Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2013
Bret Contreras ("the Glute Guy") has outdone himself with this book. I have been bodyweight training for about 10 months prior to this book coming out and I had learned a lot. However, even after all the research I had done, this book further enhanced my understanding of how to exercise effectively without external resistance.

Furthermore, with 150+ exercises to choose from, I learned a bunch more cool exercises and some interesting twists on old classics.

If you're a beginner, this book is great. If you're an experienced bodyweight trainer, this book will give you even more insight on how to work out effectively. Many people will read this book and be blown away by the fact that you can do so much with just your body weight.

The book is beautifully presented, with each exercise and the muscles worked illustrated and fully described.

Bret Contreras is renowned for his attention to detail and effectively communicating the science of strength and conditioning. In Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy, he continues in that vein. It is a must have for every serious strength trainer.
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73 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2013
I've been training exclusively with bodyweight exercises from the book You Are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren for about a year now and have achieved great results. Im a big fan of this type of training, so naturally this book piqued my interest. It has good exercises, and it does a decent job of illustrating the primary and secondary muscles being worked. Overall, I enjoyed the read and had only the below critiques:

1. I found exercise descriptions should have been more descriptive, especially for the more complex movements like the one-arm push-up, especially since the illustrations show only the finishing positions. The devil's in the details, especially when you expect people to train alone with only your book as their guide.

2. I would have liked to see more ways to increase or decrease the difficulty of these movements or been given recommendations on how to work up to the harder exercises. Unlike with lifting weights or using machines, with bodyweight training you can't just add or remove plates or adjust a pin. Without knowing how to adjust the difficulty, the usefulness of many of these movements is highly limited. Exercise progressions and tips on adjusting movement intensity are a must for any book on Bodyweight training to be truly effective.

3. Because of the above stated reason (not knowing how to progress or adjust movement difficulty), it's impossible to create a real strength training program with the given bodyweight exercises. Yes, you can exercise, but you can't really "train" with an end goal other than to increase reps. The author's program in the back of the book is evidence to this as he does not provide rep goals for any of the exercises and oddly suggests training the entire body 5 times per week, using the same exercises. That is without a doubt "exercising" and not what I would consider strength training with clear objectives in mind. When using a good strength training program that makes use of whole body training sessions, every other day is plenty for the average person. And since movement intensity needs to be adjusted in order to keep you in the appropriate rep range for the development of strength, in my opinion, "Bodyweight Exercise Anatomy" would have been a more appropriate title for this book.

Like I said, overall, I like the book, and it does contain good information. However, I was only able to add a few minor tools to my bodyweight training arsenal that I hadn't already picked up from using You Are Your Own Gym for the last year.
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51 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2013
I received my copy of Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy, and it's just what I wanted. I like to work out for 30 minutes or so before going to work, so driving to a health club isn't convenient. Also, I'm living on a budget so I don't want to buy fitness equipment for my home. With this book I'll be able to get a good workout anytime, anywhere. The exercises are rated from #1 (beginner) to #4 (advanced) so it's unlikely that I'll "outgrow" the exercises anytime soon. (Just try the Pistol Squat on page 122. You'll see what I mean.) The full-color anatomical illustrations are amazing, and show which muscles you're working. I know there's lots of misinformation circulating on the web about proper training technique, but Contreras seems to know what he's talking about.
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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
I mostly do bodyweight workouts. I do yoga at least twice a week, which is a form of bodyweight. I do the resistance bands also. But I depend mostly on short bodyweight workouts. This book was very helpful to me. I was a bit surprised at some of the muscles that were worked in some exercises.

For example, the push-up against a counter or table works your triceps, biceps, traps and delts. I thought they worked the chest and back primarily.

This book makes it easy to decide what exercises to do in each workout. When you know the muscle group you want to hit and the exercises that make it happen, planning workouts is fun. And, the book gives not only instructions but alternatives as well. I find it a well written book that's laid out in an easy-to-follow manner. I would have liked to have seen an index so you could quickly find a specific exercise. But the table of contents pretty much does the same job in this book.



Chapter 1 The Bodyweight Challenge
Chapter 2 Arms
Chapter 3 Neck and Shoulders
Chapter 4 Chest
Chapter 5 Core
Chapter 6 Back
Chapter 7 Thighs
Chapter 8 Glutes
Chapter 9 Calves
Chapter 10 Whole Body
Chapter 11 Planning Your Program
About the Author

Highly recommended.

- Susanna K. Hutcheson
Health & Fitness Researcher/Reviewer
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2013
Bret Contreras has produced an amazing addition to the rapidly growing body of literature on body weight strength and athletic training. Bret has included data on muscles involved in each of the exercises he describes. This is data I have not seen in anywhere close to this detail and accuracy elsewhere. Scattered throughout the book are golden nuggets of wisdom on body weight training, and training in general. These are all of the most common sense and readily applicable nature. Warnings as to over use and over training are gently inserted, not to scare, but to keep the user of this book on the right path. There is a brief section on nutrition that makes sense (eat natural foods, leaning protein heavy, but include vegetables and fruits, balancing with a few carbs. That's it). Bret does not push Paleo, either the original or Rob Wolff's version, but clearly approaches that concept.

