For years, movies and television have perpetuated the myth that when guys go to prison they come out on the other side crazy ripped because they have nothing else to do but workout in their cells while doing time. But, that’s not really a thing, is it?
Of course, it doesn’t happen to everyone, but it does happen. In 1979, a man named Paul Wade went into a California prison and more than two decades later he walked out a much stronger man both mentally and physically thanks to the secrets of exercise he learned from his 71-year-old cellie. And, in 2009, Wade released his first book called Convict Conditioning based on the things he had learned.
The idea behind this workout was that every move could be done in a prison cell without weights, and you were training as if your life depended on it. For the prisoner, the workout was done to survive the prison yard, and the different exercises and progressions were supposed to give you real strength, power, and toughness to survive any situation.
The Convict Conditioning workout is about being able to survive a maximum security prison like San Quentin or Marion. It develops that survival strength that lies within each of us to keep away the predators. Wade says that these simple exercises and progressions can take anyone who is willing from a weak individual to an ideal specimen of strength. But, is this for real? Does Convict Conditioning really work?
Keep reading this Convict Conditioning review to find out more about the original workout book, the app, the 2nd and 3rd generations of the program, and everything else associated with Conviction Conditioning by Paul Wade.
Table of Contents
Convict Conditioning Book Review
First, let’s talk about the details of Convict Conditioning. Simply put, it’s a program of bodyweight exercises – AKA calisthenics. As I said earlier, this is all about working out in a prison cell, so no weights are needed. Instead, you are using your own bodyweight for your resistance training to increase size and strength.
But, how do you increase your resistance and progress when you are only using your bodyweight instead of a machine or free weights?
You might think that you should just increase the number of times you perform an exercise in a given amount of time. For example, for your first workout, you do as many push-ups as you can in one minute. And, then during the next workout you try to increase that number.
However, this doesn’t work because you are focusing more on endurance and aerobic exercise with this method instead of increasing muscle size and strength. In Convict Conditioning, you progress by increasing the difficulty of the exercise instead of increasing the number of reps of a traditional movement.
Here are the “Big 6” moves that are the core of the Convict Conditioning workout:
- Leg raise
- Handstand pushup
The majority of those moves might seem rather easy, but hitting “mastery level” isn’t. Wade talks at length in the book about how perfect form and cadence are the keys to this workout for both increasing size and strength and avoiding injury.
Wade gives detailed instructions about each movement, and then he breaks each of them down into ten steps – from beginner to mastery. Each step has rep and set requirements that you must master before you can move on.
Your best bet is to check out the customer reviews and see how difficult it was for them to get past some of these hurdles.
Pros of the Program
- This bodyweight workout works for both beginners and experienced lifters. For beginners, the exercise progressions allow you to start at square one and master each movement while you gain size and strength. You can easily do this at home without a gym membership, so it’s affordable and easy to start.
- For experienced lifters, this program can be a bridge in-between lifting cycles. The easy movements at the beginning give your body a chance to actively recover from a crushing lifting cycle why you are still putting in some work. Also, it makes you pay attention to your form, which is much easier to do when you are pushing weight below your max.
- Other benefits from this bodyweight workout for experienced lifters is improving your muscular endurance and enhancing your joint flexibility and mobility. When you switch back to your powerlifting after completing Convict Conditioning, you might notice a stronger core, more flexibility for better form, and improvements in your numbers for every exercise from deadlifts to bench press.
Paul Wade says,
I think what surprises most athletes who try it is the effect bodyweight strength work has on the joints. There’s no getting around this: Done right, bodyweight training strengthens your joints instead of wearing them down. Why? Because the body was meant to move itself. We literally evolved to push and pull ourselves around, and to squat and jump using bodyweight.
When you progress in your Big 6, you will be building your strength and improving your mobility at the exact same time. There is a lot of attention to detail in this book, and it works for someone who has never worked out a day in their life and also for an accomplished athlete. Honestly, everyone can benefit.
Cons of the Program
- The program isn’t perfect. There appears to be a disconnect between what you can actually achieve with bodyweight programs and what this particular program promises. For example, this program is marketed as a size-building program, but most bodyweight programs work pretty well to get leaner. This could probably work both ways.
- The diet advice isn’t very direct. I get that Wade is trying to communicate how someone in a cell would eat, but that’s not going to be the same situation for his target reader. I would have expected calorie calculations and more explicit macro setups for maximum muscle-building and fat loss benefits.
