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Convict Conditioning Routines

Paul “Coach” Wade’s book Convict Conditioning caused quite a stir when it came out. A couple of the fitness forums I was frequenting at the time imploded with speculation about what crimes Wade had committed to get into prison. There were those of us who didn’t care in the slightest, and there were those who chose to vote with their dollar and not buy the book.

I bought the book. I have always been fascinated by bodyweight feats of strength, although I had never seriously pursued any. I think my commitment to really try the Convict Conditioning routines came from some changes in my training–specifically in my training results. Suddenly I realized that I was able to perform some strength feats that I never would have thought possible.

I could bottoms up press a heavy kettlebell. I was deadlifting over 500 lbs. So the thought of being able to do a one arm pullup or a one arm pushup no longer sounded impossible to me. I dove into the routines and tried to work them to the letter. And…that didn’t last long.

There were days when I just didn’t feel up to doing the movements, or the steps in the progressions. But then I would find that if I tried a different step in the bodyweight progressions, sometimes it felt a lot better, even if I was (according to the book), jumping ahead and being impatient.

When I started training with Adam Glass and experimenting with biofeedback in my strength training, the off days started to make more sense to me. I attended the Grip and Rip 2.1 workshop in Minneapolis and learned a lot about range of motion testing for weight lifting.

Essentially, you perform a movement or lift. If that increases your range of motion (I usually do a toe touch), the movement is good for you at that time. If it decreases, it’s not going to benefit you as much. I started testing the Convict Conditioning steps and voila! The steps that felt the best were inevitably the ones that tested the best according to the ROM tests.

Yes, I skip around in the steps. Yes, I can get impatient. But that is because my training life is not infinite. I am willing to put in the time to get the results I want, but if someone promises me faster progress, then I try that thing. If it works, I am in. Old allegiances and training habits don’t matter to me. Progress is what matters.

So far, nothing has helped my Convict Conditioning results and workouts more than these simple experiments with range of motion biofeedback testing. It may not be for everyone, but it is certainly getting better results for me than anything ever has.


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  • Pete AH August 17, 2010, 10:19 am

    You have just outlined something I’ve already been trying! It’s worked well for me, but I guess it just helps when one of the real big guys says it!!! Keep on being a pioneer for all us bodyweight guys, Josh!


    • Josh Hanagarne August 17, 2010, 10:34 am

      Glad to hear it, Pete, although I’m skeptical of your “real big guys” statement when applied to myself:) I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve come to love the bodyweight drills. I never thought I could be happy without the big weights.

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