After doing Mark Lauren‘s EFX and reading his books (You Are Your Own Gym and Body By You), I had to get the rest of his DVDs. This series/program is based on his book with the same title: You Are Your Own Gym or YAYOG for short (he also has an app based on his book which I also own). Like EFX, YAYOG is body weight training. What makes this program different from EFX is that the workouts are shorter, that it is progressive (3 levels and each level has 3 workouts) and it isn’t as well done as EFX. But that’s ok! That does not mean it is poorly done. Not at all. But I see the format that coalesced in the excellent product that EFX is. But that doesn’t mean I think EFX is better than YAYOG (or worse); it is merely different and it is complementary. For example, in EFX you get this incredible detail paid to form and these graphics that tell you what muscle groups you’re working. YAYOG does give you the graphics of the muscle groups being worked, just like in EFX, but no commentary giving you lots of (what I think) important information. So EFX is not only an excellent program, but educational, too. And tho Mark does focus on form as he does in EFX, I feel he doesn’t give it the same razor focus that he does in EFX, at least not in the Novice workouts. As the exercises get more challenging and complex in the Intermediate and Advanced workouts, he gives it similar focus as in EFX.
Having read his books I can easily see that it is impossible to encompass everything contained in his books into a progressive workout DVD program that is appropriate for everyone. Not possible or practical. To really individualized it, you need the book and the app. However, his DVDs are excellent introductions to his method. Once you master those however, it is time to move on to his books and app to take your fitness to the next level. This is something I plan to do. I am actually working on some of the exercise progressions from his books on my own; however, I am not (yet) using the books/app as a program. And if you have an ipad, the app works similar to a DVD; in fact, it takes the 10 week book programs and makes them into video workouts. Plus, you get additional little program/workouts and you can also build your own. Excellent product combination. I have been wanting an ipad for a while, but after doing his workouts, reading his books and previewing his app (on my iphone), it has been the nudge I need finally get an ipad.
Back to the review.
In the Intro, Mark doesn’t give specific time limits on how long to do each phase of the program. Just like in his books, the idea is to listen to your body: stay at one level until it no longer challenges you, then move up to the next level. Progress at your own speed. Each level has 3 workouts and you do those 3 workouts each week. So all it requires is 3 approx 30 minute workouts a week. He also stresses diet and consistency. You have to eat right and keep showing up to get results.
Even tho I do consider myself an advanced home exerciser, I started at the Novice level for review purposes. I am doing each level for a week. Each level has the same warm up and cool down. There is a DVD for each level (so 3 workouts on each DVD + the Intro, warm up and cool down). All 3 levels use the same concept. For workout 1 you are doing Timed Sets, for workout 2 you do Ladders and workout 3 is always Circuit Training. After you do the warm up, it comes back to the menu and you choose which workout you are going to do; however, after you finish each workout it goes directly into the cool down stretch. At the beginning of each workout, Mark demonstrates the exercises you will be doing. In the bottom right hand corner of the screen there is a timer and status bars so you can keep track of where you are in the workout. Along the top, the exercise you are doing (and the ones you have completed) are listed. And finally, at the end of each workout, before the cool down/stretch, you get different motivational quotes from his YAYOG book.
He doesn’t give modifications for every exercise, however he does give them for some. So if you are ready to move up to the next level however you haven’t progressed enough to do every single exercise at that level, you can use the modifier until you are strong enough to do the exercise at the same level Mark does it.
I’ll break down the warm up and cool down first since it is the same for each workout, then I will break the workouts down by level (Novice, Intermediate and Advanced).
Warm up is 5 minutes long. It is more active than the EFX warm up, which I liked. 1. internal/external arm rotations, 2. big arm circles, 3. bow and bend (bend over w/ straight legs and touch the ground; stand and bow/arch back), 4. full body circles (while standing with arms overhead, rotate torso in a circle so that fingertips almost touch ground), 5. bent over torso twists (legs wide, bend at waist and alternate touching toes with opposite hand), 6. alternating front lunges, 7. up/down planks.
Cool Down is 6 minutes. 1. standing quad stretches, 2. bend at waist with legs wide and lean over each leg, hands on the ground, 3. get on hands and knees and walk hands to right side of body so they are at a 45 degree angle from your thighs; reach out with right arm and press upper body toward floor (I really liked this stretch–really stretches the lats); repeat on other side of body, 4. sit on bottom and pull one knee into chest, the other leg is out straight (glute stretch), 5. keep legs in same position as #4 and put opposite elbow on outside of knee and twist, looking over you shoulder (spine stretch), 6. lie on your stomach, stretch one arm out to side with elbow bent at 90 degree angle; bend opposite knee and lift, then push up with other hand, twisting body and raised foot toward bent elbow on floor.
