You Are Your Own Gym

You absolutely do not need a gym to gain strength. This book is full of exercise ideas that only require your own body weight.

You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises
You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises by Mark Lauren does a good job illustrating many different exercises one can do one your own without expensive gym equipment. The book is selling right now for $11. Even if you got bored with bodyweight exercises after a month, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a gym with a monthly fee that low.

The book lists 125 exercises starting on page 53. The text prior to this section is not essential to get started. Not every exercise is equal. Some are heavy hitters, like the push-up and some of the squat variations. I like how he mentions slowing down the movements can increase the intensity. However, I wouldn’t take his advice to use unstable platforms to increase difficulty, as I think the risk of injury would increase without a corresponding increased reward. If you get this book and start experimenting with the exercises, use your best judgment on the safety of the movement. Doing a push-up is safe. Jumping up onto a pile of boxes is only safe if the boxes remain stable as you successfully land on them (p110).

If you are just looking for a no-nonsense safe workout with minimal exercises, then I would recommend the plan in the book HillFit by Chris Highcock or my less detailed outdoor HIT workout. If you want more ideas, especially if you are designing a Tabata or another strength interval workout, pick up a copy of You Are Your Own Gym. Just use your best judgment when selecting exercises. Pick the ones that don’t increase safety risk as fatigue sets in.


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  1. I generally enjoy my weekly gym workout and I like the playground atmosphere (for me at least) so it’s not something I’m actively trying to do less of, but I really like bodyweight exercises to keep me on track when I’m traveling, which I do frequently. Hotel gyms are usually treadmill wastelands and I always feel a little bad about pretending to be a perspective customer to get a free workout at a commercial gym plus it takes time to go through the sales pitches- though that’s usually a pretty good reminder of why sites like this, BBS and conditioning research are so much more helpful than ‘professional’ trainers!

    How would you compare this book to the Naked Warrior by Pavel? I know you’ve reviewed that as well, but I don’t remember a comparison. I’ve read a bit by Pavel and he comes across as really well informed, but also a bit of marketing speak (comrade!, some Soviet researcher/coach, athlete/professor talked about about this in 1972…) It’s hard, for me at least, to separate the hype from the good stuff. I’d like to increase my range of bodyweight exercise so I’m going to pick up this book, but I’d be interested in your take.

  2. @Karl – I just finished using another gym for a free 1 week pass. I don’t have any problem or regrets doing this. They charge way too money for people like me that don’t take classes, don’t use cardio equipment, son’t use the daycare and complete our workouts in 15 minutes every 5-7 days.

    Good question about comparing it to the Naked Warrior. I like “You Are Your Own Gym” better. It has more exercises. Pavel spends at lot of time on technical moves such as the pistol and 1-armed push-up. “You Are” covers them, but not at length. “You Are” has great ideas for building Tabatas.

    Also, The Naked Warrior despite being 9 years old still sells for more than double “You Are” which was released a year ago.

  3. I also enjoyed YAYOG by Mark Lauren and incidentally came across your blog via a web search on The Naked Warrior by Pavel which is a book I read years ago and was wondering if I wanted to resurrect any of the concepts. The result of finding your blog this morning by a chance Google search? I have spent much of the day reading your articles and taken my first foray into HIT concepts. I was intrigued by your articles because I am also a coffee lover who has followed many of the same paths – including running, weight training, former soccer player (not sure if you are), cold weather training, cold shower rinses, even CrossFit (and I have enjoyed some of the analysis on that I have found indirectly via your blog). I have also tried to outdoor routines and usually find that preferable to a gym workout. I have a spot about 2 1/2 miles from me on a creekside trail that not only has pullup and dip bars but also has some logs laying around that I have been using for deadlifts, push presses, balance training, etc. I even ran there once with a 30 foot length of rope that I threw up over a branch to do rope pull ups. I think I have made the same error you mention in your blog favoring reps and length of time to intensity. The result is often a sore shoulder or wrist.

    I identified with your post on the outdoor HIT workout and had some questions. I plan to pick up the Body by Science book to better understand HIT but is it really just the one workout per week? I can understand this from a strength/recovery standpoint but is there any harm in doing higher rep intervals or Tabata type intervals in another part of the week on calisthenic type exercises as well as some running and sprints? I really like the concepts and don’t want to overtrain but I find that my workouts and activities are as much releases and meditation for me as they are training so I am not sure I would want to eliminate all of that in favor of a single weekly workout. Other types of things that I enjoy are Kettlebell training (mostly swings and snatches) as well as martial arts, hiking, shadow boxing, heavy bag training, soccer, rock climbing. Just wondering where the point of overtraining starts if I begin to incorporate HIT.

    Thank you for this blog – very informative and enjoyable!

  4. @Erik – The answer to your question comes down to your ability to recover. When you take your FT muscle fibers to failure, it takes longer to recover. When I first started HIT, I did a workout every 5 days. During this time, I spend most of my time below baseline. See this post for a better explanation.

    It sounds like you are quite active. I’d do your HIT workout right before you take a few days off from all activity other than walking. Then engage in your skill movements and end the week with HIT. Given your high level of activity, you might consider yourself an “in-season athlete”, which means HIT might not be ideal for you.

    As you increase intensity, it necessitates you decrease volume. Because I don’t do any other sport and my recovery time is slow, it was an easy choice to pursue HIT. For you it looks like it will be a tougher choice.

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