Working on a bar for fitness is a special thing when you think about it. Unlike a lot of floor exercises you are pretty much required to lift your entire weight, often with only your arms. That alone makes it a daunting task. Add into that moves where you whip your whole body around a bar, and you’re moving into gymnastics territory, which appeals to a whole new set of internal blocks about being upside down or falling from a suspended place.
The pullup itself has almost a mythical status as an exercise. It’s one of the most humbling exercises there is, and as such, is one of the most impressive to see done with mastery. One such master is Al Kavadlo, author and presenter of the Raising the Bar book and DVD. In this series, Al focuses on pushing the limits of human ability using nothing but a pullup bar.
To start, the book and DVD are separate products. Each follows the same basic path and covers the same content so I’d recommend picking one over the other depending on your preferences. Some of the exercises are complicated enough that it helped me to be able to actually see them performed by Al and his brother Danny.
Each of these products covers a few basic bar lifts, namely the pullup, dip, muscleup, and levers, as well as handstands and handstand pushups to balance out the musculature. With a goal-oriented focus on just a few lifts, Al takes you through a progression of the exercises that will allow you to master the ultimate versions of each. There are also fun alternate versions, and in the DVD the brothers demonstrate even more twists and variations that are possible.
Production wise, these are great products, with good quality and good design. Al himself had a huge hand in the design, putting much of each work together personally and even performing the music heard on the DVD. The level of care and love for what he does shines through in all of Al’s work. Although the book might be a bit pricey for what it is, a lot of effort was put into a solid product and it will save you the cost of a gym membership anyway.
The brothers can come off as a bit over the top, which might bother stuffy people when watching the DVD. If you think that’s you, stick with the book if you decide to purchase only one of these items. Their antics add a bit of levity to the DVD, however, that I personally think adds to its aura. Al smiles like a masochist when he exercises, which, in turn, makes me want to enjoy training that much more.
Bottom line, if you are interested in a great progression of bar exercises with some details and versions you haven’t heard of before, I recommend this series. You probably don’t need both the book and the DVD. If you’re looking at getting just one of these two, I’d personally recommend the DVD. Not only do you save a little money, but seeing the moves done gives you a little more and provides added motivation to get out there and hit the bar yourself.
As a final note, this is something that needs to be said that, to me, adds a ton to these products. Al is clearly a very approachable and likable guy and seems to be ever accessible on his blog, where he provides quality information for free, which I think makes anything he charges for worth double the going rate. A good trainer you can actually talk to? That wants to be talked to? Unheard of in this industry without paying top dollar. But that’s Al. Honestly, I want to be friends with Al, that’s how much I respect the guy. Let’s get a beer Al.
“Raising the Bar” DVD is available for $29.95 at DragonDoor.com.
“Raising the Bar” Book is available for $39.95 at DragonDoor.com.
NOTE: Al Kavadlo will be a featured coach here on Breaking Muscle starting 3/25/13. Keep an eye out for book excerpts and free coaching advice from Al!