile device for quick reference.

Army field manuals -


https://archive.org/details/FM21-20PhysicalTraining
https://archive.org/details/DTIC_ADA531081

Parkour -
http://www.bodyweightbundle.com/pdf/essential-parkour-techniques-ebook.pdf

Additional Resources
https://preparednessmama.com/disaster-apps/
https://calisthenics-parks.com/
https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/First_Aid/Wilderness_First_Aid

Heat related injuries and prevention:


https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048167
Caveman Conditioning, page 4

Pictures

Natural obstacles include fallen trees and ditches. Practice "natural movement"
skills such as jumping and climbing, which are also great strength builders. Of course,
always choose obstacles that you can navigate safely. You could also walk across a fallen
tree for balance practice, but be careful when dismounting.
Caveman Conditioning, page 5

You may also be fortunate enough to find heavy objects that you can lift or drag
safely. If you find large stones, you could try deadlifting or squatting with one. Of
course, use a wide stance when holding a heavy object, wear athletic footwear or boots,
perform the lift(s) with proper technique, and start with lighter objects.
Minimalist Grip Work
Simple, progressive bodyweight techniques can be used to build incredible
forearm strength. Fancy, hard to learn exercises, weights, and expensive equipment are
unnecessary! Bodyweight training is also much safer than working with external loads.
However, found / odd objects and DIY equipment may also be used for grip training
exercises. In the interest of completeness, I detail some options for these after
describing bodyweight-only grip work. Work with bodyweight only exercises for at least
6 months before working with weights or other external loads. Choose equipment and
exercises according to your goals.
Start with bar hangs, to build support grip strength. At first, perform bar hangs at
the end a pulling workout or performing hangs as a separate session. Work up to
training all three types of grip strength (support, crush, and pinch), and training the
wrists from various angles. You can spread your grip exercises out over the week, add a
grip work session to at least one workout each week, and/or add a grip-only workout(s)
to your training program.
Gently stretch and massage the hands, wrists, and forearms after training them.
Gradually add sets / hang time and work towards harder exercises. As you progress, add
exercises to your workouts. Also add fingertip pushups or holds to your program for
balanced muscular development in the hands and forearms. View the Karate Approach
to Calisthenics article and related tutorials for more information on fingertip pushups
and other variations.
Before a grip training session, perform warmups, joint circling, and wrist
stretches. I also recommend performing eagle claws to help warm up the hands - extend
the fingers, then make a fist. Perform at least 10 repetitions of eagle claws.
Videos - the Google sites version of the Minimalist Training section includes
videos for many of the exercises as well as DIY equipment:
https://www.opensourceathletics.org/minimalist-training
Bodyweight grip work exercises:
Caution is strongly advised. The hands and wrists contain many small joints that
can easily be over-trained to injury. Progression should be slow and steady compared to
training the larger muscle groups.
Basic exercises include bar hangs, which build support grip strength. A bar hang
is essentially the dead hang position of a pullup. A pullup bar, a hand rail on a walkway,
and exercise equipment at public parks may be used. Alternatives include the bar on a
power rack, parallel bars, an uneven bar setup, and adjustable pullup units.
More advanced bodyweight grip work includes using one or more towels in
various ways, using a more difficult type of grip, using less fingers, hanging from a thick
bar or rope, pullups with grip "tougheners", hanging from one hand, and explosive grip
work. Making use of tougheners helps you find "hidden steps" between exercises in a
designated progression.

Next page – exercise list


Minimalist Grip Work, page 2

Bodyweight grip work – exercise list

Hang grip work: Start with a horizontal hang from a low bar. Try to add at least a
few seconds each week, and work up to 3-4 sets of 30-60 second holds. Move onto a
vertical hang, and again work up to 3-4 sets of 30-60 seconds. At this stage, begin
working on active bar hangs. The basic idea is to add full body tension and scapular
retraction to hanging exercises. Once you have become more proficient with active bar
hangs, begin more advanced exercises. Hangs using a towel or rope is recommended, as
either will work the muscles of the hand more and build "crush gripping" strength. One
arm bar hangs are also recommended.

A few uses of towels for hang grip work:


1. Wrap a towel around a pullup bar to make it an "improvised thick bar".
2. Loop a towel over a bar and perform towel hang exercises. These include:
A. Bar and towel hang (work both sides equally); B. Towel hang (each
hand grips a side of the towel); C. Uneven towel hang (grip the towel with both hands,
one above the other; hold for time, switch hand positions, and hang for the same
amount of time); D. One arm towel hang (work both sides equally).

Tougheners for towel hangs include: 1. Fold the towel once then loop it over the
bar to double the towel’s thickness. This makes towel hang exercises significantly
harder. 2. Loop two towels over the bar and grip one in each hand.

Train the finger extensors: include finger tip holds / pushups in your training
program or grip workout. This will help to balance strength in the muscles and joints of
the lower arms. You may also eventually work up to performing wrist holds / pushups.

Equipment alternatives: Almost anything safe and solid that you can get a grip on
can be used, such as a door, a door frame, poles, hand rails on walkways, trees, sturdy
tree branches (should be low enough to reach and drop from safely), and exercise
equipment at public parks. You can also use doorknobs for basic exercises. Grip each
doorknob, straddle the door with your legs or feet, and begin the exercise (support hold
or rowing). You can also loop a single towel around each doorknob, and perform an
exercise with each hand gripping one side of the towel. A towel could also be looped
around a sturdy pole or similar. A standing bodyweight row is also commonly known as
"let me in".

Advanced grip equipment and exercises:


Odd surface hanging and pullups: a variety of surfaces and equipment can give
you a tough forearm workout. Ideas include, but are not limited to, thick bars, climbing
equipment, towels, doors, door frames, stairs, beams, rafters, tennis ball pullups, using
DIY cannonball grips, and scaffolding.
Thick bars: Ideas for improvised thick bars include wrapping a towel around a
bar, or putting a PVC pipe around it. Thick bars may also be found on some equipment
at public parks.
Minimalist Grip Work, page 3

Rope: Exercises include climbing, hanging, and rope pullups.


Harder grip styles: Ideas include hook grip (finger grip - palms and thumbs not
touching), climbing holds, crush grip, and pinch grip.
Pinch grip hanging: Rafters or hubs can be used.
Crush grip hanging and pullups: Ideas include towel work and rope work.
Pullups with grip "tougheners": Exercises include hook grip pullups (finger
pullups), towel pullups, softball pullups, rope pullups, thick bar pullups, and pinch grip
pullups. Design or find progressions.
Explosive grip work: Exercises include explosively switching hand positions
Bodyweight feats of grip strength: Rafter rows (pinch grip), rafter pullups (pinch
grip), one arm towel pullups, one finger pullups, one finger one arm pullups, and “hand
walking” along rafters are a few examples of impressive feats to work towards. Rafter
rows can help you progress towards rafter pullups.

Pictured: using a door and towel for “let me ins”


Minimalist Grip Work, page 4

Online resources for bodyweight-only grip work:

Free download – the document linked below concisely describes home made grip
devices for pipe pullups, softball pullups, and much more:
https://www.dieselcrew.com/articles-pdf/dieselHMGD.pdf

Rope exercises (videos included):


https://legendarystrength.com/feats-of-strength/rope-climbing/

Advanced pullups (including rafter pullups):


https://legendarystrength.com/feats-of-strength/pullups-and-chinnups/

Concise, informative article on the PCC blog:


https://pccblog.dragondoor.com/calisthenics-grip-training/

Next page – grip training with objects and equipment


Minimalist Grip Work, page 5

Grip training exercises with objects and equipment:


Adapt to your environment - use available materials, found objects, and
equipment in your workouts. You can also adapt existing training programs to what you
have available. Start light. Gradually add weight and/or use heavier objects. Continue
working with the basics after reaching an advanced level of grip strength.

Basics include:
Deadlifts and variations of curls with a thick handled dumbbell(s) or thick bar
Farmer's walk (great for support grip strength)
Pinch grip lifts and carries - ideas include (but are not limited to) pinch lifting
weight plates, pinch grip lifting found objects such as stones and cinder blocks, hub lift
variations, wood pinch block lifts, ball grip lifts, and pinch grip farmer’s walk
Levering exercises
Holding out objects at arm’s length
Wrist roller
Odd objects and found objects – ideas include (but are not limited to) stones,
concrete blocks, cinder blocks, logs, grindstones, and light sandbags

Advanced grip training ideas include:


Building up to heavy weights in the basics - ideas include (but are not limited to)
heavy farmer carries
Building up to and working with heavy odd objects such as kegs, barrels, large
anvils, large stones / rocks, larger concrete blocks (such as pavestones), and heavy
sandbags
Harder variations of exercises - ideas include (but are not limited to) pinch lifts
with thicker grips, pinch grip exercises with thicker objects, deadlifting stones or other
found / odd objects, farmer’s walk with multiple cinder blocks, pinch grip deadlift and
deadlifting with one arm, crush grip variations
Crush grip variations of exercises - ideas include (but are not limited to) crush
grippers, uses for towels (such as towel deadlifts and towel curls with weights), crush
grip sandbag deadlifts, and thick bar exercises
Finger lifting
Muscling out weights / objects
Deadlifting heavy tires
Feats of strength that work the grip - such as difficult levering exercises with
sledgehammers
Creative uses of household items (such as bricks)
Minimalist Grip Work, page 6

Concise descriptions of some of the objects, implements, and


exercises:

Wrist roller
Using a wrist roller is highly recommended for developing both sides of the
forearms. Stand with your feet at shoulder width when using one. Wrist rollers are fairly
simple and cheap to make: 1) handle – ideas include wooden dowel rod, broom stick,
and PVC pipe. The handle should be about an inch thick. 2) strong rope or cord. 3) a
weight plate or other safe, sturdy object to lift.
Wrist roller "tougheners" include: 1) A thicker handle will make the exercise
harder on the forearms. Ideas include 2" thick PVC pipe. 2) A square board could be
used instead of a round handle, which makes the exercise harder on the fingers. 3)
Stand on a platform, plyo box, or other safe raised surface. This allows for a greater
range of motion (and therefore more time under tension. I have personally stood on my
back porch and used a wrist roller to lift a grindstone from the ground.
Wrist rollers have been used as part of "Hojo Undo", or conditioning exercises in
traditional Okinawan karate training. View the Hojo Undo article in the Karate Training
section for more information on DIY wrist rollers and other Karate training tools.