Novice Workouts are solid workouts but they didn’t challenge me. I did like them and even tho they were below my level of fitness, I did not find them a waste of time. They are a perfect introduction to exercise if you are new to it or haven’t worked out in a while or are coming back from an injury.
Workout #1 Timed Sets is 14:30 minutes long (25:30 with warm up & cool down). You do 4 different exercises. For each exercise you will do 4 sets; you will complete all 4 sets of each exercise before moving on to the next exercise. Each set is 20 seconds w/ 20 seconds of recovery. For the most part the exercises are self-explanatory by name. Until exercise 3 I thought maybe this would be too easy. But mountain climbers are hard and I hate them, so this workout redeemed itself by exercise 3! It still wasn’t challenging and overall below my level, but a good little workout nonetheless. 1. Sumo Squats, 2. Pointers (bird dogs), 3. Mountain Climbers, 4. Supermans.
Workout #2 Ladders is 17 minutes (28 minutes with warm up & cool down). You do 4 different exercises. You do them in pairs using the ladder concept: do one set of each exercise, then two sets, then 3 sets then 4 sets, then you work your way back down to one set. But it’s not over! Then you work your way back up to 4 and back down again to one. You have completed one ladder and you can move on to the next pair of exercises and do the same ladder sequence with those two. Ladders is deceiving. It starts out seeming easier than it actually is. Now, it is a Novice workout and it is not hard to do, but I broke a sweat and actually had some muscle burn by the end. I actually liked this workout a lot. The first pair of exercises is reverse lunges and 4 count squat thrusts. The second pair is pointers and thumbs up. Pointers are the same thing from Workout #1 (bird dogs) and thumbs up is like a superman but you are only lifting your upper body, arms to side with thumbs up.
Workout #3 Circuit Training is 13 minutes (24 minutes with warm up & cool down). You do 4 different exercises back to back; each exercise is done 20 seconds on with 10 seconds recovery. You will do 4 circuits with a brief rest between circuits. 1. Dynamic squats (jump out into sumo squat with fingertips touching the ground then jump back in), 2. Military Press (in down dog, using only arms, do a sort of push up, lowering head almost till touching the floor), 3. Fast swimmers, 4. Mountain climbers (done slow, trying to touch knee to opposite elbow).
Intermediate Workouts really kicked it up a notch or two. These workouts were much more challenging. I felt some serious muscle burn, was sweating and breathing hard during some of them and overall got a great workout from all 3. I found none of the moves too difficult; however, by the end of Ladders I was actually hitting muscle failure. And I was “done” by the end of Circuit Training even though I was able to get through the entire thing with good form. Times Sets was probably the easiest of the 3, but still a challenging workout.
Workout #1 Timed Sets is 20 minutes long (31 minutes with warm up & cool down). Mark definitely kicked the intensity and difficulty up a notch in this workout. The format is the same as the novice workout (4 exercises, the sets consist of 20 seconds w/ 20 seconds of recovery, and you do all sets for each exercise before moving on to the next exercise), but instead of 4 sets you do 6 sets, plus the exercises are more challenging. Now, I didn’t find any of them difficult to execute, nor did I ever reach failure–but by the 3rd or 4th set of each exercise I was feeling the burn in the targeted muscle groups and worked up a decent sweat. 1. Dynamic squats (jump out into sumo squat with fingertips touching the ground then jump back in), 2. Military Press (in down dog, using only arms, do a sort of push up, lowering head almost till touching the floor), 3. Fast Swimmers, 4. Mountain climbers (done slow, trying to touch knee to opposite elbow).
