I started lifting weights when I was 15 or so.
I loved the way of iron, and spent years training in gyms.
But by my mid-30’s, I’d gotten progressively bored with weight-training.
It felt stagnant, no fun at all.
So I started slacking off.
Sure, I stayed in good shape. But I was doing the minimum, barely lifting at all.
My heart just wasn’t in it anymore.
And that was a problem, since physical fitness is important to me.
I was looking for a new challenge, but wasn’t sure which path to take…
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Enter Convict Conditioning
I was intrigued.
I bought my copy and devoured it in just a few days.
It blew my mind – unlike any fitness book I’ve ever read.
It’s written by an ex-con named Paul Wade – a man who spent years serving time in various California penal institutions.
Paul entered prison a physical weakling. But the gym on the yard was off limits due to his lowly “new fish” status. Paul had no intention of becoming a victim, he had to keep the wolves at bay.
He needed a system for getting powerful fast, without weights.
So he learned the ancient art of strength-training sans equipment; old-school calisthenics using only human bodyweight. Paul studied with the prison old-timers, mastered their methods, and began sharing his knowledge with others. He became a respected OG known as “El Entrenador” – Spanish for “The Coach.”
For Paul and the prisoners he taught, physical fitness wasn’t a luxury.
They weren’t trying to attract ladies.
They weren’t winning any trophies.
It was purely about survival.
And that ruthless, masculine, no-nonsense attitude permeates this book…
The Big Six
CC focuses on working just six muscle groups:
- Lower Back
- Upper Back
Yes, it appears basic, at first. But then you realize that each group has ten different associated exercises. So, that’s sixty different exercises, total! And it might seem like there are muscle groups missing, i.e. arms. But when combined, these exercises actually make up a complete full-body workout.
Like any training, you’ll start with easy movements and work up to progressively harder ones. For example, you’d begin working your chest with beginner wall pushups. You’d build strength and move up to the final “Master Step” exercise – in this case one-armed pushups.
Physically fit guys could skip some of the simple stuff and go straight to the more advanced exercises. I did that for some of my stronger body areas, like my chest and back. But for other parts like my weaker lower back, I had to start from the very beginning with exercise number one.
This book also inspires me to keep a fitness journal, something I never did when lifting weights. I’m writing down and recording my progress daily. Many of us have a tendency to forget how far we’ve come when we train – and a journal helps you objectively track your progress.
Snapshot From My Personal Workout Journal (updated for 2016)
Besides the actual training routines, the book is packed with great fitness tips. Paul’s clearly a tough guy, but there’s no stupid macho advice here. Only proper training technique to help keep your body healthy and get you massively strong. For example, the book explains proper pull-up form, shows why your shoulder positioning is likely incorrect, and how to fix it. It also outlines the correct way to work your deltoids, invaluable advice for protecting the fragile and often-injured rotator cuff.
Minimalism is another attractive feature of CC bodyweight training. I complete my routine at home, no gym needed. Technically, you could follow this book with no equipment – perfect for travelers, guys with no gym access, or guys on a budget. You’d just need someplace to hang and do chin ups. The world is your playground – a tree branch, stairs, or a ledge will work just fine.
But though you could train entirely equipment-free, I’ve found two items that complement Convict Conditioning training:
The Iron Gym Extreme
Yeah, the Iron Gym Extreme looks like a gimmicky-late night infomercial product. But don’t be fooled. This well-designed metal chin-up bar is lightweight, sturdy, and does the job. It’s great for pull-ups and limited ab work.
It comes disassembled, but only takes about 15 minutes to put together. It fits into indoor doorways with no hardware required. That means you can install it without a drill. And since it’s not permanently attached you can easily take it down when not in use.
It has multiple foam-covered grip options, so you can change up your workouts as desired. And the plastic “arm” on top protects your wall from scratches.
My one complaint? It’s not high enough off the ground for extensive abdominal work. Some of the more advanced CC ab exercises involve hanging leg raises. I’m only 5’8, but my legs don’t clear the floor when hanging from the bar while fully extended. Minor gripe though, it works well for everything else.
Overall, the Iron Gym Extreme is a solid product. Practical, fun to use, and awesome exercise – highly recommended.
I use one other prop to enhance my bodyweight training – a Spalding basketball.
A basketball is ideal for advanced CC movements like uneven pushups, uneven squats, or uneven handstand pushups.
Sure, a soccer ball or even a pile of bricks would work.
But a basketball is best since it’s tacky and easier to grip.
Enough talk. Let’s see some results!
So does Convict Conditioning really work?
You tell me…
Want to make yourself strong, lean, hard, and ripped?
The old-school warrior way, without weights or equipment?
Then pick up Convict Conditioning today, and master the ancient art of bodyweight training.
Read More: Convict Conditioning by Paul Wade