On October 19th and 20th, 2019 I attended the Dragon Door Progressive Calisthenics Clinic in New York City. The class was taught by my two favorite fitness people: Al and Danny Kavadlo. I have a lot of heroes in the calisthenics and fitness industry, but these two are by far the top of the heap. If this were old school bodybuilding, they would be Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane.
The clinic was two days of calisthenics instruction, lectures and hands on practice, about 15 hours of total time. We learned how to progress from simpler calisthenics skills to more difficult ones, and the class was geared towards trainers and coaches. At the end we were tested on “the century”, which was 40 squats, 30 push ups, 20 hanging knee raises and 10 pull ups in 8 minutes. Form was strict and your reps were judged. You could NOT break posture or rest and each rep had to be a full range of motion. I passed (barely), which meant I got an instructor certification. Probably about 7 or 8 students did not pass.
The class taught me many things, not the least of which is that Danny and Al are even more awesome in person that I thought they would be. The other thing I learned is that I am very strong in the basics, which is no surprise, since I’ve been training the basics for years now. But I also learned that I am very weak at the more complicated things for the most part. Especially things that require my head to be upside down. Any kind of handstand or skin-the-cat was next to impossible for me. Balancing was also ridiculously difficult.
Therefore, I bought Danny and Al’s book “Get Strong”, had them sign it (of course),
and decided to get started on the training program right away. Get Strong is a 16 week program of progressive calisthenics in four phases of four weeks each. From week to week you add reps and exercises and sets and then at the end of each phase you must pass a test in order to progress to the next phase. By the end, provided I can handle it, I will be doing some of the more complex moves such as pistol squats, archer push ups, and handstands.
I don’t really like taking days off, but this program is difficult enough that I have to. And I have to force myself and my wandering mind to stay the course here and perform all the workouts exactly as written. It is working. Already I feel a lot stronger and more balanced, and I feel like my posture is much better and my various aches and pains have improved.
I was able to “test in” to Phase 2 week 2 by taking the prior test. Now I’m in Phase 3, week two. The first few phases involved three whole-body workouts a week and now I am splitting upper-body and lower-body with one day of rest between. So I do two upper-body workouts a week and two lower-body workouts a week with one day of rest between.
Here’s what I am doing this week:
Feet elevated push up: 3 x 12
Pull up: 2 x 6
Feet elevated pike push up: 3 x 6
Chin up: 2 x 6
Hanging leg raise: 3 x 6
Wall handstand: 2 x 40 seconds (this one is very difficult for me)
Squat: 2 x 30
Assisted one-leg squat: 3 x 8
Drinking bird: 3 x 12
Bulgarian split squat: 3 x 12
Candlestick bridge: 3 x 6