Explosive Calisthenics, Superhuman Power, Maximum Speed and Agility, Plus Combat-Ready Reflexes--Using Bodyweight-Only Methods (2015)
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
CORE CONCEPTS AND ANSWERS
I know—you’re raring to get to the meat and potatoes of this book—the exercises! Good on ya. But woah yer horses there, Hoss. I’ve slipped in this chapter to give you an overall view of the entire manual. I also want to make sure you are grounded in the key terms used in my system, terms like the Explosive Six, the Ten Steps, Master Steps and so on.
We’ll be at the exercises soon—they’re up in Part II, which begins in the very next chapter. Just for now, let’s use our smarts and get ourselves an overview of this beast we’re about to tame.
THE EXPLOSIVE SIX
If you read Convict Conditioning, you’ll know I based the techniques in that book around six different movement families: the “Big Six”. These were:
4. LEG RAISES
6. HANDSTAND PUSHUPS
One-arm pushups—performed slow and smooth—are part of the Big Six. They’ll build strength and mass just fine, but for power, speed and agility you need to look elsewhere.
FAQ: HOW FAR ADVANCED SHOULD I BE IN CONVICT CONDITIONING BEFORE TRYING EXPLOSIVES?
You don’t need to own Convict Conditioning 1 or 2 to use this book—at all. But you should have some basic bodyweight strength under your belt before attempting high-velocity calisthenics. High-power work can injure sedentary or overweight individuals who are not ready for it. Bodyweight strength training (when performed correctly) is the very best way to condition the joints and adequately prepare them for the loads that explosives place on them. If you have been following the Convict Conditioning strength system, I’d advise that you reach at least step 5 on the pushup, squat, pullup, bridge and leg raise movements before exploring the explosive chains in this manual.
Just as the Big Six represent the finest calisthenics movements for strength and muscle-growth, the Explosive Six are the best possible movements you can perform for explosive power and bodyweight speed. Hard work on just one of the Explosive Six will add speed, agility and explosive power to your entire body. If you manage to tackle all of them, you’ll become something akin to a ninja genetically-spliced with a jungle cat.
The Explosive Six will build total-body speed, power and agility—potentially life-saving in a survival situation.
2. POWER PUSHUPS
4. FORWARD ROTATIONS
5. BACKWARDS ROTATIONS
6. EXPLOSIVE (UP-AND-OVER) BAR WORK
FAQ: DO I NEED TO LEARN THE EXPLOSIVE SIX IN ANY PARTICULAR ORDER?
Yes. All explosive work is not the same! Jumps and pushups are simple power and speed exercises which condition the joints and build basic movement proficiency. Kip-ups, front flips, back flips and muscle-ups are also “skill” exercises. I advise all athletes to begin working with the jump chain and the power pushup chain to strengthen the joints and build power and speed. Once you are comfortable with these two—to at least step 5 of each—feel free to begin working with the other movements!
Jumps are basic power movements. The power you generate from consistent training in the jump exercises will carry over to all the other movements in this book—including flips and kip-ups.
THE TEN STEPS
In Convict Conditioning and this book, I’ve split the major six movement-types into ten different exercises. These are called the ten steps. Step 1 is the easiest, and should be do-able by most reasonably fit athletes. In progressive calisthenics, a series of progressively harder techniques is called a chain; from step 1 on, each technique gets progressively harder till you reach the ultimate step. Step 10 is the hardest exercise: the Master Step.
TEN STEPS FAQ:
Q. WHY TEN STEPS? WHY NOT MORE, OR LESS?
A. The answer is simple: ten is a digestible number for human beings. We typically get ten fingers, ten toes, ten eyes. No, wait. Not ten eyes. But we do have a decimal number system based on tens. And Ten Commandments. I could have easily cut out exercises, and used eight steps; or added more and had twelve steps.
Q. DO I HAVE TO START WITH STEP 1, OR CAN I JUMP IN ANYWHERE?
A. I would advise athletes to begin at step 1 with all chains. Doing so will protect your joints, help develop body wisdom and build training momentum.
As in all things, you should use common sense. If you have been an acrobat half your life, then you probably don’t really need to begin at step 1. That said, even then, how would it hurt you to spend a few sessions exploring the earlier steps? You may even learn something. Relearning the basics is never a mistake.
Q. DO I NEED TO WORK WITH ALL TEN STEPS, OR CAN I SKIP SOME?
A. It would be flat-out false for me to say that every athlete needs to work with all nine steps to get to the final, Master Step. Not all will.
However—having said that, in my experience most athletes who eventually struggle to move to the next step in their training have failed because they did not put in enough time milking all the previous steps for all they were worth. Bear this in mind, and don’t get obsessed with always moving up to the higher steps.
Remember that you actually build speed and power by working with steps you can do well. Moving up a step does NOT build speed, power or agility—it simply demonstrates how many of these qualities you have already built with patient work on the earlier steps.
THE MASTER STEPS
The goal of your training in the Explosive Six techniques is to achieve the ultimate movement—the tenth step—in each of the six chains. These six tenth-step movements are called Master Steps. If you truly wish to become the most explosive athlete your DNA will allow, your goal must be to attain all of the Explosive Six Master Steps. They are:
The Superman pushup (sometimes called the “flying” Superman, to differentiate it from a similar technique performed on the ground) is an example of a Master Step. It’s a great athletic goal to shoot for. Oh yeah, and it’s cool as hell.
