I’m usually a fairly vocal critic when it comes to “fitness programs”. I’ve been searching for years for a program that is simple, effective, and doesn’t require anything beyond basic equipment. Dear readers, I’m happy — no, ecstatic — to report that I have found the program of my dreams. It’s a deceivingly simple program called “You Are Your Own Gym” by Mark Lauren. Before you go thinking that this is a paid review, let me assure you it’s not. I got the book for Christmas, and I’ve been doing the program since early January. And I’m hooked in a big way.
Mark Lauren has served as a trainer for some of the world’s most elite Special Forces soldiers. Early on, he recognized that some of the best results in any fitness program were the result of simple exercises that could be performed “anywhere, anyhow, anytime”. The premise behind the book is best summed up in the words of the author himself, in the introduction to the book:
Do you really think that we evolved or were created to require machines in order to stay fit? It’s lack of knowledge about your body’s own potential that drives modern mankind’s endless demand for useless fitness gimmicks. Though it’s up to you to apply it.
Essentially the book is a fitness program stripped down to its barest essentials – pure bodyweight exercises, applied 4-5 times per week. That’s it. No equipment necessary. No membership required. No excuses. What’s a bodyweight exercise, you ask? Basically, it’s an exercise where you use the resistance of your body working against gravity to build strength and endurance. If you’re thinking of push-ups, sit-ups, squats, and lunges, then you’re right on target. Some of the exercises will be new, such as Let Me Ins, which are similar to Standing Rows, and Let Me Ups, which some of you will recognize as Inverted Rows.
The real beauty of this program is that anyone can do it. And I mean ANYONE. If you can do a push-up while standing, with your hands against the wall, then you can do this program. In “You Are Your Own Gym”, Mark Lauren has applied some very intelligent modifications to basic exercises to enable people of any physical ability to take part in this program. And I’m not ashamed to note that I took advantage of some of those modifications early on in the program. Push-ups with my hands elevated. Seated dips with my knees bent. Assisted pull-ups with a chair for support. As you progress in the program, however, you’ll find that your strength, balance, and endurance will improve, and you’ll be moving on to the harder versions of the exercises without issue.
Case in point — on Day One of Week One of this program, I accomplished the following:
- Push Ups (with hands elevated): 10
- Let Me Ins: 22
- Seated Dips: 0
- Let Me Ups: 0
Pretty impressive, huh? However, on the final day of Week Ten, here’s what I achieved:
- Back Lunges: 200
- Let Me Ins (one-handed): 160
- Push Ups (on the floor, mofo): 120
Yeah. Now that’s more like it.
“You Are Your Own Gym” makes use of the periodization technique, which is essentially alternating high-rep, low intensity workouts with low-rep, high-intensity workouts from day to day. Each week focuses on four separate areas: Arms/Push, Legs, Core, and Arms/Pull. Each week introduces new exercises to keep things feeling fresh; it’s almost impossible to get bored with any portion of this program. Mark Lauren also encourages you to swap around similar exercises if you find you’re not challenged enough, or you find yourself too challenged by a certain exercise. There were certain exercises I found didn’t do a thing for me, so I just found a similar exercise in the book and substituted it for the one I didn’t like. Easy-peasy.
This book is subtitled “The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises”, and that is no lie. There’s no less than 125 separate bodyweight exercises here, and none of them require any type of exercise equipment. That means that no matter where you are — your home, your office, your hotel room, or camping in the woods — you can do these exercises. I will admit that you’ll probably find it to your advantage to get a pull-up bar; this will make your Let Me Ups and Pull-Ups easier. I have done Let Me Ups with the edge of a table when nothing else was available, and Mark Lauren notes that you can perform Pull-Ups by gripping the top edge of a door that’s been padded with a towel. I find that the hollow-core doors in my house aren’t quite sturdy enough to support my weight, so I’m happy to make an allowance for this one piece of equipment. A yoga mat will make most of your floor exercises easier as well, as it stops your feet from slipping on the floor and helps prevent injuries caused from losing your footing.
I could talk about this program for days (and some of my friends swear that I’ve already done this.) But it’s rare that I find a program that (a) I love, (b) I stick to, and (c) gives me stunning results. I have more muscle mass than I have ever had in my life, and I’m really, really looking forward to starting the next level of the program. There’s an iPhone and Android app available as well; I haven’t yet downloaded them to check it out but from what I’ve seen, they should serve as a great companion to the book. I’ll give you my full review of the apps once I’ve had a chance to download and use them.
If you’re interested in getting the book, you can get it here. Trust me, it is some of the best money you’ll ever spend. If you’re the type of person who is looking for a minimal, stripped-down exercise program without a huge time commitment, then I would highly, highly recommend this program. If you want to check out what others are saying about the program, visit the forums at MarkLauren.com and feel free to ask any questions that you may have about the program. You’ll find me there under “crispy8888″. Stop by and say hi.