If you’re into bodyweight training, you’ve surely heard of Al Kavadlo. In addition to being a good friend, he’s an awesome bodyweight athlete out of New York and has made a great impact on the field. He just came out with his second book, Raising the Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-Up Bar Calisthenics, , available in paperback or e-book formats, or even as a DVD! I just had the great pleasure of interviewing Al after finishing the read. I hope you’ll listen to the full interview below, where we talk about the book, the bodyweight training discipline, and the future of the field. Al is a wealth of information, and an excellent interviewee, so I’m sure you’ll get a lot out of it!
I’m happy about being able to write an honest, great review of the book and DVD. I’m not the only one who thinks so – the book opens up with a great foreword from Bodyweight Training giant Paul “Coach Wade”, author of the hugely popular Convict Conditioning books, claiming that Al’s book is “the most important book on strength and conditioning to be published in the last fifty years.” Indeed, there are very few books out there that focus on such a unique and unbelievably important part of strength and conditioning, which is the way of the BAR ATHLETE.
You can check out the audio interview with Al here: [powerpress]
The term “Bar Athlete” is just becoming more and more recognized, but has had its place in fitness since the beginning of exercise. Today we find groups and teams all over dedicated to the practice, showing their strength and skill using nothing but their own bodyweight and a simple straight bar or set of parallel bars. Bar calisthenics are so simple but unbelievably effective, that you would think that would be the topic of many books over the years. Yet, Al’s book is one of the first to tackle the subject so thoroughly.
Not only does Al tackle this topic effectively but he does it with the style and ease that only Al Kavadlo can. Like in his first book (“We’re Working Out – A Zen Approach to Everyday Fitness” – check out my review here), Al has an incredible way of walking the line between detailed scientific writing and easy to understand communication that anyone can process and digest. Even the layout of the book, including its fantastic photography and graphic design, has a look that showcases Al’s New York influences and character.
The majority of the book is shot in Al’s stomping ground of Tompkins Square Park (which is also a spot that Al and I met up for a workout last winter). And, it’s great to see a few appearances by Al’s equally talented brother Danny, whom you may have seen in some of Al’s videos on the website.
With the book’s content, Al doesn’t waste any time trying to convince you of the benefits of bar training. He simply states that every person (yes, even women) should be doing pull ups/chin ups and then jumps right in on how to start building the strength necessary to perform these killer exercises. He takes us on a journey through basic pull up/chin up variations, going through dipping patterns, and then through a simple but thorough explanation of core function and how to effectively train the abdominals using just a bar or parallels. Yup, no fancy “as seen on TV” ab gadgets necessary here.
From here, we get into what I consider to be the real magic of the book, which is the Advanced Pull Ups section. This is where we get a glimpse into the style of training that sets Al and fellow Bar Athletes apart from your average gym rat. We see exercises that seem to defy gravity and physics. There’s also an entire section dedicated to one of Al’s favorite exercise, the MUSCLE UP! You’ll find tons of killer variations, including the 360 muscle up which pretty much seems impossible but looks unbelievably cool.
The following chapters are equally as enjoyable and useful. Al obviously knows the importance of balancing patterns since he dedicates about thirty pages to vertical pressing patterns. This section could be an ebook all on its own and is an impressive tutorial on everything from frog stands to handstand push ups to the always inspiring single arm handstand. He also gives great coverage to one of my favorite areas of bodyweight training (and one of the most beneficial in my opinion) – Static Holds. Lever or Leave’er, no matter how you call them, I call them straight BAD-ASS. And Al covers all kinds of them: front levers, back levers, elbow levers and many variations in between.
Finally, all of the exercises in Raising the Bar are impressive feats of strength, but nothing is more jaw dropping and inspiring as the Single-Arm Pull-Up. As an aside, it’s this very exercise that Al and I first made contact – he had written an article on the Single Arm Pull Up for Diesel Crew, and I wrote a response, which was actually the first comment I had ever made on a post. It started a dynamic “back and forth” on how to best coach this exercise, and we pretty much agreed that there are many ways to skin a cat. Al’s been incredibly helpful and supportive to the development of GBT since then. As he points out toward the end of the book, the supportive nature of bar athlete culture is incredibly important when it comes to finding inspiration!
Raising the Bar is a welcome and much-needed book in this age of magic pills and wobble shoes. It’s a testament to the fact that true fitness is found in simplicity and hard work. Two thumbs up to Al and Raising the Bar!
Check out this 30-minute I did with Al, about his book and bodyweight training in general:
Go here to read more about Al’s book and to pick up your own copy, in either paperbook or e-book format! (Or even as a DVD!)