Levering exercises
Hammers or other “lever bars” can be used. Ideas include: a metal rod, barbell, or
pipe with some kind of weight affixed, a sledgehammer, and a poolstick with a
grindstone. Look into making "chi ishi" and other "Hojo Undo" lifting tools. Just a metal
rod, barbell, pipe, or a broom will suffice as a lever bar. Lever bar training is excellent
for building wrist strength.

Holding out objects at arm’s length


An example is brick and broom lifting. "Molding a Mighty Grip" by George F.
Jowett has a tutorial. Start with just the broom if needed.

Pinch gripping
This involves pinching an object / weight between the thumb and fingers. The
added work for the thumbs makes pinch gripping quite beneficial.

Crush gripping
This involves squeezing / “crushing” an object / weight between your palms and
your fingers. It doesn’t use the thumb as much as pinch gripping, but it is still beneficial.
Crush grippers, thick bars, and uses for towels can work “crush grip” strength very well.

Odd objects
As awkward objects are not made to be easy to get a grip or lift, training with
them can help to develop grip strength. Lifts include squats, deadlifts, pinch grip lifts,
curls, cleans, presses, and bent over rows. To use multiple cinder blocks, you can put a
long metal rod, pipe or barbell through the cinder blocks. Put an equal number of blocks
on each side.
Minimalist Grip Work, page 7

One arm bent over rows may be performed instead of with both arms (work both
sides equally). Loaded carries include fireman’s carry, Zercher carry, bear hug carry,
shoulder carry, overhead carry, and farmer’s walk. Performing lunges while carrying an
object makes the exercise harder.

Farmer’s walk
This exercise can be performed with dumbbells, sandbags, rocks, cinder blocks,
trap bars – basically any safe, sturdy objects you can get a grip on. This exercise can
work different types of grip strength, depending on objects and/or materials used.

Bodyweight alternatives
Alternatives for finger lifts include finger pullups and hook grip pullups.
Alternatives for curls include bodyweight variations. Alternatives to pinch grip exercises
with weights include bodyweight pinch grip hang and pinch grip pullups.

Recommended training volume to work towards:


3-5 sets of 4-6 reps or 2-4 sets of 10-60 seconds per bodyweight exercise
2-3 sets of 10-100 feet per drag
2-3 sets of 10-100 feet per loaded carry
2-3 sets of 6-10 reps or 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps per lift
Don’t rush to make gains - add volume, weight, and/or intensity very gradually.
Aim to increase sets and reps/time or total distance, then make the exercise harder
(change equipment or grip style, add weight, use a heavier object, etc). Loaded carries
can be performed for a long distance (such as a quarter mile or more) if a sufficiently
light load is used. Take short stretch breaks as needed.
Number of grip exercises to perform per workout: I recommend no more than 4;
however, the forearms can be worked quite heavily with only one!
Next page - “quick start” exercise list
Minimalist Grip Work, page 8

“Quick Start” Exercise List


Examples of exercises for each type of grip strength:
Support grip strength - bar hangs, farmer's walk
Crush grip strength - towel work, crush grippers, towel curls, rope exercises, some
sandbag lifts and carries
Pinch grip strength - pinch lifting weights or found objects such as stones, hanging from
rafters
Summarized list of exercises and equipment ideas:
Bodyweight grip work - exercises include hangs (standing, horizontal, vertical) and
pullups with grip “tougheners” (such as using a towel). Equipment ideas include bars,
windowsills, ledges, bricks, rafters, towels, playground equipment, hand rails, trees,
swingset, dugouts, doorknobs, door frames, ropes, and DIY pullup bars.

Broom and brick exercises (wrist curls, holding out, finger extension)

Muscling out objects, weights, or weighted handles (broomsticks, barbells, and pipes
may be used with weights or other objects)

Dragging and farmer’s walk variations - start light and gradually increase load, time,
distance, and/or reps. Ideas for objects to carry include concrete blocks, kettlebells, trap
bars with weights, stones, sandbags, and loaded buckets. Ideas for DIY dragging
equipment include a tire with a rope, chain, or harness.

Found object lifts and carries (logs, bricks, concrete, cinders, stones)

Wrist roller - highly recommended for developing both sides of the forearms. Wrist
rollers can be made very cheaply.

The Grip Work Quick Start Guide (“TL;DR” version of this article) may be downloaded
from our file cabinet: https://www.opensourceathletics.org/file-cabinet

Short link to the Quick Start Guide: http://bit.ly/gripwork


Minimalist Grip Work, page 9

Online resources for grip training exercises with external loads

Creative ways to make exercises harder, and workout ideas:


http://ironmind.com/articles/john-brookfields-grip-tips/

Many feats of strength require tremendous grip strength (both bodyweight and weight
training are covered):
https://legendarystrength.com/feats-of-strength/
Article about using a wrist roller (programming included):
https://www.t-nation.com/training/best-forearm-exercise
Molding A Mighty Grip – free, legal download:
https://archive.org/details/MoldingAMightyGrip
Order a professionally printed copy of the book:
https://superstrengthtraining.com/molding-a-mighty-grip-george-jowett
Home made grip devices - both bodyweight and weight training are covered:
https://www.dieselcrew.com/articles-pdf/dieselHMGD.pdf
Pinch grip training article with information about ball lifts and wood grip lifts:
https://climbingmeta.com/pinch-grip-training/
Loaded carries article:
https://www.t-nation.com/training/secret-of-loaded-carries
Strongman training methods for grip strength, from a book by Edward Aston:
https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/20-oldtime-strongman-exercises-developing-
grip-strength/

Order a professionally printed copy of the book:


https://superstrengthtraining.com/how-to-develop-a-powerful-grip-edward-aston

Basic strongman tutorial playlist available at this YouTube channel:


https://www.youtube.com/user/AlphaTnation/playlists
DIY equipment - https://bbaclub.blogspot.com/2011/07/strongman-equipment.html

Also view the “DIY Strength Training with Repurposed Materials” article in this
guide for more information on setting up your own equipment.
Minimalist Grip Work, page 10

It is possible to improve grip strength with everyday household objects such as a


broom and a brick. A useful exercise is forearm brick extensions, described in "Molding
a Mighty Grip". Start with just the broom if needed. Try adding at least 1 grip exercise to
an existing workout or performing a grip only routine.
Minimalist Grip Work, page 11

Logs and other odd objects can be used for training grip strength; a variety of exercises
may be performed! Try adding an object to an existing workout or performing an odd
object only routine.
Caveman Conditioning Workout Ideas
Follow a full body program up to 3 times per week on non-consecutive days, or a
split program (such as upper/lower). Consult a physician or other qualified healthcare
professional before starting a new diet or exercise program. Ideas for workouts include,
but are not limited to:
Modified "gym" workout – use found objects or DIY equipment in place of weights
Obstacle course – include various natural or man-made obstacles; perhaps set up a rope
Strength athletics – strongman / strongwoman training, etc
Training for feats of strength – such as hand balancing feats, anvil lifting, etc.
Bodyweight only workouts – calisthenics, gymnastics, yoga, etc
Single object workouts – such as using a stone for various lifts
Loaded carry – perform a loaded carry as a "workout finisher", or perform a loaded
carry workout
Odd object training - sandbags, kegs, stones, sledgehammers, heavy tires, etc
DIY equipment workouts – wrist rollers, Hojo Undo equipment, etc
Hybrid programs – such as calisthenics and "Caveman" methods in the same program
Circuit training outdoors – such as at the park, beach, natural trail, out in the woods, etc
Muscle specialization programs – such as grip training
Cardio – run a nature trail
Partner lifting – such as fireman’s carry and shoulder squats
Natural movement workouts - climbing, crawling etc
Nature workouts – lift found objects such as stones, navigate natural obstacles, and/or
perform calisthenics (such as using a sturdy tree branch for pullups)
Manual labor style exercises - farmer’s walk, moving loaded wheelbarrows, car pushing,
chopping and stacking wood, etc
Mindful exercise – such as mindful hiking or mindful running
An example hybrid workout - a training partner and I performed this upper body
workout at a local park: pinch grip lifts with stones, Zercher stone carries for distance,
pushups, bodyweight hammer curls using bleachers, park bench shoulder presses, core
work on park benches, handstand pushups against a wall, and stone deadlifts.

View the “DIY Strength Training with Repurposed Materials” article in this guide
for more information on setting up your own equipment.
Caveman Conditioning Workout Ideas, page 2

Nature trails can be used for cardio, circuit training, and other types of exercise
DIY Strength Training with Repurposed Materials

Safe and sturdy training equipment can easily be constructed on a shoestring or


non-existent budget. There are also many objects and household items that can be
repurposed for exercise, without any assembly or modification. Ideas include tires,
stones, cinder blocks, brooms, and bricks. Materials can be found cheaply or free.
You can set up a DIY gym in your own home, garage, private lot, backyard or
shed. Another idea is to set up a DIY training area in an athletic club or fitness center.
Equipment left outdoors should be behind a fence and/or otherwise secured against
theft. Weather protection is also recommended, such as tarps.
Check found materials for safety issues and thoroughly clean them before use.
This may require the use of an antiseptic. Store materials in a safe area after use.

