Ep. #1128: Al Kavadlo on Calisthenics For Functional Fitness

Mike: Hello there and welcome to Muscle for Life. I am your host, Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today for a new episode on calisthenics, on bodyweight training, and specifically how it compares to traditional strength training and resistance training. What are the unique benefits that bodyweight training that calisthenics can offer you?

How to incorporate bodyweight training into your routine? into your strength training or resistance training routine how to transition from traditional strength training or resistance training to calisthenics exclusively and why some people do this and why some people do better with a pure calisthenics routine versus a more traditional weightlifting routine.

And for today’s interview, you are going to be learning mostly from my guest Al Kavadlo, who is a leading expert in body weight strength training and calisthenics. He’s also the author of several bestselling books on the topic, including Get Strong. And Al and his work have been featured in many major media publications, including the New York Times, Men’s Health, and more.

Hey, Al. Good afternoon.

Al: Hey, hey, hey, Mike. I’m happy to be here talking to you. Yeah. Yeah. Same.

Mike: Thanks for taking the time to do this. I’m looking forward to this conversation. This is something that I don’t think I have written or spoken about at all. So new content is always, is always good content.

Al: And that’s amazing because I know how many podcasts you’ve done and things.

Mike: I know. I know. I’ve so of course I’ve I’ve written and I’ve talked about body weight training, but that’s not exactly the same when people think of calisthenics. They often just think of doing body weight squats or doing push ups or doing pull ups. Um, and I thought that that would actually be a good place to start the discussion.

What is calisthenics and how does it differ from what most weight lifters think of as just body weight training or body weight exercises?

Al: Some people use the terms calisthenics and bodyweight training interchangeably. And I’m not that big of a stickler for terminology, but you can make the distinction.

And this is how I make the distinction. Bodyweight strength training is what you said. It’s, it’s conventional strength training. It’s pushups, it’s chin ups, maybe bodyweight squats, walking lunges, things that most people in the gym are familiar with. Calisthenics tends to be a little more esoteric, things like muscle ups.

The human flag, handstands, one legged squat variations. So, you know, the origin of the word calisthenics is. Beautiful strength is the Greek translation, Kalos Spanos. So it’s, it’s, it’s really somewhat subjective and open ended, but, uh, Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s, you, the possibilities are really, really pretty out there when you go down the rabbit hole.

Mike: Yeah, that’s a good distinction though, because most people listening when they hear bodyweight training or bodyweight exercises, like you said, they’re thinking of traditional strength training movements with no Weight or just with with no external weight, whereas calisthenics embraces more than that.

Some of it is more dynamic, like in the case of a muscle up, some of it is maybe you could say even a little bit performative in the case of of like a human flag. And so those are two examples of exercises. And as we get into it, I’m sure you’ll share other examples, especially with programming. Two examples of exercises that you don’t see people doing in the gym much.

Every once in a while, I see somebody doing a muscle up. I have not seen the flag in the gym ever. I’ve seen it only on social media on the beach or something.

Al: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting that you, you still don’t even see this stuff in gyms very often, and it’s been going mainstream for the last decade.

But in that world, right? A muscle up is probably the most out there thing you’re going to see. And that’s in large part, maybe due to the popularity of CrossFit. And that’s such a big part of that. But you said something that I thought was really interesting, that there is a performative element to some of it.

And sometimes people criticize. Calisthenics for that reason. They’re like, ah, this is just showing off. It’s not really a good workout. And I always joke when people say that I’m like, isn’t bodybuilding about showing off? Like, is there really a functional reason to have 24 inch biceps? So it’s like, yes, there is a show off aspect to it.

And I’m not trying to hate on bodybuilding by any means. I have respect for those guys. Fitness is always going to have some element of showmanship to it. And there’s no reason to shy away from that.

Mike: And you could look at it as performative and maybe that has a little bit of a negative connotation, or you could also look at it though, as enjoyable as a way to have some more fun in your training with something that is maybe not the most efficient.

Exercise. If you are only looking to make your biceps bigger, for example, but if you are wanting to also maybe incorporate some technical skill and some whole body control, maybe some whole body training. I think of the weightlifting equivalent maybe would be Olympic lifting. Do you need to do any? I mean, Olympic lifting there certainly is a performative element to it.

Do you need to do? Olympic lifts. If you’re just trying to get strong, get fit, stay in shape. No, no, you don’t. In fact, you could probably make an argument that if, if your time is limited and you’re just trying to gain muscle, gain strength. Get and stay fit, you probably shouldn’t spend time with the Olympic lifts because they’re difficult.

And it takes quite a bit of time to learn and quite a bit of practice, especially to get good enough to be able to load them effectively. But there are people who they understand that, but they do it anyway because they like it because they look forward to those Olympic lifts. They think it’s fun. They like the challenge of learning how to do them correctly, even though they understand that they would.

Maybe even reach their body composition goal a little bit faster if they spent that time just doing bodybuilding movements.

Al: Yeah, there’s definitely something to be said for finding something that you like because that’s gonna make you stick with it and keep doing it. I mean, you know better than a lot of people.

That’s what’s so hard about this for the mainstream public is actually being consistent. So if the workout excites you on a level beyond just, ah, this is something I’m doing for vanity or for, for health, then that’s going to make you more motivated and more consistent. And you’re going to ultimately get better results.

So it’s, it’s tricky because right. So your point, just doing pushups, chin ups, maybe barbell squats, like if you’re going to pick three really basic exercises, just for a normal person to get strong. Those would be great choices, but maybe people want to try some other things.

Mike: And for people who are open to trying other things, obviously we’re going to be talking about calisthenics.

That’s the other thing that you are going to argue that people should at least consider. What are some of the main primary benefits of, let’s say, you could look at it in terms of incorporating calisthenics into their regimen. So let’s say that they are Lifting weights a few days per week and maybe they want to try something else or maybe switching over all together.

What do you like so much about calisthenics versus more just traditional weightlifting or traditional strength training?

Al: Well, I mean, to be clear, I have nothing against traditional strength training, weightlifting, bodybuilding. I mean, that was really how I got started in fitness was by going down that path and my journey was a gradual one.

Toward calisthenics. One of the first exercises that I remember seeing was the pistol squat, the one legged squat, where your other leg is held out in front of your body. And I remember seeing this when I was in my early twenties and just getting started in the fitness industry at the time, I was doing a lot of barbell squats and I could do a lot of weight on the barbell.

And I saw that and thought, Oh, that looks cool. I want to try that. And I did, you know, what I call calisthenics mathematics. I thought, well, if I pick up a leg, that’s the same as doing. My weight with two legs and I found out really quick that I was wrong and there was a lot more that went into it. So it kind of humbled me and intrigued me and I wanted to get that.