Workout #2 Ladders is 19:30 minutes long (30:30 minutes with warm up & cool down). Wow. This one was not only much harder than the Novice Ladders, but deceiving as well. It was painful. It is set up exactly the same as the Novice Ladders–the only thing different is the exercises. To recap the Ladders concept: You do 4 different exercises. You do them in pairs using the ladder concept: do one set of each exercise, then two sets, then 3 sets then 4 sets, then you work your way back down to one set. But it’s not over! Then you work your way back up to 4 sets and back down again to one set. You have completed one ladder and you can move on to the next pair of exercises and do the same ladder sequence with those two. Exercises: 1. Side Lunges (pausing for a second at the bottom of each lunge), 2. One Leg Romanian Deadlift (balance move), 3. Push ups, 4. Thumbs up (thumbs up is like a superman but you are only lifting your upper body, arms to side with thumbs up; you do 2 thumbs up for every one push up). So, you start these ladders thinking this will be easy! Then, by the time you are on the way back up the ladder the second time you are rethinking that thought as the burn sets in. For the second pairing (Push ups/Thumbs up), I really thought this will be easy; I mean you are only doing a total of 31 push ups and they are broken up; so you’re not pounding out 31 push ups one right after the other. I’ve done more push ups than that on my toes in Cathe and Jari Love workouts (70+). I assumed I would be on my toes for all 31 push ups. Well, Thumbs Up is not as easy as it seems. For one, you’re doing double the amount of thumbs up as you are push ups, and two, thumbs up burns out your shoulders. Bad. Which makes doing push ups that much harder! On the way down the second ladder, I dropped to my knees because my shoulders wanted to stop working properly. And when it was over, I was hugging my shoulders in agony. We’ll see if I can raise my arms tomorrow… (**Next Day: No DOMS–odd, as I was really hurting, but my shoulders are fine today.)
Workout #3 Circuit Training is 17:30 minutes long (28:30 minutes with warm up & cool down). Another intense little workout that really kicks it up a notch from Novice. Even Mark seemed to be taxing himself in this one! The format is the same for Intermediate Circuit Training as it was for Novice. You do 4 different exercises back to back; you do them 20 seconds on with 10 seconds recovery–this equals one circuit. You will do 6 circuits with a brief rest between circuits. 1. Star Jumpers (feet shoulder-width apart with toes pointed outward to start, squat down so fingertips touch the ground with back straight; from this position, jump into the air spreading arms and legs); 2. Half Dive Bomber (get into down dog position; lower your head between your hands and continue forward until your chest is between your hands and a few inches from the ground, back still slightly arched and butt poked up slightly; reverse the motion coming back to down dog); 3. Side V-Ups (lie on left side with left arm at a 45 degree angle from your body, right hand behind head; with legs straight bring right knee to right elbow–you will alternate sides each circuit); 4. Hip Raisers (sit on bottom, legs straight in front of you with toes pointing toward ceiling and hands beside your hips; raise your hips into a crab position trying to get torso straight, then slide body back, bringing hips between arms but never letting bottom touch the ground).
Advanced Workouts: Holy Cow! The advanced workouts are a big jump from the Intermediate workouts, Times Sets and Circuit Training especially. Some of the moves in these workouts were some of the most challenging exercises I have ever done. And in Ladders and Circuit Training I had to modify a move just to get through it. What does that mean? That maybe I am not ready for the advanced workouts? I’m not sure. The Intermediate didn’t challenge me horribly so I thought for sure I was at the Advanced level. But then I did them and they were incredibly hard. And during each workout I seriously thought to myself that maybe this was beyond me. Maybe I wasn’t really advanced, at least by Mark Lauren’s standards. But here is the thing. I kept at it and did the entire workouts, never once stopping early. For some exercises I went at a slower pace than Mark and, as mentioned above, two exercises I had to modify, but I kept at it and never actually “failed” even when I felt close to failure. At the end of the workouts I would think it had been too advanced for me, but then Mark would say something like “I know it hurts. Just keep pushing.” And at the very end (before the cool down) he would tell you that this was not supposed to be easy. It is supposed to be uncomfortable. If you’re in your comfort zone, you are not working hard enough. What this meant to me is that this level is exactly where I need to be. That I need to keep doing these advanced workouts and keep pushing myself until I get stronger. And use the Intermediate workouts as recovery day workouts! (Along with Mark’s Mobility Rx workouts.)