First Bret introduces us to the concept of bodyweight training. Then he takes the parts of the body and details several exercises in each. In each of these sections, the exercise is rated as to difficulty, well described with diagrams depicting the muscles and bones and postures involved in most of them, , and then discussed in terms of the motions and sports that utilize that activity. The body sections Bret discusses are very inclusive: Arms, Neck and Shoulders, Chest, Core, Back, Thighs, Glutes, Calves. Mention is made of the grip in appropriate places. Then a chapter on whole body exercises is included. Bret finishes with a chapter called "Planning your Program" discussing Individualization, Autoregulation, Strength Balance, Training Goals, Training Variables, Putting it all Together, and Training for Fat Loss. Each chapter is clearly and simply written. Necessary words are defined right in the text. If one masters all the words Bret defines and uses, one would have a good understanding of basic anatomy of the human body. Bret has pruned the details of human anatomy down to the essentials and makes the essentials clear. There is not fluff in this book.

Bret Contreras has both a Masters degree and the CSCS certification. He has owned a strength gym in Scottsdale AZ. Bret is, according to his bio in the book, a sought after speaker. He is a peer-reviewd author and contributor to many industry publications. Currently, he is in New Zealand studying biomechanics, pursuing a PhD in sport science. In spite of all this, this book is not pedantic, but well and clearly written.

Bret has chosen an excellent menu of exercises in each anatomic area. But to keep the size of the book manageable, he has left many good exercises out. The user of this book would benefit from just doing the Exercises Bret includes. But I would recommend augmenting the lists with the encyclopedic texts "Men's Health Big Book of Exercises" and "Men's Health Power Training" by Robert dos Remedios.

This book is a reference book that should be on the shelves of every bodyweight enthusiast, and trainer. I initially bought the Kindle Version. But once, I realized the importance and uniqueness if this book, I ordered the paperback version for my library.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2013
As an elite level springboard and platform diving coach for 37 years, I know the importance of strength training for reaching one's fullest athletic potential. Too often I heard athletes and coaches complain that they couldn't engage in strength training because they didn't have a weight room back home. Contreras illustrates how athletes with nothing but their body weight and commonplace items such as a chair, pole, box, table, and hanging bar can increase strength, build mass, and burn fat. I love his full-color anatomical illustrations and step-by-step instructional approach as well as his chapter for planning individual training programs. Great book for athletes in any sport, and the book should be on every coach's book shelf.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2015
I own Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy by Bret Contreras, You are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren, and Your Body is Your Barbell by BJ Gaddour. This review refers to the Kindle versions of each book. I would recommend buying either the Contreras or Gaddour book; however, I feel the Lauren book is not worth buying unless you are collecting books on the subject. I would actually recommend buying both the Contreras and Gaddour books as they complement each other well. Neither book is perfect, but together they cover the topic very thoroughly.

This review covers the following elements:

Exercises: Number and variety of exercises.

Programming: The sample routines given in the book as well as basic templates for building your own programs.

Progressions: Making a particular exercise easier or more difficult so a person of any level can benefit from the exercise as well as allowing progression in strength and ability.

Educational value: How well the book teaches the reader to understand how the body works and how the exercises work each part of your body.

User friendliness: How easy it is to use the Kindle book.


All three books provide a large variety of exercises, however Contreras is the best here. My problem with the Lauren book is that it is not much more than an encyclopedia of exercises and doesn't do a good job of explaining why you should be doing any particular exercise. Also, he gives many of the exercises goofy, unwieldy names that sometimes don't help you understand what the move actually is. Gaddour only provides major compound movements and skips the core and isolation exercises. On the other hand, Contreras covers exercises for the arms, core, glutes and even the neck. Gaddour and Contreras both cover metabolic training and full-body exercises. Gaddour gets extra credit for an excellent chapter devoted to burpee variations, culminating in the Rolling Pistol Squat (a backward, one-leg burpee). In my opinion, this chapter is worth the price of the book (yes, I like burpees).


The Contreras book is the best in terms of programming. He gives you workout templates and suggestions for what exercises to use. The explanations of each exercise in the book will help you decide what exercises to select. He also provides sample “metabolic” (HIIT and MRT) workouts. The Gaddour and Lauren books only give you set routines to follow without much flexibility. However, the Gaddour book is better because he presents you with various styles of routines, such as for maximum fat loss, maximum strength, and so on. The Lauren book has little variety in the routines.


Gaddour is definitely the big winner here. In fact, I think this is the biggest strength of his book. He gives you eight basic types of exercises. With each exercise, he gives you five levels of difficulty. Within each level he provides three “microregressions” and three “microprogressions” that allow you to fine tune the exercise as appropriate for your skill level. Anyone who's ever engaged in strength training knows how helpful it is to progress in small increments. Contreras also gives examples of progressions and regression, but not with the detail found in the Gaddour book. Lauren is weakest here. To be fair, he does give ideas on how to make an exercise more difficult, just not as well as the other two.