So I kind of started practicing more toward it. And then there were other things that came up like, like the muscle up where I thought, well, I can do a lot of chin ups. I can do a lot of dips. I’m going to be able to just do this and I couldn’t. And I had to, to your point about the Olympic lifts, I had to learn the technique.

It wasn’t enough just to be strong enough. But that led me to realize that the strength that I built in the gym wasn’t as universal as I thought it was. And if I wanted to really be well rounded, I needed to do other things, too.

Mike: And what do you mean by well rounded, specifically?

Al: Well, what I mean specifically is that I thought I am strong from lifting weights, and that strength will carry over.

Into whatever else I want to do. And that was really the beginning of me realizing how much specificity plays a huge part in fitness. And I’m sure you’ve encountered people who are. Good at lifting weights. Maybe they can deadlift a lot. Maybe they can squat a lot. Maybe they can bench a lot, but they’re not necessarily the most athletic people.

He asked them to run a mile. They’re out of breath. You asked them to do, you know, uh, 10 chin ups and that suddenly is a daunting task

Mike: and, and for, um, Calisthenics then, what would you say is, what type of specificity are you training toward there? Would you say it’s, because there are different terms that are thrown around, functional training, which at this point I don’t even really know what that means, because in some ways really any training is functional.

Like, oh, some people say the deadlift is not a functional, a very functional exercise. Well, if your life is going to include moments where you have to pick up heavy things from the floor for any reason, Then well, it kind of, it kind of is a functional movement, but then you, some people say that calisthenics makes you more, more athletic, which again can be a nebulous term.

What does that mean? Exactly. Some people even claim that calisthenics are better for producing a certain type of physique from what I’ve seen. The implication is, is usually that it’s, it’s a more athletic look. It’s maybe, maybe slightly smaller muscles than weightlifters, but denser muscles or just a leaner physique.

I mean, you, you know, a lot of these things that people say, what are your thoughts on again, the, the specific benefits of doing calisthenics versus just doing traditional strength training, or maybe

Al: even doing a bit of both. You mentioned the deadlift and I’m not even a weights guy, but the deadlift is absolutely a functional exercise.

I’d say it’s one of the most functional ones and I’m surprised that coaches argue that it’s not but I don’t want to get too off track talking about that. The thing with specificity. Is it’s really subjective, you know, you will get good at the specific things you practice. I hear from people a lot who they have questions for me, like, Hey, I want to improve my golf swing.

What exercises should I do? And I’m like, practice golf. I’m probably stronger than you, but I don’t play golf. I can’t help you with that. I can, I can get you stronger. And as you know, getting stronger as a general adaptation is going to help you in everything. But at a certain point, just getting stronger, doesn’t matter.

It’s what exactly do you want to do? That’s why you’re never going to see anyone who’s both an Olympic level gymnast and an Olympic level weightlifter because the pursuits are so different and the demands are different. And, you know, to go back to what you said before about, about the calisthenics body being, you know, a leaner, less bulky physique, it’s a chicken and an egg thing, because I found when I started doing more calisthenics, I did get a little bit leaner, but I think that I’m naturally more built that way, and I was kind of fighting my genetics trying to get bulky.

And when I stopped doing that and embraced calisthenics, I kind of found, Oh, this is kind of something I’m naturally better suited toward. And that was part of why I ran with it.

Mike: And it may also have to do with bodybuilding culture and how that’s, how that, how that has implications for nutrition as well where you’re, if you’re trying to bulk up, you’re trying to eat as much food as you can.

And if you don’t naturally have a big appetite, if you no longer are pursuing that bodybuilder bulk, so to speak, then your calories can naturally come down because now you’re just eating more to your appetite. I mean, I’ve experienced that. I don’t really don’t have the genetics to be. Very big and very strong.

I’ve been able to gain a fair amount of muscle, but I’ve had to work pretty hard at it. And, uh, I’ve gotten to middling strength, although not training specifically for maximum strength, doing kind of a hybrid training for a long time. Uh, but I’ve understood that I was not made to be a big and strong person.

So like you, I’ve had to. Try to swim upstream, basically to get to where I’ve gotten

Al: to. I think also when, when you’re younger, you know, I think that the teenage early twenties male mindset, especially when you and I were growing up, we were influenced by so many people like Schwarzenegger and Stallone.

So we had this ideal of what a man’s physique was supposed to look like. And it wasn’t really. A realistic ideal. And you mentioned gym culture being something that maybe helped me gravitate toward calisthenics. And you’re definitely right about that. I’m, I’m not really a conventional gym kind of guy.

I’m kind of an outcast,

Mike: you know,

Al: I was never the jock in high school or any of that. And I got into fitness sort of just by accident. And I never really felt like I was a gym bro, even though I spent a lot of time in the gym and I worked in a gym, there were a lot of guys who they were the jocks and I was kind of the weirdo, but you know what?

That actually helped me in my career because all the clients who were like me were more comfortable training with me than they were training with the guy who was the quarterback of the football team. They were intimidated by that guy. That was the guy stuffing them in lockers. So it actually really helped me a lot that I could relate a little bit more.

Yeah. To the average person

Mike: specificity works really well in marketing

Al: to there. You go. You’re a smart guy.

Mike: Let’s, uh, let’s shift gears now and talk about how somebody could benefit from including calisthenics in their daily routine without necessarily having to set. Time aside for workouts, so you can speak to people who are maybe very busy, who are traveling a lot, or maybe it’s people who actually have a set routine.

Maybe they’re in the gym lifting weights a few days per week, and they would like to supplement that with some calisthenics. How might that look? And How effective can that approach be? Cause it’s an unconventional approach, especially if you’re not taking blocks of time saying, okay, here’s my 60 minutes to do my workout.

I, you know, I do it first thing in the morning or I do it at night or whatever. Uh, what are your thoughts on that?

Al: Well, you know, you had asked me. A few minutes ago about some of the benefits of calisthenics and something that I didn’t mention that’s a huge benefit of it is just the convenience. When you don’t have to have weights or a gym to do your workout, you could just drop down and do a set of push ups or do a set of bodyweight squats.

Or if you have a pull up bar in your doorway or in your backyard, just, just hang or do a few chin ups. So that’s something that I’d do sometimes throughout the day on a day where maybe I don’t have a set workout planned, but I still want to get some I will go out on my bar and just hang, maybe hang on one arm for a little bit, jump rope a little bit, just be kind of active, but it doesn’t have to be like you said, a formal workout.

And that said, if there is a day where I am wanting to work out and it’s super busy. Man, 15 minutes in the backyard. If I don’t take a lot of breaks, I can get a lot done. Just bang out, squats, pushups, knee raises, chin ups, do a few rounds of that. Boom.

Mike: And that can be very useful for traveling in particular vacations, uh, where.

