This may come as no surprise to you, but I love books and I love learning!

We’ve even got a special section of our Alpha Posse forum dedicated to sharing good books and insightful materials.

It’s really important to all of us at GMB to continue our education and understanding of fitness, health, and training – thus, we’re always on the lookout for great resources to learn new ideas.

Overcoming Gravity by Steven Low is one such resource.

It’s an interesting, incredibly dense book (530 pages!) that attempts to address every issue and question about the development of strength through bodyweight training.

I like this book because I am such a nerd for gymnastic-type training information.

It includes everything from the physiology of strength to programming, progressions and variations of movements, and even includes a full section on staying healthy and managing injuries.

If you want to know the why, and not just the how, of performing bodyweight movements you’ll enjoy this book.

The Ultimate Bodyweight Encyclopedia

Overcoming GravitySteven Low’s book Overcoming Gravity is divided into three parts:

  1. Part 1 explains how to construct your own workout routine
  2. Part 2 covers the management of health and injuries
  3. Part 3 consists of the programming and exercise descriptions

The instruction for each movement and hold are extremely detailed, and includes little bits of information like letting you know what level they are in the gymnastics code of points.

Steven does a good job of breaking each skill down and also letting you know what to focus on and when to move on to the next progression.

He includes various training templates for Levels 1 to 12: including frequency, warm-up, skill work, exercises, volume, etc., all the way to flexibility.

Overcoming Gravity also discusses the full range of motion and flexibility, providing diagrams along the way. You can tell that Steven has a passion for what he does and didn’t hold anything back when writing this encyclopedia of bodyweight training.

And it truly is an encyclopedia – Steven thoroughly covers every topic on physical movement you can imagine in this book.

I enjoyed reading through it and seeing how he designs programs, deals with injuries and of course, how he teaches the skills.

Great for Advanced Readers, But Beginners May Need More Photos

While this book contains a wealth of comprehensive knowledge, this book is extremely text heavy. Illustrations are included in each section to demonstrate the movements, but I feel that photos of the movements could have been helpful for beginners who are just being introduced to the material.

If you don't already know what the movements are supposed to look like, OG's stick figures might not be a lot of help.

If you don’t already know what the movements are supposed to look like, OG’s stick figures might not be a lot of help.

As a professional trainer with a gymnastics background, I was able understand the concepts and movements listed within the book, but I’m not sure that a beginner would be able to fully grasp the concepts without additional photos or videos to reinforce the ideas.

It would have been nice to show some skills from a different angle for better clarity. For example, and in the case of the handstand section, important points such as kicking up, pirouetteing out, gripping the ground, and body position illustrations would be helpful for the beginner. These visual cues can be remarkably beneficial for the person just starting out.

Of course, this would also increase the massive length of the book, which may not be a realistic option for a future update. 

Perhaps maintaining an accompanying website for the book could help integrate these concepts a bit better. The site could contain video and photo breakdowns of each movement, and give Steven an opportunity to go into even greater detail on these concepts.

All the Tools You Need To Build Your Own Program

Overcoming Gravity isn’t the kind of book where you can just jump in and start training today. It’s a meaty reference book that lays out everything you need to design a program of your own. Taking in that kind of information takes time, and multiple reads!

Overcoming Gravity explains the whys behind these complex gymnastic movements.

Overcoming Gravity explains the whys behind these complex gymnastic movements.

This is great for those who like to nerd out (like me!) on this kind of knowledge, and those who enjoy parsing through their exercise and programs to the finese detail. But for the average person and newcomer to bodyweight/gymnastic-type training, this book can be overwhelming and even intimidating with its expansive array of information.

As we’ve said before, you don’t need to teach yourself to be a trainer in order to really get the most out of your training. And in fact, too much information can be detrimental. But this doesn’t mean that we discourage learning though. Not at all!

Overcoming Gravity is a great resource if you are interested in the fine details of training.

Just be aware of what you truly need and do what’s best for you.

A Word from the Author

GMB: What’s the best way to get started with the material in Overcoming Gravity?

Steven Low: I recommend checking out my Beginner’s Guide first. It will give readers a solid action plan for approaching and absorbing the information in Overcoming Gravity. Some of the feedback I received from my first edition of the book was that beginners weren’t sure how to get started applying the training techniques to their gymnastic practice.

Most people in the process of constructing a routine don’t narrow down their goals enough. You can’t do everything at once and nor should you because your body cannot likely handle it.

The key points to any successful training program are:

  1. Be focused on your goals. Narrow them down.
  2. Be consistent with training.
  3. Stay injury free – this means not pushing through pain, or if there’s uncomfortableness with the volume or exercise then back off.

GMB: What kind of changes can readers expect in the updated version?

