You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises Book (and App) Review
When it comes to implementing a fitness program that is as self-sufficient as calisthenics, some folks give it a go on their own with a stack of YouTube videos and experimentation.
When you really want a comprehensive program that includes everything you need to know–including how to sequence all your bodyweight exercises and progressions as part of a cohesive fitness program– you’ll want to give in and bend the ear of an expert.
You Are Your Own Gym – The History
Physical trainer and fitness coach Mark Lauren, the author of You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises, is such an expert.
Lauren developed this program of exercises by training more than 700 members of United States Special Operations military groups. After attaining international recognition as a teen bodybuilding title winner, Mister Lauren began his military career.
According to his website, “Mark was hand-picked by the Advanced Skills Training Commander to ensure commissioned Special Tactics candidates remained physically able to ‘lead from the front’ throughout the trying two years of training.”
You Are Your Own Gym – It’s For You
While Mr. Lauren is capable of training professional athletes, his books and videos are geared to help those just starting out with bodyweight training and calisthenics.
Lauren’s concept for You Are Your Own Gym, co-written with Joshua Clark, was to finally get down in print a single resource that teaches everything you need to know to harness the power of bodyweight training to sculpt the body you desire.
The workouts and routines are efficient fat burners and muscle builders.
Understanding that the typical man and woman in today’s society is incredibly busy, his goal was to produce a program which delivered maximum results in a minimal amount of time.
That is why Lauren focuses his Bible of Bodyweight Exercises on one basic workout plan. If you have 30 minutes a day 4 days each week, and you follow some simple nutritional advice, you can use the resistance of your bodyweight to get in shape, stay in shape, build muscle and burn fat.
It doesn’t matter whether you are traveling, at home, in a hotel room, in your living room, your backyard or your office at work. You’ll have exercises you can do in a sequence that continues to push you towards your fitness goals.
In the author’s own words, he tells us that bodyweight exercises “build more metabolism enhancing muscle than weightlifting, burn more fat than aerobics, and are safer than both.“
You Are Your Own Gym – Introduction
You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises is available in both e-book and paperback formats. This review was written after reading the digital download, which fills 192 pages. The paperback book contains the exact same information.
The book begins with a Foreword delivered by John T. Carney Jr., Colonel United States Air Force. Colonel Carney has been leading the US Special Operations forces since the 1970s. In his foreword, he wastes no time explaining what you can expect from the book, and minces no words.
He begins the Foreword by stating, “I can unequivocally state You Are Your Own Gym is a must read for anyone truly interested in their well-being. These principles, exercises, and programs will guide you to your highest fitness potential.“
That Foreword is followed by a Table of Contents, which introduces you to Chapter 1, titled “Mission Success”. The 3 words which lead off that first chapter are the 3 major results the author says this book can deliver for you. You will become “lean, strong and confident” if you follow the bodyweight training advice and nutrition recommendations which are provided.
In that initial chapter, you are introduced to the author. His career training special operations individuals and athletes who must depend on their body for survival, and as a way of life, is summarized. He then briefly outlines the 125 most effective exercises that deliver the quickest bodyweight training results.
Lauren starts by putting everything on the line.
I WANT YOU TO UNDERSTAND, unlike many other fitness authors, I do not train movie stars, television celebrities, models, or other personalities whose livelihoods hinge on being fit. I train those whose lives do. For a decade I’ve used bodyweight exercises to create the leanest, strongest, most confident people of our civilization.
If you still wonder if this book is for you or not, he points out that you can be an Olympic gymnast, a yogi, a bodybuilder, a part-time fitness enthusiast or “someone who has not lifted anything but the groceries in years” and this book will get you into the best shape you have ever enjoyed.
Lauren speaks my language. I’ve written before that the time and hassle of preparing to drive two miles to the gym was a deterrent in my experience. I previously wrote “In the winter time, I find myself unwilling to leave the comforts of my warm home to get in the car and drive to the gym.” Lauren feels my pain:
there’s no need to change clothes, pack a gym bag, drive, park, find a locker, find an open machine… then, after a long, boring workout, do the whole process in reverse.
It is this introductory chapter which also points out the simplicity of the program. In just 4 or 5 days a week, for 30 minutes, you will perform the recommended bodyweight exercises, and you will start to see results quickly.
Chapter 2 is titled “How I Got Here”. It discusses Lauren’s career as a physical fitness devotee from his teen years on. You quickly understand exactly why you can trust this man to give you nothing but the best information regarding becoming and staying physically fit.
Lauren’s story resonates with me–I was a scrawny kid and it’s still something I struggle with today–but he took action. Action I’m now taking for a couple of similar reasons:
I’LL ADMIT, MY FIRST FORAY INTO FITNESS was driven by nothing more than body image. I was 13, a scrawny, shy kid, and I wanted to do something about it. I set out to change my physique into one I could show off with pride. I had no access to weights, so I did Push Ups and Sit Ups in my bedroom before dinner. Until I could do 75 non-stop Push Ups and 600 Sit Ups. Then I did more.
