Sunday, April 27, 2014

Convict conditioning

I've recently discovered a calisthenics program, called Convict Conditioning. It's exactly what it sounds like. This guy called Wade "Coach" Johnson spent a couple of decades in prison (for dealing heroin) and spent most of that time getting fit and figuring out how to stay in shape without using weights – evidently he spent a lot of time in solitary and didn't have access to the gym. 

The theory is that way back in the day, guys like this didn't need steroids or weights to get ripped and super fit:
Those abs!
To get in shape in the days before weights and machines, before the Thighmaster and Tae Bo DVDs, people used straight-up gravity to train their muscles and joints for strength and flexibility. Using what Johnson calls The Big Six moves – squats, push-ups, pull-ups, leg raises, back bridges, and hand stands – anyone can train his/her entire body with zero equipment (well, except for a pull-up bar or something to hang off of) to build muscle and get strong – not just look strong. The idea is that by progressing slowly through each of the 10 "progressions" for each move, from stupidly easy (wall push-ups, for example) to stupidly difficult (one-handed handstand push-ups, for example), anyone who has a pulse can get to work on working out. 

Besides the financial benefit, for those of us who can't afford to pay a gym membership or buy any home equipment, the process also encourages a decent warm-up, which is great for those of us who are injured. It's also supposed to be better than weight training to help strengthen not just muscles but also joints, as well as help prevent injuries from over-training or training without proper form (hence, no need to wear a big belt or tape your wrists like a lot of meatheads do at the gym). Every move is ergonomic and designed to use the most natural of body movements. Whether this is how it works in reality or is just a nice theory to sell the book remains to be seen, but from what I've done so far, it makes sense to me. 

Here's a two-minute intro to the program:

I got a copy of the e-book from a friend and have read through the theory and started on two of the Big Six: squats and push-ups. With my back still being in a precarious state, I'm not going to attempt any of the others just yet, but my physio has me doing planks for strengthening my pelvis/lower back and the other two moves don't hurt me, so I'm going to continue doing them. Hopefully it won't be long before I'll be able to move on to the other four as well. 

Fitness update. I can now do:
  • 10 consecutive knee push-ups (three sets)
  • 15 half squats (three sets)
  • 2 minutes in front plank (on forearms) 
  • 1.5 minutes in side plank (each side)
  • Walk two blocks, normal gate, with (almost) no pain


Robin said...

I have to try this!!

Marelle said...

It's pretty great! Email me, Robin, if you want a copy of the workout.