The Definitive Guide to Bar Calisthenics
By Al Kavadlo
Al Kavadlo believes you don't need a gym membership or any fancy equipment to get in the best shape of your life. All you need to build a strong, muscular upper body is a simple pull-up bar.
In Raising the Bar Kavadlo breaks down every type of exercise you can do with a pull-up bar. From the basic two arm hang, to the mighty muscle-up, all the way to the elusive one arm pull-up, the "bar master" takes you step by expert step through everything you need to do to build the chiseled frame you've always wanted.
Whether you're a die-hard calisthenics enthusiast or just looking to get in the best shape of your life, Raising the Bar will meet all your expectations—and then some!
"Raising the Bar is very likely the most important book on strength and conditioning to be published in the last fifty years. If you only ever get your hands on one training manual in your life, make it this one. Buy it, read it, use it. This book has the power to transform you into the ultimate bar athlete." —Paul "Coach" Wade, author of Convict Conditioning
"With Raising the Bar Al Kavadlo has put forth the perfect primal pull-up program. Al's progressions and demonstrations make even the most challenging exercises attainable. Anyone who is serious about pull-ups should read this book." —Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint
Master The Art of Bar Athletics and Forge the Upper Body of Your Dreams—Without the Need for Weights, Machines or Gym Memberships!
The message is clear: you can earn yourself a stunning upper body with just 3 basic moves and 1 super-simple, yet amazingly versatile tool.
And what’s even better, this 3 + 1 formula for upper body magnificence hides enough variety to keep you challenged and surging to new heights for a lifetime of cool moves and ever-tougher progressions!
Cast in the "concrete jungle" of urban scaffolding and graffiti-laden, blasted walls—and sourced from iconic bar-athlete destinations like Tompkins Square Park, NYC—Raising the Bar rears up to grab you by the startled throat and hurl you into an inspiring new vision of what the human body can achieve.
No more slinking around as an under-developed and under-achieving shadow of your real potential…
Embrace Al Kavadlo’s vision, pick up the challenge, share the Quest, follow directions—and the Holy Grail of supreme upper body fitness is yours for the taking.
Raise the bar of your self-image, raise the bar on what it means to be a man, raise the bar on your fortitude, raise the bar on your toughness—and BE THIS:
• Stride down the mean streets with a whole new swagger—your etched set of washboard abs, your bristling pecs, your snarling forearms and your whipcord frame broadcasting a newfound strength and an animal vitality.
• Enter a room and command immediate, primal respect from male and female alike—as you exude a quiet sense of confidence and raw power.
All this from a bar and 3 basic moves…
A word of warning to the wise, though: you’ll discover drills included in Raising the Bar that take the wildest skill and the greatest of functional strength to pull off. Like any true Quest there are dragons to be faced here at your peril.
Be inspired by the ultimate vision of human performance you’ll see in many of the astonishing photos—but as Al Kavadlo would be the first to recommend, find a righteous band of training brothers and a solid training mentor if you are intent on attaining the greatest of feats that lay before you in Raising the Bar.
"If you have ever passed by a pull-up bar or playground set-up and wondered what to do OR if you think pull-ups are the only thing you can do with a 'pull-up bar' then you need Raising the Bar by Al Kavadlo. Al has done a superb job of demonstrating just what is possible with a bar, above the bar, and all around the bar...
I will be incorporating many of the exercises and tips from this great book.
In the tradition of the ancient gymnastics systems that understood that you cannot be completely fit if you only train on the ground Al challenges us all to Raise the Bar on our training." —Brett Jones, Master RKC
Feel Better, Look Better and Sure-as-Heck Move Better—Guaranteed
So, let’s plunge on and get a load of what you’ll possess when you invest in Al Kavadlo’s ultimate upper body training program:
Chapter One: Pull-up or Shut-up
Well put indeed, Al! And again, you get the message: we’re not here to namby-pamby around, not here to diddle one little toe in the water. Wusses need not apply. Al’s pull-up program is NOT for shirkers or wannabes. If you’re ready to get to serious work and ready to grab your bar, then be our guest.
Like so many of us, Al chased his own endless parade of shiny balls that promised one get-fit-quick scheme after another. But when all was said and done, Al returned to what had worked best for him in the first place:
Bar + Bodyweight = Back to Basics
Al tried it all—you name it—and returned to the source of all that is good, to the mother ship: pull-ups, pull-ups and then more pull-ups…
Ah, pull-ups, yes, the great equalizer, "the purest way to measure or train pound-for-pound strength…"
To each his own in the strength game, but the bar will take you as far as you could ever dream for upper body physical development—if you let it and let Al show you how…
"Al has put together the companion manual for all the crazy bar calisthenics videos that you find yourself watching over and over again—a much needed resource.