I became a stronger version of myself in every way, and confidence in all I did soared, including winning regional high school bodybuilding titles.
It’s hard to dislike a guy who is up front about his history and his motivations.
You Are Your Own Gym – The Body
The next section of the book moves into the meat of the material.
Chapter 3 answers a question that is likely on some readers’ minds. “Why Bodyweight Exercises” answers that very question. He points to Bruce Lee, former NFL running back Herschel Walker and two-time Olympic weightlifting gold medalist Alexeev as elite level athletes which primarily used bodyweight training to attain their ultimate levels of physique and fitness.
I’ve written about the Herschel Walker workout before. He is known for using thousands of pushups and situps every day to build his physique. Don’t think you’re the only one. Athletes have achieved amazing feats using primarily bodyweight fitness.
Chapter 4 answers another question, “Why Strength Training?”. Cardio exercises, strength training, aerobic workouts and other physical fitness approaches are discussed. The author points out that time and again strength training delivers the most benefits to your body and mind, regardless what your physical fitness goals are, when compared with any other form of exercise. And bodyweight training does so in a very short period of time.
Readers of this site probably already understand that strength training beats cardio, and you may have heard me echo Mark Sisson’s criticism of chronic cardio.Lauren further echoes my interest in HIIT or interval training. Mark Lauren’s book is right up my alley.
Chapter 5 discusses in depth exactly what “fitness” is. Lauren argues that while there isn’t a universally accepted definition, the athletes with the most balance–the highest levels of performance and accomplishment across a number of measures of physical development–are the ones who are most physically attractive. To develop that balance requires functional training that addresses many core capabilities that translate to the well-rounded bodyweight athlete.
Nutrition is covered in detail in the 6th chapter. From 60% to 75% of your level of physical fitness is determined by nutrition alone, so it pays to learn how to provide the body optimal nutrition. Lauren argues for good sleep and good food. The diet he advocates is the primal/paleo style–fruits and vegetables and nuts & seeds, along with meat, eggs and fish.
Lauren provides guidance on percentage of diet that should be allocated to macronutrients, as well as ounces per pound estimates of optimal quantities, in order to send you on your way.
In Chapter 7, some commonplace strength training myths are debunked. For instance, women often believe that they will get “bulky” and less feminine looking by strength training. That simply is not true. The fallacy that you need to lift massive amounts of weight for serious strength and body tone gains is also dismissed, and that the “right” exercises can help you remove spots where weight accumulates.
For those of you reading this book that need motivation, the author reveals some very effective motivational techniques in Chapter 8. Chapter 9 discusses intensity and how you should approach your bodyweight training routine.
Specific training tools you can use to augment your bodyweight training program are mentioned in chapter 10, and Chapter 11 gets down to business. This is where the 125 exercises you will be using to create your new body are listed in detail. Accompanying pictures, illustrations and instructions show you how to perform each exercise perfectly.
Chapter 12 outlines the specific 4 day a week, 30 minute a day program you will be using. An appendix follows, discussing household items you can use to get the best results out of this bodyweight exercise routine.
Necessary training principles are discussed, as well as the science behind this successful program, to close out the book.
Who Benefits from You Are Your Own Gym?
Mark Lauren wrote this book for men and women of all ages and fitness levels. It very simply and efficiently discusses why bodyweight training is the “perfect” physical fitness vehicle. The book delivers a program which is customizable, proven to work through his own experience and the experience of others.
The low cost of either the e-book or paperback version Is nothing compared to the benefits that you receive when you put into practice the safe, efficient and effective, results-based techniques recommended in You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises.
You Are Your Own Gym – The App
As a companion to the book, Lauren also offers the You Are Your Own Gym app for your mobile device. The app provides a great deal of support for your bodyweight fitness program.
One of the key benefits is having 200+ video demonstrations on hand at all times, rather than having to search for a decent one on YouTube. The app coaches you through your workouts, telling you when to move and when to pause. There are timers for sets, supersets and tabata/HIIT workouts.
The app is generally aimed at beginners and intermediate athletes rather than calisthenics experts who are starting off doing pistol squats and the human flag.
The app itself offers workout reminders, allows you to sync history between devices for a user and select between ladders and timed sets for endurance workouts. It supports multiple languages.
The video library is extensive, organized by push/pull, legs, core, and whole body. There are progressions for several challenging moves presented as a series of 25-40(!) steps.
Workouts supported include 10-week guided programs that are grouped into basic, first class/intermediate, master/advanced and chief/elite, along with a wizard that helps you choose the best one for you.
You can choose quick workouts, which simply require you to choose a level of difficulty and a length of time, and the app builds the workout for you with those inputs.
There are links to premium videos, some of which are introductory and the others available for additional purchase.
There are warm up and cool down routines, and to help you stay organized, there is a favorite-workouts area as well as a custom workout builder.
Overall, this app provides some of the polish that Madbarz does not. It’s well worth the $4.99 price and the space on your phone.
If you’re looking for more from Mark, please check out the DVD program!