the joy of strength training


August 6th, 2009 at 10:51 am

Review: Strength Rituals DVD

Strength Rituals DVD coverGushing reviews are not, I hope, what you have come to expect on this website. I like to think my style is measured and discerning. Well I’m sorry folks you are going to have to put up with a bit of girly gush because I love this DVD!!

I’ve never seen anything that has made me want to run out and train so much! It’s got all my favourite toys in it – barbells, kettlebells, sleds, tyres, bodyweight, leverage clubs….actually I’ve only ever handled a club once but after seeing this film it could easily become my new favourite thing!

What is this film?

Strength Rituals is a 2-disc DVD from Bodytribe, the brainchild of trainer and gym owner Chip Conrad. Between the two discs there is well over two hours of content and you can’t help thinking that there was loads more that could have been included but, like all canny filmmakers, Chip is probably saving that for the sequel.

Structurally the film consists of a series of episodes featuring particular movements, combinations and workouts performed by Conrad and other members of Bodytribe. These are exciting, always tough and often original. The one rep max effort Turkish get-up sequence made me want to jump off the sofa and join in!

Over the film is a narration by Conrad which is lively and full of personality. Part commentary, part lecture, I found it appealing. To someone rather less in love with language it might occasionally sound excessively wordy and convoluted. Still, I think using a voiceover makes for a more polished presentation than pieces straight to camera, which are notoriously difficult to get right.

This documentary format allows Conrad’s narration to range easily from the particular workouts we are seeing on screen to his approach, methods and general philosophy of training. He talks a lot – but there’s real passion behind the prose.

What’s good about this film?

Kettlebell fun

Cool kettlebell combos!

I don’t quite know where to start, there are so many things I like. But let’s take a deep breath and try to break it down a little.

Sheer inventiveness
I’ve been in this game for a few years and I like to think I am close to the cutting edge when it comes to fitness methods and techniques. If it’s weird, wacky or ‘out there’ I’ve had a go. But there’s still plenty of stuff in this film that I haven’t seen before.

It’s not that it’s new exactly. In fact, some of it is very old indeed. Chip Conrad acknowledges that very little of what you see is per se original – but he puts it all together in creative and inventive ways and all the way through the film is exhorting the audience to do the same.

“There is no magic in a single tool, a single program or a single principle. The Bodytribe template is license for creativity, allowing you to escape dogmas by embracing and manipulating the many malleable factors that we can use to forge our strength.”

The kettlebell combos on the second disc are particularly inspiring and they are going to be keeping me busy for some time to come.

Content is important but production will make or break a movie. If you’ve ever seen movie B-roll you’ll know what I mean. Films are made in the edit suite.

This film is really well put together. Everything is a ‘character’ in this film, from the locations to the music to the animals (wild and domestic) that wander in and out of shot. It’s very well edited and the occasional cheesy/ironic use of a special effect makes it more interesting for the viewer.

The production values are budget and some of the camera work is a little shakey but that is all part of the charm.

If the content was superb but the production was crap, 99% of people wouldn’t sit through more than ten minutes of this film, or any film. It’s testament to Chip Conrad’s artistic instincts that he understands this and has put a lot of effort into making this film watchable.


This is not a film for beginners. Thank god! We don’t need more instructional DVDs, we need films to inspire and this is certainly one of those.

To get the most out of this film you need to have a good grasp of the key movements like squat and deadlift. It also helps to be reasonably adept with the major tools such as barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells.

There is some instruction in the film, particularly on the more unusual tools and exercises such as leveragae clubs or the Steinborn Lift. There are also tips on form for the more conventional exercises but you wouldn’t, say, learn the squat from scratch with this DVD.


Essentially the film helps you to build on what you know and get creative with your training. There’s a logical framework, a method of programming which is simple to grasp but powerful and extendable.

Conrad stands on the shoulders of giants (Dan John, Westside Barbell, Mel Siff) but he also has his own original take on training and, like Dan John, his view is an all-encompassing one. He talks about training in terms of who you are, what you stand for, how you live your life.

