Convict Conditioning questions
I recently decided to give up weight lifting for a while due to a back injury. For a while, I was doing what I can, but I was just informed of Convict Conditioning. Having read the book, I was convinced that since I couldn't do most of the exercises, that it would be an acceptable substitute for weight lifting and even better, work my balance, flexibility, and stability (my three weaknesses). I've made each question very visible, but if you want, there's an explanation you may read to understand where I'm coming from on each question.
Somewhere in the book, the author describes a fictional person who takes a "smart" approach to the program. This person, while quite fit already, starts at level 1 for all movements. Fair enough. Despite how easy these exercises seem, he sticks with them for a month before progressing. It's a similar situation with all the subsequent exercises in the story of his progression. This seems ridiculous to me. While I understand from the book that this is strengthening the joints and doing other things that I could benefit from before doing more advanced exercises, I see much strength loss if I approach it this way. If I was still a civilian, I would be willing to accept this, but in the Navy, I have standards to maintain.
Question 1: Do I really need to progress so slowly?
Another thing that worries me is that I perceive my activity level being lowered. My plan was to do two exercises twice a week, which means six days of strength training. While the amount of days may make it appear quite active, each exercise is to be performed for 3 sets at the most, and these are doing exercises that will seem easy to me. I see my overall conditioning going down (bad for my run time on the Navy PT test). But more importantly, it will interfere with fat loss. I have been eating based on a "moderate" activity level as defined by calorie calculators. I await half of you to jump down my throat for using a calculator. But it has worked out for me. Doing nothing but the Stronglifts routine before, I was losing weight at a satisfactorily rate. If my activity is lowered when doing nothing but Convict Conditioning, I'm going to have to endure about a month of experimentation to find a new calorie intake level. Again, I have standards I need to meet and don't have a lot of time to figure out what works and what doesn't. By the way, fat loss is my primary goal right now.
Question 2: Is doing Convict Conditioning 6 days a week in conjunction with walking and sprinting (as outlined in PBF) considered at least moderate activity level? or If it's less than moderate activity, what can I do to supplement the workouts to also help maintain my test scores for the Navy?
When I was weight training, I did regular carb refeeds. Convict Conditioning is a strength program, so I assume it will have glycogen depleting affects.
Question 3: If I generally eat VLC, will carb refeeds be helpful or unnecessary?
Question 4: Is creatine something I can benefit from on this program.
Question 5: When the book says keep your back straight for squats, is that the same rule as squatting with weights (don't round or hyperextend the back) or does it mean keep the back vertical?
Question 6; What do I do if I can't do the level 1 exercise? Just tried the Knee Tucks, and I don't have the flexibility to get my legs 6-10" from the chest as the book says to do (though I should mention that the picture looks like the bottom position of a parallel squat, which I can do)
Question 7: On straight bridges, is it considered improper form to start with the hands behind the hips? Following the form in the book, my body can't straighten without either my legs moving forward or starting my hands further back.
Question 8: Is two exercises twice a week too much volume (not enough recovery)?
That's it for program questions, but I would also like to know of anyone's success with it. I have no doubt that a dedicated person will see strength gains, but will it also deliver muscle endurance or any other side benefits? I would especially like to hear from those who used this program while in the military.
Have you checked out the CC Super FAQ? It can answer several if your questions. Just Google it, it's a free article by Paul Wade with lots of good info.
Come back with any questions you still have after checking it out.
I appreciate the tip. I found it and gave it a quick read. Very helpful and I'm sure I'll reference it again. Unfortunately, it managed only to answer one question of all the ones I asked. I'll list those questions I still have.
- Is Convict Conditioning, with walking and sprinting, enough to get me to what the calorie calculators call "moderate activity?"
- Is carb cycling (VLC 6 days/week, 1 carb refeed day/week) something that I can benefit from?
- Would creatine be helpful or just unnecessary?
- Is it too much to perform each exercise twice a week? The author implies it, but it's so hard to believe.
Exercise specific questions:
- For squats, when the book says keep your back straight, does that mean a neutral spine, or an actual vertical back?