Workout #1 Time Sets is 26 minutes long (37 minutes with warm up & cool down). O.M.G. “Advanced” is no joke. This workout is a huge jump from intermediate level workouts. Even tho I was able to do the entire workout, I think it might be a little too advanced for me right now. Or maybe I just don’t want to work that hard. All I know is my husband said I made a lot of noise and it sounded so painful he has no desire to come near Mark Lauren workouts. Ever. The format is the same as the Novice and Intermediate workouts (4 exercises, the sets consist of 20 seconds w/ 20 seconds of recovery, and you do all sets for each exercise before moving on to the next exercise), but instead of 4 or 6 sets you do 8 sets, plus the exercises are much more challenging. In fact, one in particular is the killer of the bunch. Even tho there was some noise making with all of the exercises, it was exercise 2 (half dive bombers) that I was so very vocal and in pain. So real quick, let me list the 4 exercises, then I will complain some more: 1. Star Jumpers (feet shoulder-width apart with toes pointed outward to start, squat down so fingertips touch the ground with back straight; from this position, jump into the air spreading arms and legs); 2. Half Dive Bomber (get into down dog position; lower your head between your hands and continue forward until your chest is between your hands and a few inches from the ground, back still slightly arched and butt poked up slightly; reverse the motion coming back to down dog); 3. Side V-Ups (lie on left side with left arm at a 45 degree angle from your body, right hand behind head; with legs straight bring right knee to right elbow–alternate sides); 4. Hip Raisers (sit on bottom, legs straight in front of you with toes pointing toward ceiling and hands beside your hips; raise your hips into a crab position trying to get torso straight, then slide body back, bringing hips between arms but never letting bottom touch the ground). Now, these are the same 4 exercises that were used in Intermediate Workout #3 Circuit Training–but trust me, doing them as timed sets is much different from doing them as circuits. I was close to failure by the 7th and 8th set for every exercise. And the Half Dive Bombers? OMG. For this exercise, he gives you the option of going to Military Presses and I won’t lie, I considered it. In fact, I decided if my form started failing I would go to Military Presses. And by the 6th set, my diver bombers were getting kind of shallow (chest more than a few inches from the ground at bottom of move), but I was still maintaining form (and going slower than Mark) so I kept at it. In fact, for every set of every exercise I kept going for the full 20 seconds. I really pushed myself hard with this workout and I really felt it. I will say that for all of the exercises except Star Jumpers, about halfway through I was going at a slower pace than Mark. Not excessively slower, but still slower. However, I kept pace with him for all of the Star Jumpers. As mentioned in the summary above, this makes me believe that the advanced workouts are actually the perfect level for me–because they challenged me so much and made me so very uncomfortable!
Workout #2 Ladders is 23 minutes long (34 minutes with warm up & cool down). Not easy but not killer like Time Sets was. The second ladder was what burned me out, too. It is set up exactly the same as the Novice and Intermediate Ladders–the only thing different is the exercises. To recap the Ladders concept: You do 4 different exercises. You do them in pairs using the ladder concept: do one set of each exercise, then two sets, then 3 sets then 4 sets, then you work your way back down to one set. But it’s not over! You work your way back up to 4 sets and back down again to one set. You have completed one ladder and you can move on to the next pair of exercises and do the same ladder sequence with those two. Exercises: The first pair is 1. front lunges, hands behind head and twisting your torso at the bottom of the move and 2. one legged warriors (or warrior 3’s); the second pair is 1. FULL dive bombers and 2. thumbs up. Now, more on this second pair. Unlike the half dive bombers he has had you do in other workouts, which were hard enough, for this one you start in down dog, but go all the way through as you would a chaturanga, then reverse that same motion. It is the reverse that is the hardest part. I started doing the modification he gave on that one pretty quickly, which is, after doing the chaturanga, you go back to down dog rather than reversing the motion. As for thumbs up, it is also different from the other thumbs up he has had you do in other workouts. You lay on your stomach with arms out to side in a T. You lift your arms just like the in the other workouts (with thumbs up towards the ceiling) once; however, then you bring arms in front of you (like in a superman but with thumbs still raised to ceiling) and lift your straight arms/thumbs once, then bring them back to your sides in a T. That is one rep.
Workout #3 Circuit Training is 22:30 minutes long (33:30 with warm & cool down). Another killer like Advanced Timed Sets. In fact, the first exercise was an entirely new way (to me at least) to do jump lunges and it was so @#^&*% hard. I was definitely doing them at my own speed. However, it was clear that this workout was hard even for Mark. Though he, of course, maintained perfect form and a brisk pace throughout. But during the rest periods he seemed pretty exhausted and was breathing hard and sweating a lot. The format is the same as it was for Novice and Intermediate Circuit Training workouts. You do 4 different exercises back to back; you do them 20 seconds on with 10 seconds of recovery–this equals one circuit. For Advanced, you will do 8 circuits with a brief rest between circuits. Exercises: 1. Iron Mikes: Get into a lunge position with back knee on the ground; you will jump lunge from this position, lowering yourself back into a lunge with the back knee on the ground. This is hard. 2. Bouncing Push Ups: these are just plyometric push ups; forcefully push yourself up so your hands leave the ground at the top of the move (I went to my knees quickly for this one). 3. Jack Knives: lay on your back, legs straight and arms straight overhead; lift upper body and legs at the same time, touching your toes at the top of the movement. 4. One Leg Hip Raises: sit on bottom, legs straight in front of you with toes pointing toward ceiling and hands beside your hips, raise one foot off the ground; raise your hips into a crab position trying to get torso straight, then slide body back, bringing hips between arms but never letting bottom (or raised foot/leg) touch the ground. You will alternate legs each time you do a circuit.