How to search for free materials and hardware – a few ideas


Sign up at Freecycle and ask around in local groups – http://www.freecycle.org
Facebook – check for free stuff groups
Ask politely at local farms, auto repair shops, tire shops, etc
Contact the job site manager of a demolition/construction site (again, be polite!)
Check local groups on Craigslist
Ask people you know if they are throwing anything away / cleaning house, and
kindly offer to help in return for usable materials

Legal Disclaimer
Always take proper safety precautions before training, or constructing training
tools. Consult a physician or other qualified healthcare professional before starting a
new diet or exercise program. I am not a physician, and as such, nothing I say should be
taken as a substitute for medical advice.
I recommend against looking for materials at abandoned or renovated properties
because of legal and safety issues. Trespassing and theft are crimes. You could be fined,
jailed, or both. If you are going to visit any property, get permission from the property
owners first and take safety precautions.
I also recommend against dumpster diving for the same reasons. If you are going
to do it, however, check local dumpster diving laws, get permission from property
owners, and take safety precautions. Of course, obey "no trespassing" signs. More tips:
http://trashwiki.org/
A safe, legal alternative is to shop at thrift stores, yard sales, garage sales, and flea
markets for materials and hardware. If needed, comparison shop at home improvement
stores and hardware stores.

Bodyweight training
Beginners should work with bodyweight-only exercises for at least a few months
before training with weights or other external loads. Use your environment as well as
any safe and sturdy objects that are available. Ideas include: a walkway, park benches, a
step or rung, a towel, a ball, a wall, a brick, even a tree. For many exercises, all you need
is floor space. DIY parallettes can be fairly cheap and simple to make, especially with
PVC. Pullup bars, parallel bars, and calisthenics parks can also be put together.
https://calisthenics-parks.com/build
DIY Strength Training, page 2

DIY Lifting, Dragging, and Carries


This is not a comprehensive list of DIY strength training ideas. Links to
additional tutorials are provided on the next page. Start relatively light if you are new to
lifting weights or other objects.

Sandbags - Sturdy backpacks and military duffel bags are useful for sandbag
training. Sandbags may be purchased cheaply at hardware stores, and duffle bags can
often be found at army surplus stores. There are also some online stores that sell
military surplus items, and some retailers that sell new military-style bags. Duffle bags
also tend to be fairly inexpensive. You may add sand as you get stronger.
To keep sand from spilling out of a G.I. duffel bag when you shoulder it, fill the
bag with the desired amount of sand and tightly tape the top shut (duct tape or Gorilla
tape recommended). Of course, this would make it difficult to add or remove sand.
Another method is to fill zipper storage bags with sand, and tightly wrap each bag with 2
or 3 layers of duct tape or Gorilla tape. Load the duffel with the desired number of bags.
This method could also be useful for other exercises.

Cinder block dragging - This is best performed outside on gravel, dirt, or sand.
You can drag a cinder block using a rope or chain looped through it. When you are ready
for more than one, you can put together a dragging setup with multiple cinder blocks.
Tie the desired number of cinder blocks to a PVC or metal pipe. The pipe will be tied
with thick rubber wire to a wooden dowel rod, another pipe, or a long metal rod, which
you would hold as you drag the cinder blocks.
I recommend putting an old bicycle handle on each end of the pipe or rod used
for dragging. When making our own setup, we used wire from old vacuum cleaners
found on the side of the road. Use wire cutters to snip the required lengths, and duct
tape tightly around the knots.

DIY weighted tire drag sleds - These can be put together fairly cheaply. Auto
repair shops and tire stores will usually give away old tires for free if you ask nicely. It
may also be worth asking around at junk yards. A variety of objects can be used for the
load, such as stones, concrete blocks, and cinder blocks. These can either be found
outside or purchased at home improvement stores. Sandbags, kettlebells, dumbbells,
and weight plates can also be used. Place some wooden boards inside the tire to support
objects, if needed. Alternatively, something like a large stepping stone may be placed on
the top of the tire, and other objects can be stacked on top of it. Be creative! However, do
not stack objects so high that they may fall off and break when the tire is in use.
Rope can be used to drag the tire. Home improvement and hardware stores
commonly sell rope by the foot. Get 20 to 30 feet of rope that is at least half an inch
thick. I recommend twisted nylon rope, as it won’t unravel when being pulled. A dock
line or emergency tow line can also be used to drag the tire. These tend to be fairly
inexpensive at department stores. A square knot can be used to secure the rope or dock
line to the tire. A tow line can be looped around the tire, then clipped to itself.
DIY Strength Training, page 3

Dragging the tire on hard surfaces can cause a lot of wear and tear on the line or
rope. Gorilla tape or duct tape can be used to help prevent some of the wear. Wrap a few
layers around at least the section of the line or rope that makes contact with the ground.
An alternative is fairly cheap and also quite simple. Purchase an eye bolt, and
drill a hole through the tire that is slightly smaller than the bolt. Push the end of the bolt
into the hole and screw it in. This may be done by hand. A sturdy object may also be
used to help twist the bolt into the tire. To prevent the bolt from loosening, secure it on
the inside of the tire. Place a washer on the end of the bolt and push it all the way up to
the tire, then screw on a nut all the way up to the washer. To finish, place a second
washer on the first nut, and screw on a second nut. The rope can be looped through the
eye bolt. Tie a loop knot on each end of the rope to create handles, if desired.
The below how-to provides an excellent tutorial as well as a video:
https://www.fitdadnation.com/tire-workouts/

“Build your own sled” - exercises, sample routines, and videos included:
https://www.t-nation.com/training/build-your-own-sled

DIY tire and drag harnesses - workout and video included:


https://www.itstactical.com/fitcom/functional-strength-fitcom/unconventional-
training-tools-diy-tire-and-drag-harnesses/

Cheap tire sled with straps and belt: http://camykennedy.com/diy-tire-sled-pull/


DIY tire drag with a weight belt: https://marshallulrich.com/blog/tire-drag/
Free download: https://www.dieselcrew.com/articles-pdf/sleddraggingI.pdf

Tire training – Tires can be used for a variety of other exercises, such as
throwing, deadlifts, and flipping. Usually, car tires can be obtained for free from auto
repair shops if you ask nicely, or found lying around. Heavy tires are sometimes given
away or sold used. Ask around at local farms, tire shops, repair shops, and similar
places.

Pinch grip lifting - weight plates, rocks, and grindstones are just a few ideas for
objects that can be used.

DIY deadlifting – one idea is to use cinder blocks and a metal pipe.

DIY "Hojo Undo" lifting tools – these include weighted levers, gripping jars, wrist
rollers, and many more. "Hojo Undo", or "supplementary exercises", refers to training
methods commonly used in traditional Okinawan karate. I have also included some
tutorials and alternatives in the "Hojo Undo" article included in this document.

DIY grip training equipment – ideas include wrist rollers, hub lifts, etc. See the
“Minimalist Grip Work” article and the next page for more ideas and links.
DIY Strength Training, page 4

Online Tutorials

The Open Source Athletics video page has a link to a Minimalist Training playlist,
which includes DIY tutorials -
https://www.opensourceathletics.org/videos

Homemade Equipment and Training Links (includes martial arts equipment) -


http://www.rosstraining.com/articles/equipmentandlinks.html

DIY strength training videos -


https://www.youtube.com/user/TheHomemadeStrength

"Monkey Fist" Youtube Channel with Hojo Undo tutorials -


https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHL8K8FCLYe6Mx_-O9LK4kg

Eli Elfassy’s YouTube channel has Hojo Undo tutorials -


https://www.youtube.com/user/SenseiEli

Guides for cost effective DIY equipment -


http://www.martialmakers.com/

"How to Turn Your Garage Into a Home Gym"


https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/garage-gym/

The Buff Dudes YouTube channel has a DIY Gym Equipment playlist -
https://www.youtube.com/user/buffdudes/playlists

DIY equipment -
https://bbaclub.blogspot.com/2011/07/strongman-equipment.html

"DIY Make your own Wrist roller and How to get Huge Strong Forearms" -
https://rocksolidbodybuilding.com/forearm-training
Home made grip devices PDF -
http://www.dieselcrew.com/articles-pdf/dieselHMGD.pdf

Sled dragging -
https://www.dieselcrew.com/articles-pdf/sleddraggingI.pdf

Send / download the PDF file(s) of choice to a mobile device for quick reference,
or print out at least the projects you want to work on.
DIY Strength Training, page 5

Below are two DIY tire drag sleds. I found the blocks lying around. One of the
hooks was clipped onto the line to secure it to the tire. We had the cinder block lying
around already. We obtained tires for free from various locations.
DIY Strength Training, page 6

A large stepping stone can be placed on the top of a DIY tire sled, depending on the size
of the tire. The stone could also support other safe and sturdy objects that are placed on
it, if you want to add further load. A large stepping stone tends to be fairly heavy by
itself, so only load up a weighted sled with one of these, if needed. Gradually add load as
you get stronger.
DIY Strength Training, page 7