- Some of these progressions might not work for you, and the rep requirements do require a lot of time. Yes, this is an effective workout, but it isn’t for everyone.
- The program would make a better online course. This book was written a few years ago when online courses were not so popular, but this PDF version has so much detail to it that it begs the question whether learning the material would be easier had it been wrapped up in a course. Probably, but oh well.
Convict Conditioning Reddit Reviews
While the Reddit reviews are generally on the positive side for Convict Conditioning, the program definitely has its fair share of criticism. While the idea of bodyweight exercises and progressions definitely has merit and you will see results, the criticism of Convict Conditioning on Reddit is like mine – the progressions aren’t necessarily the best ones to follow and the rep requirements are extremely high.
The Convict Conditioning app is available for free, so honestly you don’t need to buy the book to start the program. This app is like having a personal strength trainer at your fingertips, and it will teach you how to do every workout in the program. It also tells you the order and how many sets and reps you do, and it tracks your progress.
If you want to know more details and the why behind each movement and progression – plus get advice and insight – then definitely buy the book. But, if you just want to know the movements and reps, then download the free app and get started.
The features of the Convict Conditioning App are:
- WILL ALWAYS BE COMPLETELY FREE
- Simple, easy and intuitive design
- Uses the Convict Conditioning workout by Paul Wade
- Offline photos of exercises for easy reference
- YouTube videos of exercises in case you’re still not sure how to perform
- Records exercise progression, including sets and reps – no more pen and paper!
- Know which exercise to do and how much to lift each workout
- Progress bar to track your progression on the four core exercises and two additional exercises
- No ads
- No ridiculous permissions
Convict Conditioning Wiki
There is no Convict Conditioning Wikipedia entry, and this is one of the many reasons that people doubt the backstory of this program. Until recently, Paul Wade didn’t do interviews and he still doesn’t allow pics.
Some believe that Paul Wade could be a pseudonym, others believe he is not a real person at all. However, he supposedly gave an interview to Bodybuilding.com this past summer, and this is what he had to say.
The most important difference between Convict Conditioning and PCC (Progressive Calisthenics Certification) is that Convict Conditioning is just about building raw muscle and strength using bodyweight only. This was the kind of goal inmates all had, and the workouts in the book were built around this goal.
Convict Conditioning 2 & 3
After Wade released the first Convict Conditioning book in 2009, he came back in 2012 with Convict Conditioning 2: Advanced Prison Training Tactics for Muscle Gain, Fat Loss, and Bulletproof Joints.
In the sequel, Wade takes you even deeper into the subtle nuances of training with the ultimate resistance tool: your body. With his understanding of anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology, Wade explains very simply how to work the smaller but just as important areas of the body such as the hands and forearms, neck and calves and obliques in serious functional ways.
Convict Conditioning 3: Explosive Calisthenics came out in 2014, and in that book Wade introduces the “Explosive Six” which will turn that strength you built in the original program into incredible power. The “explosive six” movements are: the suicide jump, the superman, the no-hands kip up, the front flip, the back flip, and the muscle-up.
Convict Conditioning Review Summary
|Review||Convict Conditioning Program|
|Summary||The Convict Conditioning Program is a calisthenics workout routine designed by Paul Wade that resembles the training regime he followed while spending over two decades in prison. This program is delivered as either a paperback book or digital ebook and contains details on the program progression and exercises. The program has some progression holes and could use more diet info, but overall the routine is a good road map for beginners to build strength using only bodyweight movements.|
|Rating||3.75 (out of 5)|
So there you have it. The Convict Conditioning Workout is definitely a challenging program that can build muscular strength, but it has its drawbacks. It takes a lot of time and commitment, and some people say the progressions don’t work for them. But, one thing is for sure, bodyweight training has a ton of benefits.
Another con of this program is that it would have made a good course. That’s why I’m a fan of the Kinobody Bodyweight Mastery Program because of the videos, forum access, and bonuses included with the program.
What’s still great about Convict Conditioning is there’s plenty of support available via forums like Reddit and Dragon Door that can help you through any mental or physical obstacles that might slow down your progress.
If you’re interested in getting leaner and building your muscular strength using only your bodyweight, click the button below to see the current price of this program.