Convict Conditioning Review

The market is rife with books about fitness, callisthenics training programs and exercise guides, each with a different philosophy about training your body.

While the best exercise routine varies from one person to the next, there are a few bodyweight training practices that cater to all. Naturally, these routines become extremely popular in the public eye, and the methods used in them spread far and wide.

One such book pertaining to callisthenics, called “Convict Conditioning”, shot up in popularity in the fitness industry recently. The workout regimen advised by the author of this book, Paul Wade, became something akin to the gospel among some fitness enthusiasts.

Of course, some doubt the effectiveness of the intense bodyweight training regimen, questioning the claims made by Wade. This has left people a little confused about the validity of all that is detailed in the book.

So, is the Convict Conditioning workout all that it is touted to be? Let’s find out in the following Convict Conditioning review!

Convict Conditioning: How It Came To Be

The author of the book, Paul “Coach” Wade, claims to have spent nearly two decades in prison during which a fellow inmate trained him. This fellow inmate, someone in their 70s, taught Wade the ropes of this training regimen, who then popularised it in the form of a book.

The reasoning behind the creation of the bodyweight training regimen was to work around the rules and restrictions imposed in maximum security prison. For obvious reasons, prisons don’t allow inmates to move heavy weights for weight lifting, nor do they have the luxury of a gym membership. As a result, the Convict Conditioning workout is meticulous and organised in its approach to fitness. The point of this regimen is to maximise fitness gains while using very little or no equipment and build functional strength.

Convict Conditioning: An Overview

The Convict Conditioning workout consists of six bodyweight exercises, each of which has ten progress milestones. These milestones determine how frequently and vigorously the trainee performs the exercises, which are typically limited to two to three times per week.

Early on, these bodyweight exercises are fairly mild and easy to perform, giving it a low barrier for entry. No matter the skill level, anyone striving for a fit body can start the routine. That said, reaching the higher levels is no easy feat. The higher the trainee climbs, the more time they have to spend perfecting the routine.

Progression levels are designed in a way to increase the difficulty of the exercise slowly. For instance, one of the higher push-up progression levels is the one-armed push-up. The trainee isn’t required to skip from two-armed push-ups to one-armed ones and instead progresses to an intermediate stage first.

While this philosophy seems reasonable enough, not every progression level is equal in terms of escalation. Some of these exercise progressions are quite beneficial and help the trainee build a perfect form, while others are too steep a climb.

Let’s examine the progression levels for each exercise with a closer eye.


1. Leg Raises

Leg raises are meant to improve your endurance by having you lift them until they are perpendicular to your body. Your buttocks will leave the floor, and your own body weight will be concentrated on the back.

The progression levels, as dictated by the Convict Conditioning, are:

  • Knee Tucks
  • Flat Knee Raises
  • Flat Bent Leg Raise
  • Flat Frog Raise
  • Flat Straight Leg Raise
  • Hanging Knee Raises
  • Hanging Bent Leg Raises
  • Hanging Frog Raises
  • Partial Straight Leg Raises
  • Hanging Straight Leg Raises

The trouble with these is that even at the highest level, the exercise is not particularly challenging. It may benefit from an additional step or two.

2. Squats

The progression of squats is as listed below:

  • Shoulderstand Squats
  • Jackknife Squats
  • Supported Squats
  • Half Squats
  • Full Squats
  • Close Squats
  • Uneven Squats
  • ½ One-Leg Squats
  • Assisted One-Leg Squats
  • One-Leg Squats

Squats may prove to be the weak point of the Convict Conditioning program. The simple reason for this is that the middle of the progression ladder is not as lucrative as some of the earlier or later stages. Adding pistol squats may help round the training off a little better.

3. Push-Ups

Push-ups have some of the best progression in this workout program. The levels are evenly distributed and maintain a decent challenge all the way until the end.

Here’s the progression of push-ups in Convict Conditioning:

  • Wall Push-ups
  • Incline Push-ups
  • Kneeling Push-ups
  • Half Push-ups
  • Full Push-ups
  • Close Push-ups
  • Uneven Push-ups
  • ½ One Arm Push-ups
  • Lever Push-ups
  • One-Armed Push-ups

The only sore spot is the final level, which is a little too steep of a climb than the rest of the progression. Implementing another exercise between lever and one-arm push-ups can help transition from one to the next much more effectively.

4. Handstand Push-ups

Handstand push-ups have just as effective a progression system as push-ups, the last step notwithstanding. The progression for these goes as follows:

  • Wall Headstands
  • Crow Handstands
  • Wall Handstands
  • Half Handstand Push-ups
  • Handstand Push-ups
  • Close Handstand Push-ups
  • Uneven Handstand Push-ups
  • ½ One-Arm Handstand Push-ups
  • Lever Handstand Push-ups
  • One-Arm Handstand Push-ups

Going from lever handstand push-ups to a one-armed version is a hill too steep to climb for a vast majority.

5. Pull-Ups

Pull-ups in the Convict Conditioning workout may very well have the best progression system of them all. These progression levels are:

  • Vertical Pulls
  • Horizontal Pulls
  • Jackknife Pulls
  • Half Pull-ups
  • Full Pull-ups
  • Close Pull-ups
  • Uneven Pull-ups
  • ½ One-Arm Pull-ups
  • Assisted One-Arm Pull-up
  • One-Arm Pull-up

Pull-ups start off small and gradually ramp up the difficulty, eventually ending at a good final point.

6. Bridge

The progression for Bridges can be a little divisive, as some find it great while others, not so much. It progresses as follows:

  • Short Bridges
  • Straight Bridges
  • Angled Bridges
  • Head Bridges
  • Half Bridges
  • Full Bridges
  • Wall Walking Bridges (Down)
  • Wall Walking Bridges (Up)
  • Closing Bridges
  • Stand-to-stand Bridges

You can opt for a few additional steps, like one-armed or one-legged bridges, before progressing to level 10, but it isn’t strictly necessary.

Final Verdict

The Convict Conditioning workout is an effective training regimen with plenty of positives. It has good progression for nearly all of the basic exercises and requires minimal equipment like a pull-up bar to perform. And the fact that the bar for entry is so low makes it highly accessible.

That being said, Convict Conditioning is far from a flawless workout routine, lacking elements of resistance training. It’s likely that the progression levels of some of these exercises don’t suit you at all, requiring adjustments to make it more suited for everyone. But knowing where to make these adjustments isn’t easy without performing the routine yourself, which can take months to perform.

If you are willing to commit a couple of months and see if it fits you, Convict Conditioning is a perfectly good workout routine. Through patience and perseverance, you will see marked improvements in your physique before long.

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