“Getting strong and healthy, both physically and mentally, doesn’t have to be complicated”
Danny Kavadlo and his brother Al are two of the world’s leading and sought after fitness experts. They also happen to train solely with their own bodyweight. That’s right, no weights, no machines – just their own bodies, their environment and plenty of discipline.
I was fortunate enough to catch up with, and be trained by Danny in the famous Tompkins Square Park in New York City recently. The park is a mecca for fans of bodyweight training the world over. A long term fan of Danny’s work (as well as his brother’s Al) and visiting from England, this was a real treat for me.
Danny is a big fan of simplicity and this impacts not only the way he chooses to train his body but also his approach to life. After the training session and lots of lessons from a bodyweight master, we sat down and the conversation widened into Danny’s own approach to living simply.
1) Hi Danny, thanks so much for joining us. I’ve been a fan of yours and your brother Al’s work for years. For the readers that may not have come across your work before, why don’t you tell us a little about who Danny Kavadlo is and where in the world is home for you?
Sure. I live in Brooklyn, New York with my son. I’m a personal trainer, writer and presenter. Myself and my brother Al are specifically known for being proponents and experts in calisthenics (bodyweight only) strength training. We’ve been lucky enough to run workshops all over the world teaching bodyweight training and also write for several fitness based publications.
I train a broad range of people, regular working people that want to stay in shape and also some other clients that are interested in achieving elite level bodyweight skills (human flag, pistol squats etc).
2) Fitness wise, you train solely with bodyweight and have for a few years. Can you share a little about the original inspiration behind moving to bodyweight only?
Growing up, my brothers and I only had bodyweight available to us initially. So we started with the basics, push ups and pull ups. We’d constantly have competitions between ourselves to see who could do the most repetitions of a particular move.
As I grew older and more experienced, I incorporated external weights but always kept bodyweight training in my personal routines as well. As my strength grew I eventually came full circle and put the external weights down and concentrated exclusively on bodyweight. That’s where I am now.
I enjoy the simplicity and minimalism of bodyweight training as well as the endless progressions and challenges that are open to you with your own bodyweight.
3) It’s obvious from your writing that simplicity, minimalism and building better habits are important to you. Has this always been part of you or something you’ve transitioned into?
When I look back, I can see that I’ve always had a somewhat simple outlook on life. This also applies to owning stuff. I’ve never really been one for lots of possessions. As I’ve grown older this has stayed with me and I’ve gravitated towards the power of simplicity.
I believe too much stuff ends up weighing you down. People can get distracted from what matters most. My approach tends to be focused on getting the most out of the least For example, cook the most delicious meal you can with the fewest ingredients. Or workout the entire body with the fewest basic exercises.
“I believe too much stuff ends up weighing you down”
I think this approach to simplicity also translates in the way I write. Inspired by discovering people like Charles Bukowski and Hemmingway growing up, my own writing tries to get to the point. Say as much as possible with as few words as you can. Communicate simply.
I guess I’ve always been attracted to making the most of the minimum and having just enough. Anything more just seems a waste.
4) Have you felt resistance from others around you through your journey to simpler? If so, how have you dealt with this?
At times there have been relationships where this approach can cause a little tension. However, that’s not to say I don’t like nice stuff, I just choose experiences over stuff generally. I’d rather have a great meal out with family and friends than buy more physical possessions for the most part.
In terms of bringing up a child, obviously there’s a balance to be struck. I live the way I do by choice but my son is developing his own outlook. I’m very keen to encourage him to have his own views on what is and isn’t important to him. That incorporates how much stuff he ends up feeling he needs.
5) Are there two or three core things you can suggest that readers can implement to help them in getting to their own version of simpler?
a) If you haven’t worn something or used it in a year get rid of it
You really don’t need it or value it that much if it’s not being used regularly.
b) Prepare more meals
This will put you in a position of consuming better food. It will simplify life but also more than likely improve your health (and bank balance)
c) Have less gadgets
Focus on experiences over stuff. Forget having the latest version of everything and focus on the quality of your actual experiences.
6) I know you have just finished a new book co-authored with your brother Al. Can you tell us a little about that and what readers might expect?
The book, Street Workout, is really multi-faceted. It’s a history lesson and complete overview of bodyweight strength training (which is really as old as man).
For the last few years, my brother and I have been lucky enough to travel around the world training and speaking to bodyweight training enthusiasts. Bodyweight training is more popular than ever. The book is a celebration of the movement.
We include progressions for beginners through to advanced. We include full programmes. It’s suitable for those new to bodyweight strength training but also for those working at advanced levels. It’s fully comprehensive.
7) Any future plans or other projects that you can share here or is the new book the sole focus presently?
We want to continue to grow the workshops we run and visit more countries around the world. I want to keep on spreading the word and introducing people to the power and simplicity of bodyweight training.
Getting strong and healthy, both physically and mentally, doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.
Where to find out more about Danny:
Danny Kavadlo is a New York City based trainer, writer, presenter and bodyweight training specialist. He works with people around the world to improve their strength, health and vitality. He can be reached at his blog. His latest book, Street Workout (co-authored with his brother Al) is available here.
Note: Readers of this blog might find Strength Rules of particular interest. This book has a broader focus than just physical training and is also about finding the strength within to deal with life’s challenges. That said, any and all of Danny’s writing is recommended.
A big thank you to the man himself for both the interview and the wisdom imparted during our training session. Danny was very accommodating with his time on the day and is a super cool guy to chat with. A part two of some of our discussion will follow soon.