DIY weighted sled for strength training - updated with an eye bolt
Strength Training Resources – Single Page
Free downloads – put document(s) of choice on a mobile device for quick reference:
https://archive.org/details/FM21-20PhysicalTraining
https://archive.org/details/DTIC_ADA531081
https://archive.org/details/MoldingAMightyGrip
https://archive.org/details/YorkHandbalancingCourseComplete
https://www.dieselcrew.com/articles-pdf/dieselHMGD.pdf
http://www.bodyweightbundle.com/pdf/essential-parkour-techniques-ebook.pdf
Recommended YouTube Channels:
https://www.youtube.com/user/buffdudes
https://www.youtube.com/user/SenseiEli
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHL8K8FCLYe6Mx_-O9LK4kg
https://www.youtube.com/user/legendarystrength

Sites with excellent training manuals:


https://superstrengthtraining.com/
https://www.dragondoor.com/

Heat related injuries and prevention:


https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048167

Workouts and programming:


https://www.t-nation.com/training/best-forearm-exercise
https://strongman.org/features/strongman-training-routine/
https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/4-drills-to-strengthen-and-injury-proof-your-neck
https://ironandgrit.com/2017/08/18/beginner-street-workout/
https://greatist.com/fitness/bodyweight-playground-workout
https://pccblog.dragondoor.com/calisthenics-2016-20-exercise-tactics-and-16-
programming-approaches-to-keep-the-dream-alive-part-one/
https://www.t-nation.com/training/prilepins-table-for-hypertrophy
Other recommended pages:
https://dinosaurtraining.blogspot.com/
http://www.rosstraining.com/articles/equipmentandlinks.html
https://bbaclub.blogspot.com/2011/07/strongman-equipment.html
https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/oldtime-strongman-exercises
https://zacheven-esh.com/functional-strength/
https://pccblog.dragondoor.com/odd-object-training-with-bodyweight/
http://ironmind.com/articles/john-brookfields-grip-tips/
http://www.martialmakers.com/
https://calisthenics-parks.com/
https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/First_Aid/Wilderness_First_Aid
https://preparednessmama.com/disaster-apps/
https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/the-rules-of-bodyweight-bodybuilding.html
https://www.t-nation.com/training/secret-of-loaded-carries
Karate Training Guide
"Karate cannot be adequately learned in a short space of time. Like a torpid bull,
regardless of how slowly it moves, it will eventually cover a thousand miles. So too, for
one who resolves to study Karate diligently two or three hours every day. After three or
four years of unremitting effort one’s body will undergo a great transformation revealing
the very essence of Karate." – Anko Itosu, the grandfather of modern Karate
The goal of this guide is help karateka build up athletic ability, coordination, and
striking power on a shoestring or non-existent budget. Karate training equipment
requires little to no financial investment if you construct your own DIY area. You just
need some creativity and repurposed materials! There are endless exercises you can
perform if you know at least a few progressions and have equipment to work with.

For links to recommended Youtube channels and a playlist based on this section
of the guide, visit -
https://www.opensourceathletics.org/karate/videos

Contents:
Karate Approach to Calisthenics
Karate Approach to Calisthenics, part 2
Outline of a well rounded system
Hojo Undo: Supplementary training exercises for karate
Hojo Undo Project: Wall mounted car tire makiwara board
Hojo Undo Project: Car tire kicking setups
Mental and spiritual training
Additional Recommended Exercises for Karate Training
Setting up training programs
Martial Arts and Fitness Resources – Single Page
Karate Approach to Calisthenics

Like many of my generation, I grew up watching movies like The Karate Kid,
Kickboxer, Enter the Dragon, Drunken Master, and Rocky. The larger-than-life
characters from these films wowed us with their fighting skills and never-give-up
attitudes. A common theme they all share is that the main character is an underdog who
must train hard to become a better fighter and overcome his seemingly invincible
opponents. The training methods employed often include some tough calisthenics skills.
I’m sure we all remember seeing Rocky do uneven pull-ups in the second film, and
dragon flags in the fourth.

The perseverance of our heroes, the amazing skills they learned, and the rigorous
training methods they endured inspired many of us to take up martial arts and training
ourselves. Bruce Lee popularized the dragon flag as well as other difficult bodyweight
feats, like his two finger push-ups. He espoused improving your athletic performance in
order to improve your martial performance, as well as to help fully express the human
body. Certainly, the martial-calisthenics connection is as old as man, yet Bruce was a
great catalyst in the popularization of martial arts in America, inspiring many to train
hard like he did. He said, "Life is never stagnation. It is constant movement…as well as
constant change. Things live by moving and gain strength as they go."

I didn’t fully understand the implications of these words until I got into
Progressive Calisthenics. There are certainly comparisons to be made between learning
progressive calisthenics and martial arts. Coach Wade made some of these comparisons
in "The Tao of PCC". He brought up some important similarities to martial arts. "…
nobody can remember a hundred techniques in a fight. What matters are the principles
you absorb." "You learn the form, you absorb the form, you discard the form."

Our training shouldn’t keep us stuck in a rigid form, but instead be directed to
the fullest expression of ourselves with utmost efficiency and simplicity. In Jackie
Chan’s older films, many of his characters often went through a transformation from a
struggling student to a graceful, efficient and powerful athlete. The training was
generally harsh, but once he absorbed the principles of his master’s art, he was ready to
face the next challenge! Like the progressive calisthenics approach, traditional power
training and body conditioning methods in Okinawan karate focus on bulletproofing the
joints, improving flexibility, and building holistic strength.

There are a number of progressive bodyweight movements taught in Okinawan


karate, including knuckle push-ups, fingertip push-ups and ultimately, wrist push-up
variations. The exercises have very direct benefits for "bunkai" or application of kata. Of
course, these exercises shouldn’t replace previous progressions, but supplement them.
Also, don’t overdo it with directly training the joints. Be sure to allow plenty of time for
your connective tissues to adapt.
Karate Approach to Calisthenics, page 2

To regress any of these variations, you can practice them using an incline (wall,
chair etc) or you can simply create less demanding leverage by kneeling instead of
performing them from your toes. You could also adapt the Convict Conditioning push-
up progression to these variations. (Coach Wade has already covered this for fingertip
pushups in Convict Conditioning 2.)

Warm up your hands and forearms properly before working knuckle, fingertip or
wrist push-ups. Afterwards, shake your hands out, and stretch your fingers and wrists.
Like most push-up variations, knuckle push-ups strengthen most of the muscles used in
straight punches. Knuckle push-ups also strengthen the wrists and knuckles, and help
toughen up the skin. A course of fingertip push-ups, grip work, pull-ups, and proper use
of a heavy bag will help you punch as hard as Rocky Balboa!

Fingertip push-ups strengthen the finger extensor muscles. Naturally, they


provide direct benefits to strikes using extended fingers. Fingertip push-ups can be
progressed by doing push-ups on fewer fingers.

Wrist push-ups strengthen the wrists for various strikes, and have very specific
benefits for "ox jaw" and "crane" techniques. This push-up variation is done on the
backs of the hands. You can also regress this exercise (make it easier) by having one
palm on the training surface instead of having both on the backs of the hands. Practice
this way on both sides to maintain symmetry in training.

A stretch commonly done in gymnastics will be useful in preparing for a wrist


push-up progression. Sit in a kneeling position, look straight down at your knees, lean
forward slightly and place the back of your hands on the ground, directly in front of your
knees. Naturally, leaning forward will put some of your weight onto the backs of your
hands, with the fingers turned inward. Cautiously lean into your hands until you feel
mild discomfort. Hold this stretch for 10-30 seconds, then come up and shake your
hands out. Repeat 1-3 times.

There are "hidden steps" between this stretch and a wrist hold in the top position
of a kneeling push-up. First, gradually build strength and flexibility in the wrists with
the stretch until you can put moderate pressure onto the backs of your hands with little
to no discomfort. The next part of the progression is to move your hands a few inches
forward from the starting position and unfold your hips slightly as you start putting
pressure on the backs of your hands. Imagine that you are trying to move a little closer
to perfect form for push-ups (hips locked out, weight carried through arms and hands).
Find the most difficult position that you can hold for 10-15 seconds when you put mild
to moderate pressure on your hands. Gradually work towards the full kneeling push-up
wrist hold.
Karate Approach to Calisthenics, page 3

Wrist pushup progression


Exercise Start with Build up to
Seated wrist hold 10 seconds 2 sets of 30 seconds
Incline wrist push-up hold 10 seconds 2 sets of 15 seconds
Wall wrist push-ups 1 set of 10 2 sets of 20
Incline wrist push-ups 1 set of 5 2 sets of 12
Kneeling wrist push-up hold 1 set of 10 seconds 2 sets of 10 seconds
Kneeling wrist push-ups 1 set of 5 2 sets of 7
Wrist push-up hold 5 seconds 2 sets of 10 seconds
Half wrist push-ups 1 set of 5 2 sets of 10
Full wrist push-ups 1 set of 5 2 sets of 7

You can regress any of the exercises by performing them on the palm of one hand
and the back of the other hand. You can progress any of these exercises by balling your
hands up into fists as you ascend to lockout. Press through the backs of the hands as you
do this as you straighten your wrists out, squeeze your fingers, and make fists. Pattern
this movement from a seated wrist stretch on the backs of the hands (as done in
gymnastics), to get used to it.

Programming and volume for wrist pushups are straightforward. Since the joints
don’t adapt as quickly as the muscles, and the wrists can tend to be injury prone, be
conservative about volume. Practicing wrist push-ups for low sets of low reps is a good
rule. Also, only practice them once a week at first if necessary.

A few options for programming wrist training:


1) Adding it to an existing joint specialization session; see Convict Conditioning 2
for a template
2) Doing some wrist stretches, holds and/or pushups as part of your warm-ups
for practice (whether karate or a sport that needs strong hands/wrists)
3) Doing some light stretches and other exercises as part of rehabilitating your
wrists (of course, this will depend on what exercises your physician recommends)
4) Training wrist holds after a session of pushups
5) There are many other possibilities depending on your own needs, goals,
experience, etc.