Within this book is a huge volume of bar exercises that will keep your pullup workouts fresh for years, and give you some insane goals to shoot for."
Many females have an almost visceral fear of the pull-up. Al confronts this fear and the associated myths that drive that fear. Women, if you’ve been scared/on the fence about engaging with pull-ups, here is all you need to inspire you into pull-up action…Pages 7—8
The 3 best exercises for a novice to incorporate as a precursor to successful pull-ups…Page 10
This golden tip for your negatives could immensely enhance your strength development…Page 11—13
The surefire master tip for pull-up weaklings…Page14
This progressive Australian pull-up is a great secret for working toward the standard pull-up…Page 15
The single greatest error you can make with your pull-ups…Page 16
This "jumping" tip could be the magic strategy that propels you to pull-up glory…Page 17
The perfect assist—and how not to sabotage your partner’s progress…Page 18
Why you must steer clear of assisted pull-up machines…Page 19
The key muscle to zero in on for ultimate success in the pull-up…Page 20
The best thicknesses of bar to ensure maximal gains…Page 22
The very best grip position for fastest grip development…Page 24
Chapter Two: Oh Dip!
The next great move to master for upper frame magnificence is the Dip. Again, Al Kavadlo takes you deep and wide, serving up the complete menu of dip progressions and variants you’ll need to etch out your concrete triceps, chest and shoulders, while blasting your core.
Dip Novice? Then start your progressions with this drill for the best foundation…Page 30
The most common error dippers make—and how to avoid it…Pages 31—33
Parallel Dips are one of the best possible exercises for either gender. See why here…Page 34
How to establish the optimal width for effective dips…Page 38
Straight Bar Dips—this challenging yet under-utilized variation will scorch extra toughness into your upper frame while prepping you perfectly for the muscle-up…Pages 39—40
Now say hello to the monstrous full-body killer, The Korean Dip—don’t say you weren’t warned!...Page 42
Plyo-Dips Anyone? Anyone? Whether you run for the hills at the very idea, or you have skin in the game, check out the wow factor for champion level dipping…Page 45
"The only tool required to fully train bodyweight is a bar or something to hang on. I believe that this amazing book by Al Kavadlo, contains everything that is ever possible to do with a bar, from entry level to ‘mutant’ level. Thanks to the information contained in this book you will have material to practice and improve your skills for years".
Chapter Three: Hard Core Training
Those in the know (and those not trying to sell you a gizmo) all agree: if you can master the Hanging Leg Raise, you have mastered all you really need to stun the world with your brutish, hyper-functional six-pack.
Al Kavadlo gives the blueprint for Hanging Leg Raise mastery—just follow and get stronger.
The first progression on the path to HLR godhood starts here…Page 50
And here’s a perfect second progression, The Hanging Bicycle…Page 50
Ignore this crucial secret for HLR progress at your peril…Page 52
From the L-Hold to the incredible V-Hold—do if you dare!...Page 58
How to perform the One-arm Hanging Leg Raise for reps—and enter the bodyweight masters’ Hall of Fame…Page 63
Chapter Four: Advanced Pull-ups
As promised, there’s a whole wide world of fun and challenge lurking within the one Big Move that is the Pull-up in all its greatness. You may not have ever wished to BE a monkey, but you gotta feel humbled when you watch a chimp bounding around in the branches. You gotta envy the amazing tensile strength and the power-acrobatics that the chimp can pull off with a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders.
Well, jump into Al’s Advanced Pull-ups program and even the most brazen of high-flying chimps might bare his teeth at you in a gesture of grudging respect—and that’s nothing to the adulation and envy you’ll garner from the hominids-in-suits and other mere mortals who cross your path.
