Congruent Exercise: The Greatest Exercise Manual in History

Disclaimer: this is an independent review and is not endorsed in anyway by the author. I do not receive compensation for book sales resulting from this review.

~~~

 
I’ve been pushing to finish an ultra-long review of Congruent Exercise. “Ultra-long” because I was weaving in so many different ideas into the review, that are important to the discussion, but not absolutely necessary. Well, I’m about to be without internet access for a few days, and in light of those additional discussions not being absolutely necessary, I have decided to write a short and simple review, and release it immediately.

I’ve made this decision because it needed to be made — because there are things about this book that need to be said.

A book that says things about exercise, that absolutely needed to be said.

This 68 page manual is the greatest manual on exercise ever written, and it appears I am not entirely alone in this sentiment.

What is Congruent Exercise?

CE is the follow up manual to Moment Arm Exercise, or MAE, with updated ideas and discussion by the author, Bill DeSimone. Not only is the book up to speed with Bill’s latest conclusions, but the ideas within are condensed, simplified, and as easy to understand as they will ever be (unlike MAE which was not written with others reading in mind, but was instead written primarily for Bill’s personal use).

This simplification is done without compromise in any way or to any degree.

Is CE better than MAE?

Without a doubt, yes. Bill’s writing has improved dramatically, yet it retains his sense of humor which makes an “exercise book” actually enjoyable to read, not to mention, easy to digest. CE is a technical manual with revolutionary concepts that even the lay gym goer can grasp with little or no difficulty. This is the call sign of someone who is a true master of their craft/profession.

In addition, CE contains more and better explanations for suggested exercises, as well as improved picture quality. You are shown exactly what you need to be shown.

For the first time ever, Bill DeSimone also digs into “core work”, including the muscles of the spine and abdomen, which I suspect many have asked him about for years now.

If I own MAE should I buy CE?

Yes. Bill’s explanations have not only become clearer in some areas, but have quite literally advanced.

If I’ve seen Bill’s 21 Convention presentation, should I still buy CE?

Yes. Bill was limited to 90 minutes in that speech, given well over a year ago. That video is awesome, but this book has a lot more content than the video.

Why is CE the greatest exercise manual in history?

Because for the first time in human history, someone has brought biomechanics to the discussion of exercise, thoroughly, clearly, and definitively. That someone is Bill DeSimone.

Biomechanics as it relates to exercise is the single most fundamental concept possible to the discussion, yet up to this point, has been ignorantly and/or arrogantly dismissed. Yet, biomechanics is as fundamental to exercise as the discussion of oxygen is to breathing, food to nutrition, and the existence of organisms smaller than we can normally see, to human health.

Every article, word, text, video, and media item in existence on the subject of exercise, from every website, every book, and every interview, from every author in history, does not compare to the importance of the sum of knowledge Bill has formulated and presented in Congruent Exercise.

I mean that literally. While this may not have been the direct intention of Bill in writing the book, the most important personal conclusion I walked away with is that without biomechanics, there can be no discussion of exercise. To do so is complete nonsense.

And no one understands biomecahincs as it relates to exercise like Bill DeSimone. There is not a single other trainer, author, blogger, or “fitness celebrity” who is even remotely close to understanding, practicing, and celebrating the very simple discoveries Bill has made and presented in this manual (which is not to say other great minds in exercise do not exist — many do — but they are up to this point NEVER the ones that are popular).

Example:

The human spine is a pyramid, and loading it from the top down is antithetical to the basic function and design of the human body — ie, barbell squats are one of the most fundamentally ineffective exercises imaginable, in spite of all the lore and myths surrounding this magical exercise with “super duper benefits” that even in the best of circumstances, can never outweigh the reasons to completely and totally avoid this exercise, forever.

Compare that, a conclusion I walked away with from the book, to this bout of insanity — tantamount to putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound (discussing finer points of an exercise that is fundamentally flawed to the highest of degrees, completely in-congruent to the human body, and is outright dangerous to your health, short and long term).

Top comment

Looking at Rippetoe’s qualifications I’d say follow his advice to a T and you’ll be safer, stronger and healthier than you’d be listening to most anyone else.

Yeah, that, or you’ll fast track your way to becoming a quadriplegic.

And of course, don’t forget this for added insanity.

Closing comments

While I wish the book was even longer, and contained even more exercises, more discussion, and entire sections criticizing the insanity that is currently the status quo of the “fitness world”, I am utterly happy with this book, and give it my highest recommendation.

Bill DeSimone deserves a nobel prize.

In exercise, the buck starts and ends with biomechanics. Anyone that argues with this premise after buying Congruent Exercise is arguing with basic human physiology, and is likely a complete fraud, patently dishonest, or is just an idiot stuck in his ways “cause that’s what he’s always done and it hasn’t caused a problem” — yet.