You want to be active and you, you don’t want to have to think about it too much. You don’t want to be finding gyms wherever you are, if you’re moving to different locations, maybe you have access to a hotel gym that has very limited equipment. Maybe you don’t even have access to a hotel gym. And so I think, uh, I mean, I personally have benefited from that.

Just having a basic understanding of how to put together an effective calisthenics or body weight. Workout and just knowing that I can, I can do that basically anywhere, anytime.

Al: It’s empowering to know that you don’t need to rely on anything outside of yourself to get the work done. And anyone who’s willing to work hard can give themselves a good workout, no matter what they have in front of them.

And man, hotel gyms. I’ve been to some of these hotel gyms that they’re so, it’s just like this tiny little closet. And there’s like two treadmills in there and maybe a stability ball. And it’s like, I just want some floor space to do some pushups. And I can’t even do that in here because these treadmills are taking up the whole room.

Mike: Oh, and they may, they may have some, some plastic dumbbells to, you know, go up to 15 pounds.

Al: Exactly. Exactly. 30 is even high for some of these places.

Mike: Let’s talk about some specific exercises and regressions, progressions. We can go through it however you want. If we want to talk about some of the major muscle groups and how you like to, to train them and what types of exercises people could.

Could look at for putting together a calisthenics routine. And then from there, I think we should get into some programming. Maybe we can go through some basic or intermediate or advanced workouts that people could go through. Yeah, I

Al: mean, it’s so important in any kind of strength training that you set a good foundation.

So I always encourage people if they’re new to calisthenics and sometimes people, they don’t want to hear this because they think that, ah, this is going to be too basic. This is going to be too easy. But I always tell people just get a basic foundation.

Mike: Yeah. Especially if they’ve been lifting weights for a bit and they’re like, you know, I’m pretty strong.

Uh, is this really for

Al: me? People underestimate it when they hear this stuff or when they see the numbers on paper. But a really basic foundational workout that I would want someone to be able to do before we started working on something like a muscle up or a pistol squat or a human flag would be, I want them to do 40 consecutive bodyweight squats.

And 40 doesn’t sound like that many, but most people have never done more than 10 or 20 squats in one set. So it definitely wakes up the legs a little bit. I want people to be able to do 30 pushups, you know, people again, they don’t think that that sounds like that much, but a lot of guys haven’t actually done 30 and I want them clean.

You know, I want you getting down. I want you locking out. I don’t want your body, you know, flopping around like a fish. And I want to see someone do 10 solid chin ups. If someone has that foundation established, then it’s like, okay, now I know I can safely have this person try some things and not worry about it being

Mike: a disaster.

And for the pushups and the chin ups in particular, where should people start if Let’s say there’s a woman who’s new to this and she can’t do one push up or one chin up. Maybe she can do a few body weight squats and she can just work on that. That’s, that’s pretty straightforward. But what can she do?

With the push ups and the chin ups to get to first being able to do one and then being able to do more.

Al: Yeah, you know, I’m sure all your listeners are familiar with the idea of a girl push up, a knee push up. And that is one way that you can regress the push up and make it less difficult. But that’s not the only way to do it.

And in a lot of cases, it’s better for someone to just put their hands on an elevated surface so they can still get the feel of the full push up with their legs straight. And then obviously having the hands elevated, the changes that weight to limb ratio. Now there’s more weight in their feet, less weight in their hands.

So depending on how strong someone is, maybe they need to do it up high on a, on a dresser that’s chest height. Or maybe they can do it on a desk that’s waist height or maybe they can just do it on a little platform that’s knee height. And then eventually as you add up a few reps you can gradually get lower.

Or if you don’t have various platforms at various heights. The knee push up is a tried and true method for a man or a woman who’s working toward a full push up. And as far as the chin up goes, I always suggest people just start by hanging. Just see if you can get a solid hang for 30 seconds. Cause a lot of people’s grip is weak and hanging does get your shoulders and your chest and your back activated.

So that’s a good start. And then once someone can hang for maybe a minute or so, we can try holding the top position, the flex hat. And then if they can hold this, I mean, some people right away will just drop. And then it’s like, okay, we can. Work other body weight, pulling variations, maybe a body weight row where, you know, it’s like an upside down push up so we can still get that similar kind of motion.

And eventually, once someone can get that flex hang, then it’s just a matter of lowering down a little bit, maybe doing a partial rep and little by little over time, expanding that range of motion. So if they’re, if people are humble enough to put their ego aside and do the work, it doesn’t take that long.

Mike: To build up to those things and another added benefit of hanging something that you can do regularly because it’s good for your shoulders. You probably know that, Al, but many people listening may or may not. I have mentioned it a number of times over the last year or so, because it’s something that I’ve started to do regularly.

My last are still sore from hanging on Monday. So probably about 8 months ago, my shoulder is bothering me a little bit and had come across hanging. I forget the name of there was, um. a surgeon who wrote a book on it, who was very excited about how good it was for the shoulders. And then I learned that it’s more common, I guess, in athletic circles, particularly sports that are hard on the shoulders, like in baseball, for example, a lot of pitchers know about that and they’re doing regular hangs.

And there’s a bit of research on it now, and it is indeed good for the shoulders. It can help resolve different shoulder issues. It can help. Prevent shoulder issues. And so now it’s something that I was doing it five days a week. So I was in the gym five days a week at that time. Um, and within a few weeks, my shoulder felt totally fine, which was cool.

And then now I’m in the gym three days a week and I don’t hang necessarily on all three days. I probably remember to do it once or twice a week. And now it’s just kind of a maintenance thing that I do. And so for people listening. Uh, I would, I would recommend just getting into the habit of doing at least, let’s say three, four, five sets of dead hangs per week.

Like Al said, try to work up to being able to hang for at least a minute. If you can make it a minute and a half or two minutes, if you can get to that, that’s, that’s pretty good. It’s going to be good for your grip. It’s going to feel good in your lats. It stretches them out and it’s going to be good for your shoulders.

Al: Yeah. I’m a huge advocate of hanging to and back up everything that you just said there, Mike.

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And if you are a guy or gal, 40 to maybe 45 plus, Muscle for Life is for you. Okay, so you have that foundational workout and when somebody can do that, what’s the next, maybe it’s a, maybe it’s a milestone or milestones of sorts to work toward, like what’s the next

Al: game? Well, you know, it’s interesting. It’s kind of brings me back to what you were saying earlier.

It’s somewhat up to the individual what their curiosity is. Some people are really intrigued by wanting to do a muscle up. Some people want to learn a handstand. Some people Want to learn other skills that they’ve seen. Some people are a little too ambitious. They’re like, I want to do a one armed planche.

And it’s like, okay, slow down there, buddy. We’re going to, we’re going to work up to some, some other things. That’s, what’s so cool about it is, is calisthenics can go in so many different directions. And then it almost, you know, it begs the question of, of, well, when is it not even calisthenics anymore? You know, you have these, these branches on this tree.