Heed this warning before embarking on Behind-the-neck Pull-ups and you will be fine…Page 65
The benefits of different width grips…Page 67
This special grip variation can both challenge the strong while being a useful tool for beginners…Page 68
The advantages of the Head Banger Pull-up…Page 69
The dread Commando Pull-up—another great weapon to stack in your arsenal…Page 70
The very cool Archer Pull-up will speed you on your way to the bullseye of a One-arm Pull-up…Page 71
Bang out some of these Typewriters for stronger shoulders and a more powerful core…Page 72
Get down with the little-known X pull-up…Pages 73—74
Master the startling L-sit Pull-up—and be proud…Page 76
To kip or not to kip? The more advanced you want to be, the more you should know how to best incorporate judicious kipping. Learn how and why here (One of the best secrets comes from your early childhood)…Page 77
These Plyo Pull-ups will help you develop the perfect combo of strength, power and confidence in your freestyle workouts…Page 79
Chapter Five: Enter the Muscle-up
Intensity, your name is "Muscle-up". So, if you want to add a full-auto burst of intensity to your calisthenics, make friends with Muscle-up and he’ll never let you down…
With its unique demand for both pulling and pushing power, the Muscle-up can singlehandedly build serious strength and sculpt a powerful upper body—and it does a serious number on your abs while you’re not looking. According to Al, then—and who am I to argue?—"the Muscle-up is truly the ultimate upper body exercise."
And who better to school you in the joys of the Muscle-up than Al?
Employ these two "cheaters" as a fantastic precursor to success in the Muscle-up…Page 86
The reps ratio for pull-ups and dips to ensure a solid foundation before attempting a Muscle-up—and another key progression to employ…Page 87
Use this False Grip, for an easier transition between the pull-up and dip phases of the Muscle-up…Page 89
How to employ the essential "S" shape for a successful Muscle-up…Page 90
Close-grip and wide-grip Muscle-ups for an even greater challenge…Page92
Employ this special false grip for slow Muscle-ups—for better leverage and to really cook your forearms…Page 93
How to develop monstrous grip strength and total body control, with the Muscle-up on parallel bars…Page 96
Behold the intimidation factor of the Muscle-over…Page 98
Only for the brave and very skilled: the Standing Muscle-over…Page 99
How to generate explosive power with the Reverse Grip Muscle-up…Page 102
Welcome to the extreme challenge of the Switchblade Muscle-up…Page 104
For those who like to live dangerously: the badass-beyond-belief 360 Muscle-up…Page 106
And finally, for you freaks of nature: the One-arm Muscle-up…Page 107
Chapter Six: Handstands and Shoulder Health
Could you be so obsessively in love with your pull-ups that you’re setting yourself up for serious shoulder problems and other dysfunctions—by not balancing your pull-up work with "equal and opposite" training in pressing?
Al Kavadlo’s pressing chapter will ensure that you maintain the necessary balance not only for shoulder health but for the highest levels of upper body fitness. The advice here is golden and essential for any serious bar athlete. Achieve the advanced drills in this section and you will be at the pinnacle of human performance.
How to use Shoulder Rollouts as the perfect warmup before an upper body workout…Page 110
How to perform the Frogstand—the perfect precursor for a freestanding handstand…Page 114
Wall walking: another excellent progression for training into a handstand…Page 115
Special tips for maintaining balance in the freestanding handstand…Page 116
The Press to Handstand—a much more challenging way to get into a freestanding handstand push-up…Page 119
Very risky! The Handstand on the Bars requires tremendous control and grip strength. Check it out…Page 123
Golden tips for acing the One-handed Handstand—and upping your personal wow factor…Page 124
The Pike Push-up: a brilliant way to ease into the Handstand Push-up…Page 129
The prerequisites for the Freestanding Handstand Push-up, for tremendous strength and balance…Page 130
The Handstand Push-up on Parallel Bars, for a bigger range of motion…Page 132
The Holy Grail of Push-ups: Can it be done? The One-arm Handstand Push-up invitational…Page 133
Chapter Seven: Lever or Leave ’Er
Only those with a burning passion for building bodyweight strength should proceed with body lever training. Are you that man of passion? If not, step aside—you have more than enough already to aim for and contend with. If yes, then please proceed into the dizzy realms of the hyper-achiever…
How to develop formidable strength in your core and enviable strength in your arms, chest, back and abs…Page 136
The Elbow Lever, hard enough, but the perfect progression toward a full Lever…Page 136
Advanced training tips for the perfect Elbow Lever…Page 137
The very challenging feat of the One-arm Elbow Lever—subtle tips for best success…Page 139
The Back Lever: as close as you may get to flying—a fun, functional and badass move that will build total body strength…Page 142
The High Angle Back Lever: check out the musculature you could achieve with this evil move!...Page 143
The Bent Knee Back Lever: a great way for newcomers to get a feel for the exercise…Page 144
The Front Lever: one of the most difficult and coolest calisthenics exercises you can ever perform—it’s like laying down on air…Page 145
The Counter-weighted Front Lever: here’s a nifty way to add weight, yet make your Front Lever easier…Page 148
Witness the One-arm Lever—this has to be seen to be believed…Page 152
Chapter Eight: Zen and the One-arm Pull-up
Al begins this chapter with a quote from Gandhi: "Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will". Now this I love—and never was truer word spoken than when confronting the one-in-10,000 or some say the one-in-100,00 achievement of the One-arm Pull-up.