Martial arts and calisthenics can work hand-in-hand to develop all of the
qualities needed for the development of strength and technique. I hope that you, dear
reader, find my examples of this to be clear and useful. The Okinawan martial arts and
the methods that Coach Wade wrote about are ancient, but are still around because they
work, and can work well together!
A Karate Approach to Calisthenics, part 2

Getting to a high level in martial arts requires balance, power, flexibility, and
strength. In striking oriented arts such as karate, one’s joints and connective tissues
must also be directly trained. Lastly, the body must be trained holistically in order to
develop the needed coordination and power in techniques.

In the previous article, I discussed karate style training for the upper body. Now,
I would like to go into detail about specific calisthenics exercises that strengthen the
lower body and midsection. These exercises also help with balance, tension-flexibility,
and coordination. This helps to prepare the student for more advanced training
methods, including power training, which I will detail later.

Lastly, the exercises I detail will start with general strengthening exercises such
as squats, and gradually become more and more specific to karate techniques and
stances. This helps develop focus in one’s strikes as well as "rooting" and smooth
transitions in stances and footwork. Of course, it also helps develop coordinated, full
body strength against resistance, which sets the stage for training a makiwara board or
heavy bag, and for power training.

Lower body exercises - quads, glutes, calves


Squats train not only the legs, but also the back to some degree when performed
with proper alignment. The importance of posture cannot be overstated for exercise, as
well as for combat. When training squats, look forward, keep your elbows in tight to the
torso, and visualize protecting your centerline from your opponent. Breathe deeply on
the way down, brace your abdomen, and slowly exhale on the way up. When breathing
out, make sure to keep your abdomen braced and engage it as fully as possible in
exhalation. Imagine that you are collecting energy on the way down and filling up your
abdomen with it. Lastly, try pulling both hands back into a karate "hikite" position (fists
chambered at hips) as you lower and inhale. As you stand and exhale, open your hands
and slowly extend your arms in front of you while rotating your fingers so that they
point straight up. This is like performing a slow and controlled palm strike with both
arms.
Coach Wade’s amazing progressions for squats and bridges in Convict
Conditioning, as well as the calf raise progression in Convict Conditioning 2, can give
your lower body all the strength it needs. Work up to the progression standard for
squats (step 5), while performing them "karate style" as detailed above. Also work up to
the progression standard for short bridges (step 1 of the bridge progression) and for
standing calf raises (also step 1). These will prepare you for the exercises to come. Of
course, if you want a massive calves and a back made of steel, aim for the master steps of
calf raises and bridges! For now, let’s move on to specialized karate-style calisthenics
training for the lower body.
A Karate Approach to Calisthenics, part 2, page 2

Glute and hamstring training


The glutes act as the antagonist to the hip flexor muscle group, called the
Iliopsoas. It’s important to train both to maintain muscular balance and prevent injury.
Both muscle groups are incredibly important in stances and kicking. This goes back to
the idea of training for holistic strength. Below is a short progression of exercises to help
develop the glutes and hamstrings. All of these can be performed without a partner or
any special equipment.

Hip thrust progression


Exercise Start with Build up to
Short bridge 1 set of 10 3 sets of 50
One leg short bridges 1 set of 10 each side 3 sets of 30 each side
Foot elevated short bridges 1 set of 10 3 sets of 30
Foot elev. one leg short bridges 1 set of 10 each side 3 sets of 20 each side
Hip thrusts 1 set of 7 2 sets of 12
One leg hip thrusts 1 set of 5 each side 2 sets of 12 each side
Foot elevated hip thrusts 1 set of 5 2 sets of 10
Foot elev. one leg hip thrusts 1 set of 5 each side 2 sets of 10 each side

Alternative names for exercises:


Short bridge – glute bridge
One leg short bridge – candlestick bridge
Hip thrusts – shoulder elevated glute bridge

Stance training
Now we’re ready to apply your strength to stances! These methods will drastically
improve your rooting, balance, and coordination. Also, the deeper you go with each of
these stances, the harder they become, and the more of a deep, isometric stretch you get.
This helps develop tension-flexibility, which is an integral part of the striking oriented
arts, especially kicks!
Even if you are strong at squats, don’t be afraid to work on wall sit along with
squats to start getting ready for the isometric work to come. After a tough lower body
session, just put your back to a wall and slide down while bending your knees until your
hamstrings are at a 90 degree angle to your feet. Aim to hold this for 20-60 seconds,
then take a short rest, and perform the exercise once more. Build up to at least 2
minutes total time in wall sit.
This exercise is also useful as a remedial exercise if you’re coming off an injury
and your physician has cleared you for training. Just remember to ease into it slowly
and practice safely. Don’t let your knees go past your toes during wall sit, or go below a
90 degree bend at the knees. Take deep breaths, brace your abdomen during the
exercise, keep your heels planted, and your back straight. If any pain develops,
immediately stop the exercise.
A Karate Approach to Calisthenics, part 2, page 3

Stance Training Progression


Exercise Start with Build up to
Wall sit 10 second hold 2 minute hold
Horse stance 10 second hold 10 minute hold
Lunge hold (deep front stance) 10 second hold per leg 2 sets of 1 minute
per leg
Back stance 1 set of 5 seconds per leg 2 sets of 30 seconds
per leg
Standing figure four 1 set of 5 seconds per leg 2 sets of 30 seconds
per leg

Power in techniques
Once you have built up the requisite foundation of strength in stances and
movement, it is time to work on power. To throw powerful strikes and kicks, one must
be able to utilize strength quickly and in a coordinated way. The bodyweight exercises
given previously helped to not only build strength, but coordination. What we need now
is to work on acceleration!
Below is a progression of techniques that may be used to build power in kicks. It
can be modified to include roundhouse kicks instead of front kicks. Keep the sets high,
but the repetitions low to moderate. An exception can be made for bunny hops, if you
would like to build endurance. When practicing, remember to "block". Blocking involves
quickly pushing off the floor in order to transfer your momentum upwards. Keep your
knees pointed forward when you’re in the air, and keep them bent when landing, so that
they don’t absorb too much of the shock.
You will be ready to move up to the next exercise in the progression when you are
able to consistently perform a skill with improved power, and little to no technical flaws.
You can gauge power with the height of each jump or hop, or use the Sargent Jump Test,
which can be found online. For the kicking exercises, technical progress involves the
improvement of chambering, snap, balance, and returning to a stable position after each
kick. Power is measured by how quickly you are able to perform the exercise and
complete a front kick. Every instructor teaches front kicks differently, but generally, you
want to have a tight "chamber" and "re-chamber", as well as no "wobble" as you perform
the kick.

Front Kick Power Progression


Straight jump
Bunny hop
Tuck jump
Front kick from squat
Front kick from lunge
Jumping front kick
Lunge to jumping front kick
A Karate Approach to Calisthenics, part 2, page 4

Abdominal training and tension-flexibility


Karate also requires a strong core and the ability to contract your muscles
throughout a range of motion. Midsection holds and leg raises are incredibly helpful in
developing contractile tension in the muscles needed for kicking.
The side kick progression trains the sides of the abdomen (obliques) and
develops tension-flexibility in the legs. Before beginning the progression, build up your
legs with squats and your abdominals with midsection holds and/or leg raises. This will
give you the holistic strength needed.

Side Kick Progression


Exercise Start with Build up to
Side plank 10 seconds each side 2 minute hold on each side
Side elbow plank 10 seconds each side 2 minute hold on each side
Side plank hip raises 1 set of 10 each side 2 sets of 20 on each side
Side lying leg raises 1 set of 10 each side 2 sets of 20 on each side
Standing side leg raises 1 set of 5 each side 2 sets of 10 on each side
Standing side leg hold 10 seconds each side 30 second holds each leg
Side kick 10 per side 50 per side
Outline of a well rounded system

Karate - specialized training progressions, body shifting, Hojo Undo (includes


lifting tools, impact tools, and toughening), Kihon, Kata, Bunkai
Kihon – stances, punches, strikes, kicks defenses, body shifting, footwork
Drills - pad work, sparring progression
Grappling / ground work – minimum of basic positions and defenses
Footwork – shuffling, spinning, wedging under

Sparring progression - shadow boxing, grappling / ground work basics, and


pad work should be included in every phase of a student's development. Bag work when
appropriate and available. Make sure students have conditioned the hands, arms and
wrists before starting bag work and know proper technique. Even advanced students
who are engaging in heavy contact sparring will still get benefits from drills and
exercises, which can be adapted for their own levels of skills and conditioning.

1. Early drills - footwork, combinations and defenses with footwork, grappling /


ground work basics
2. Hojo Undo drills, exercises and equipment
3. One step sparring drills based on kata, light contact prearranged sparring
(partners agree to techniques)
4. Three step sparring drills, limited sparring (one to a few attack techniques
allowed, and light contact), light grappling and ground work
5. More advanced drilling of bunkai (introduce more grappling and redirection,
etc), medium contact sparring and sparring drills; gradually increase complexity of
intensity of sparring, but occasionally scaling back or not sparring to give students a
break. Grappling and ground work should be added to sparring at least occasionally.
Students should also still be learning more about grappling and ground work.

