Kin Shi-Hai Do (Japanese: The Way of Muscle Control), is something entirely different. It is the art of lifting weights without lifting weights. This system of non-apparatus, muscle building exercise goes back five thousand years or so to the Yoga masters of India. Monks of the Shaolin Temple have been using this form of exercise since the twelfth century, when it was introduced to them by the Buddhist monk, Bodhidharma.

First, my personal experience:

In five weeks of Kin Shi-Hai Do, I added ¼” to my arms and ½” to my chest. This is significant because after over twenty years of working out, I had pretty well maxed out in size some time ago. I believe these gains were the result of a combination of intense focused energy, and the addition of new exercises to my routine which enabled me to hit my muscles from angles that wouldn't have been possible to do in the past without specialized (and expensive)equipment.

Here’s what I’ve concluded concerning Kin Shi-Hai Do:

So, what is Kin Shi-Hai Do? It is a system of exercise utilizing muscle contractions. The concept is simple: perform a particular movement while at the same time flexing those muscles that come into play. Muscle growth occurs when muscles are contracted. When you lift a weight, your muscles involuntarily contract. When you perform a Kin Shi-Hai Do movement, you voluntarily contract your muscles, hard, while at the same time moving your limbs, slowly, simulating a weight lifting movement. Now, here’s where the power of the mind comes in. By concentrating and imagining that you are lifting a heavy weight while going through the physical movement, you can actually feel as though you really are lifting that weight. Said weight can come in any form you wish it to be; barbells, granite boulders, hardened concrete, Sherman tanks, whatever. You can even create an exercise machine in your mind’s eye and utilize that. Or, you can envision nothing at all – simply focus on the muscles being worked, feeling the exercise through the entire movement. In short, the key to successfully implementing Kin Shi-Hai Do lies in developing mind/muscle control.

Shenandoah's Kin Shi-Hai Do Routine

I. How to do Kin Shi-Hai Do Exercise:

This is a curling exercise for your biceps. Stand up straight, arms loose at your sides, make a fist of each hand, if you want to, or simply leave your hands open in a natural position. Take a deep breath, flex your biceps, and curl your arms up slowly while maintaining biceps contraction throughout the entire movement, and, at the same time, exhaling forcefully - in a rush, or a hiss. As you curl, you can make subtle movements of your hands and fingers to channel the resistance to your biceps. Relax and drop your arms for the next repetition. Perform ten repetitions. You should now feel somewhat of a pump. This was the physical process of Kin Shi-Hai Do. Now, repeat the exercise, but this time imagine that you are curling a tremendous amount of weight. Picture a huge Olympic barbell in your hands. Get down into a horse stance to help assist yourself with this load. Really get into this exercise and lift!

This is how Kin Shi-Hai Do is done and this is how each and every exercise is performed. Your mission is to master Kin Shi-Hai Do, performing each and every rep of each and every exercise to maximum effectiveness.

When first starting out with Kin Shi-Hai Do, you may find that a lot of the exercises just aren't happening for you, you're not feeling a pump as you think you should be. That was my initial experience. My advice is to just do them on faith, following through on each movement and contracting those muscles that come into play. Do this enough times, and they'll click. And when they do, you'll wonder why you couldn't perform them effectively in the first place.

II. The Power of the mind:

Do this simple experiment. This is an exercise for your back. While standing, reach straight up and grab hold of a couple of ropes that aren't there. These ropes wrap around pulleys that are attached to huge granite boulders. Now pull the ropes down, hoisting these boulders, until your elbows are down at your sides, all the while contracting your back and lat muscles in the effort. Do a few reps of this to get a feel for the pull-down. Now do the exercise again, but this time, instead of pulling a couple ropes, reach up and bend your arms at the elbow and imagine that you are planting your elbows and the backs of your arms against a couple of pads. Now push those pads down, rotating them down and back as you bring your elbows down to your sides. Picture an exercise machine that performs this exercise. Do a few reps of this. Can you feel a difference in the way you have channeled the resistance? It's the same exercise, yet by focusing on one method of exercising your lats, followed by a totally different method, how your mind-set can effect the feel and effectiveness of Kin Shi-Hai Do exercises is demonstrated.

III. Visualization:

There are a lot of people who are very successful at utilizing visualization, and it is a major factor in their Kin Shi-Hai Do workouts. I know of someone who lifts sandstone blocks and is building the Great Pyramid of Cheops. Others move locomotives, Mac trucks, slabs of hardened concrete, world-class Olympic barbells, and so on. A lot of people have created their own virtual exercise machines. These machines can be anything you want them to be; top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art, precision-tuned, perfectly balanced, and shiny chrome plated. I'm not one of these people. I'm more tuned into the feel of the exercises rather than the visualization aspect. I've tried to visualize things in the past, but I've found it to be a distraction and it upsets my focus. So, what I do is to imagine how something would feel if I were to utilize it, such as the lat machine mentioned above. From there, I simply focus on the feel and the pump of the exercises. I also do very well by not thinking of anything at all - just do the exercises and let them happen.