Conrad’s writing and ideas are not as easily accessible as the likes of Dan John. I’ve been a reader of his effusive prose, on his blog and elsewhere, for a while without really ‘getting it’. So putting it all together in this rich, visual format is a good move – nay, a triumph.

I might even read his book now.

Update: good news for UK and European readers! I am getting in a bunch of the Strength Rituals DVD to ship from the UK, saving you £££s on postage. They’ll be available in the shop from next week!

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  • 1

    Wow, what a stunning review! Thank you. And there is a ‘part II’ in the works. The training started this month, the filming starts next month. Maybe some of it should be shot in Newquay?

    Chip Conrad on August 6th, 2009
  • 2

    Why not! Then you could say ‘shot worldwide on location’.

    gubernatrix on August 6th, 2009
  • 3

    And I am going to be lucky enough to attend one of Body Tribe’s Strength Camps later this month!

    Color me excited.

    deb on August 6th, 2009
  • 4

    Sure wish Chip would hurry up and open a few more locations!

    Mrs. Strom on August 7th, 2009
  • 5

    @ deb: Lucky you indeed – they look awesome!

    @ Mrs Strom: careful what you wish for…..! (kidding 🙂 where are you based?)

    gubernatrix on August 7th, 2009
  • 6

    Hi there
    I’ve moved from London to Cape Town, South Africa to continue 52 years of using weights. No steroids (by choice) and no problem joints (by good fortune and building in recovery rather than over-training). Just got my power rack screwed back together and kettlebells in a row. Still very much enjoying your site and posts.

    Problem is about ordering BodyTribe Strength Rituals from your shop. The Paypal form won’t accept my postcode format here, and you’re not doing credit cards. Could I send you a sterling cheque?

    Deryck on August 23rd, 2009
  • 7

    Deryck, great to hear from you! I have sent you an email regarding the paypal issue.

    gubernatrix on August 23rd, 2009
  • 8

    I am not prone to gushing reviews, but for me personally this is as near perfect as it gets. Playful, intelligent and thought provoking . Great to see the bent press and 2 hands anyhow getting an airing. The”spice” combos are the perfect antidote to the sterile regimes that seem to dominate training these days.

    Nick on August 29th, 2009
  • 9

    Hey Nick, thanks for coming back and sharing your thoughts. Pretty damn cool, huh? I loved the bent press material and can attest that Chip’s instructions are very effective. Bent presses and windmills are my new favourite lifts.

    gubernatrix on September 2nd, 2009
  • 10

    Both are great lifts, unfortunately my bent press practice fell by the wayside a couple of years ago but am now practicing a few singles daily.
    BTW we are in your neck of the woods next week may see you in the gym.

    Nick on September 9th, 2009
  • 11

    Yep, come say hello! I am usually there Mon, Wed and Fri evenings after work.

    gubernatrix on September 9th, 2009
  • 12

    […] Strength Rituals from Bodytribe features an exciting array of odd and one-handed lifts. Windmills, bent press, one-handed snatchs and turkish get ups sit alongside one-handed work with clubs and kettlebells. It’s all heavy and therefore all good. There is also an explanation of how such lifts can usefully be incorporated into a workout programme. Read the full review here. […]

  • 13

    […] If you dig all of that, you’ll love Chip Conrad’s DVD Strength Rituals, which I reviewed here. […]

  • 14

    Just got my copy today. I can’t believe I used to waste so much money on gym fees when a few clubs, some rope and a old tyre will kick your butt just as good! 🙂

    This film is awe inspiring stuff. Love the club intro – feel like a bonus. Also the combos are amazing.

    Jason on January 15th, 2010
  • 15

    So glad you like it, Jason! I love the club stuff too – made me want to rush out and buy one 🙂

    gubernatrix on January 15th, 2010
  • 16

    […] Brutal Recess is the new DVD from Bodytribe Fitness, makers and purveyors of the excellent Strength Rituals DVD which I reviewed in 2009. […]


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