- For Knee Tucks, a level 1 exercise, I don't have the flexibility to get my legs within 6-10" of my chest. Should I do them anyway, hoping my flexibility improves.
- For straight bridges, is following the book exactly the only proper form. Geometrically, it should be impossible for the body to go from a 90 degree bend to completely straight without either the hands or feet moving away from their original positions.
1. No, but moving too fast will not help. I've dropped back multiple times on different exercises, and it was always because I was trying to progress too quickly. Move ahead if you can, but milk the current level for all you can get from it.
2. Probably at least a moderate activity level. CC is a really intense workout as you get to the middle levels, or it was for me.
3. Probably unnecessary, at least for a while, but you may be different from me.
4. No idea.
5. Neutral spine, though in the bottom position you'll probably round your lower back a bit and it's not a big deal. With weight on your back it matters, but with bodyweight, a slightly rounded back doesn't matter too much.
6. Work the exercise as you can, and work on flexibility. Go to MobilityWOD.com and search there for some help. That website has terrific info in a really scattered format.
7. No, hands behind the hips is fine.
8. Probably not. I used to do the full six every day at the lower levels, though I didn't make any real progress on bridging, pullups, or HSPU for various reasons. I'm getting there now, though.
Finally: I am in the military. This is a fantastic strength program. I love it. I've never been stronger. My situps have never been better. However, in working 1-arm pushups I have neglected the endurance work that I need, so my pushup score for the APFT is not as high as I'd like. I personally need a lot of volume of regular or close pushups in order to improve my pushup score.
With walking and sprinting, CC is a phenomenal program. Yes, that should be a moderate activity level.
Carb cycling? Maybe. I don't, but it might help you. (It might help me too, but I'm not all that inclined to find out.)
I still don't know anything about creatine.
If you poke around the Dragon Door forums, there are a lot of people who feel like the volume is not high enough and have gotten great results from doing more than recommended on this program.
Neutral spine, always, but in bodyweight, a bit of a curl/tuck at the bottom isn't a huge deal.
Work your flexibility. Form, then strength.
Move your hands back. Having hands under hips only works for those with really short torsos or legs.
Your post is informative. Can you expand on your comment in #8 about not making progress on a few exercises for a variety of reasons but now making progress?
What were you doing while not making progress? What did you change? What do you think the reasons were?
That was extremely informative. Thank you
Though it looks like I should be safe and add in some high-rep endurance work once in a while.
The program as written recommends that you should hold off on the HSPU and Bridges until you reach a certain level in the other exercises. As much as I tried, I never really made much progress in either of those until I started reaching the recommended levels in other exercises.
Originally Posted by OneDeltaTenTango
I'm still having some issues- I have upper back and shoulder limitations that are slow to get better that are holding me back, especially on bridging- I can do lots of the Head Bridges, but to push up with my arms into a full bridge, even from on top of a basketball, takes something that my shoulders don't seem to have. I'm not sure if is flexibility, mobility, or just strength, but I'm still working on it. The handstands seem to help, but I'm only on about 90 seconds for the handstand. I just hit 50+ seconds (maybe 60) on the frogstand the other day, and I think it was because I was on a mat and not on a hard floor. Sometimes that little stuff matters, like the shoes you wear when you pistol squat.
Pullups for some reason are also moving very slowly, but I think that my upper back/shoulder issues are also related to that. I've spent a very long time doing a lot of pushups and no pullups whatsoever. The past two years of adding in pullups has mostly fixed a lot of my postural issues, but I still don't have much strength there. I can do several 1 arm pushups with my feet spread, and I am working on doing controlled negatives with my feet together, but I still can't do more than 10-12 regular pullups in a set, and usually I'm closer to 8 or so.
atmetal: The program as written is really pretty low volume, especially at the higher levels. If I don't maintain some high-volume work, my APFT score drops significantly, at least on pushups. I keep doing 2-3 minute sets of regular or close pushups at the CC tempo, or sometimes will do a set of 100 to the Army standard (which allows pauses in the set, but no lifting a hand or foot and no putting the knees down).
