I bought this book after having Amazon recommended it to me a few times and liking the reviews. I’d had it in my wishlist for a few weeks, and decided to invest when I needed to add to my Kindle collection for our holiday. A TL;DR review is that this book delivers on all fronts. It is easy to read, full of practical advice, and contains detailed training steps. The author cautions realism on timeframes. And it totally inspired me to try these things when I can sensibly work them into my training. I may have tried some of the moves water assisted in the pool 😀
The first few chapters provide background on the author, calisthenics, and body weight training. Some blog posts and reviews dispute some of the detail in here and claim that the author was never a convict, etc. Personally I don’t care. I care about the content of the book and on that front it delivers. These introductions explain how bodyweight progressions can improve your strength, and that many of the bodyweight exercises popular today (often for fast-paced poor form reps) do nothing to help the cause! There is also the key point that calisthenics was originally a strength rather than endurance training method. The endurance came as your strength developed.
The second part of the book covers the six key moves; pushup, squat, pullup, leg raise, bridge, handstand pushup. Each of these moves is covered in detail with a chapter of information. Each move has ten progressions that are presented in detail after a more general introduction around the move. These progressions start from the complete beginner level. Do not be put off thinking you need to be able to do all of these moves. That is not the case at all. Going back to the points made in the first section of the book, good form is emphasised very strongly. The author advocates that slow, controlled movements are used. He also suggests that the full mastery of each step before moving to the following one each time is key to maintaining progress.
The final section of the book contains several workout programs that combine the six moves in different ways. These can be applied in as little a few minutes a day, depending on how else you structure your training. Taking things slowly and focusing on the moves is stressed once again. As is giving your body time to adapt to what you are asking of it. This matters so much, yet seems to be completely ignored in many of the blog posts and articles I read.
The key things for me in this book are that the author does not think that being at the beginning is bad and provides strategies for improvement. He also educates (assuming they take it on board 😉 ) the reader that this is part of a lifestyle and will take time and effort to achieve all of the advanced versions of these moves. And once they have been mastered there are other ways to make them even harder! The focus of the book is on ability over appearance. The changes in appearance will come by the doing.
While I love my barbell and kettlebell training, I fully appreciate having the strength and body control to perform all of these movements will add a greater functional component to what I do. So far, I’ve not committed to carrying these out regularly. I can’t honestly fit it in and do it (and my other training) justice while I am focused on CMS. I do though aim to add it in at some point shortly. I also do some of the moves while stretching, or waiting for the microwave at lunchtime at work. Sneaky bit won’t hurt 🙂
If you are at all interested in improving your body to be strong, powerful, and flexible, then I would recommend this book.
If you do read this book or have already read it, then there is a Super FAQ by the author to answer some of the many questions he has had from readers of the book. There is also a handy summary of all the moves and progression targets that seems to be on many sites on the internet. So I include it here for you as well 🙂
I’ll leave you with this quote from near the end of the book:
Training requires discipline and focus. It requires the discrimination to know where to start, the knowledge of what to do, the insight into when to really push, and the wisdom to understand when to stop. It requires regime. — Paul Wade, Convict Conditioning.