So, you may be a person who can take right to visualization, or you may be more like me, who is more in tune with the feel of Kin Shi-Hai Do. Just start doing them as prescribed in the first section of this page, and you'll find your way.

Lastly, there are people who perform their Kin Shi-Hai Do in front of a mirror so that they can watch the muscles as they're being worked. I know of a person who says that a mirror is an essential tool in his workouts and that it maximizes the effectiveness of his workouts. So, again, you might find the mirror technique best suited for you.

Once you get proficient at Kin Shi-Hai Do, you'll very quickly settle on an approach that is right for you.

Here is a very good video by Scott Herman demonstrating KSHD exercising:


lV. Create Your Own Exercises:

The sky's the limit! Think of those Nautilus machines you wish you had, and even machines that don't exist. Now you can build any set of muscles from any angle you want. What muscles are of primary importance to you in developing? Work them to maximum effectiveness. Be creative. I know of one person who came up with standing diamond pushups followed by circling his arms around and back in a swimming motion triceps extension, all in one exercise.

V. My Routine:

I workout six mornings a week. Now, I can't just fall out of the rack in the mornings and start moving Sherman Tanks around, I have to be up for awhile, have some coffee, shake the bugs out, and then I'm ready to go. Each exercise session takes 15-20 minutes. I do one set of ten repetitions for each exercise.

Here’s how I’ve set things up:

Mon. - Forearms, Calves. For my forearms I combine KSHD with the heavy artillary. I had put a great deal of time and effort into designing and building the best Forearm Tools you’ll ever wrap your hands around – better than anything commercially available – and I will not give up my beloved forearm toys.

Alternatively, I oftentimes take my forearms to work with me in my car and exercise them during my comute. With one hand on the steering wheel, I exercise each forearm in turn. After the KSHD exercises I perform a myriad of isometric exercises on the steering wheel. With the steering wheel, you can do gripping and leverage isos from all sorts of angles.

Tues. – Upper Body, 5-10 min. break, Thighs

Wed. – Upper Arms, Abdomen.

Thurs - Forearms, Calves.

Fri. – Upper Body, 5-10 min. break, Thighs.

Sat. - Upper Arms, Abdomen.

Alternative Routine:

The routine I follow as described above is based upon Super-setting. In order to understand the reasoning behind this alternative routine laid out below, you'll have to scroll down and read the section entitled, "The Upper Arm Exercises". The following routine is based upon one-directional exercises:

Mon. - Forearms, Calves.

Tue.. - The Pushing Exercises (Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps), Thighs.

Wed. - The Lifting/Pulling Exercises (Back and Biceps), Abdomen.

Thur. - Forearms, Calves.

Fri. - The Pushing Exercises (Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps), Thighs.

Sat. - The Lifting/Pulling Exercises (Back and Biceps), Abdomen.

You'll notice that with the two routines described above, there is a two day period between the same exercises. This allows for an ample, neccessary recovery.

The Exercises

The Upper Body Exercises:


1. Bench Press – While standing, take a deep breath bring your arms back to a beginning bench press position and then push outward in front of you while exhaling. This works best for me if I imagine that I am pushing a wall out, channeling the resistance against the palms of my hands. 1 set of 10 reps.

2. Pec Deck (compliments of Greg Mangan) – If you don’t know what a pec deck is, do a search. I try to feel my forearms up against a couple of big pads. 1 set of 10 reps.

3. Cable Cross Over – reach way out and up to the sides, grabbing hold of a couple of handles that aren’t there and pull the cables they’re attached to down towards your mid-section. Continue going, crossing your arms as far as possible while flexing your pecs. Alternate which arm crosses the other with each rep. 1 set of 10 reps.


1. Cable Pulls - I begin by crossing my arms out in front of me and grabbing hold of a couple of handles attached to cables, and then pull my hands apart until my arms are extended way out to the sides, flexing those shoulders. Alternate which arm crosses the other with each repetition. 1 set of 10 reps.

2. Lateral raises. Begin with your hands at your sides and lift straight up until your hands are outstretched to the sides and level with your shoulders. 1 set of 10 reps.

3. Shoulder Rolls – Raise your elbows up and place your forearms in front of you, parallel to both your chest and the floor. Now roll your forearms upward and outward until they are perpendicular to the floor. Imagine yourself to be pulling up cables as you do this. When you begin this exercise, one fist will be above the other. As you perform this exercise, alternate the positions of your fists. 1 set of 10 reps.