It’s like you have gymnastics and b boy. And street workout and all these other things, and they’re, they’re all related. But, you know, as you get into the esoteric area of these things, people like to split hairs over the details.

Mike: So let’s take the muscle up, which is an exercise that most people have probably seen somebody do online or offline and.

Uh, what’s your thought on that exercise? Do you, do you think it’s a valuable exercise to do from the perspective of training, uh, from the perspective of gaining muscle, gaining strength, or at least preserving muscle and strength? Or is it, is it more just showmanship?

Al: Well, to be clear, you can get in great shape without ever doing a muscle up.

I don’t know if you’ve ever done one, but you’re in great shape and there’s lots of people in great shape who’ve never even heard of a muscle up. That said, it is a great exercise. I mean, it’s really, I think, the ultimate upper body exercise because it’s the only one that’s a very intense pull and a very intense push and a really intense abs exercise.

You definitely Talk about a workout that you can do quickly and get a lot of bang for your buck, you know, just doing three or four sets of muscle ups. If that’s all you have time for, if you’re strong enough to do them, obviously that can be a great workout. So there’s, there’s also what, what you said though, to a certain extent, it is, it is, there’s a showmanship aspect to it.

There is a, Hey, this looks cool. And that makes it fun for me aspect to it. And if that motivates people to pursue it, that’s great too. I’ll tell you this much, Mike, I don’t know anyone who can do a muscle up who isn’t in great shape. Very

Mike: true. Uh, and, and so how do you work toward being able to do it? So let’s say again, um, if somebody has, has their foundation in place, they have some good pull strength, they have some good push strength.

How do they go from that to being able to do? The muscle

Al: up well, there’s essentially there’s two different kinds of muscle up. If we really want to get into the weeds here, there’s a muscle up on rings and there’s a muscle up on a bar and they’re a little different. The technique is a little different.

The application is a little different, and some people tend to find 1 a little bit easier to learn than the other, depending on just their individual strengths and weaknesses and the way they’re. Brain is wired. That’s

Mike: interesting because rings sounds way

Al: harder to me. It’s not necessarily. Some people can get it on the rings first before they can get it on the bar.

The muscle up on the bar requires a lot more power. You have to be able to yank the bar right past that transitional point. You know, a lot of people get stuck right here. They’re trying, trying to squirm over. But if you can get the bar down below your chest. And you can do a good dip and you just, you have it, whereas the rings, you don’t necessarily want to power through it.

It needs to be finessed a little bit more. And that transition, you don’t really want to power it. You want to kind of roll through and get your body above the rings and then dip it out. So people who have a hard time being explosive. And, you know, you mentioned the Olympic list before. Sometimes that makes those difficult for people to people who have a hard time being explosive or sometimes really thrown by the bar muscle up, but can get in on rings.

Now that said, whichever one you’re more interested in pursuing, there are specific things that you want to do. You know, I mentioned getting above it and doing, doing a dip. But doing dips on a straight bar is different than doing them on a parallel bar if you’ve never done it on 1 straight bar in front of your body.

So that does take some adjusting to. So I encourage people if they’ve never tried that and they have a bar that they can get on top of either by having somebody boost them up or standing on a step or it’s a low bar, just practice doing dips on that straight bar and get used to that. And then you want to gradually work towards.

When you get to that bottom of that dip, try to kind of lean back and lower yourself down to start to build the muscle memory to eventually reverse it. And on the rings, same thing. Ring dips are really weird and really hard for people who’ve only done them on parallel bars because the rings shake and they turn.

So you’ve got to get comfortable with that. And again, that’s, that’s the specificity. Some people can do them better on rings. Some people can do them better on a bar. And it’s not that one is universally more difficult.

Mike: That explosive point is key. I can’t remember if I’ve, I might have done a muscle up before.

I can’t even say for sure that I have. Maybe I’ll be inspired to work at it after today’s discussion. I’ve seen people do them in the gym and I’ve seen people do them well and I’ve seen people not do them well. And a common mistake is I just kind of run through the film in my head is not being explosive enough or not being able to explode quickly enough on the pole.

So then they get stuck, like you said, in the transition, and they’re kind of wiggling and trying to worm their way up. And just to that, to that point of, again, specificity, you can be pretty strong, but your ability to generate power, to generate force quickly. Maybe disproportionately low, at least in your mind, what you would expect compared to your strength, your ability to just grind out, let’s say heavy reps.

And so if somebody listening actually has, has pretty good strength in their, in their back and their biceps, but they’re struggling with generating that explosive force to get through that transition. That’s something that can be trained as well. You can train and Olympic lifters do this. That’s often why there are.

Lighter days in their training routines. People who have seen that where sometimes you see big, strong people using low amounts of weight and moving very quickly, picking the bar up off the ground very quickly, or getting into certain positions very quickly with low weight, it’s to train that speed because that then carries over when the weights are heavy.

And so you could apply that here as well. If you’re trying to learn the muscle up and you’re just having trouble generating enough power, but it. It’s not that you don’t have enough muscle to generate the force. It’s just more neuromuscular. You haven’t trained power production. And so there are different ways that that you could do that.

Maybe out. You want to share a couple of somebody they just they want to get good at generating that force quickly so they can get up. You

Al: know, there’s also a psychological component to it with this stuff. And people are sometimes timid. People have a hard time being explosive because they’re just, they can’t pull the trigger on anything.

I mean, I’ve, I’ve had clients who I tried to get them to jump up onto like an eight inch platform and they’re like, I just can’t do it. So for some people, just explosiveness isn’t who they are, but that said, there are certainly things that you can do. I mean, just, just practicing your pull up, like you were saying.

You see people in the gym sometimes lifting lighter weight and trying to do it fast. There’s a big difference between grinding a pull up like this, boom, pulling a pull up down quickly. And what I encourage people to do if they are used to doing high rep pull ups, and like I said, I do want to make sure someone can do double digit pull ups before they’re going to try a muscle up.

But sometimes after the first four or five, they start slowing down and grinding them more. So I say, do fewer, we’re just going to do sets of three at a time, but every one of those three, you’re going to really explode and then you’re going to take a long break and then you’re going to try to do three more really explosive ones and that’s how we start training that.

Mike: Yeah. That’s a great tip. That makes a lot of sense. Let’s talk about the pistol squat, which also, uh, has a performative element to it. It gets attention on social media, or at least it used to, maybe it’s not, it’s not unique enough anymore, but it is deceptively difficult. Like you mentioned, it’s not simply a matter of having a big barbell squat.