I'm not sure what the calorie counters call moderate activity but if you followed PBF guidelines for walking and sprinting and used CC as LHT you should be OK. As far as CC goes Vol1 is a strength book, Vol2 covers supplementary muscle groups (grip, calves, obliques and neck) plus stretching, rehab and Vol3 (not yet published) will cover Wades approach to cardio, metcon or Survival Athletics as he calls it.
Originally Posted by atmetal
The carb refeeding you really need to work out yourself and see what works. I think theres a PBF journal somewhere to setup trials and record data for that kind of stuff. My personal opinion is that I like to eat some carbs after a max effort workout to replace glycogen. But I don't really follow VLC anyway.
I dont see the need for creatine as long as you have adequate recovery between workouts. I have used it in the past when doing more frequent training to help recover faster but with CC there is such a high emphasis on joint and tendon strength that I prefer not to force the muscle recovery at an accelerated rate. As I understand it creatine helps the muscles much more than tendons, joints and ligaments as it has a higher rate of cellular turnover and regeneration.
If you want to work out all exercises twice a week try it but log your progress, if it stalls slow down. I usually do the Revolving Door template so 3 exercises per session, I do Monday workout A, Wed workout B, Fri workout A, rest sat/Sun and swap A for B the following week. If Im busy, tired or travelling I drop to 1xA and 1xB per week. The progress really adds up over time. Just avoid injury at all costs and always be keen for the next workout.
With squats try to think of a long spine, don't let the chest collapse. If the tail rounds a bit I wouldn't worry too much, everyones geometry is different.
Knee tucks, keep going it will improve, Wade talks about the intermediate steps and this would be an example.
Many people have made the same comment about the bridges (see the Dragondoor forum, probably the biggest CC forum), either move the hands slightly further back or use a shiny floor so the feet can slide a bit. I worked these at the same time as shoulder bridges.
I really see the book as a guide, read it thoroughly try it as written but if you find a variation that works for you by all means try it out but just keep the idea of the book in mind. For example I have tried slightly different progressions for the bridges and chin ups but I've kept the CC plan in mind, not just jacked it after awhile and followed say a gymnastic orientated path.
i'm loving this thread. i'm having or foreseeing a lot of the same issues. jfreaksho...your answers are terrific, and i absolutely agree that the little things can make a huge difference.
regarding the intensity and endurance of CC, i think the movements can be very difficult. i'm still on a few early levels, but i count my CC workouts as heavy lifting. the movements at the beginning may be fairly easy, and i feel like it shouldn't be wasting my time with kneeling pushups, but the 2-1-2 pace adds a lot of difficulty. if i feel like it was all elbows and triceps, and not enough chest, i'll just throw in some plyo sets later in the day.
also, it's important to think about CC as an approach, not a program. i noticed my rep numbers dropping on pull ups while focusing on the early levels. so, i do more pull ups...outside my CC workout. i do them at my regular speed for endurance purposes, while the strength in my grip, elbows, back, etc. gets better during the more focused workout. sometimes i'll do a deck (or half deck) of cards workout after my CC workout, or on off days. work on strength and endurance individually. eventually they will combine and make for one hell of a fitness specimen.
Jfreaksho and sandstone. Thank you both for good informative posts. It gives me a reminder that the program is solid and to keep at it, though progress seems slow in some areas. I seem to be progressing on some (squats, pushups, leg lifts) and not on others (bridge level 2, pull up level 2, handstand pu level 2). I will try a switch to a hard floor for crow pose (thanks jfreaksho). I have some yoga background so not too worried about handstands and bridges in concept, as I have done both, but will be patient on the strength and endurance part of it.
One note is that I strained tendons in one knee doing close squats (at least I think that was the proximal cause) and after two weeks am just resolving the soreness (2 inches below patella on either side of shin) and swelling (below patella). I *think* it was the squats that tripped off the tendinitis. I will give it another few days and then step back a level or two in the squat progression (which is a bit annoying as it is an area of strength). Slow and steady....