4. Military Press - I imagine pushing up a huge slab of hardened concrete, channeling the resistance against the palms of my hands. 1 set of 10 reps.


1. Wide Grip Pulldown – Same as a wide grip chin.

2. Close Grip Pushdown – I reach up and backward, bending at the elbows, as though I were grabbing a pair of handles, palms facing inward, and my elbows braced against a pair of pads. I then push down with my elbows, using my shoulders as a fulcrum, and push these pads all the way down and back a bit. 1 set of 10 reps.

3. Lat Push. I extend my arms out to the sides at about a 45 degree angle with my forearms down. From there I splay my back, forcing an intense lat spread. While holding that contraction, I reach forward with my hands and then sweep them past my sides and behind me, as though pushing back on sand or wet concrete. 1 set of 10 reps.

4. Rear Lats Push - (compliments of Greg Mangan) While keeping your arms straight, stretch them out behind you, and out a bit from your body. Imagine that you are compressing a cylindrical tube with handles on each end behind your back, pushing your hands towards each other - sort of like a Bullworker. Flex your lats while doing so. 1 set of 10 reps.

5. The Lat Flap: Imagine that you are standing between two parallel bars, the bars being at chest height. Bend your arms and raise your elbows and place them on each of the bars. Now, keeping your arms bent and using your elbows, flex your lats and pull those bars straight down and into your body.

6. Rows. While standing up straight, reach forward, grab hold of the chains wrapped around that semi, and pull it towards you. 1 set of 10 reps.

The Upper Arm Exercises:

For Upper Arms and Forearms I employ a technique known as Super Setting. Super Setting combines two exercises into one – one exercise in one direction and another exercise in the opposite direction.

There is a technique to super setting. Rather than simply keeping your arms flexed while moving them back and forth, or up and down, you need to relax between directions and breath properly. So, the format to be followed would be to, for example, take a deep breath and then release it while slowly performing a biceps curl, and then at the top of the exercise, relax, re-group, rotate your hands, re-focus, and then take another deep breath and then exhale while slowly pushing downwards for triceps pushdowns. This break in between upward and downward reps takes only the barest second and is combined into a rythmic, piston-like movement. You want to be careful not to hyperventilate with your deep breathing. A bit of practice, and you'll be able to get just the right system of breathing coupled with just the right speed of your movements. The key to supersetting is this rythmic motion, and as you move, you will feel both your triceps and biceps getting pumped simultaneously.

I also superset the upperbody exercises, but it is my recomendation that you first become proficient with them as single exercises.

So, with no further adieu, here are:

Upper Arms:

1. Hammer Curl/Triceps Pushdown – Hammer Curl: Fists clenched with palms facing inward. Triceps Pushdown: Open hands with palms facing downward.

2. Hammer Pulldown/Triceps Curl – Hammer Pulldown: Reach straight up and forward/outward a little bit and grab hold of two handles that are attached to ropes, palms facing inward. Keeping your upper arms locked in place, curl the ropes down to your shoulders. Perform this movement at about a 45 degree angle to your body. Triceps Curl: Following the same path upward, push up, straightening your arms.

3. Curl/Triceps Pulldown – Curl: Begin with arms at your sides, hands open, palms facing somewhat forward, relaxed. As you curl, close your hands into fists as though gathering something into your hands, essence, if you will. At the top of the curl, give your biceps a good flex / Triceps Pulldown: Push downward, fists clenched with palms facing inward, as though pushing down on a set of triceps handles. Extend your arms until your triceps lock and give them a good flex.

4. Incline Curl/Triceps Pushdown - I recall Steve Reeves once saying that Incline Dumbell Curls will add size to your biceps faster than anything. Well, with that in mind, Incline Curl: Begin with your hands at your sides and extended back, behind you a little bit. With palms facing forward, fists clenched, curl upward, bringing your fists up to your arm pits into a martial arts position. Triceps Pulldown: With palms still facing upward and fists clenched push back downward to the starting position.

5. Goliath Curls/Wall Push - Goliath Curls: Extend both arms straight out to your sides, hands open, palms facing upward. Curl your arms, bringing your hands to your shoulders, as though pulling in wild horses, and close your hands into fists as you go. Wall Push: With hands open and palms facing outward, push outward as though pushing apart two walls on either side of you.

6. Concentration Curls/Triceps Extensions - Concentration Curls: Stand with one foot forward, turn sideways a bit, and allow one arm to dangle in front of you. Begin with hand open, palm facing your other side. Curl your arm up in front of your body. As you curl, close your hands into fists as though gathering something into your hands as you curl. Triceps Extensions: Follow the same path downward. With your hand open and palm facing inward, push downward and outward to your side a bit, locking your triceps at the furthest extent. Channel the resistance to the blade of your hand.

