After working many years in a long-hours, sedentary job, I found myself in sorry physical shape. I started turning that around by making simple changes to food choices and becoming more active. That helped a lot, but eventually I found I hit a plateau and was no longer becoming stronger or fitter.
Just when I was thinking I would have to start going to the gym or acquire a lot of exercise and weight training equipment for my home, this book came along. Right off the bat, what Mark Lauren was saying resonated and made sense to me. Here are some of the key messages:
* You don't need equipment, trainers or a gym to get fit and stay fit
* To become lean and fit, you must build muscle
* Adding muscle is the key to losing weight because muscle burns more calories
* Weight training allows women to firm and tone their bodies; women do not have the hormonal makeup to develop bulging muscles
* Cardio exercise is time-consuming and can be counterproductive, because it doesn't use most of your muscle mass and may actually cause a loss of muscle
Mark Lauren prescribes a system of weight training that is designed to exercise the entire body, build lean muscle and give you more grace and balance. You don't need any equipment; you just use the walls and furniture around you. The system is described clearly and completely and you can get started right away.
(I don't want to get off track here, but I remember a few years ago seeing an interview with Martina Navratilova, and while out on a walk in the country, she talked about how she exercised without equipment, using her own body weight, and demonstrated several of the exercises she did regularly. This is one of the world's top athletes, not somebody trying to sell you something.)
HOW THE PROGRAM WORKS
In this book, Mark Lauren prescribes five types of bodyweight training exercises, called movement categories:
* In-line Pushing
* Perpendicular Pushing
Lauren divides 125 specific exercises into each category (25 in each movement category), ranks them from easiest to hardest and includes good, detailed descriptions and illustrations of each exercise. Every one of the exercises can be done in your home, at an office or in a hotel room without any specialized equipment.
The training system is designed for you to consistently train three days a week for 30 minutes each time, with a day of rest between sessions. The book includes workout session charts that list each of the five movement categories, tell you how many sets and repetitions of each type of exercise to do in the session and a column in which you can write the number of the specific exercise you will do that session in each movement category.
You begin the program with a couple of evaluation sessions, so that you can determine where you should start your program. For example, you will look at the ranking of the exercises in the Pulling category and try them until you reach the most challenging exercise you can still complete within the prescribed time period, using the designated number of sets and reps, and in proper form. If that's #5, then you write #5 on your exercise chart for the session and that's where you will begin your program for the Pulling category. You'll repeat this for each movement category and wind up with a chart filled out with the numbers of the exercises in each category that you'll begin your program with. You might be much better at pulling than squatting exercises, in which case your starting exercise for pulling might be much higher than your starting exercise for squatting.
Once you've completed your two evaluation sessions and established your starting points for each movement category, you follow the program through 4-week cycles that Lauren describes. You upgrade from one exercise to the next-harder exercise once you can do all the sets and reps in good form. You do this at your own pace. If you need to take it down a notch, Lauren tells you how to do that. You can also go to Lauren's website to get (for free) other exercises to add to your program and to share experiences with others.
Just to give you an idea of the exercises in the book: In the Pulling movement category, they include wrapping a towel around a doorknob, placing your feet on each side of the door, grasping one end of the towel in each hand, leaning back with bent knees and pulling yourself up to the door. Other exercises (in different categories) include many varieties of presses, push-ups, pull-ups and hip raises; again, all ranked from easiest to hardest.
When I read that Mark Lauren has, for many years, been a physical trainer for military elites, I had some trepidation. I thought he might have a boot-camp style, full of aggressiveness and macho posing. I was pleased to find his style to be just the opposite. His manner is no-nonsense, for sure, but he shows a lot of respect for women and is helpful and encouraging. What a refreshing approach in these days when so many trainers seem to think that yelling at people and humiliating them is motivational.
I'm just getting started on Lauren's program, but I can report that the book is clear and easy to follow. It's exciting to look at all the exercises and imagine getting stronger and working all the way to #25 in all five categories. If you're a woman who is ready to start bodyweight training, I can recommend giving this a try before spending time and money on a gym, trainer or expensive equipment.
Note: The book also includes a nutrition portion, but I am not using it. I have other resources I use for nutrition, including SparkPeople.
UPDATE: I've been working with the program for several weeks. I don't always do it every other day, but I'm pretty consistent. I started in the very low numbers of the exercises, especially those involving upper-body strength. I've moved up a few steps, but I'm taking it slowly so that I don't get discouraged. I do feel stronger in the upper body and I think I'm getting a little stronger in the core. I was already strong in the legs, so I don't see as much change there.