Hey Read This… For Two Easy Payments of $19.95

Posted on January 17, 2012

The best book about exercise I have read in a very, very long time.

Overcoming Gravity by Steven Low

For every 5 books I review on here, I have probably read another book about physical fitness. None of them have really been worth my sending your way. Until now. Overcoming Gravity is about strength training using only your own bodyweight. However, in reading this you will discover more about the science of strength than you ever thought you would.

Body weight training gets shut off to the side of most routines. In 99% of cases, pullups and pushups are about as good as it gets. How is it possible to get totally ripped doing that? First thing’s first, just take a look at gymnasts. Those dudes are totally ripped and are some extraordinary athletes. Second, read about any body builder that did his thing prior to the 1920′s. Bodyweight exercises were a cornerstone of their workout.

But how does it work? How can you build strength rather than endurance? Some simple physics should do the trick. Let’s examine the pushup. Really all we’re doing here is using your body as a lever. Your feet are the fulcrum, your entire body is the load and your hands are where the effort is applied. The normal pushup position is your hands directly under your shoulders. But let’s say that you were to move your hands closer towards your hips. What you have done is moved the effort closer to the fulcrum. So now it has to move the same weight a shorter distance but with more effort, meaning your muscles have to work harder, meaning you’re building strength.

This leverage can be realized many ways. Now say, that instead of moving your arms towards your hips you move them out so your body is making a T. This again is significantly harder, for many reasons. The first is because your muscles have been lengthened, meaning they have to work much harder. On top of that you are now no longer applying force directly under the load and are instead taking it outwards. The same concept of leverage is applied, the effort has been moved away from the load.

Now let’s continue with the pushup and compare it to the bench press, it’s most obvious analogue. When you do a rep on the bench press there are a very limited number of muscles that are in play. Compare that to a pushup. There’s no bench to support you. Your core is what is allowing you to move around. On top of that, no matter how long you continue with the bench press, you’re going to be doing the exact same movement. Which is A) no fun B) a recipe for tendanitis C) a great way to develop a muscle imbalance. If you want to strengthen your muscles with bodyweight you have to keep changing the angle of attack.

Now imagine doing everything we’ve talked about above and then adding in gymnastics rings. Now you don’t have a solid floor to count on. There are thousands of muscles that now have to fire so you don’t fall flat on your face.

What you have here is a recipe for whole body strength.

All this is wonderful, but it’s the chapters he spends on explaining exactly what is happening to your muscles (and your brain) when all this is going on that makes this a superlative text. Almost as important in strength training as training your muscles is training your brain to talk to those muscles. Yes, that’s a weird sentence. Yes, it will make sense after you’re done.

I’ve been experimenting with bodyweight exercise for a long time and quite honestly, after this book, there’s a very decent chance that I’ll never shell out for a gym membership ever again. If you’re bored with your routine, have plateau’d or are looking for a cheap way to get in shape, “Overcoming Gravity” is where you should start.


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