Al: Yeah. You know, the, the pistol. There is a specificity component to it, but what people overlook is that it’s not just a strength exercise. There’s a lot of flexibility, there’s a lot of balance, and there’s a lot of just body control and body awareness because we’re so used to being on two feet. And as soon as you’re on one foot, I mean, some people can barely even stand on one foot for more than a couple seconds before they start wobbling around.

So it really trains you to use your whole body cohesively. And that’s something that I find is often the case about calisthenics is that we don’t do a lot of isolation in the gym. And you’re going to often do like, I’m going to sit down and I’m going to push down on this triceps thing. And I’m just going to really try to isolate my triceps.

And in calisthenics, especially with an exercise like the pistol, we want to do the opposite. We want to try to engage our abs, even though it’s a legs exercise. I even tell people to think about their upper body, pull your lats down, squeeze your pecs, maybe grab your hands together, create tension everywhere.

Because the more tension you have anywhere, the more tension you have everywhere.

Mike: That, that, uh, tension. Point is another good, I think, underrated weightlifting tip of no matter. Well, I’d say, uh, resistance training tips. So whether it’s calisthenics or whether it’s strength training or bodybuilding, being able to generate a lot of whole body tension, uh, is going to improve performance and safety in most exercises, if not all exercises.

And it doesn’t necessarily. Uh, come intuitively, it may in the case of a deadlift, although some people could do an even better job creating whole body tension, especially when they’re when they’re getting ready to pull the bar off of the ground and it comes a little bit more easily on a barbell squat.

But again, that’s something that I’ve even worked on in my training, really focusing on not just creating enough core tension. But whole body tension, tensing every muscle that you possibly can to basically in feeling as tight and as stiff as you can. And if you can get better at that, it can make a pretty big difference in your

Al: performance.

Absolutely. And you know, barbell training and not Olympic lifting, like you were saying earlier, like more just conventional barbell strength training, it’s actually a lot like calisthenics because there isn’t a whole ton of isolation in a deadlift or an overhead press with a barbell. You know, you need your glutes and your lower back type when you’re pressing that bar up.

So. The thing that’s different from both of those things is, is like the machines at the gym. What I was alluding to earlier, the sit down, I’m going to do my triceps here. I’m going to do my delts with like a roller on each arm. And, and I don’t think that, I don’t know that much about your workouts, but I don’t think you do a lot of that stuff in your training.

And it’s easy to forget that even something like a deadlift is out there to the average person who goes to planet fitness, they’re not even allowed to deadlift there, I don’t think.

Mike: Yeah, very, very, very true. Anyway, I didn’t want to derail us from the pistol squat. I just wanted to point up that whole body tension and stiffness because it’s a good resistance training tip regardless of what modality you’re doing.

But coming back to that pistol squat, so how does somebody go from being, let’s say, Strong, having a strong low lower body. Uh, and, and I’d be curious, how strong do you feel somebody needs to be to really start working toward that pistol squat to being able to do the pistol squat? What does that progression look

Al: like?

Well, the first step is, is what I alluded to earlier and not just alluded, but said earlier is. I want to see 40 good body weight squats. That lets me know that not just your muscles, but your connective tissue is going to be able to handle something like a pistol because that’s what throws people off to sometimes they got weak knees, they got bad hips, and now they’re doubling the load on just that one joint and having to stabilize it in a way that their body’s not used to.

So I want to make sure that they have a good solid foundation and then we do them assisted. There’s two main ways that I have people generally assist themselves with a pistol squat. One is to have something in front of you that you’re holding on to, maybe a pole that you’re kind of walking your hands down and pulling yourself back up or holding onto rings or a TRX or any kind of suspension trainer where you can kind of do like a row.

As you’re coming up out of the squat to help yourself up. So that’s the first way that you can approach it. And then the second way is to have a step or a bench that you’re sitting down on. So you’re shortening the range of motion a little bit. So if I’m sitting onto a chair where my knee is bent just to 90 degrees at the bottom, and I can put one leg forward and stand up on the other leg out of that chair.

Then I can gradually work toward a lower and lower thing until I’m doing it off the phone book.

Mike: And then, and then what about, what about programming with the pistol squat? I mean, it looks cool and it’s cool to be able to do it. But in, in the case of use, is that something you use regularly in your workouts?

Al: It is, you know, my workouts are, are mostly just calisthenics. Occasionally I will still do a barbell squat or a deadlift. Cause like I said, I do think those are worthwhile exercises and they’re fun, but most of my leg workouts. are just body weight exercises. I do a lot of pistol squats. I do a lot of other one legged exercises, one legged hip thrusts, one legged squats from my other legs behind my body instead of in front of it.

I do, you know, what a, a body weight leg curl, sometimes they call it a Nordic hamstring curl. I’ve been doing a lot of those for the last few years too. And you, you really can get very strong legs. Without doing squats and deadlifts, even though those are great exercises

Mike: too. Yeah. Nordic hamstring curls are another deceptively difficult exercise.

You see somebody doing it, especially if they’re good at it and you’re like, Oh, it looks pretty easy. And then, and then you try it yourself. And I was doing them during COVID. Because at that time I was in, uh, Virginia, I was basically outside of Washington DC. So everything was closed and, uh, at home I had some, um, adjustable dumbbells and I had some bands, had a dip station.

I had an I beam in the mechanical room for pull ups. Like I was pretty limited. And so for lower body. I was doing some like dumbbell front squats and Bulgarian split squats, but then also doing Nordic hamstring curls for the first time in a long time, if not ever. And I was, I was surprised what four sets of maybe I could get 10 to 12.

I don’t think I was getting more reps than that. I was surprised

Al: that what that could do. It’s one of those exercises you mentioned progressing or scaling body weight. It’s a really easy one to scale. Because you can just bend more from your hips than your knees at the beginning and to varying degrees play with, well, how much can I hinge from my knees versus how much I’m hinging from my hips?

And then, you know, a lot of people will give themselves a little assist with the arms by giving a little push at the bottom. But I mean, for me to do one Pure knee hinge with no assist from my upper body. That’s a one rep max. I can’t do more than one of those in a row cleanly. So it’s, it’s, it’s a really

Mike: hard movement.

Yeah. I mean, I, I should, I just had the thought I should also say that, so I was going, I was, I was going all the way down and then I would have to push to get myself to be able to come back

Al: up. But yeah, I don’t think there’s a lot of people who could do 10. Clean ones in a row all from the knees without pushing the hands off.

I certainly haven’t seen too many people who can do more

Mike: than a couple like that. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Should clarify there. So people are like, prove it. I want to see a video of that. No, it was, it was, it was, uh, basically it was basically negatives. I was, you know, being really careful on the negatives.

Al: Yeah. When, when I started really seriously training the Nordic hamstring crawl, my legs were already really strong and it took me months before I even got one clean rep, just doing those negatives and. Pushing yourself back up or just bending more from the hips as you fatigue. A lot of time people don’t even realize how that works the hamstrings.

