I’ve long held the fantasy that the only thing between me and a perfectly honed physique was a long stint in solitary confinement.

I was obviously inspired by prison movies in my youth and still have images in my head of physical transformations behind bars.

I’ve been tempted to buy Bronson’s Solitary Fitness book before but having skim read it I found it a bit too brutal and couldn’t bring myself to support him. Paul “Coach” Wade’s book, Convict Conditioning, is different, I haven’t a clue what he was incarcerated for as he doesn’t mention it. Given his long spells in high security establishments and his focus on survival strength, the author is clearly no stranger to violence but it’s refreshing to see that this book is about exercise only.

The point about Convict Conditioning is that it’s old school. Trapped within the four walls of worldwide penitentiaries is an underground body of experts passing on the skills of progressive calisthenics. It’s an arena that remains isolated from the fads coming out of the swanky gyms in LA and where money hasn’t been lavished on high-tech equipment. It is a place where physical fitness and strength matters and where a commitment to progressive body weight exercising can either save your life or at the very least, your dignity.

It’s a simple book based on 6 key exercises that are all you need to achieve phenomenal functional strength: pushups, squats, pull ups, leg raises, bridges and handstand pushups.


I’m far too weedy for pull ups, cripple myself with attempts at a full squat and lord knows what would happen if I attempted a handstand, however the book is all about progression. Each exercise set has ten progressions leading to the ultimate body weight exercise:

One Arm Pushups
One Leg Squats
One Arm Pullups
Hanging Leg Raises
Stand-to-Stand Bridges
One Arm Handstand Pushups

So for one arm pushups I get to start with incline pushups against a wall.
I can do those.
I’m not yet at the 3 sets of 50 required to progress to the next stage but that’s all part of the program – slow progressions give my strength chance to build so that maybe, one day, I can wow the world with a one arm press up.

Here are the 6 starting exercises:

I can just about to make it to the bottom rung of each but the shoulder stand requires a lot of refining and I may have to find a fat person’s intro to the head stand as I’m too scared for that but who knows where I may be after a few months of Convict Conditioning.

Blogs: Al Kavadlo – to see an expert in action. A Convict Conditioning Journey by Nell Bednar.
Video technique: YouTube channel dedicated to convict conditioning.
The book: Not easily available in the UK – try Amazon for used copies or go direct to Dragon Door publishing
The kindle version: Convict Conditioning: How to Bust Free of All Weakness-Using the Lost Secrets of Supreme Survival Strength
Kindle version of Convict Conditioning 2: Convict Conditioning 2: Advanced Prison Training Tactics for Muscle Gain, Fat Loss and Bulletproof Joints: Advanced Prison Training Tactics for Muscle Gain, Fat Loss, and Bulletproof Joints

**UPDATE** The sequel is now available and I have posted my in depth Convict Conditioning 2 review.