Strength - Calisthenics and lifting tools


Conditioning - high reps, circuit training, intervals, bag work
Calisthenics training modes - joints, strength, endurance, skill, hypertrophy, rehab,
flexibility, power
Agility skills and drills – plyometrics, basic gymnastics and or parkour
Mental toolkit - visualization, meditation, mindfulness, feedback (video, correction)
Purpose of karate training – to fight for peace, harmony and truth

The 5 precepts:
Effort
Character
Wisdom
Truth
Sincerity
Hojo Undo: Supplementary training exercises for karate

"Hojo Undo", or "supplementary exercises", is a Japanese term that refers to


training methods commonly used in traditional Okinawan karate. The exercises were
designed to be very specific to karate training and helped develop breathing, posture,
coordination, strength, and conditioning. Traditionally, the tools are simple, and
improvised from materials that are affordable or readily found for free - mostly wood,
rope, straw, and stone.

Use Caution
Err on the side of caution when performing specialized pushups (on the knuckles,
for example) and working with impact tools (such as makiwara). Skin and joints tend to
take longer to adapt than muscles. If you break the skin performing knuckle pushups,
makiwara work, or any other exercise, clean it as soon as possible or immediately after
training. Use a first aid antiseptic for cleaning, then apply antibacterial ointment.
Bandage as needed. Of course, none of this is meant to be taken as medical advice. Refer
to your physician if you have any health questions.
Makiwara work is intended to help you develop focus in your techniques, become
acclimated to performing techniques against resistance, and develop the joints of the
hands. Development of calluses is a side benefit, but not the primary goal. Be careful to
not overtrain with makiwara! Give the hands time to recover between sessions. It is fine
to skip makiwara work for a few sessions to allow for recovery.
If you are repurposing found materials for training, check them for safety issues
first. Also, be sure to thoroughly clean all materials. This may require the use of an
antiseptic. After each use, store training equipment in a safe area.

Body Conditioning
Hojo Undo options include: a tapping stick, a bamboo bundle, and partner
conditioning drills. I recommend using or making your own "shinai" (practice bamboo
sword), as it has some give. A broomstick or dowel rod can also be used, but start slow.
For additional body conditioning, exchange strikes and kicks with a partner to the
abdomen, ribcage, and shins. Start light and go slowly when you first start any form of
body conditioning. Do not use enough force to develop bruising or contusions. If
bruising does occur, use an ice pack and allow that body part to recover. Keep in mind
that toughening the body isn’t the primary purpose of partner drills. The priority is to
develop whole body power as well as technique.
Starting on the next page, I will go into some detail about tools you can use or
create for Hojo Undo training. Materials can be found cheaply or for free.
For a more comprehensive list of "hojo undo" tools -
http://www.blackbeltwiki.com/hojo-undo

The Google Sites version of this page includes video tutorials and more pictures:
https://www.opensourceathletics.org/karate/hojo-undo
Hojo Undo, page 2

Impact Tools
These tools are used to develop "kime" (focus), condition the body, and build
power. Do not begin striking impact tools until you have sufficiently strengthened your
muscles, bones, and connective tissues. Karate variations of pushups are recommended.
I describe these in the Karate Approach to Calisthenics article.
The goal of using impact tools is not to make your hands bleed or develop
calluses, but to develop power in your strikes and strengthen the joints.

"Sunabukuro" – Heavy bag. You could fill a G.I. duffle bag with sand. Do not pack
it too tightly. The bag can be loaded on a safe and sturdy object instead of a heavy bag
setup. Sandbags may be purchased cheaply at hardware stores, and duffle bags can often
be found at army surplus stores. There are also some online stores that sell military
surplus items, and some retailers that sell new military-style bags.
An alternative is taping old car tires may be taped together (gorilla tape is
recommended). My father and I constructed two of these at our studio and later moved
them home. Auto repair shops usually give car tires away for free if you ask nicely, since
they otherwise have to pay for the tires be hauled off. Check each tire to make sure there
are no wires exposed.

Tapping stick – used to get mentally accustomed to impact, as well as lightly


condition the shins and forearms. I recommend starting with a shinai (bamboo practice
sword), as it has some give. Other ideas include using a wooden dowel rod, or a
broomstick.

"Tou" or "Taketaba" - bamboo bundle; used to help condition your forearms,


shins, and fingers for strikes. If you know where to find bamboo, make sure you obtain
permission from property owners before removing any. Always check bamboo for
infections (viral, fungal, or parasitic). Cut the chosen stalk(s) to the desired length and
bundle at least 5 or 6 together using rope, duct tape, or handle. Replace taketaba as
needed, depending on wear and weather damage. Keep in mind that nerve damage is
not the goal of body conditioning – train safely!

"Jari Bako" - A bowl or bucket filled with sand, smooth stones, gravel, rice or
even beans. It is used by striking your fingers into it, which will condition them. Rice
and beans, when bought in bulk, are very cheap. Work with sand, rice, or beans first.

"Makiwara" - Padded striking post. Traditionally, rope is used to bind a pad of


rice straw to the top to create a striking surface. Other traditional makiwara include age-
makiwara (hanging), ude-makiwara (round on all sides), tou-makiwara (bamboo stalks
or cane). The smaller and more commonly seen makiwara are usually made of a pad that
is covered with canvas and fixed to a board, then mounted to a wall. There are some
variations, such as clapper and portable makiwara. Wall mounted car tire makiwara
boards can also be constructed. Foam and rubber are alternatives for padding.
Hojo Undo, page 3

Alternatives to makiwara and heavy bag


You can ask a training partner to hold a car tire, football shield, or a "slammer".
Switch roles every 10 kicks, punches, or strikes, so that your partner can also practice.
The person holding the tire, shield or slammer should be in a deep stance. Wear work
gloves, MMA gloves, or similar when punching or striking a tire. You could alternatively
wrap enough rope around the tire to provide sufficient cushion for the hands. In either
case, start light and use proper technique at all times. Further ideas include putting
together a car tire kicking setup, and affixing a car tire to a post or tree using chain
and/or thick tape. Use enough chain to be able to tie a knot with it.

Lifting Tools
There are a number of lifting tools that have traditionally been a part of
Okinawan Karate. I’ll give a few ideas for construction and for alternatives. Materials
can be found cheaply or free. Beginners should work with bodyweight-only exercises for
at least a few months before adding the use of Hojo Undo lifting tools. Start light.

"Chi ishi" - "strength stones"; basically weighted levers. Traditionally used to


strengthen the muscles and joints of the arms, especially the forearms and wrists. A
grindstone can be used as the weight and a pool stick or axe handle can be used as the
lever. If using a cue stick, cut it to the desired length and polish the skinnier end. A
hammer can be used to "nail" the "axe end" of an axe handle or the skinny end of a cue
stick into a grindstone, and hot glue can be used to fill in the cracks.
A sledgehammer can be used as an alternative to chi ishi, or to hit tires. Usually,
car tires can be obtained for free from auto repair shops if you ask nicely, or found lying
around. Tractor tires can be purchased used, but you might be able to find one free.

"Nigiri Game" - gripping jars; alternatives include old meal replacement powder
jars, milk jugs, or similar. The container(s) may be filled with gravel, dirt, or sand. Wash
out old jugs and/or jars before using. If using jars, put the lids back on after filling, and
tightly duct tape the lids shut.
Another option is to put sand into Ziploc bags and tightly wrap them in a few
layers of duct tape. Bricks can also be used, and can often be obtained for free. Of
course, be sure to do so legally and safely. Bricks may also be purchased cheaply at
hardware stores. Pinch lifts can also be performed with weight plates, rocks, and
grindstones.

"Tan" – it is similar to a barbell, and traditionally made from wood and concrete.
Alternatives include a PVC pipe filled with sand and capped at the ends; metal rod;
barbell; metal pipe with cement filled paint cans or cement filled buckets (one on each
end)
Hojo Undo, page 4

"Makiage kigu" - Wrist roller. This is used to strengthen the grip and wrists.
Makiage kigu are traditionally made from a length of rope tied to a wooden rod at one
end and a weight at the other end. Stand with your feet at shoulder width, or stand in
horse stance, when using a wrist roller.
Wrist rollers are fairly simple and cheap to make: 1) Handle – ideas include
wooden dowel rod, broom stick, and PVC pipe. The handle should be about an inch
thick. 2) Strong rope or cord. 3) A weight plate or other safe, sturdy object to lift. We
have created some for free, using materials found through dumpster diving, and cords
from vacuum cleaners we found on the side of the road.
Ideas for objects include a grindstone, bricks, or other objects with a hole. A rock
can also be used if a hole is drilled through the middle, or if you have enough length of
rope or cord to tie around it. A jug or bucket with dirt, sand, gravel, or rocks is another
option. Wash out the jug or bucket before use. Start with a light load.
Drill a hole through the handle that is wide enough for the rope or cord. Push the
rope or cord through the whole. Tie a knot on each side of the hole, and hot glue each
knot if desired. An alternative to drilling is to simply tie a knot around the handle and
secure it with a few layers of duct tape. The other end of your rope or cord will be
secured or tied to the weight / object to be lifted. A strong clip or heavy duty carabiner
can be used, which makes it easy to add weight plates or other objects. There are also
some excellent tutorials online that explain other ways to put together a wrist roller.
Wrist roller "tougheners" include: 1) A thicker handle will make the exercise
harder on the forearms. Ideas include 2" thick PVC pipe. 2) A square board could be
used instead of a round handle, which makes the exercise harder on the fingers. 3)
Stand on a platform, plyo box, or other safe raised surface. This allows for a greater
range of motion (and therefore more time under tension. I have personally stood on my
back porch and used a wrist roller to lift a grindstone from the ground.