I posted videos on social media like that looks like a back extension. It’s like, well, it works your lower back too, but the way your feet are anchored, you’re crushing your hamstrings with

Mike: that. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Very, very difficult exercise. What about lunges? Is that, um, is that also something that you generally include in your workout?

Al: Yeah, lunges are great. I’m, I’m a fan of lunges. I like to take nice, big, deep lunges, and you can definitely get a mobility thing happening too with lunges, and that’s, that’s another thing I mentioned about the pistol that challenges people. It’s just the flexibility. Some people have the strength, but they can’t get down that deep and keep the other leg forward of their body.

The hamstring is tight on that side. Their knee wants to bend, their heel wants to slam into the floor, and maybe even the squatting leg, the heel wants to come up off the ground because their ankle is too tight to keep their heel down while they’re coming all the way to that bottom position. So that’s, that’s another element to it that sometimes throws people.

Mike: Yeah, the lunge, uh, is, is an exercise I particularly like. Well, I like it because it’s unilateral. Um, so I think it’s, it’s smart for even people who are just in the gym lifting weights to not exclusively do bilateral exercises. Uh, but to include some unilateral exercises because it challenges your body in different ways, it also helps correct and prevent muscle imbalances that, uh, will happen if you don’t do something like include unilateral training to prevent them from happening and they can get in the way.

I mean, I’ve, I’ve run into this, I ran into it recently where I found that actually had a pretty big imbalance between on the, on the single leg or a RDL. Uh, between just, just using a kettlebell between my right and my left leg. So when I started, it’s been four weeks, four or five weeks that, that’s actually, I, I replaced my hip hinge with single leg RDL ’cause my hip was bothering me a little bit, uh, just doing deadlifts.

And there was, there was a, a slight technique point that, um, a, a, a coach. PT slash coach pointed out to me where I wasn’t quite getting deep enough into my left hip. You wouldn’t see it on camera, but because it is a matter of probably an inch or maybe two inches, um, but repeated over and over for a long period of time with a lot of weight, eventually it just starts to aggravate the joint.

And so in doing a single leg RDL, I was pretty surprised when I started. With whatever weight I was using, I could get, let’s say about 12 reps pretty, pretty comfortably on my right leg going close ish to failure, maybe three good reps left, not pushing it right up because it’s also just a difficult exercise when you haven’t done it in a while.

And with that weight, I was getting like 7 or 8 reps on my left leg. And my glute, my left glute in particular, was just not used to working like that. And, uh, it turns out that also carried over into my squats where I also, I just wasn’t getting quite deep enough into my left hip and I was favoring my right side a little bit in my squat.

Again, not something you’d really see on camera and something I’m more aware of now, but even hard for me to perceive it, but it was there. And so I’ve, I’ve been working to correct that with single leg RDLs and then, and then it’s more just a technique thing on my squatting and making sure that I’m really ensuring I get deep enough into my hips and particularly my left hip and no.

I mean, it’s kind of almost like a torque again, you wouldn’t see it on camera, but no favoring the right side and no shallow left hip. And so for people listening, if you’re not doing any unilateral work, if you’re not doing any exercises that train one limb at a time, I would recommend including some in your training, doing that regularly.

And a lunge is a great one, I think, because it also, there is a, like Alec, you said there is a mobility component. It, it trains your hips the way they were designed to move. So you’re moving through a very natural range of motion, and you’re loading it, you’re building strength. So it’s a, it’s a simple exercise, it’s quote unquote boring, it’s vanilla, so a lot of people don’t bother doing it because a lot of people think that More sophisticated quote unquote equals better, but I think that that’s that’s just a classic lower body exercise that should always be in the rotation.

Not that you have to always be lunging forever, but that’s something I come back to regularly. I

Al: have a joke about muscle imbalances. I have one strong side and one really strong side. I don’t have a weak side. I mean, I could do 20 pistol squats on each leg. On my left leg, I could do 25. On my right, I could do 20.

You know, most people can’t do 20 on their strong side. So I don’t, I don’t think it’s fair to call it a weak leg. But the point I’m trying to make is that it’s impossible to completely eradicate an imbalance. You’re never going to be perfectly symmetrical. Nobody’s face is perfectly symmetrical. We can’t expect our bodies to either.

But right, the thing that makes these single limb exercises so great is they’ll really make you aware of that imbalance, and then you can work towards making that gap a little smaller. So right, if you were able to do 10 of something and only 3 on the other side, that’s a pretty big gap. But if I can do 20 on one side and 25 on the other, That’s a lot closer, but there’s always going to be one side a little stronger than the other.

I made a right handed person that the brain of the neural wiring to the right hand is just, it’s just going to

Mike: be stronger, you know, strangely. So, uh, I’m right handed, um, but, uh, my left arm. Has for as long as I can remember, been stronger, like in, if I’m doing dumbbell curls, my left arm can has always been able to get probably 1 or 2 more reps than my right arm.

I mean, I don’t do it because I don’t want to accumulate more training volume in my left arm and then and then have a noticeably larger left arm than right. But that’s always been the case for me.

Al: So you, you also have one strong side and one really strong side. You can feel free to use that joke if you ever like.

Mike: Correct. Correct. What are your thoughts on bands? And so you have the kind of like the big rubber bands that, that you can buy on Amazon and then there are also, I don’t know if you’ve seen some of these, I’m just going to call them gimmicks because they are, that’s my opinion is obvious on this, but there are some.

Devices that uh, like a bar with a band that some people claim are superior To free weights in every way I

Al: don’t want to start trashing other coaches

Mike: Yeah, yeah, with a lot of quasi scientific, uh, buzzwords.

Al: Yeah, well, I’ll tell you this. I think if, if you were trying to get strong and you want to be a minimalist about it, you really don’t need very much.

You know, the floor, something to hang from, it doesn’t even have to be a bar. If you’ve got a barn with wooden rafters and you can hang on that and do chin ups, have at it. A floor, something to hang from is really, I mean, you can get a lot done with just that. And then if you want to add a few more things to the mix, a set of rings or a suspension trainer is nice.

A barbell is great. Maybe a pair of dumbbells or a kettlebell. A jump rope, a rubber band would kind of be in the next category, like after that, like, okay, if you want to have some toys in your jam, maybe you may have some applications where they can be useful, but I would say it’s far from a necessity and it’s, it’s not, in my opinion, for something like a chin up, it’s not the best way to train for it because the resistance or the assistance rather is inconsistent with the movement.

