Top positive review
78 people found this helpful
Good reference book.
on April 12, 2016
This is a review of 3 bodyweight exercise books (paperback editions): "Your Body Is Your Barbell" by BJ Gaddour, "You Are Your Own Gym" by Mark Lauren and "Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy" by Bret Contreras. These reviews are coming from my perspective of a 44 year old man who decided I needed to lose some weight and just get in a little bit better overall shape. After doing my research I decided to focus on bodyweight exercises for their simplicity, efficiency and effectiveness. Bodyweight exercises require minimal equipment, allow you to work many muscles at once (compound exercises), and use motions that are natural body movements unlike a lot of gym machines. All 3 of these books contain basic information on exercises, exercise plans and how to make each exercise easier or more difficult. The ability to change the difficulty level of each exercise (progressions or regressions) will fine tune an exercise to your current particular ability and allow you to keep challenging your body. Examples of bodyweight exercises can also be found on YouTube for further clarification.
Of these 3 books I think that "Your Body Is Your Barbell" by BJ Gaddour (let's refer to it as 'Barbell' for short) is the clear standout. If you are brand new to exercising or just want a solid foundation of the basics this is the book to get. 'Barbell' is a complete *program* clearly organized and aimed at raw beginners but contains enough to still challenge intermediate athletes. The superior organization and explanations are no doubt due to the resources of Men's Health magazine which has been writing about these types of exercises for quite a while. Its purpose is not to overwhelm the reader with all the different bodyweight exercises you can do, but to only focus on the minimum exercises that give the best overall results in the shortest amount of time. It explains the benefits of bodyweight training in a very clear and convincing manner, has a short easy-to-understand section on simple nutrition, and gives good clear information about general fitness. It has excellent photographs of exercises, a readable format and precise guidelines and instructions for what a beginner needs to do and focuses on only 8 basic bodyweight exercises to learn (you ultimately only need to choose 4). The 8 exercises are broken down into 4 movement categories (2 exercises per category that you can pick from). The 4 movement categories are upper body (pushing or pulling) and lower body (hip dominant or knee dominant). The 2 upper body *pushing* exercises are the pushup and handstand pushup, the 2 upper body *pulling* exercises are the row and the pullup. The 2 lower body hip dominant exercises are the hip hinge and the hip thrust, the 2 lower body knee dominant exercises are the deep squat and the single-leg squat. Each of the 8 exercises has its own chapter with 5 different difficulty levels, each with additional progressions and regressions to suit your current ability. The different levels of exercises start with complete beginners, who may be considerably overweight and never exercised a day in their life, to more difficult levels that in some cases might only be completed by Olympic athletes. Clearly the emphasis of the book is on complete beginners to intermediates who want maximum benefits with the shortest amount of time invested.
The next book is "You Are Your Own Gym" by Mark Lauren (let's call it 'Gym' for short). The book begins with some background on the author's military training and his success in restructuring military exercise training routines that produced better results in much less time than traditional methods. He has an interesting section on the superiority of strength training to cardiovascular training and the nutrition chapter is very well written. There is some other good general information on strength training before introducing the exercise portion of the book. The exercises are organized by regions of the body and include descriptions, photos and variations (progressions and regressions) to suit your current physical conditioning. There are several exercise plans included based on your general level of fitness, from very basic to elite athletes. There are only a few photos of each exercise by necessity and the exercise plans require beginners to learn multiple different exercises instead of mastering a few and working in small progressions to increase difficulty. Unfortunately there is little guidance as to which exercises you should learn first and which will give you the most benefit for your time and effort.
The third book is "Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy" by Bret Contreras (let's call it 'Anatomy' for short). This book is a collection of bodyweight exercises organized by muscle region (arms, chest, back, glutes, etc.). Each exercise is beautifully illustrated to show the specific muscles involved. The muscles of each exercise are colored differently to indicate whether they are used primarily or secondarily in the exercise. The book includes muscle regions that the other two books leave out, such as the neck, and does a decent job of indicating many different exercises for a particular region, with variations that are easier or harder. Notes on the particular exercises are helpful as is the general descriptions of each muscle region. The book includes some brief general information aimed at beginners but this book is really for intermediate and advanced users. It seems to be more about bodybuilding than overall general fitness. 'Anatomy' has the same problem as the previous book 'Gym' in that it offers too many options and the suggested workout routines do not focus on general compound exercises but rather require mastering a wide variety of movements. This book is still a useful reference for people that already have a basic knowledge of bodyweight training and are perhaps looking for new techniques or specific information about what exercises target which exact muscles.
In my opinion, beginners need a clear, simple path to follow and "Your Body Is Your Barbell" by BJ Gaddour offers exactly what I needed and nothing which I didn’t to get in the best overall physical shape with a minimum investment of time and money.