SL: I’m changing the look of the book and adding in all new and more detailed illustrations to showcase the nuances of each movement. The new version will also be more “newbie-friendly” and include separate sections for beginner/intermediate/advanced level athletes so people can read up on the section that is most appropriate for their current level.

The updated version will also include more programming options (and integration of the movements within a busy schedule of other sports/activities), revised charts, and more info on specific flexibility and mobility issues. I’m also including some brief information on options for working the legs at home (if you don’t have access to a barbell).

There’s more, but I don’t want to give it all away just yet. ;)

GMB: We’re excited! What’s the timeframe on the 2nd edition?

SL: Overcoming Gravity 2nd Edition is projected for late 2013, early 2014 release, but the publishing process can take some time, so these dates are subject to change.

Keep an eye on Eat Move Improve for details of the release.

Is it worth it?

Overall, I think that this is a great reference book for trainers and provides an amazing amount of information for those who develop bodyweight programs.

Honestly, yes, this is a massive and dense book, and it’s not cheap either. But there’s nothing else like it.

Overcoming Gravity may be a bit much for the novice trainee, but for those who want to be “in it for the long haul,” this encyclopedia will keep a serious student of bodyweight training happy for years.

Never Stop Learning

We always encourage learning from many sources.

Some are great and some are not so good, but you’ll be hard pressed to find another resource with the same kind of attention to detail in addressing both the breadth and depth of bodyweight movement. It’s a great addition to your training compendium.

You can snag the digital version (in PDF format) of Overcoming Gravity here.

FYI – We get no compensation whatsoever from recommending Overcoming Gravity. We just think it’s a good book if you happen to be interested in the technical side of workout programming with gymnastic-style movements.

Discussion

  1. Steven Low says:

    Thanks for the review guys. I agree with your critiques, and am trying to remedy!

  2. As a beginner, should I buy this book now or wait until the new version is out with updated details?

    Thank you for the review! It’s awesome talking to Steve on Reddit, he’s always helping people out.

  3. I was just starting out with gymnastic/bodyweight exercise when I read Overcoming Gravity, and ironically happened upon the GMB site around the same time. I have to say both the book and the site have (from a fitness perspective) changed my life. I really can’t say enough about both! I think beginners would have no trouble figuring out the exercises in the book, so to Alex, I would say don’t wait – I look at what I was able to accomplish in one year and you are better off getting started now.
    I am glad to see Steven and his book are getting more recognition; I honestly believe it is and will be considered the gold standard in bodyweight training and injury prevention/management. And since I usually stay off the radar, I’ll take this opportunity to say thanks to the GMB staff for the emails and articles; they really are invaluable.

  4. Veiled_In_Dance says:

    I have a copy of this book on my computer as we speak. It is, however, extremely technical, and it’s probably going to take me forever to get through it. I kinda feel like it is written with the assumption that the reader will already be familiar with terms like “isometric”, “active tension”, “kinetic chain”, etc.; however, I’m not, and I found it a little difficult to read. I suspect this is mostly an issue of my own personal preferences than anything else – it’s clear that the author is a very intelligent man who knows this topic inside out and backwards, and this book is quite well-written. I guess I just find it simpler to see how an exercise is performed, which muscle groups it targets, and go from there, rather than to have a very in-depth explanation of the science behind it. If you love the science aspect, this book will be a must-read, because it’s loaded with facts. : ) If you are like me and you have the attention span of a gnat when it comes to these things, you might have to take your scatterbrained little self straight to the exercises instead.

    • It’s definitely more “textbook” than “cookbook,” so it’s not the best starting point for people who just want to follow a program (I know Steve won’t get upset at me for saying that, because we’ve talked about it before). That said, the info may take on more meaning as you continue your practice and familiarize yourself with the underlying principles… if that’s what you’re into.

      One of the things we like about OG is that it’s a completely different approach to teaching from GMB, though the two can be complementary.

      • Veiled_In_Dance says:

        I’ve been an active person all my life – I ski, I love long walks, I swim, I dance, I run, I bike (need a new one though!). But I’m really quite new to bodyweight-style fitness. I absolutely love it because it’s a whole new challenge learning how to master control of each muscle/muscle group using minimal equipment. I haven’t really mastered any skills yet, but even making progress has been exciting.

        I suspect you’re right…the longer I work at it, the more I will be able to glean from this book.

  5. Seumas Macdonald says:

    I picked up this book a few months ago and really appreciated it. Having done a bit of study in sports science earlier helped with the technical side of things – it is certainly a technical book, but it’s great at what it is. Not everyone needs to learn to be a coach to be exercise well, but I’ve always been of the thought that ultimately you should learn not only what to do, but the how and why behind it.

    Anyway, it’s a great book, and I really appreciate it.

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