Al clearly possesses that indomitable will, because he owns the One-arm Pull-up. Want to join him in the rare air where champions roam? Al gives you all the training tips you need—now you supply the necessary Will!
Pay close attention: here are the minimum prerequisites you should have under your belt, before embarking on the One-arm Pull-up challenge…Page 158
One-arm Hangs—the next step on the road to One-arm Pull-up glory!...Page 159
The Self Assist will move you inexorably closer to the ultimate goal…Page 162
This cunning tip can make the One-arm Pull-up that much more attainable…Page 164
Secrets for squeezing the juice out of those final freakish inches…Page 165
Chapter Nine: The Bar Brotherhood
Good things come to those who train. Better things come to those train with partners or in a group—almost always.
But training alone or with a bar brotherhood requires two further ingredients for true success: passion and joy.
Be inspired in this section by Al’s own story and personal example.
Chapter Ten: Beyond the Bar
Train hard, "eat bitter", but train with wisdom is the formula here.
As Al puts it so well: "If you aren’t willing to suffer for your passion, do not expect to achieve greatness".
Discover the keys to figuring out your own best training schedule, based on frequency, volume and individual conditioning…Page 181
Appendix: Sample Routines
You create your own destiny. A great body is yours for the taking simply by following the prescriptions in Al Kavadlo’s masterwork on bar calisthenics.
So, how do you organize your newfound training knowledge into the most effective routines? Of course, there is no one answer and your mileage may vary for any particular workout plan, but Al finishes with what has worked for him over the years. And again, who can argue with Al’s results?
The 5 Levels of workout routine in bar athletics and basic program design…Pages 187—188
Al’s favorite personal workouts, The Eliminator, Back to Basics and Pull-up Madness…Pages 188—189
So how do you rank? Al’s estimation of male and female Pull-up prowess, from Novice to Elite…Page 190
- A must read for anyone wanting to know the endless possiblities of pull up bar training!Review by Mr Patrick Van Rensburg
This has a catalogue of exercises and training advice to teach you the variations of many of the body weight feats you seen on you tube! (Posted on 12/10/2012)
- Good bookReview by Mr James Doyley
- Back to the BackReview by Mr Jamie Hobdell
Full colour, nicely written, quality glossy pages....it's all good.
This book will take you from a beginner who's trying to accomplish their first very difficult pullups. To the seasoned pullup specialist who wants some more aggressive moves to astound their friends.
Don't expect too much in the way of a workout out plan throughout the book, although there's a section in the rear with some basic templates/work outs etc....Simply because it's nothing complicated. Simple sets and reps does the job, no gimmick needed.
4 out of 5 due to the books high price tag. Otherwise a very good book. (Posted on 31/07/2012)
- Fantastic !Review by Mr Mark Orzechowski
It is well laid out in its unique styling with the most stunning photos, I must a read it cover to cover in a couple of hours and straight away testing my strength on the bar after putting it down (Posted on 19/07/2012)
- FantasticReview by Mr DHutch
The information is also absolutely fantastic and Al tells you everything you could want to know about bar calisthenics, with an excellent handstand section in there as well.
I think for me this compliments Convict Conditioning very well. I am still working at CC progressions but this book has inspired me to take a more freestyle approach and also to experiment with upping my training frequency.
I gave this 4 stars instead of 5 for value because it isn't cheap and Al's website has a lot (not quite all) of this information available for free there.
Having said that If you are serious about pull ups at all I would get this book. (Posted on 19/07/2012)
- Raising The BarReview by Mr Alexander Terry
The book is bursting full of glossy colour photos depicting the exercises which are broken down into bite size chunks. The whole book is a progression, starting with easier exercises (pull/chin ups etc) before moving on to more intense exercises. One thing that's really good are the workouts which cater for every taste/ability and even one for those short on time. The price is steep (as with most Dragon Door products), but you have to bear in mind the publishers costs against a very limited market. All-in-all a very impressive collection for the body-weight exercises enthusiast.... (Posted on 19/07/2012)