GOING BEYOND-SUPER-ADVANCED TECHNIQUES
Attaining the Master Steps of each chain can turn even stiff, sluggish athletes into lightning-like speed machines. But does that mean you can’t—eventually—reach an even higher level of mastery...? No way!
There is really no end point in any of the bodyweight arts. No matter how explosive—or strong, or flexible—you become, there are always further advanced techniques to explore; more elite variations you can experiment with. For this reason, you should see the Master Steps in this book as superior goals to guide your bodyweight training. They do not represent the “end” of anything. When you achieve the greatness that I know is in you and actually reach a Master Step, you will aspire to even greater bodyweight feats. I’ve included some ideas for you to take your training even further in the Going Beyond section that follows each of the Master Steps.
Mastered the Superman pushup? Want to go further with your explosive pushing? How about an Aztec pushup (left) or the one-arm chest-clap pushup (opposite page bottom)?
SMALL SPACE DRILLS
After the Going Beyond section of each exercise chapter, I include a handful of my favorite ancillary drills for you to explore, if you choose to. The bulk of these techniques have been drawn from prison experience, and represent the kind of hardcore, low-tech methods we used in our cells to build agility, elite reflexes and Nth-level swiftness over a short space.
The simple thruster—a.k.a. the burpee—is probably the best known example of a small space drill. There are many more.
Most of the small space drills in this book can be performed rhythmically, and for fairly high reps. Small space training evolved from prison drills—the cell equivalent of cardio, but designed to build survival speed.
Because they are based on prison workouts, the drills I show you require virtually no equipment—maybe a sturdy wall at most. (I’m betting you can find a wall, right?) Certainly nothing expensive or specialized. I’ve grouped the cell training drills together with the most appropriate chapters I could—for example, the drills in the jumping chapter will help leg speed and responses; the drills in the muscle-up chapter will help aspects like arm extension speed, etc. But—because the drills mostly work the entire body, to some degree—this way of grouping should be considered a loose one, not a catch-all. It’s more helpful to think of the small space drills as a grab bag of interesting, fun techniques that you can apply to any training session for variety and freshness. They are also great for building reflexes, coordination and overall spatial awareness. As a bonus, many of these small space drills can be performed rhythmically, and/or for high reps (think about aiming for a hundred reps, or setting a timer to perform drills for a minute, non-stop.) Suddenly you have a potential cardio element, if you need it. There’s TONS of crossover to be had here.
I still think, even on the outside, that this small space training is an interesting way to train for speed and dexterity. Think about it; most guys on the outside train for speed by doing things like running sprints. Sure, that makes you fast over, say, a hundred meters. But in a survival situation in a cramped jail—like a riot, or physical combat—fast movements over a hundred meters are useless. To survive and excel, you gotta be fast over a fraction of that distance...faster-than-the-eye speed over distances like arm length, or the length of your body. That’s what keeps you alive, keeps you on top.
Explosive calisthenics drills are like mother’s milk to military men—and they always have been. US Marines get some action, circa 1943.
You don’t need to be a cell athlete to train this kind of way. I’ve spoken to plenty of military guys who apply this species of drill to keep sharp and stay the best at what they do. Navy men are a great example of athletes who apply this “small space” training in cramped conditions, even smaller than cells. If it works for them, it will sure as hell work for you!
Olga Korbut, possibly the most famous gymnast of all time.
FAQ: ISN’T THIS JUST GYMNASTICS?
Although some of the movements in this book—for example, front and back flips (called the front and back tuck, in gymnastics) look very similar to movements in gymnastics, this is not a book about gymnastics. This manual is about building raw power, speed and agility, alone, and with zero special equipment. Gymnastics is a specialist sport based on judgement of qualities like balance and aesthetic movement—in the same way dance is. Gymnasts typically employ plenty of special equipment in training, including foam blocks, matting, cables, rings, specially surfaced flooring, wedges, etc. Gymnastics is generally also taught using highly-trained spotters to assist with the movements. I respect and admire gymnasts, but explosive calisthenics is not gymnastics. Don’t expect it to be!
PART III: PROGRAMMING
Please, don’t just flick through this book and start playing with exercises. There are serious moves in here, and that’s a good way to get hurt. That’s no way for a true athlete to roll.
Be smart, kid. Take your training seriously. Get a program. Part III of this book has got everything ya doggone need:
· Chapter 10 will introduce you to the PARC principle, which will tell you how to progress from step-to-step
· Chapter 11 will explain the difference between training with simple power exercises (jumps and power pushups), and agility exercises which should be treated as a skill
· Chapter 12 will cover power building, and explain the Rule of Three and the Rule of Six, which you can use to govern your training volume
· Chapter 13 will explain the methods of time surfing and consolidation training, which are excellent approaches to skill training
· Chapter 14 will give you some great program templates
The Master Steps in this manual are incredible expressions of human ability—requiring speed, power, agility and a perfectly functioning physique. Many athletes are strong in static movements like the deadlift or bench press, but total-body explosive movements like backflips and muscle-ups really separate extreme athletes from the stiff, strong-but-unathletic Frankensteins in most gyms. I don’t care how rusty, injured, weak or unathletic you think you are. If you are under the age of 70 and have four limbs, then you can achieve all of these Master Steps. Folks have achieved them with less going for them, trust me!
I’m your coach now. I’m here for ya, gorgeous. Take my hand and follow these methods, and we got this thing owned, together. You can take this explosive training just to the level you are happy with, or—if you want—you can take it all the way.
In fact...how can you fail?