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You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises for Men and Women Paperback – May 30, 2010
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"This is a terrific book with a promise of carrying around a full gym in each of our heads! It fits perfectly in our mobile age of road warriors. It also provides a powerful fitness regime that fits into the support limits of our military forces on deployment anywhere in the world. Both members of my family and I are adopting the regime." General James Abrahamson, USAF
"You Are Your Own Gym takes the strength training techniques of the Special Operations Forces and puts them into a comprehensive and easy to understand manual that can be done by anyone, anywhere, anytime. Mark Lauren has paved the way for anyone looking to get into the best shape of their life!" Gregory Peterman, Sergeant First Class, US Army Green Beret
I’ve had the opportunity to observe Mark Lauren's training program in action. He was responsible for training my Air Force Special Operations troops to prepare them for the most intense combat operations. The progress in my men was phenomenal. He took the best of the best, most of them former athletes, and made them stronger and leaner than they'd ever been. Best of all, they can use Mark’s program anywhere in the world they may find themselves for the rest of their lives.” Geoffrey McClendon, Lt. Colonel, USAF
"As a past Air Force Academy Physical Fitness Instructor and Commander of some of the most physically fit warriors ever to serve our country, I feel well qualified to recommend Mark Lauren's book, You Are Your Own Gym, to anyone serious about raising the level of their physical fitness. And most importantly, staying fit. Following the exercises outlined in Mark's book eliminates the excuses often heard as to why one can't get into top shape.” John T. Carney, Jr., Colonel, USAF
Why do we have Bowflex, elaborate all-in-one’ pieces of equipment, or for that matter, why do we have Gold's Gyms, or personal trainers? In my experience the most fit group of men I have ever seen was my Infantry unit in Vietnam. There were none of these luxuries. You literally were your own gym for real. Everyone was fit, strong, lean and agile. Reactions were quick and everyone had keen and alert senses. What works about this book is the return to nature, give yourself some discipline, throw away the pseudo crutches, and gain control of yourself through your own body's gym!” Mike Fisher, Commander, 82nd Airborne Division; U.S. Army Ranger; Colonel, U.S. Army
"Body weight exercises are the simplest and most effective method of getting and staying in shape! On the road, crunched for time, or without a gym, these movements allow the most elite warriors to stay in fighting condition.” Van Hall, Lt., Operations and Training Officer SEAL Team Four, US Navy
About the Author
Mark Lauren has effectively prepared over 700 trainees for the extreme physical demands of the most elite levels of the special operations community. He is a Military Physical Training Specialist, Special Operations Combat Controller, triathlete, and mixed martial artist. Lauren broke, and still holds, the Department of Defense’s long standing underwater record” by swimming 133 meters, on one breath, subsurface, for 2 minutes and 23 seconds, until losing consciousness. He lives in Tampa Bay, Florida.
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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.
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.
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.
Isolation exercises (especially glutes)
Most user-friendly Kindle version
No discussion of nutrition
No specific core exercises
No isolation exercises
Chapter on using household items to workout can be useful
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 the topic 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.
Unfortunately, I cannot recommend the Lauren book since it doesn't offer much beyond the other two books. It's not a bad book, but there are better.
Prior to using Mark Lauren's program I lifted heavy free weights at a gym but did not track my diet at all. The result was good strength but with a bulky build.
I've been using this book and watching my diet for the past 3 months and the difference is quite profound.
I went from 158lbs at 13% body fat down to 143 at 10% body fat. Plus my flexibility and core strength have never been better.
I highly recommend giving this book a shot if you burned yourself out at the gym like I did.
1. I love the exercises. Are some of them too easy? Sure. Are some of them WAY too hard? Yes. Which means this book offers a wide range of exercises for a variety of people. I would admit that most of the exercises are geared towards people who are on the 'more fit' side of the scale. Beginners might find this daunting.
2. Yes, the naysayers are correct. It IS easier to do a lot of these exercises at a gym. JUST because you need a stable bar or something similar to do lots of the exercises. You do NOT need weights, however, which I believe is the point. I would never attempt to do some of these exercises balanced up on two boxes... what does he think? that I have loads of boxes perfectly filled with dictionaries at my disposal?
3. These exercises are really really quality. I appreciate the fact that I can look up all of these, but I don't know about the other reviewers (Im looking at you, 1 stars) I don't have hours of free time with which to scour the internet and compile them for myself.
4. I personally love the programs. I began the 10 week program for the "First Class" students and it really kicked my butt. I don't think I have ever felt my shoulders and triceps the way I did after military press ladders. I also love that they are quick. Anyone can squeeze in 36 minutes of exercises. They are quick, but not painless!
5. Okay, yeah I also think the author is full of it when it comes to cardio. I don't care what research he's read or what he's seen that proves to him that cardio is worthless. Just take it with a grain of salt and move on.
In summation: It's clear that Mr. Lauren is truly an expert on what he does. Take what you want from this, and move on. I personally will be doing it with arms of steel.
Exercises are effective if you are able to stay with it. It takes about ten (10) weeks before your will begin to notice significant improvements. Working with a partner is helpful. I suggest you see a fitness trainer if you are a beginner. Several sessions with him or her will help insure that your will be able to meet your goals regardless of your level of fitness (rate me as moderate) or age (likely older than most who read this review).