So I think you’re much better off than what we talked about earlier, which is just get comfortable hanging. Get comfortable hanging at the top and then gradually work that negative and start working towards pulling yourself back

Mike: up from the bottom. And, uh, I’m guessing then you would rather just use more difficult exercises or maybe even just more training volume with a lot of the lot of the exercises you’ve mentioned versus taking an exercise and then adding a band to it, like doing a banded push up, for example, or doing a banded squat or, um, using bands to train a chin up or to train a pull up or some of the other You know, you can, you can kind of do a banded overhead press

Al: too.

I mean, it goes back to what you were saying at the beginning of this conversation about people have to find what they like and what’s going to be interesting to them and inspire their curiosity. So for someone, if they want to tie a band around their back and do pushups like that, yeah, that is a progression, but you could also just put your feet up and you’re going to get a similar effect without having to tie a silly rubber band about yourself.

But I’m not trying to hate on rubber bands because I know there’s people out there who like them and who’ve gotten great results. And I know there’s someone listening right now who’s like, I got my first chin up with a band and it’s like, that’s great. You could have probably got it without the band too, but that’s really cool that the band worked for you.

So I don’t want to be negative about anything that’s helped anyone. But if someone is listening to this thinking, oh, I want to get better at chin ups, should I get a band? My answer is no.

Mike: I hear you. I found them useful again. I think of times traveling. Um, I think, yeah, the last hotel I was in, it was one of those gyms that had a bike.

It had some bands. It had a treadmill. It had a bench. That was it. Nothing even nothing even to hang from at least nothing that you’re supposed to be hanging from. And so in that scenario, the bands were

Al: great. Was there enough room on the floor if you wanted to get down? Yeah.

Mike: Yeah, yeah, exactly. For that though, the bands were great because I was able to kind of Jerry rig what I needed to just do some, some whole body training.

And speaking of putting your feet up, like I put my feet up on the bench and use the band doing pushups. That was difficult. I was failing it probably no more than 10 reps. I think 8 to 10 reps. I don’t remember the resistance on the band. It was maybe one of the thicker ones, but just to give people a perspective that yeah.

I’m fairly strong, you know, I’ve, my, my best bench has probably been probably a one or M of close to 315. I think I got 295 for 3 and I’m not that strong now per se, because my training is a bit different, but I certainly don’t have less muscle now than I did when, when I was pushing that kind of weight and elevated feet.

Push up with the band. Again, I was failing 8, 9, 10

Al: reps. You know, it’s interesting what you were saying about the bench press, because again, it makes me think about specificity. You were specifically training to get a higher weight on your bench press, and you’ve worked toward that goal. And then at a certain point, you’re like, you know what?

This isn’t my top priority anymore. There’s other things I would rather narrow my focus toward. And as soon as you do that, the bench press goes down.

Mike: Yep, absolutely. I mean, to maintain, if you’re looking at looking at pure strength, it does require working in, in the, I would say two to three rep range, like you have to be including some of that in your training and you have to, if you really want to get as strong as possible, you also, you have to increase frequency usually.

So if you want to get really strong on the bench against specificity, benching once a week is not enough when you just start out. Sure. That’s fine. Uh, but once you have some experience, if you really want to get strong on the bench press or the squat or the deadlift. Deadlift. Doing it once a week isn’t going to work.

And so generally speaking, um, you’d want to, you’d want to do that exercise at least three times per week. Now, depending on the exercise, like if it’s the deadlift, you’re probably not going to do three heavy deadlift sessions per week or you’re, you’re going to die. You’re going to break eventually. So you might have one heavy session per week and then you might have a lighter session and then you might have a light.

Fast session, like we were talking about earlier, but yeah, if people who don’t understand that actually can find it, I’ve had these, I’ve had discussion with people who find it a little bit discouraging where they were able to hit certain numbers and now their numbers are significantly lower than that, but.

They haven’t lost any muscle, at least visually, like they, they look, you could look at pictures side by side of when they were that strong versus now, um, yet now they are a lot quote unquote weaker and they don’t understand why again, this is this word that is, I guess, one of the themes of the podcast is this specificity.

Point is that if you, if you want to be really strong, you have to lift heavy weights. It’s not enough to just do sets of five and six and seven and eight that will get you pretty strong. But if you want to be really strong, you have to be doing twos and threes and even the occasional one. And if you want to maintain that strength, it’s not enough to get there and then do sets of, uh, five is maybe you’re, you’re getting, you know, like kind of just at the end of that.

Strength spectrum where you’re, you’re getting into the hypertrophy, I know it doesn’t work exactly like that, but fives are probably the most that you’d want to be doing if you’re, if you’re trying to maintain strength, but even if you cut out two threes, cut out the singles and you’re now you’re. Your heaviest lifts are sets of five and maybe that’s now not very much of your volume because you’re doing some eights and you’re doing some tens.

You need to understand that you will lose strength and that’s totally fine. The capacity for strength is still there if you want to tap into it but it’s going to require Training specifically to be really strong training that one rep max, which you have to, you have to train specifically for, you don’t necessarily have to max out often, if maybe even at all to get strong in the one rep max, but you got to get close.

You got to, you got to do those twos, those threes, heavyweight pushing close to failure.

Al: No, I can’t help, but ask you mentioned earlier that you healed your shoulder was hanging. Did you injure your shoulder with all that bench pressing Mike.

Mike: There wasn’t, there wasn’t an acute injury, no, it was just a repetitive stress injury. And I suspect chronic overuse. Yeah. I mean, or, or, you know, there, there could be something slightly off with my technique that I just wasn’t aware of and is not obvious, uh, again, on camera, similar to what I was talking about with my left hip, where if you were to look at.

Videos of me squatting and deadlifting, you would say, Hey, that’s pretty good. Maybe if, if you are a very technical person on the squat and deadlift, you might, I’m sure there are some tips on, on how I could have squatted a little bit better or deadlift a little bit better, but there are no red flags. Uh, but again, what.

What you wouldn’t see is that my left hip was just a little bit too shallow, again, by an by an inch or two. I was just not getting deep enough into that left hip. I was favoring my right side just a little bit. And, and again, uh, I guess a, a very experienced coach might actually catch that if they have the right angles and if they slow it down.

Um, but it, it’s, it’s not immediately obvious at real time speed. And so I suspect something similar. Was, was going on with my bench press. And so that, that led to some biceps tendonitis and, and then the, the hanging again, got rid of it within a few weeks,

Al: right on part of why I ask is because I hurt my shoulders, bench pressing as a young man, and that was part of why I stopped doing it.

And that was like right around the same time that I started getting into calisthenics. And I started thinking. This feels better for, for me, for my body. And like, I think I said this at the beginning, I feel like I’m naturally better suited toward body weight training. So once I kind of shifted gears and realized that, I mean, I was never going to be one of the strongest or best weightlifters in the gym.

