Convict Conditioning

It’s somewhat overly bold and cliche to say “This book will change your life,” but this book really will change your life. If you apply the principles in this book, you will never need to buy another weight, spend another dollar on gym equipment or gym fees, or complain that you don’t have the time or space to workout today. Paul Wade (assuming he actually exists, which I don’t think he does) demonstrates a number of principles that take the centuries-old technique of “body-weight training” and puts it into a systematic fashion designed for growth.

Wade takes six exercises (or power moves) and gently walks the trainee through each of them. For example, the goal for working out the back is obviously pull ups, and the super move is “one-handed pull ups.” Few humans can do that, so Wade starts you off at “baby moves” and once you complete a certain progression standard (x sets at y number of reps) you go to the next phase (labeled 1-6). This takes time and the willingness to fail. Most people who have some strength training experience can usually start off at phase 3 or 5.

His technique “works,” plain and simple (though I have some problems with some of his suggestions, which I will list below). Body-weight training makes the body move against resistance in exactly the way God designed it to work. As a result, you got stronger at a faster rate. But you don’t simply get “stronger” or “bigger muscles,” though that certainly happens. Because you are training in a way that the greatest athletes and warriors have trained for the past five thousand years, you also grow in joint strength, tendon strength and even neurological strength (your nervous system will get stronger on the “bridge” and “stomach” workouts. You are forcing your mind to work in harmony with your body on moves that you really do not believe are possible, buy you to do them anyway). Weight lifting can only give you a fraction of that kind of strength.


Even the most insane workout regimen in this book can be completed in under thirty minutes and most under fifteen. For example, I have decent stomach muscles but I never really worked out my “abs” because I got bored doing the “Arnold” workout (4 x 25 crunches). Wade explains with body weight ab moves, you don’t need to do an insane amount of reps. A sufficient number will do because these moves will simultaneously work out the lower back, hips, and lower abs. (Getting a “ripped” six pack has more to do with diet and aerobics than reps).

For the first few months, bodyweight training has a “multiplier effect” on your strength. Because each phase is categorically more difficult than the last, the body is forced to move to new heights. Think about it: if on week one you can barely do 5 reps of one-half handstand should presses, think of how strong (and muscled) you will be weeks later when you can do 2 sets of 20 reps of full handstand shoulder presses! And he has a gentle, but consistent plan to get you there.


I really have questions on his urging us to do one-arm chin ups. Yes, it will mean you are insanely strong, but it also places an inordinate amount of strain on the forearms and for most people this will mean they have to lay off of workouts for a few weeks. I really believe that one can get similar gains doing weighted chin ups (with a kettlebell; this way you don’t have to touch a weight!) which will also build forearm strength and eventually allow you to do one arm chin ups.


How will this book change your life? Let’s be honest: the workout moves in this book are brutal. After you have punished your body like this, why would you ruin what you have accomplished by going and gorging on junk food? Even someone with modest discipline levels knows better than this? Further, since you are lifting your body in these moves, you need to keep your weight under control. See what just happened: this is a cut-and-dry plan for losing weight, getting in shape, and gaining more energy without having to do a metrosexual workout plan or buying some snake oil product.


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