The number of calisthenic enthusiasts is on the rise, along with the number of great books, DVDs, and YouTube videos. I recently read the book C-Mass by Paul “Coach” Wade, who also wrote the popular Convict Conditioning series.
RELATED: Convict Conditioning (Book Review)
The title comes from the words calisthenics and mass, and this book is almost entirely dedicated to those two things. Wade aims to answer a common question: how do you build muscle using bodyweight-only training?
About the Book
C-Mass begins with a discussion on how building muscle with bodyweight training is possible. Wade points out the many famous athletes who could perform impressive calisthenic feats, but were not large by any means (Bruce Lee is one example). Wade also discusses the common concern that those athletes’ smaller frames were due to bodyweight training.
Of course, as Wade discusses, there are numerous counterexamples. Gymnasts and old-time bodybuilders relied heavily or even exclusively on bodyweight maneuvers and yet still developed impressive physiques. There are many photos and descriptions throughout the book to illustrate that point.
“Wade’s books always make me want to work out, and this book is no exception. Just writing about it now makes me want to go exercise.”
Wade’s approach emphasizes training in such a way that the most resistance is applied, which causes the greatest results and muscle gains. He describes a series of exercises designed to focus on various parts of the body, including more unusual moves that develop the forearms, neck, and legs from top to bottom.
CONVICT-STYLE WORKOUTS: Strength & Conditioning Workouts by Paul Wade
Once he has described the exercises, Wade combines them to create programs. The programs are basic, and often involve performing a group of moves at a given time, rather than one specific exercise. This approach keeps the workouts fresh and increases the resistance. After the programs, there is a question-and-answer portion to troubleshoot common objections and issues surrounding bodyweight exercise.
There are a few more sections to add some bonus value to the content. The first one explains how to maximize traditional calisthenic programming to develop power without increasing size. In my opinion as a coach, his advice here is dead-on. If you take this part of the book to heart, it’s worth the price of admission.
The book closes with another bonus section of how to improve your anabolic hormones. This section includes dietary and lifestyle advice, along with exercise tips to help support your goals outside of your workouts. This advice is equal parts entertaining and interesting, and will benefit anyone on any program.
Wade’s work is a fun read as always, but be warned it’s not for sensitive readers. There’s a fair bit of swearing and “Be a man, you sissy” talk in the book. I actually like it, but it’s not for everyone.
There are a few downsides to the material. I found the information contained in the book to be heavy on the bro-science. This isn’t a damning accusation, as it makes the material more fun to read, but be sure you take the information with a grain of salt.
To give you an example, there is some discussion about the dangers of non-calisthenic lifting. To me, C-Mass is a lifting culture book, waxing philosophical about calisthenics and the nuances of achieving hard-fought goals, and I love that about it. Deviations that slip into a “calisthenics are the best method for all people and all goals” mentality detract from the book’s strengths, although there were only a few instances of this.
One of the book’s other pitfalls is that beginners may need to purchase the Convict Conditioning books in order to understand the programs. Readers who are familiar with Wade’s books, on the other hand, may already have a lot of the information.
I do love physical culture-style reads like this book. It’s not for beginners, and isn’t necessary for straight exercise advice, but it is inspirational. Wade’s books always make me want to work out, and this book is no exception. Just writing about it now makes me want to go exercise. Isn’t that the ultimate point?
If you’re a die-hard calisthenics fan and you want more Paul “Coach” Wade in your life, this book is for you.
“C-Mass” is available for $24.95 in hardcopy and $9.95 as en eBook at Dragon Door.