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  1. #1
    Rich in Nor Cal is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010

    Default Hacking (Some of) The Hidden Potential of Convict Conditioning

    Convict Conditioning is a bodyweight conditioning program in which six major muscle groups are each worked through 10 steps of resistance from very low to very high, increasing reps in each step to prepare for the next step. The program is designed to take one from a low level of strength to a high level of strength in relation to bodyweight.

    Let's disregard the program for the moment: what do we have? Six sets of ten resistance levels (steps) that cover the major muscle groups used for the majority of potential movements of the human bodies. These are, in a sense, like six stacks of ten weights each on a machine. Yes, not as precisely calibrated (and not machines, thankfully), and we have discussed some workarounds for some of the larger spreads between steps, but in the sense that each step is harder than the one before it. The program is designed as a template for getting to high levels of max strength, and then build up one's endurance at the elite level.

    What I want to look at are some other ways to use our "weight stacks." Besides max strength, we might want to develop size, strength endurance at a lower strength level, or lose fat. How can we use our CC steps for those goals?

    Basically, we apply what we know about gaining size, strength endurance, or losing fat through resistance training to alter the basic CC program. For size, I have read that it is best to gain size is to eat well and train in the 6 to 12 rep zone using multiple sets with short rest periods between, such as 3 to 5 sets of 8 with 30 sec. rests between sets. So, to grow bigger chest muscles, find a step in the push up progression that you can do a max, say, of 10 to 12 reps, and do 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps with a 30 to 60 sec rest between sets, and eat more, especially protein. Adjust the resistance (step) or reps and sets up or down if necessary to keep within the target reps and sets.

    To increase strength endurance, work at or over 15 reps up to, say, 50 or 60 reps. To work in the 30 rep zone for push ups, find a fairly easy step and work it to thirty reps. Other strategies might be to do a ladder, starting with 5-4-3-2-1, and building up ladder-style to 8-7-6-5-4, then moving to the the next step. Or, using a Gymboss, 6 reps every 90 sec. for 5 intervals. Or a 3-step ladder like 15-10-5, and work to shrink the rest interval until you can do 30 continuous reps, then advance a step and repeat. There are many potential ways to organize the workout.

    To burn off body fat without bulking up, eat less and work in higher rep ranges, say 60 reps per exercise, and do all 6 exercises--for a total of 360 reps. Spread out over an hour, doing one set of 10 of each of the six exercises consecutively, that's one set every 1 minute 40 seconds, one round of one set of each of the exercises every 10 minutes, for one hour. In other words, if we represent push ups as A, squats as B, pull ups as C, leg raises as D, bridges as E, and HSPU as F, then in each 10 minute round one would do 10A/10B/10C/10D/10E/10F, and that would be repeated 6 times for one hour, for a total of 360 reps. If one wore a HR monitor and kept one's lowest HR above their aerobic threshold for that hour, it could also have aerobic benefits as well. And then, one could work towards doing each group of 60 reps all at once--i.e., 60 push ups, 60 squats, 60 pull ups, etc.--which would be quite an accomplishment, burn a lot of kcals, and probably give one quite a toned physique all at the same time, even if short of Coach Wade's elite level.

    Of course, that is just an example, and one would choose each step according to one's strength and rep goals, and use patterns that suit one's goals. The larger point here is that CC can, I believe, be used in many ways other than the original max strength progression that Paul Wade created.

  2. #2
    JJC is offline Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2011


    Great points. I am glad you put this up, it seems it should be obvious information but from reading on here, it's not.

  3. #3
    Chris Hansen is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2008


    I've been thinking along the same lines. The exercises remain the same but you can adjust the programming to meet different goals.

    For putting on mass, maybe you could look at the Bear program? Find the appropriate level of an exercise and do sets of 5 for up to 20 sets.

    If you look at some of the resistance programs out there that have been used for fat loss: Peripheral heart action, circuit training, density training, complexes, etc; What they all have in common is doing a lot of work in a short period of time. I see no reason why the exercises from CC can't be used in similar formats to accomplish that goal.

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