The book is called “Convict Conditioning” by Paul “Coach” Wade (published by Dragon Door Publications, Inc.). The front cover reads “How to Bust Free of All Weakness – Using the Lost Secrets of Supreme Survival Strength.”
The back cover reads “How to Train as if Your VERY LIFE Depended on Your Degree of REAL Strength, Power and Toughness.”
The author, Paul Wade, spent 19 years in prison. He entered “a gangly, terrorized weakling” and emerged “pound-for-pound one of the strongest men on the planet.”
While in prison he developed this system of training that uses only pure body weight exercises, something he calls “old school calisthenics.” The goal is to help a person build real functional strength, not just to “get buff” in order to look good.
How “Coach” Wade put this system together is quite interesting and makes for an entertaining read in a theoretical sense, even if you do not put his teachings into practice. Wade learned his trade from the prison strong men, men who “had no protein shakes, no Nautilus or Bowflex machines.”
The thing I like best about the book is that you can start the exercises from whatever level you are at.
When you look at the cover and skim through the book, it can be a bit intimidating when you see a prisoner in boots and jeans doing a one arm handstand push-up, something there is no hope of me ever achieving, not in this life or the next.
However, once you realize that just represents the pinnacle of what can be achieved through “Coach” Wade’s practices, it makes a lot more sense.
Here is an example of one of the exercises. In fact it is the first real exercise in the book: Wall Pushups. You start out facing a wall, put your hands on the wall and do push-ups just as you would on the floor. Anyone can do this and you can adjust your feet further or closer to the wall to make it easier or harder. So, this is a starting point.
Once you have mastered those, you move to Incline Pushups, where you place your hands on a chair or a sink instead of a wall. Once you master those, you move to Kneeling Pushups where you do pushups from your knees. After that, it’s Half Pushups, then Full Pushups, Close Pushups, Uneven Pushups, 1/2 One-Arm Pushups, Lever Pushups, One-Arm Pushups,
Then he gives 12 Variants of the Pushup such as Diagonal, Jacknife Pushups and Superman Pushups which one can add to your routines when you get bored, need something different or just want to test yourself in different ways.
The important thing is to understand the progression he takes the person through from a simple wall pushup all the way to eventually doing a one-arm pushup. The progression is different for everyone. Many people might never reach the one-arm pushup level, myself included. Not these days anyway. The point is, there is always a new goal to work toward.
“Coach” Wade says in old school calisthenics there is what he calls “The Big Six: Power Moves.” Here is the list and their purpose:
- The Pushup: Armor-Plated Pecs and Steel Triceps
- The Squat: Elevator Cable Thighs
- The Pullup: Barn Door Back and Major Guns
- The Leg Raise: A Six-Pack From Hell
- The Bridge: Combat Ready Your Spine
- The Handstand Pushup: Healthy, Powerful Shoulders
The exercises within “Convict Conditioning” are separated into those six sections listed above. The exercises for each section start out simple and progress to a master level just like in the Pushup example above.
This book and “Coach” Wade’s philosophy is anti-establishment, it is not conventional. This is not your mom’s “get fit quick” book. But just imagine if you were locked in prison, in a cell for 20 years, or even life and you are in a place where the smallest sign of weakness is taken advantage of.
These are the conditions under which these exercises were put together. They are the exercises that kept “Coach” Wade alive and also what made him into the person other prisoners called “Coach” and came to for advice on physical fitness.
To close out, I want to leave you with how “Coach” Wade ends the book as it reflects his attitude about fitness and the contents of this book.
“Find some space where you can be alone–or at least not disturbed–and get your workout done. Most people now advise working out with friends or training partners. I don’t. I believe in training alone–it develops better focus, reduces distraction and is good for the soul.”
“This opinion may not be very popular or New Age, but I certainly prefer training over spending time with people. Any day. My exercises have done more for me than any of my ‘friends.’ In my life, I’ve met hundreds–thousands–of people who wanted to attack me, steal from me, bully me, humiliate me, or even kill me. But my training has given me nothing but benefits. It gives far more than it takes. I’ve wasted great chunks of my time on human beings who I now wish I’d never even met. But training? I don’t regret a single second of the time I spent working out. Every moment of effort, every drop of sweat was worthwhile.”
If that somehow resonates with you, then this book is probably for you.
There is a ton of knowledge in this book, it is not just a book of exercises. From the school kid to the grandparent to the professional athlete, anyone interested in maximizing their body’s strength and fitness potential can benefit from this book if it’s lessons are applied.
You can read more about “Convict Conditioning”, Paul “Coach” Wade and order your own copy at www.dragondoor.com.