I have been working on a variation of Paul Wade’s Convict Conditioning program for the last several months as I have chased my ultimate strength training goal: the one-arm pullup. I’m getting closer and closer every single day. When people ask me if I am following the program to the letter, as outlined in the book, I say “Sort of. I’m making it a little better, I think.” I know how to improve Convict Conditioning with the Gym Movement protocol and biofeedback testing.
I wrote about it in this Convict Conditioning progress update.
Based on my own experience, I do not believe that linear, by the numbers programs can help me make the best possible progress. It’s not for want of trying.
This is not a bash on Wade’s program, which I love–it’s a knock on all programs. It’s a word of caution against anyone or any product that says “This is what is best for you.” That does not make them bad people or diminish them as human beings. Someone can be 100% sincere and well-meaning and still not know what’s best for you, even if they truly have your best interests at heart.
In charge of my own results and standards
Nobody but me is qualified to know what is best for my body. Since I attended the Grip and Rip 2.1 (that link goes to my review of the DVD) workshop in February of 2009 (and a few months before, as well), I have been in charge of my own programming.And since I quit expecting anyone else to know how I could make the best possible progress, I have, unsurprisingly, made the best possible progress.
I will be writing a series on how any program or system could be improved through the application of Gym Movement. Today’s focus is on the small (sometimes very small!) changes to the bodyweight book, if prison strength is what you’re looking for.
Each of the six movements in the Convict Conditioning routines has an accompanying ten steps progression which will lead to mastery of the movement. Wade strongly urges the trainee to complete the steps in order, for the best possible progress.
I did that for a while. I have been focused on the one arm chin, as I mentioned. For a while, the progress was steady and reliable, but that is always how the beginning of a program is.
Then I hit the wall. For every other step forward, I was taking at least two back, and sometimes more. Now I was not racing through the progressions. I was not skipping steps yet. I was trying to be conservative with volume, and I’m convinced that I achieved that.
But still, the progress plateaued, even though I was only trying to add a rep or two to whatever step I was on for a given movement.
What I am doing now
Gym Movement is about testing movements to learn if they are beneficial or detrimental at any given time. This is done with range of motion tests. I have talked about biofeedback testing in my Grip and Rip 2.1 Review, and also have written a brief discussion of the Gym Movement protocol.
It is this simple:
- I go to wherever I’m going to train
- I do my baseline ROM test
- I look at my training log and see which step of the progression I worked on most recently
- I test that movement
- If it tests poorly, I test the step above it (I rarely go farther than two steps up–if the first two don’t test well, so far it has been very rare that anything beyond that tests well)
- Test variations (discussed below) of the same movement
- Then I test the step or two below it
- If the original test is positive (results in greater range of motion), I do that movement until it stops testing well
If the first test is bad, sometimes, depending on what I’m in the mood for, I will place my hands in different positions and retest. For the one arm chin, this means, whatever step of the progression I’m going to work on, I will experiment with a narrow vs. wide grip, or rotate my hips to varying degrees at the start of the pull.
And it works. It works so well that I am convinced I will be doing the one arm chin by early 2011, not a year or two from now as I had initially suspected.
Any system can be improved
If someone says their product or system is perfect, then that means they are done experimenting. If they are done experimenting, they’re not curious enough to be the one to make the next big breakthrough. If they are not actively looking for better because they just want to sell me stuff, I’m not interested.
Coach Wade spent a lot of time refining his methods. They evolved because he was curious and inquisitive and he experimented and valued progress in his strength training above all else, although his reasons for wanting greater strength were different that most of ours will be. And I have no doubt that if he had experienced something that worked better for bodyweight conditioning, that is what he would be doing. (Coach, feel free to jump in and disagree!).
I may yet manage to prove myself wrong. That’s always what I am trying to do–have the nerve to disprove my own theories, not anyone else’s.
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