Rafe Kelley received a copy of Steven Low's book "Overcoming Gravity: A systematic Approach to Gymnastic and Bodyweight Strength."
"I was very excited to get my hands on it as I have long followed Steven’s posts on training at various Internet forums and at his wonderful website eat move improve. His posts have served as some of the best educational materials I have handed out to our staff, I was really excited to see what he had produced and to be able to wrap my around around bodyweight strength training better so I could implement the insights into our curriculum." - Rafe
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Recently, my good friend Steven Low sent me his new book, Overcoming Gravity to review. I was very excited to get my hands on it as I have long followed Steven’s posts on training at various internet forums and at his wonderful website eat move improve. His posts have served as some of the best educational materials I have handed out to our staff, I was really excited to see what he had produced and to be able to wrap my around around bodyweight strength training better so I could implement the insights into our curriculum. The book did not disappoint and elements of it are currently being incorporated into the parkour visions curriculum, here is my overall review of the book.
“Overcoming Gravity” is the most comprehensive book regarding bodyweight strength published to date. In many ways it is a monumental work, taking on a huge variety of topics that are important to the dedicated bodyweight trainer.
Individual exercise technique
General physiology of adaptation exercise
General exercise programming
Specific training plans
Etiology of injuries and how to adapt your training around injury
This is a lot to cover in a single book, and the main faults in the book are related to this vast scope. The reading can be dense and it requires patience to work through all of the material.
For those who do they will find one of the best resources on training in general. They will come away with a better understanding of not just of how to achieve a planche or press to handstand but how to building training programs towards any goal.
The content of “Overcoming Gravity” is in my opinion as important as Mark Rippetoe’s “Starting Strength,” and unlike “Starting Strength” there really is no alternative source that offers anywhere near the same depth of information. That said, Low does not possess Rippetoe’s ability to turn a phrase and did not have access to the same level of editing, so the book suffers from a certain level of dryness and frequent typos. That said, it is well worth the reader’s time to work through the book, even if it required multiple readings in places.
The book is broken down into three parts. Part one is about how to construct a bodyweight routine and understanding the basic physiology necessary to know what you are doing. Part 2 focuses on injury prevention and and management. Part 3 covers the individual exercises and sample programs. Rather than straight through, I read the the book in the order of Part 1, Part 3, and then Part 2, and believe it flows better that way.
The first section is great, offering a very in-depth and clear overview of the physiology of adaptation to exercise and the principles behind bodyweight exercise and then showing us how we can apply them towards achieving our goals.
I was particularly impressed by the charts, however these can be difficult to read if you don’t have the priors on the acronyms, so it might be useful to read the section on individual exercises prior to reviewing the charts. Once you can clearly understand it, the bodyweight progression chart is incredibly useful in understanding your overall level where your strength and weaknesses are, and how to break each goal down into small progressive steps. The charts proved incredibly accurate for me in predicting where I was on a given progression.
The second section was also equally impressive, providing an invaluable guide to injuries for athletes. The only major problem I had with the second section was that it was second. I was continuously flipping back and forth between the first and third section while the second section felt more standalone.
The third section is the most problematic. Many of the exercise descriptions are extremely detailed and useful, however many are just simple repetitions of earlier material and it’s not made clear which sections one should read and which are simply retreads of earlier information.
The graphics accompanying the exercise descriptions leave something to be desired, and a more extensive review of errors as well as pictures and more in depth cuing instructions would have been very useful.
All said and done, for a self-published book “Overcoming Gravity” is incredibly impressive and an invaluable resource for a wide variety of athletes. Certain aspects of organization and editing leave something to be desired but that should not stop anyone from picking up this book and making it a fixture in their training library.
For the gymnast, bodyweight enthusiast, traceur, crossfitter, capoerista and general athlete/mover this book should be required reading.
Rafe Kelley is the lead Instructor of Parkour Visions. He has a long abiding interest in evolution and physical fitness, his goal is to try to understand how to develop the body and mind as effectively as possibly using methods cogent with our evolution.
Steven Low is a moderator on the General Fitness forum on the APK comunity forum, he is a former competitive gymnast who, in recent years, has been heavily involved in the gymnastics performance troupe, Gymkana. With his degree from the University of Maryland College Park in Biochemistry, Steven has spent thousands of hours independently researching the scientific foundations of health, fitness and nutrition. Currently Steven is pursuing a doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of Maryland Baltimore which provides him with insights into practical care for common injuries. His training is varied and intense with a focus on gymnastics, parkour, and sprinting.
If you are interested his book check it out on Amazon