How to search for free materials and hardware – a few ideas


Sign up at Freecycle and ask around in local groups – http://www.freecycle.org
Facebook – check for free stuff groups
Ask politely at local farms, auto repair shops, tire shops, etc
Contact the job site manager of a demolition/construction site (again, be polite!)
Check local groups on Craigslist
Ask people you know if they are throwing anything away / cleaning house, and
kindly offer to help in return for usable materials
Hojo Undo, page 5

Legal Disclaimer
Always take proper safety precautions before training, or constructing training
tools. Consult a physician or other qualified healthcare professional before starting a
new diet or exercise program. I am not a physician, and as such, nothing I say should be
taken as a substitute for medical advice.
I recommend against looking for materials at abandoned or renovated properties
because of legal and safety issues. Trespassing and theft are crimes. You could be fined,
jailed, or both. If you are going to visit any property, get permission from the property
owners first and take safety precautions.
I also recommend against dumpster diving for the same reasons. If you are going
to do it, however, check local dumpster diving laws, get permission from property
owners, and take safety precautions. Of course, obey "no trespassing" signs. More tips:
http://trashwiki.org/
A safe, legal alternative is to shop at thrift stores, yard sales, garage sales, and flea
markets for materials and hardware.

Calisthenics as an alternative
Lifting tools aren’t required to build strength, as your own bodyweight can
provide sufficient resistance. Bodyweight training is also a safe alternative to weights.
While coordination is benefited by the use of tools, this is also true of calisthenics.
Lastly, calisthenics can be performed for free. Little to no equipment is needed! At most,
you will need something to hang from or hold on to, such as hand rails at public parks or
even door knobs. Bodyweight grip work may be performed in place of wrist rolling.
Shoulder exercises and hanging from a thick bar can be performed in place of nigiri
game.
Hojo Undo, page 6

Shinai (bamboo practice sword I use for forearm / shin conditioning)


Sandbags with a few layers of duct tape for "nigiri game" style exercises
"Chi ishi" (one is an axe handle and grindstone; the other is a poolstick and grindstone)
Wrist roller (using a carabiner and grindstone)
Sledgehammer for "chi ishi" exercises
Broom for broom and brick lift exercise - "Molding a Mighty Grip" by George F. Jowett
has a tutorial. Start with just the broom if needed. Download the book for free:
https://archive.org/details/MoldingAMightyGrip
Hojo Undo, page 7

Bamboo may be used for some "Hojo Undo" impact tools. If you know where to find
bamboo, obtain permission from property owners before removing any. It is also a good
idea to treat bamboo. Visit this website for information on bamboo preservation.
https://www.guaduabamboo.com/preservation
Hojo Undo, page 8

Wrist Roller

For this wrist roller, we used a dowel, a twisted dock line, duct tape, and a
grindstone. The line was tied in a knot around the dowel and duct taped. The loop end
was slipped through the grind stone, then the rod was slipped through the loop. You can
add a clip or large carabiner, if you want to make it easier to add or remove weights /
objects.
The above grindstone is fairly heavy (20+ pounds). It is recommended to start
light. Gradually build up rounds of wrist rolling, then add a weight plate or other small
object. Alternatively, you could use a heavier object.
Instead of duct taping rope to a dowel, you can drill a hole in the middle and slip
it through. Push enough rope through that you can tie a knot, to prevent it from slipping
out when training.
Hojo Undo, page 9

Car tire for striking

We had two posts that weren’t being used, and chained a car tire to each one,
then added a few layers of duct tape. I later wrapped a twisted dock line around one of
the tires, to add cushioning for punches. We plan on drilling a hole in the bottom of each
tire to allow them to drain of water left after rain.
Hojo Undo, page 10

Wrist roller with bricks

I cleaned up some old bricks that we had lying around and bought a clip from the
sporting goods section of a department store. I later added a third brick. Since bricks are
fairly light, they are easy to start with or use for a "light day".
Hojo Undo, page 11

Online Tutorials

Eli Elfassy has uploaded some video tutorials on constructing your own martial
arts training equipment, including Hojo Undo tools. Visit his playlist page and click or
tap on "How to Build Martial Arts Useful Equipment with Eli".
https://www.youtube.com/user/SenseiEli/playlists

"Monkey Fist" Youtube Channel with Hojo Undo tutorials -


https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHL8K8FCLYe6Mx_-O9LK4kg

GKCgoju has video tutorials in their strength and conditioning playlist:


https://www.youtube.com/user/GKCgoju/playlists

Excellent wrist roller tutorial with a training program:


https://www.t-nation.com/training/best-forearm-exercise

Homemade Equipment and Training Links (includes martial arts equipment):


http://www.rosstraining.com/articles/equipmentandlinks.html
Guides for cost effective DIY equipment:
http://www.martialmakers.com/

"Molding a Mighty Grip" - download options:


https://archive.org/details/MoldingAMightyGrip

Home made grip devices PDF:


http://www.dieselcrew.com/articles-pdf/dieselHMGD.pdf

The above document includes a thick wrist roller project that is fairly cheap to
make. Some of the other devices and the stone exercises can be used as alternatives to
Nigiri Game (gripping jars). Grip training in general is quite beneficial for karate
practitioners, so feel free to try any of the ideas listed. Send / download the PDF to a
mobile device for quick reference, or print out at least the projects you want to work on.
Materials for DIY projects can found cheaply at hardware stores and sporting goods
stores. Stones can often be found for free.

"In the old days we trained Karate as a martial art, but now they train Karate as a
gymnastic sport. I think we must avoid treating Karate as a sport – it must be a martial
art at all times! Your fingers and the tips of your toes must be like arrows, your arms
must be like iron. You have to think that if you kick, you try to kick the enemy dead. If
you punch, you must thrust to kill. If you strike, then you strike to kill the enemy. This is
the spirit you need in order to progress in your training." – Choshin Chibana (founder of
Kobayashi Shorin-ryu Karate)
Hojo Undo Project: Wall mounted car tire makiwara board

This project is fairly simple and straightforward. It was inspired by the tutorial
that Eli Elfassy posted on his YouTube channel. The design is sturdy and resistant to
water damage, as well as very cost effective, as the materials can often be found at thrift
shops and home improvement stores. The tire provides a bit of "give", allowing the user
to deliver powerful blows without risk of injury to joints (as long as proper technique
and caution are used). Auto repair shops will usually give you old car tires for free if you
ask nicely, since they will often be throwing out old tires on a regular basis.

There are various types of makiwara that have historically been used in various
karate styles. Makiwara are Okinawan in origin and traditionally consisted of a wooden
board or pole padded with rice straw tied on with rope. Foam is an excellent alternative
form of padding. Duct tape, leather, and canvas work quite well as coverings, and are
quite durable. The makiwara can be free standing (via a pole placed in the ground or
attached to something heavy) or mounted to a wall. The primary purposes of the
makiwara are to condition one's striking tools and "kime", which in the context of
karate, means focus of technique. If you use canvas, make sure you have enough to fold
around the foam and around to the back of the board a few inches so that it can be
stapled on.

You could also mount a makiwara directly onto the wall, or on a post or tree.

Check out Sensei Eli’s videos - https://www.youtube.com/user/SenseiEli

Our materials and tools:


3 feet of plyboard cut into two pieces with power saw
Pieces of foam from old flotation devices, trimmed down to fit the board (to
provide cushion)
Elmer's Glue ™ and Shoe Goo ™ to keep the foam in place and protect the board
from water damage. Shoe Goo ™ is sturdy enough to take a lot of beating.
Heavy weights to help flatten out the foam
Painting canvas wrapped around the wood and attached via staples to provide a
striking surface
Old car tire to mount the finished board on via screws
Wall to mount the tire on, using old wiring and screws

Pictures of the project start on the next page


We later nailed the board up to the sycamore tree behind our house. The bags were used
for weather protection. I now have the board nailed up to a wall inside the house.
Hojo Undo Project: Car tire kicking setups

My father and I constructed two of these at our studio and later moved them
home. To construct your own, you will need at least three old car tires and duct tape or
gorilla tape. Clean out the tires if needed, and stack three or four up. The tape is used to
hold the tires together. Wrap 3 or 4 layers of tape between each tire. Also make 3 or 4
layers vertically, going around the tires, on at least three different places. For weather
protection, you can use tarp secured with bungee cords or rubber tarp straps with S
hooks. You can add broomsticks, wooden dowel rods, or even bamboo to a setup if you
want to practice bunkai and arm toughening. Bunkai is application of kata. Insert one
end of a stick near a vertical layer of tape and secure the stick to it with a few layers of
more tape.

Auto repair shops usually give car tires away for free if you ask nicely, since they
otherwise have to pay for the tires be hauled off. Check each tire to make sure there are
no wires exposed.
Mental and spiritual training

The mental and spiritual aspects of karate practice fall outside of the scope of this
document, but are the most important parts of your training. Karate, much like other
Budo, is heavily influenced by Zen Buddhism. Zen may be practiced as a life philosophy,
a religion, or a toolkit that assists martial arts. However, practicing Zen is not necessary
to become adept at karate or martial arts in general. With respect to individual beliefs, I
cannot dictate how one should go about delving into the spiritual component of training.
Karate can also be purely a physical pursuit if so desired.

Still, it must be said that the Zen concepts of mushin (no-mind), shoshin
(beginner’s mind), zanshin (remaining mind), and fudoshin (immovable mind) are
invaluable to becoming high level in karate and even in martial arts in general. Zen
practices such as mindfulness and shikantaza (simply sitting) are also quite beneficial
for not just martial arts, but everyday life. Paying attention to one’s breath and simply
being present in the moment are excellent practices in many situations we find
ourselves in.

