There are workout books, and then there are WORKOUT books.
At well over 500 pages, Steven Low’s “Overcoming Gravity” is clearly of the latter variety.
Simultaneously praised for its comprehensiveness, as well as derided for its high entry barriers (more on that later), there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on whether or not this book is worth it.
Well, today we are going to put it through our own lens. Try our hand at “Overcoming Gravity,” and offer advice on whether or not you should try it too.
So What Is It About?
Without mincing words, this book is a comprehensive toolkit meant to help you gradually attain the fitness levels comparable to those of a professional gymnast.
Given that gymnasts are generally considered some of the strongest athletes in the world, pound-for-pound, it’s safe to say that this is a worthwhile goal.
And this is something that you are going to feel.
Think you’re in decent (or even good) shape? Well, chances are that even the book’s starter tiers are going to present a challenge to you.
And if you are a novice or someone who is simply looking to get back into the groove, then you will likely be overwhelmed by the sheer difficulty of the moves and the abundance of information. This is not a newbie-friendly product.
But if you have a solid base (or any base to speak of), then you can expect a whole world of useful (and more importantly, applicable) information in here.
And if you are able to use it properly, it will help you attain the next level, then the one after that. It’s just that thick with info.
The Interior, or the Product Itself
Boy, is there a lot to go over.
The book is segmented into three major parts, which are further divided into 18 chapters, plus appendices (which actually make up part 3. Confusing? We know!).
This is both good and bad. On one hand, you know that the author definitely has a firm grasp on the whole idea, as well as the desire to share all that knowledge.
On the other, all of this is just as overwhelming as it is… let’s say shoddily organized.
In fact, the deeper you go into the book, the more it becomes apparent that he could have really used a good editor.
Or any editor, in fact. Redundancies abound, which could be interpreted as either intentional or accidental.
Perhaps the point of it all was to hammer some ideas home, but considering the nature of the product (a book that one is likely to re-read many times over), we find that prospect unlikely. All in all, as far as gems go, this one is rough.
Which in fact doesn’t lower its value all that much, as it turns out.
Pretty much anything you might want to know about bodyweight training is likely to be in there somewhere.
The book even begins by explaining leverage, as in how to increase resistance by lowering leverage and putting your muscles at a disadvantage.
It really doesn’t pull any punches, and teaches you the whole theory and practice.
Those seeking a more “plug and play” approach however, are likely to be turned away.
While the book definitely contains its share of exercises, and even an excellent progression and competence system, you will pretty much need to read and study the whole thing in order to be able to put it to use.
There isn’t exactly a definitive “do X for Y time on day Z” chapter. You will need to learn how to structure a workout and how to restructure it as you advance (and as possible complications arise), otherwise you’re not going to get as much out of it as you otherwise could.
To explain the whole thing over the course of one review would be to invite madness, but here’s the gist of it:
- Part One (Spanning from chapter 1 to 11) teaches you everything you will need, want, or perhaps even not want to know about the process of bodyweight exercise. This is the structure that you are to fill up with your exercise routines as you go further down the line. It is also the part where the majority of people tend to give up on the book. Personally, this reviewer found it an interesting and even enlightening read, in some aspects. From the basics, to programming and advancement, the dangers of overreaching and overtraining, and even going into other venues like parkour, it’s all there.
- Part Two (Chapters 12 to 18) deals with injuries, from their prevention, to minimizing the damage, the proper mindset when it comes to those setbacks, restructuring your program when and if it happens, and the like. Admittedly, this part may be a bit too detailed and it does repeat itself on occasion, but the message it sends is nevertheless spot on. Setbacks can and will happen, but given that a reset button for one’s body does not exist, there’s nothing to do but find a way around them.
- Part Three (Appendices) is kind of strangely named and marked, given that it takes up a good half of the book. These are your example workout programs; something you can use as basis for your current (and future) workouts. And there’s no other way to say this, but they are hard. There are progressions and everything, but chances are that at some point, you are going to have trouble with these. Now depending on your goals and ability, this can be considered an upside or a downside. We’ve chosen to consider it a simple fact and move on. Like the rest of the book, it is what it is, and if you manage to persevere through the little slice of hell it composes for you, you’ll find no shortage of rewards or satisfaction.
Separating the Good from the Bad
We’ve admittedly gone over most of this in the text, but here’s a more condensed version, appropriately similar to the summaries at the end of the book’s chapters:
- Comprehensive and detailed, so is likely to answer any questions you might have, and quite a few that you never knew you had.
- Modular. Once you absorb everything it has to offer, you can easily compose a personalized workout program, and even alter it on the fly should the need arise.
- Has an extremely high ceiling, and it is extremely unlikely that you will ever “outgrow” the book.
- Each and every move is demonstrated with either drawings or photos, so you won’t misinterpret anything.
- Not at all a beginner-friendly book. If you’re just starting out, you’re almost certain to get lost or discouraged. This also brings us to…
- The example workouts are hard, which raises an additional entry barrier for a book that is already difficult to get into.
- There are a lot of redundancies within. It could use a good editing.
- Not something you can just “plug and play.” If you want a workout manual that will let you go straight to the workouts, try purchasing an online calisthenics course, for example.
The Final Verdict
All in all, we are quite pleased with “Overcoming Gravity.” It’s great at what it sets out to do, and delivers amazing value.
Though if you’re just starting out, you may want to invest in something that is more accessible, yet can also give you a lot of mileage. For example, Convict Conditioning.
That or you can try the second edition. We hear that it’s much better polished, and more beginner-friendly.
Our Rating: 4.5/5
Chris is an experienced Calisthenics practitioner focused on isometric exercises and street workout. He founded thehybridathlete.com in 2017, which was subsequently acquired by theyhybridathlete.com
He is based in Portland and has been working out using solely his own body weight and bars for the past 6 years.