Interview with Mark Lauren
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– How did your time spent as a Special Operations trainer shape your view of fitness that you incorporated in your books, You Are Your Own Gym; The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises and Body By You: The You Are Your Own Gym Guide to Total Women’s Fitness?
Most importantly, it made me realize the importance of programming how a workout routine is structured over weeks and months.
Today’s athletes aren’t more athletic because of revolutionary new exercises or individual workouts, but rather because trainers are getting better at applying just the right amount of stress and recovery, realizing that just enough is enough and that needs change as an athlete progresses.
The importance of specificity also became clear, meaning you only get good at what you do, and your training should therefore resemble the activity being trained for as closely as possible.
Lying and sitting down while isolating muscles groups, for example, is something that is never duplicated outside of the gym, and the useful skills learned from those activities is extremely limited for that reason.
In order to train functional athletes that possess strength, endurance, balance, flexibility, speed, and coordination, we should train them using movements that require those skills.
This seemingly obvious principle is overlooked often. Training with machines makes you good at using machines. Bodyweight exercises make you good at using your body.
– From training elite Special Operations, some of the most intense and fittest members of society, what drove you to write a book for the average man and woman?
The idea actually began with the intent to create a manual for those looking to prepare for the special operations community. I soon realized that applying my experience to meet the needs of the average man and woman would be far more useful.
I asked myself what those needs are and how to best meet them, overall fitness with improved body composition. I stripped everything unnecessary from my program to make it as effective and convenient as humanly possible.
The choice was obvious — multi-joint movements that can be done anywhere anytime.
– How have you seen simple body weight exercises used to keep the most elite of Special Ops in shape?
Bodyweight movements have been at the core of strength and conditioning programs for the most elite fighting forces for literally thousands of years. I personally have seen them used countless ways to develop both mental and physical qualities.
When I began as a student in ’97, the first ten weeks was a selection course, to test your mettle, with an 85 percent attrition rate.
Admittedly, the drop out rate was mostly due to the water training, but also largely because of the countless hours of bodyweight exercises, with my favorite example being 1,000 non-stop team push-ups that were doled out on a Friday afternoon for a few of us having too much tape on our snorkels.
We did them together, as a team, five at a time, resting by lifting our butts into the air or sagging at the hips, for three and half hours. Plus one for teamwork, as always, so it was actually 1,001 push-ups. But this is an extreme example.
Typically, bodyweight exercises are used much more thoughtfully, either exclusively or along with other training methods, while deployed or while preparing for a deployment.
Train Anyone, Anywhere in the World.
– It’s been said that your credo is “Leading by Example.” Who or what helped you to establish this mindset and how has it impacted your life?
Early on, during selection, it was made apparent to us that success is 100% dependent on everyone putting team objectives before personal comforts and desires.
With people naturally being more willing to follow what they see, rather than what they hear, it is necessary for a good leader to demonstrate his willingness to make the sacrifices he is asking of his followers. I was fortunate enough to have had just such a team leader early in my career.
He didn’t say much. He showed you. And that’s what I to do for my trainees.
It’s the reason why I demonstrate every single exercise variation in my smart phone app, about 240 of them, from jumping pistols to unsupported handstand push-ups, and do all the workouts in my You Are Your Own Gym DVD alone, rather than coaching young models as I walk around.
– What would you say is the most important thing to keep in mind when doing bodyweight training?
Consistency is king. Nothing will ever work unless you keep showing up, and with bodyweight exercises, it couldn’t be easier.
You can train anywhere anytime, and in less time than it takes you to get to and from the gym, you could be done with your workout and very likely get better results. You need one to three hours a week. That’s it.