The mental aspects of training must also not be neglected. Look into
visualization, research various styles of karate and other martial arts, attend seminars,
and basically learn as much as you can. Of course, each karate organization has its own
rules as to when students are encouraged to cross train in other styles. Be sure to ask
your instructors about materials they would suggest, seminars, and when you can visit
other schools.

Check out Jesse Enkamp’s excellent article about the four mindsets of karate.
http://www.karatebyjesse.com/zanshin-mushin-shoshin-fudoshin/

Another recommended article:


https://www.sportpsych.org/nine-mental-skills-overview

No matter one’s approach to karate training, development of character is of


utmost importance. Like other forms of budo, karate focuses on discipline, compassion,
and personal growth. Self defense is a last resort!

"There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a


sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such
things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved
from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you will still get the same soaking.
This understanding extends to everything."
― Tsunetomo Yamamoto, The Hagakure: A code to the way of samurai
Additional Recommended Exercises for Karate Training

Bodyweight exercises:
Stance training
Cat stretch (also known as "neko undo")
Neck exercises - basic neck exercises, neck bridges, front neck plank, wrestler’s bridge
progression
Scapular pushups
Plyometrics (such as squat jump)
Hand specializations - karate pushups, wrist pushups
Grip work
Toe raises
Calf and foot exercises

With a partner:
Partner stretching
Partner leg raise throwdowns
Stance development drills
Shoulder squats (partner on your shoulders)
Fireman’s carry with partner
Partner deadlifts

Skill work, power, and cardio:


Agility drills and skills
Shadowboxing
Skipping rope
Speed bag work
Pad work
Explosive calisthenics
Boxing drills
Sparring drills and progression

View videos of many of these on the Google Sites version of this page -
https://www.opensourceathletics.org/karate/recommended-exercises-for-karate

The pages below have links to workouts, videos, and playlists -


https://www.opensourceathletics.org/videos
https://www.opensourceathletics.org/workouts
Setting up Training Programs
"Studying the martial Way is like climbing a cliff: keep going forward without
rest. Resting is not permissible because it causes recessions to old adages of
achievement. Persevering day in, day out improves techniques, but resting one day
causes lapses. This must be prevented." - Mas Oyama, founder of Kyokushin Karate
While there is no "one size fits all" program, I would still like to provide a few
workout ideas. Of course, I cannot emphasize enough the need for formal instruction
and proper technique. Ask a qualified teacher as well as an experienced strength coach
to help with learning techniques and exercises. Choices of Hojo Undo tools should be
based on your goals, budget, and the availability of materials.
For lifting tools, I personally recommend starting with a wrist roller and a light
load. Gradually build up endurance. For bodyweight exercises, start with pushups, leg
raises, squats, and pullups. Bodyweight grip work may be performed instead of wrist
roller work. Add neck work, hand specializations, and stance work as conditioning
improves. Add another lifting tool or two later on, as well. Be cautious about adding too
many exercises to a workout, to help avoid overtraining and injury.
Consult a physician or other qualified healthcare professional before starting a
new diet or exercise program. I am not a physician, and as such, nothing I say should be
taken as a substitute for medical advice.

A few workout structure ideas: full body strength training workout –


bodyweight only, lifting tools only, or a hybrid; boxing style workout – cardio, skipping
rope, strength training, bag work, etc.; karate class workout – strength training, basics,
kata, sparring drills, impact tools, etc.

Impact work: You will be ready to use a makiwara once you have sufficiently
conditioned the joints through hand specialization exercises, and learned proper
striking technique. However, pad work, bag work, and / or tire work may be practiced
early on. Start light and wear some form of hand protection as needed.

Cardiovascular training: This may be performed as a separate workout, or


before a strength and conditioning workout.

Joint training (neck, hand specializations): Gradually build up intensity.


Skip joint training when needed to allow the joints to recover.

Recommended YouTube channels


GKCgoju, tripleVVV3, LegendaryStrength, themodernmartialartist,
ConvictConditioning

Recommended Pages
Workouts page with videos:
https://www.opensourceathletics.org/workouts
A FAQ that includes abbreviated bodyweight workouts:
https://www.dragondoor.com/pdf/Convict_Conditioning_SUPER_FAQ.pdf
Wrist roller tutorial with workout ideas:
https://www.t-nation.com/training/best-forearm-exercise
Karate Training Programs page 2

Additional drills and exercises:


Sensitivity drills, agility (tumbling, etc), mobility, and breathing exercises can
also be added to workouts, or performed separately as individual sessions.

Scheduling around karate class:


There are two basic options for setting up a weekly schedule based on class times.
If you’re just starting out, you should perform workouts on days that you do not attend
class. As your strength and conditioning improve, you can perform workouts on class
days. Use caution and common sense when you train on class days, though – you don’t
want to overtrain! Feel free to leave out or replace certain exercises if you know you will
be doing later in class. Of course, ask your instructor for his or her expert feedback on
setting up a training schedule.

When traveling or otherwise don’t have access to equipment: You can


skip the impact work (body conditioning, makiwara, bag work, car tires). Space
allowing, still practice kata and/or drills. If you cannot afford to make any training
equipment at the moment, ask around online and offline for materials. Also, search for
local boxing gyms, as these are often free to the public.
You can perform pulling movements with doorknobs and/or a towel, if no pullup
equipment or hand rails are available. I recommend looking up tutorials for "Let me
ins". Some dipping variations can be performed using a chair or bed. If you have little
room, you can replace the front kick power progression with other explosive movements
or small space exercises.

Martial arts instructors: If you are designing a workout for a group class,
select exercises that are simple enough to teach fairly quickly to students of various skill
and conditioning levels. Also, exercises that do not require spotting will be the easiest to
have the entire group perform at once. Depending on the complexity of the exercise(s)
as well as the skill levels and ages of the students, partnering up your students to help
one another with exercises can be quite productive. Of course, use discretion and keep
safety first. Take all needed safety precautions before teaching skills that require
spotting. This includes mats, a clean training area, and proper spotting techniques.
Workouts may be tailored to young children by keeping lifts simple and very
light. Calisthenics and simple, safe partner exercises may also be utilized. Make
workouts fun to prevent boredom. Include warmups and cooldowns. Seek the advice of
instructors, coaches, and/or personal trainers who have experience in training youths.
Some students may have health concerns that contraindicate rigorous exercise.
Training may be adapted according to advice from their physician or physical therapist.

An example full body program template: 1. Skipping rope or other small


space exercises, 2. Knuckle pushups, 3. Tan or Chi Ishi exercise(s), 4. Leg raises, 5.
Squats, 6. Pullups or horizontal pullups, 7. Wrist roller, 8. Stance training progression
or partner resisted stance, 9. Neck work, 10. Shin flexes, 11. Bag work or tire work, and
12. Mobility work / cooldowns
Martial Arts and Fitness Resources – Single Page
Recommended YouTube Channels: GKCgoju, Karate108, Eli Elfassy, Combat
Conditioning, Precision Striking, Monkey Fist, themodernmartialartist,
LegendaryStrength, ConvictConditioning

Free downloads:
http://www.shotokankarate.org/knowledge-base/kata-the-folk-dances-of-shotokan/
https://archive.org/details/JackDempseyChampionshipFighting
https://archive.org/details/BookOfTheFiveRings
https://archive.org/details/pdfy-W91d_RoynCCibBAf
https://archive.org/details/TheArtOfWarBySunTzu
https://archive.org/details/PracticalKarateAgainJosepClaramonte
https://www.dragondoor.com/pdf/Convict_Conditioning_SUPER_FAQ.pdf
http://www.dieselcrew.com/articles-pdf/dieselHMGD.pdf

Send or download documents of choice to a mobile device for quick reference.

Recommended webpages:
https://legacy.ymaa.com/articles/hojo-undo-traditional-karate-s-forgotten-training-
methods
http://www.martialmakers.com/
https://www.thefullwiki.org/Karate
http://ryukyuma.blogspot.com/
https://jamesclear.com/beginners-guide-deliberate-practice
https://www.sportpsych.org/nine-mental-skills-overview
http://karate-site.co.uk/
http://bunkaijutsu.com/bunkai-jutsu-blog/
http://www.shinyokai.org/essays.htm
http://www.karatebyjesse.com/
http://www.wayofleastresistance.net/
https://blackbeltwiki.com/
https://www.t-nation.com/training/best-forearm-exercise

Recommended books:
https://www.shambhala.com/the-inner-art-of-karate-795.html
https://ymaa.com/sites/default/files/book/sample/The-Art-of-Hojo-Undo.pdf
Guide "To Do List"

Make exercise tutorials section more comprehensive


Exercise photos
Tutorials for warming up, stretching, calisthenics training tactics, plyometrics,
hand balancing, and DIY equipment
Hand balancing progressions
Set up a MediaWiki or similar repository for the information in the guide
Training Notes
Broke Strength Training Guide
Ditch the Gym – Get in Shape for Free!
Copylefted 2018 Owen Johnston
Open Source Athletics homepage: https://www.opensourceathletics.org/

No rights reserved. Every part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed,


or transmitted in any form or by any means imaginable, without the prior written
permission of anyone. You may modify the guide and redistribute it in any format.

This work is licensed under:


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About the author


I have over 10 years of teaching experience, including martial arts, strength
coaching, gymnastics, and personal training. I also hold black belt rank in Heiwado
Karate, which I obtained in 2004. I have worked with many types of athletes and fitness
enthusiasts over the years, with varying levels of experience. More about Heiwado -
http://www.thefullwiki.org/JIKC

Videos
Many of the “Open Source Athletics” versions of articles in this guide contain
useful videos. The page below also contains links to YouTube playlists.
https://www.opensourceathletics.org/videos

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