Educational value:

The only area where the Contreras book is lacking in educational value compared to the others is regarding nutrition. Lauren and Gaddour both cover nutrition to some extent, whereas Contreras doesn't mention it. The Gaddour and Lauren books both have chapters devoted to exercise nutrition, the former written by a PhD from Pennsylvania State University.

Contreras' muscle diagrams are outstanding and they really allow the reader to understand how the body works and how the muscles are being used. He breaks it down by primary and secondary muscles worked. I was surprised to learn how many upper-body movements involve the trapezius, for example. Contreras also does a good job explaining training variables such as intensity, density, and periodization. Lauren discusses these topics to a lesser extent.

User friendliness:

Lauren is last is this category. The book is laid out poorly. Although the exercises are organized by body part, the Kindle book does not provide links to the separate sections, as in the Gaddour and Contreras books. Lauren has an alphabetic index at the end but, particularly with the odd names he gives the exercises, it's difficult to find exercises for specific body parts. For example, if you want to find three exercises to work your thighs, you will have to go to the non-indexed Exercises section and flip through the pages until you get to what you want. This is a major headache on a Kindle. Contreras and Gaddour both provide extensive hyperlinking to get to where you need to go in the book. Contreras provides links organized by body part and specific exercises – he does the best job here.

Contreras strengths:

Muscle diagrams
Isolation exercises (especially glutes)
Customizable routines
Most user-friendly Kindle version

Contreras weaknesses:

No discussion of nutrition

Gaddour strengths:

Burpees chapter
Nutrition chapter

Gaddour weaknesses:

No specific core exercises
No isolation exercises

Lauren strengths:

Chapter on using household items to workout can be useful

Lauren weaknesses:

Poor Kindle formatting
No full-body or metabolic training exercises
No discussion of body mechanics

If I had to recommend only one of these books, Contreras would win by a nose, with Gaddour a close second. This was a tough choice as they are both excellent books, but going by the “teach a man to fish” concept I think Contreras does a better job of explaining things such that you can design your own workout programs rather than merely following what someone else has shown you. That said, I highly recommend buying both of these books as each complements the other quite well. Combined, they're nearly perfect.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2013
As a coach I am always looking for better ways to help my clients train at home. This is an excellent resource that provides ideas for bodyweight exercises that can be implements without use of any equipment. I enjoy how the book is broken down into exercises categories as well as fitness levels, making it easy to build an at-home bodyweight program for anyone's fitness level.

The research is thorough and the text is written in a manner that is easy to follow and digest. I think anyone looking for a solid foundation of strength should start with this guide.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The concept of improving your muscles without weights or machines is appealing. It removes major excuses for not exercising and allows you to workout anywhere, at your convenience.

However, I had the impression that "Bodyweight Strength Training" would require no equipment. That isn't exactly the case. Many exercises use furniture and structural items of your house to replace gym equipment. Think of hanging off the rafters as a monkey.

Various exercises use a vertical pole, chairs, large boxes or a weight bench, open rafters, a sturdy door or a chin-up bar, a step stool and a table. Sometimes you might be safer and better off using some gym equipment rather than furniture for exercising. Chairs can move while you are doing your scapular shrugs. You certainly don't want to misjudge the sturdiness of your door.

Exercises are grouped by body parts and designated with degree of difficulty, from one to four. This allows you to design a personalized exercise program or work on specific muscle groups.

The anatomical illustrations are wonderful. Using both men and women, the drawings depict the function of each exercise and clarify the movement. I own both Women's Strength Training Anatomy and Strength Training Anatomy, 3rd Edition(for men) by Frédéric Delavier, which also show exercises illustrated with people without skin. The Delavier books have better illustrations with much greater detail, but employ bands, free weights and machines in the exercises. I find the anatomical diagrams in all of these books extremely helpful when selecting and performing exercises.

I would like to see more explanation and guidance in how to do the exercises correctly, both for effectiveness and to avoid injury. There are many admonitions to "do this" or "don't do that, " omitting the "why" of the directive. For example, in performing the"Single-Leg Box Squat" you are told, "Don't let your knees cave in or out," but the reason for this instruction is missing. Proper form is critical in improving and protecting the body, and many of us need explicit and more detailed instruction.

The last chapter of "Bodyweight Strength Training" has useful advice in how to design a training program to meet your goals, including a chart of all the exercises and sample routines. I'm confident that this book can guide you to achieve your ideal body; it's just a matter of doing it . . .
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 21, 2013
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a great book that details a full variety of strength training exercises using only your body weight. While I prefer to use some actual weights for my strength training workouts, there are many times when they simply aren't available. The beauty of this particular book is that along with detailed information on how to perform each exercise, there are detailed color diagrams showing which muscles the particular exercise targets and works. Plus, there's a section in the back that goes through planning your workout so that you can develop your own routines and even to move up in challenging yourself.

when I'm traveling I rarely have access to a gym that has the weight equipment I need to complete my workouts. This book allows me to find comparable workouts that use just my body weight. With the well written instructions and advice on form, execution, and why/how bodyweight strength training is beneficial. It's a great addition to my library of fitness books and I plan to incorporate some of these exercises into my regular strength training routines.
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