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Review: Freestyle Connection Seminar with Carl Paoli

Freestyle Connection Seminar with Carl Paoli

Coach Carl teaching some technique

This week we take a moment to review Carl Paoli’s very popular Freestyle Connection coaching seminar. 

Item: Freestyle Connection Movement Seminar with Coach Carl
Price: $295.00 USD
Date: June 15, 2013
Location: CrossFit Chicago
Time: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The Freestyle Connection Seminar is a day-long session with Carl Paoli of where attendees learn, practice, and apply skill transfer principles to gymnastics-based movement. I attended Paoli’s seminar on June 15, 2013 with about 40 others at CrossFit Chicago.

By way of background, I’ve been CrossFitting since 2007; first via main site and currently at an affiliate. Handstand push-ups have always been a weakness of mine. I hoped that Carl’s progressions and coaching would help me methodically attack this longstanding ‘goat’ and refine other gymnastic movements. I was not disappointed.


Carl Paoli will challenge (and change) the way you think about movement in general and how you apply movement to gymnastics-based exercise in particular.

Disclaimer: this seminar is not going to make you proficient in the handstand push-up, the pistol, or the muscle-up. It will, however, give you the foundational framework to safely develop and build these skills for yourself and for your athletes.

After a day with Carl, you will probably discover that your gymnastic technique:

1) does not transfer to other movements;
2) is woefully inefficient; and/or
3) unnecessarily exposes you to injury.

Freestyle Connection Seminar with Carl Paoli

The “gymnasty” movements you are called upon to teach or expected to perform have simple, foundational elements that, once mastered, carry over to other lifts and exercises. Paoli identifies these foundational elements by way of his “Position, Movement, Purpose” framework and then takes attendees through progressions that develop the handstand push-up, the pistol, and the muscle-up.

Time flew during this eight-hour seminar. At the end of each training module, you’re left wanting more. Just when the light bulb goes on, and the skill transfer cadence is locked in your short-term muscle memory, it’s time to move on. For this reason, attendees should have a notebook handy to jot down the progressions.

Morning: 9:00-12:40

The day started with about an hour of classroom-style instruction. Paoli is an engaging speaker and the time goes quickly. The rest of the day was hands-on learning. The hollow rock position was first, followed by pushing mechanics, and finally, the handstand push-up. Along with progressions, Carl offered teaching techniques, spotting methods, and how to bail out safely.

Afternoon: 1:20- 2:30

Following a short lunch break, the pistol was next. Paoli turned it over to Nate Helming, another one of CrossFit San Francisco’s coaches. Helming taught pistol progressions, principles of loading, and related mobility. While the seminar primarily comprised experienced athletes and coaches, Helming’s most effective teaching moments came from observing him coach, and cue, less experienced athletes.

Freestyle Connection Seminar with Carl Paoli

Afternoon: 2:30-4:15

By mid-afternoon, it was time for the Holy Grail: the muscle-up. This was the longest training module of the day. While the muscle up module was reminiscent of Paoli’s progressions posted over the years on, he has refined and streamlined the progressions. If you’re close to a muscle-up, you’ll likely get one. If you already have a muscle-up, these progressions will eliminate a tremendous amount of power bleed in your technique.

Afternoon: 4:15-5:00

The day wrapped up with everyone’s favorite: the burpee. What can you say about burpees other than they suck? Well, since Paoli is all about efficiency of movement, there are ways to make them suck less.

Freestyle Connection Seminar with Carl Paoli

Coach Carl provides some excellent one-on-one coaching


I would recommend this seminar to the intermediate athlete looking to refine their gymnastic skills, or to the coach looking to add value or variety to their athletes’ repertoire.

While an earlier version of some of the progressions can be found online, this seminar was well worth the US$295.00 to receive hands-on coaching and valuable teaching techniques from one of the more effective and engaging coaches in the CrossFit world.


The Rx Review is an independent fitness website, reporting on the Sport of Fitness, functional fitness news, The CrossFit Games, health and diet related information, and also provides reviews on sports performance products.