Interview with Al Kavadlo: Zen Mind, Strong Body

I am really excited about today’s blog post! I had the honor to interview Al Kavadlo, Lead Instructor for the PCC, acclaimed bodyweight strength training expert and all-around awesome guy.

If you’ve read anything from this site and found it helpful, you can thank Al. He is my main inspiration when it comes to training and health philosophy. Good thing that he wrote a book about especially that!

It’s called Zen Mind, Strong Body. If there were lines that you’d have to stand in in order to get your hands on eBooks, I sure would have been in the front of it for this one.

I asked Al if I could interrogate him regarding his book and his fitness background and he kindly complied.

Read on if you wanna tune in on our little chit-chat.

Me: For any readers unfamiliar with your work, where in the fitness world do you come from and where are you now?

Al Kavadlo: A workout enthusiast since age thirteen, I began my fitness career as a personal trainer in 2003. A few years later I got into fitness writing. After working in big box gyms for many years, I felt frustrated by the corporate bureaucracy and decided to leave and do my own thing.

In that time, I’ve published 5 books and hundreds of articles on various websites and magazines including and TRAIN magazine. In addition to writing I’ve also become the lead instructor for Dragon Door’s Progressive Calisthenics Certification (PCC) and I still do some 1-on-1 training.

Me: Why did you turn to calisthenics strength training?


Al Kavadlo: After many years training with barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and various strength training machines, I gradually began losing interest in moving external resistance. Around that same time, I started to discover all these fun advanced calisthenics exercises like muscle-ups and levers and I fell in love.

Calisthenics training appeals to me because it requires nothing more than your body, your mind and your warrior spirit.

You don’t need to buy any equipment, go anywhere or put on any special clothing. Anybody can start right now!

Me: What motivated you to write Zen Mind, Strong Body?

Al Kavadlo: In mainstream fitness, all the emphasis tends to be on quick results with little effort. Things like “7 minute abs” and “30 day transformations” are easy to market, but are not realistic for most people. I want to get folks away from that goal-obsessed mindset and get them to focus on the process instead.

Me: Who should read that book? What can someone new to fitness learn from it? How can an experienced trainee benefit from it?

Al Kavadlo: There’s something for everyone in this book! I’ve gotten emails from fitness newbies as well as people who’ve been working out for 30+ years telling me that the book has completely changed their perspective and/or given them fresh ideas for their workouts.

Me: Sorry to be so provocative, but: Your new book is a collection of already published articles from you. Do you think there’s nothing more to say in the fitness world?

Al Kavdlo: Of course not! I have a lot more to say and I plan to write many more books! I assembled this collection because the articles contained in it cover a wide array of topics that I repeatedly get asked about.

Part of what makes the electronic age so amazing is the speed and convenience with which we can communicate. The unfortunate flip side, however, is that because there is so much information out there, it’s easy for things to get lost in the shuffle. Over the years I’ve written a lot of things I’m very proud of that have sort of slipped through the cracks.

Zen Mind, Strong Body contains 26 of my favorite articles that I have ever written, organized in one place – plus a bunch of new content!

Me: What does Zen have to do with being strong? Should we meditate in order to get stronger?

Al Kavadlo: Zen is about focusing your energy and being in the present moment. Whether they call it Zen or not, all the strongest people in the world are able to shut out distractions when it comes time to perform. There are specific things you can practice to encourage this and meditation is one of those things.

Me: So what is your secret to being lean, strong and healthy?

Al Kavadlo: There is no secret – my methods are all right there in my books!

Me: You seem like a happy guy who achieved a lot in his life. What makes you get out of bed in the morning, nowadays?

Al Kavadlo: I guess being happy is my motivation! Besides, I’ve still got so much left that I want to do!

Me: You make every move look ridiculously easy. Did you ever struggle to get the hang of a certain move?

Al Kavadlo: Thanks! I’m just like anyone else though – I had to work very hard and put in a lot of time to reach the skill level that I’ve attained – and I still feel like I have a long way to go!

Thanks, Al, for taking the time to answer my dubious questions!

Now, if you’re keen on getting your virtual hands on Zen Mind, Strong Body, I’d encourage you to do so.

I’ve read it and recommend it without hesitation. Al has a pretty cool writing style, too! His typical writings are very minimalistic and to the point. He never rants or shoots empty paragraphs. Every one of the sentences of his books is filled with insightful content. Besides all the wisdom Al has to share, he still manages to stay humble and approachable through his writings and videos.

Oh, and did I mention all the really cool pictures? All of Al’s books are very aesthetically appealing and are fun to read just because of his signature smile that he puts on while demonstrating his feats of strength.

And Zen Mind, Strong Body really brings home all of Al’s key insights about general fitness, calisthenics, diet and living a healthy and happy life.

If you are a fan of bodyweight training, check out Al’s other books. These are my favorites, in no particular order: Pushing the Limits, Raising the Bar and Stretching Your Boundaries.