7. Triceps Curls/Biceps Pulldowns – For these I get my hands way back and then push straight up. I imagine myself to be pushing up a 12" dia lead ball with a protruding lip around the middle of it. I find myself contorting my fingers and turning my hands just so to get the blades of my hands right up against that lip and the palms of my hands wrapped around that ball, channeling the resistance straight down to my triceps. For the biceps pulldown, with palms facing back, imagine that you are grabbing a bar overhead and curling down to behind your neck.

The following is best done as one-directional, stand alone exercise:

8. Triceps Extensions - Standing bent over a bit, arms straight down with palms facing somewhat backward and triceps locked. Keeping your arms straight and triceps locked, push back and upward as far as you can. On the last rep, I continue pushing my arms backward and upward while bending forward at the waist, stretching, really isolating and contracting those triceps, and then I hold that for a count of 10.

9. The Closer: Ultra Concentration Curls - For these I do just three concentrated reps on each arm. Sit, lean forward and place the elbow of one arm on a knee, and extend your arm outward. Perform three slow, focused, concentrated curls, closing your arm as much as possible at the end of each rep. On the third rep, attempt to touch your shoulder while, at the same time, turning the fingers of your hands downward and outward, forcing an intense biceps peak, and hold that for ten seconds.


For these I do 2 sets of 10 reps.

1. Grip – I imagine that I am crushing hardened concrete cylinders.

2. Ulnar Deviation/Radial Deviation: Arms down at your sides, fists clenched with palms facing inward. Rotate your fists forward and upward towards the front, and then backward and upward towards the rear.

3. Wrist Curls: Arms down at your sides, fists clenched with palms facing backward. Rotate your fists forward and upward towards the front, and then backward and upward towards the rear. At the end of this exercise, with hand open and fingers held rigidly together, rotate your hands upward and forward towards the front as far as you can, hold for ten seconds, and then rotate your hands upward and backward toward the rear as far as you can, and hold for ten seconds.

4. Pronation/Supination: With forearms parallel to the floor, fists clenched with palms facing inward, rotate your fists outward and then inward. I find it effective to shift your thumbs to the tops of your fists, pressed against the sides of your forefingers, on the inward rotations.

5. "Jar Twisting" - With your hands held in front of you, facing each other, imagine that you are holding, with the fingertips of each hand, a jar with caps on either end. Now twist these caps back and forth using your finger tips. News flash: They don't budge very easily.

I believe that Kin Shi-Hai Do leverage exercises are such an individual thing, I can only suggest finding your own way with these; the positions of your forearms, the directions in which you turn your hands, how tightly you close your fingers. For each exercise, just give it your all and imagine that you are either bending steel, or leveraging some very heavy hammers.


1. Leg extensions – For these I sit up on a stool so that my feet aren’t touching the floor. A countertop or table would do. I imagine that I am sitting on a leg extension machine and really try to feel the pads against the instep of my feet. 1 set of 10 reps.

2. Leg Curls - While standing on one leg, hold on to the back of a chair or something to steady yourself. Extend the other leg out behind you and curl it. 1 set of 10 reps.

3. One Leg Squat – I go down on one leg as far as I can and hold it there a few seconds, and then I slowly rise up, just a little way, and then back down again. 1 set of 10 reps on each leg.

4. Squats – I imagine myself to be a 19th Century strong man pushing up against a platform filled with people. I do these squats slowly. I also like to hold onto the back of a chair while doing these, as I find that it helps to maintain my balance. 1 set of 10 reps.


1. One Foot Calf Raise – I rise up slowly on a 2 x 4, as high as I can and then lock my calf for a second. Then I go all the way back down until my heel touches the floor and then back up again. On the last rep I push up as high as I can and lock my calf for ten seconds, rolling a bit on the ball of my foot to hit the different portions of the calf muscle. 1 set of 12 reps on each foot. I follow this with calf raises on both feet - 1 set of as many as I can do. At the end of the set, I push my calves way up and lock them for ten seconds.


1. I use my Ab Lounge which I think is one of the best ab crunchers ever devised. Of course, not everyone has an Ab Lounge, in which case you can do ab crunches on the floor or on a mat. You can also use my Self-Resistance Ab Exercises.

2. From my Ab page, linked above, I do exercise AB-5 for my obliques, but I apply Kin Shi-Hai Do to the exercise by imagining that, as I bend to the side, I am pulling a rope attached to a pulley, hoisting a heavy weight.

As well as the KSHD exercises as described above, I also integrate select isometric and self-resistance exercises from the homepage.

For anyone interested, Greg Mangan - Visualized Resistance Training, the reigning guru of Kin Shi-Hai Do, offers an excellent DVD.

Click on the image below for The Hook!
The world's most efficient and effective cable exerciser!

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