But I’m pretty darn good at calisthenics compared to a lot of people. So I found something that, that worked for me. And, uh, for,

Mike: for anybody listening who is, is thinking maybe. Calisthenics would be better suited to them. What, what are your thoughts in terms of like what their, what their experience might be now with weightlifting?

Are there any indications that you’ve just seen over the years that would suggest, hey, maybe you would do better with, you don’t have to even necessarily give up the weightlifting, but if this is your, your experience with weightlifting currently, maybe doing a bit less weightlifting and doing more calisthenics, it might better.

Serve your body and your goals. And who knows? Maybe you might even want to switch over fully to calisthenics.

Al: It usually tends to catch up with guys when they get to their thirties or forties. And I have gotten so many messages from people over the years who said, Oh, I’ve done weights for 10 or 15 years now.

My shoulder hurts and my back hurts and my knees hurt and I just need to do something else, but I don’t want to stop working out. And those, those people are my bread and butter. Not that I like to hear that people are banged up, but that’s the person I can help you. And it makes me feel good when I can actually do that with them.

Mike: Yeah. Yeah. That, that, that makes a lot of sense. And, um, of course you could say that chances are they, they didn’t know what they were doing in the gym with the weights at some point, and you can cause quite a bit of wear and tear. And

Al: absolutely. I didn’t mean to imply that that weight training was inherently dangerous, but it’s a little easier for people to get carried away and caught up in the numbers thing and the ego thing and I got to keep adding weight and that’s dangerous.

I think calisthenics is a little bit more self limiting. It’s like if you can’t do a muscle up, you can’t do a muscle up. You might hurt yourself trying if you keep doing it. Chicken wing 10, 000 times, but that’s on you for being an idiot. The same way it’s on you for being an idiot. If you can’t lift a weight and you keep trying anyway.


Mike: Yeah. If you, if you’re doing the scared cat deadlift with the 400 pounds on the bar.

Al: Precisely. So anything’s potentially dangerous.

Mike: Correct. Yeah. And for anybody listening who maybe is feeling a bit banged up, uh, and maybe, maybe you’re aware that it’s because of things that you did when you were younger that you wouldn’t do now.

You just didn’t know or you didn’t care enough at the time. And you find that that weightlifting now, even with some knowledge and even with proper technique is, is still rules. Painful, uh, and is is still a bit of a grind because of the kind of the ravages of the past, then to your point, how calisthenics can be a great alternative.

It doesn’t mean you have to stop lifting weights. I’m sure you’ve seen over the years. I’m sure you’ve taken people from banged up. Hurting still in the gym, grabbing barbells and dumbbells, and you’ve taken them out of that or away from that to some degree into calisthenics and help them even get back to more effective weightlifting or help their weightlifting that they were continuing to do hurt less and and be more enjoyable.

Al: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s very rewarding when I see people make that transition, you know, one of the great things about. Calisthenics is that it gets people out of that mindset of competing with the guy next to them and and trying to, to one up themselves. It’s, it’s, it’s a little bit more. And obviously people see things on YouTube and I want to try that, but it’s a little bit more of a, of a, of an internal journey sometimes for people.

And when they say, you know what, they’re embracing calisthenics sometimes comes with, with, with a, a stripping away the ego. I know we’re running out of time. So this is, this is the last thought that I want to share on this. People can very easily trick themselves in the weight room into thinking that they are getting stronger when they are just getting fatter because your leverage gets better when you gain weight and you can pull more weight off the ground when you weigh 50 pounds more and calisthenics gets you really honest and if you can’t do 10 30 push ups that’s a really humbling thing for a guy especially if he was dead lifting 500 pounds it’s like I got to reevaluate what I’m doing here.

And especially if all that deadlifting is hurting their body. So that’s the ultimate equalizer about calisthenics is it puts everyone on the

Mike: same playing field. And technique comes into that as well. Are you getting stronger or did your technique just get worse? Did you just get sloppier in that set?

Because you were frustrated that you couldn’t. Get more reps than last month, um, with that weight and you couldn’t get them clean. So you cheated a little bit and yeah, you got it, but that isn’t. Actually, uh, that’s not positive progress. And then you also have even training intensity, proximity to failure.

If let’s say with a given way a month ago, you were getting sets of five and you had two good reps in reserve, let’s say is what you marked down in your training. And now you get. Seven and you had to grind out that last rep, you barely didn’t get it and that might feel like progress, but it’s not because you had those two reps in reserve a month ago.

And now you, let’s say it’s on an exercise like the deadlift, which I don’t grind out reps on. I don’t recommend that you grind reps out unless you’re a competitive strength athlete. But if you are, you don’t need me to tell you that. And so now you’ve, you’ve really. Not progressed again, but you have dramatically increased the risk of injury.

So just another couple common mistakes. People make often just to feel like they are making progress and often because they are impatient and they don’t understand that, especially after your newbie gains are exhausted. I really think the proper mindset is, is progress is progress, even if it’s slow and even if it’s not slow, objectively, it’s going to feel slow.

Understand that it’s never going to feel. Like it is, you’re never going to feel like you are gaining muscle and strength fast enough. It’s always going to feel slow. So don’t allow that to convince you to do things that you know that you shouldn’t be doing, or you end up eventually, like Al said, banged up, beat up hurting and regretting those

Al: decisions.

Be patient and embrace the journey.

Mike: It’s it’s cliched, but it’s true.

Al: Yeah. And I’ve, I’ve enjoyed this journey. We’ve, we’ve covered a lot. Yeah.

Mike: Yeah. Yeah. This is, this is great. Why don’t we wrap up with where people can find you, where they can find your work, if there’s anything in particular that you want them to know about.


Al: know, I want to tell a story and I hope that you don’t mind this and anyone listening at this point is pretty serious listener, but people may not know this, but Mike and I know each other in person and something that Mike said to me once that I thought was really funny. He said, you don’t want to have a last name that starts with a K and my last name starts with a K.

And I think I said this to you in person. I have a really unusual last name, but the great thing about it is if you can spell it right, I’m going to come right up in your Google search. So if you can spell my name, K A V A D L O, you’ll find all my stuff very easily.

Mike: Awesome. And, uh, you have courses, you have programs.

So if they’re still listening and they want to get into it, they can probably take a lot of the information they’ve learned today and put together at least a half decent program to start with. But if they don’t want to have to think about it, and they just want somebody like you to tell them what to do, then that’s an option too.


Al: I’m very good at just telling people what to do if that’s what they want.

Mike: Well, uh, thanks again, Al, for, for taking the time to do this. This was a great discussion. Likewise,

Al: my pleasure.

Mike: Well, I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful. And if you did subscribe to the show, because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes.

And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit. It’s more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you. And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you have ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share, shoot me an email, Mike.

At muscle for life. com muscle F O R life. com and let me know what I could do better or just, uh, what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future. I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode and I hope to hear from you soon.

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