Book Review: "Pushing the Limits" by Al Kavadlo
I love calisthenics. Bodyweight exercises and their weighted versions are very effective and the most versatile method of resistance training. You can do them anywhere at any time, even if you have no equipment at all. If you do want to add weight or variety, with a little imagination the objects and features around your own home or your town can provide endless opportunities. This is something that Al Kavadlo understands.
If you’re a fan of calisthenics like me, chances are you’ve at least heard Al’s name. And for good reason, thanks to his childhood love of pro-wrestling, Al has a larger than life personality that shines through in his products. His new book, Pushing the Limits, is a follow up to his previous book and DVD set called Raising the Bar. In the latter Al focused on three primary bar exercises. Although a bar is a simple piece of equipment most people have right in their homes or nearby at a local playground, in Pushing the Limits no equipment is needed at all. It’s just you.
No excuses allowed any more about time, space, or money. Al provides the form, function, and philosophy of his three favorite floor exercises. I know you might be thinking, “Just three exercises in a whole book?” Well, not quite. These three exercises are more like your goals, and for each of these three goals Al provides a path of exercise progressions and alternate versions that could last you many years to come.
The book doesn’t give a direct program to follow. That might sound like a bad thing, but for an experienced coach and athlete like myself, I’d much prefer a book like this than one with endless charts of exactly what to do each day. I like to experiment and have fun when I exercise, and that’s exactly the spirit with which Al approaches training. But never fear - if you’re just starting out, Al gives you guidelines to follow, advising you on how to progress to each stage, but never micromanaging. Honestly, goal-oriented training with a focus on just a few objectives is probably the best way for any of us to train anyway.
As for the book itself, it’s fairly well designed and loaded with pictures and details. You might find the price a bit steep for what it is, but I suppose it’s cheaper than a gym membership. If you’ve been around the bodyweight training block, and have other calisthenics training books of similar type to this one, you may not find a lot of new stuff here either. Nothing will surprise the experienced gymnasts among our readers.
If, on the other hand, training with no equipment is new to you, this is a great book to get. Al takes his time describing each move, and its benefits. He supports getting to know each exercise in depth before proceeding - a good practice for people at any level. And he walks the walk, demonstrating each exercise, even the easiest ones, as though he does them himself every day.
In addition to Al’s freestyle method of training, which I think is ideal, he also is very up front about himself, which I find to be a rare and satisfying aspect of his work. He describes his own history and his own present training, where others are silent. When you read Al’s work you’ll know exactly what it took for a scrawny teenager to become an accomplished and successful athlete and coach, and Al will be the first to tell you he’s got a lot more work to put in. I don’t know about you, but to me that’s inspiring.
"Pushing the Limits" ebook is available for $39.95 at DragonDoor.com.