Biomechanics is king. The fitness world is a sham. Congruent Exercise rocks, as does Bill DeSimone.

Buy the book here or contact Bill directly through the Congruent Exercise Facebook page.

You can also read an outstanding interview with Bill here, and watch his Youtube videos here, further explaining his ideas.

— Anthony Dream Johnson

Edit: I suspect people are going to go apeshit over my jab at barbell Slowking Mark Rippetoe, so I’ll quote myself in a comment just below.

People aren’t de-facto stupid for doing or recommending squats

They only become as such when they understand basic biomechanics, and continue to sell them (barbell specific squats), as a legitimate exercise. Keyword there is “continue” (as well as barbell).

Mark Rippetoe is someone who will promote barbell squats to the day he dies, even if it’s death by barbell squat.

About Anthony Dream Johnson

CEO, founder, and architect of The 21 Convention, Anthony Dream Johnson is the leading force behind the world's first and only "panorama event for life on earth". He has been featured on WGN Chicago, and in the NY Times #1 best seller The Four Hour Work Week.    His stated purpose for the work he does is "the actualization of the ideal man", a purpose that has led him to found and host The 21 Convention across 3 continents and for 6 years in a row. Anthony blogs vigorously at TheDreamLounge.net and Declarationism.com.

48 Responses to Congruent Exercise: The Greatest Exercise Manual in History

  1. MikeG December 18, 2011 at 6:47 pm #

    Drew Baye does back sqauts, as far as I remember, back sqauts and straight leg deads are the only legs exercises he does. is Drew Baye as dumb as everyone else is for doing back sqauts?, why does he do them?

  2. MikeG December 18, 2011 at 6:51 pm #

    the first 1min 10 sec of ripptioes talk is how to preface a evolution vs creation debate as well, great talk

    • Anthony Dream Johnson December 18, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

      Promoting barbell squats as anatomically respectful exercise is the equivalent of promoting fiction as fact.

      Religion anyone?…

  3. Anthony Dream Johnson December 18, 2011 at 6:52 pm #

    No, Drew is not dumb. But I would be surprised if he read CE and going forward continued to do barbell squats.

    People aren’t de-facto stupid for doing or recommending squats

    They only become as such when they understand basic biomechanics (relevant for example, to a barbell squat), and continue to sell them as a legitimate exercise. Keyword there is “continue”.

    Mark Rippetoe is someone who will promote barbell squats to the day he dies, even if it’s death by barbell squat.

  4. alex December 19, 2011 at 2:48 am #

    While I like DeSimones work , I disagree that the spine is a pyramid and cannot be loaded from the top. the spine is an arch or a bow not a pyramid . the spine is not an island it is connected to the ribs in turn are connected to the abs ect . the spine is more like a pole supported with multiple wires.

    a proper squat would spread the weight over the shoulders and load the hips with the spine remaining stable. is there another exercise that loads the legs and hips yes. is there one that as effectively loads the whole musculature?

    that being said most people don’t need the barbell squat

    • Anthony Dream Johnson December 19, 2011 at 11:36 am #

      The vertebrae create a pyramid. The sky is blue. Grass is green.

      Every pound you add to a barbell squat further amplifies the effect of loading a pyramid from the top down. That’s like sticking a sideways skyscraper on top of a real pyramid and expecting it to sit there by tying it to the ground, with fishing line.

      There are additional reasons as to why the barbell squat is a biomechanically ridiculous exercise.

      • Huey December 19, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

        Why have I and other HITers never been injured by squatting if it’s such an evil exercise?

        • Anthony Dream Johnson December 19, 2011 at 7:11 pm #

          I think you made a typo Huey. I think you meant to say…

          “Why are I and other HITers YET TO BE injured by squatting if it’s such an evil exercise?”

  5. Chris December 19, 2011 at 3:13 am #

    It is a great book. I’ll be getting my review up soon.

    Good review Anthony

  6. Jason December 19, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    Andrew, with all due respect, you are uneducated in the subject matter of this book, and therefore you are not qualfied to judge the content of this book and offer your opinion.

    While Bill’s book is very good and offers a lot of useful information and recommendations, somone with the proper training and education in biomechanics and exercise quickly recognizes some of the errors in reasoning and misplaced conclusions found in the book.

    Furthermore, it’s not a matter of arguing with the facts of physiology or biomechanics, but rather arguing with Bill’s INTERPRETATION of those facts and how he extrapolates his interpretations into practical advice.

  7. Jason December 19, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    Sorry, meant to type Anthony.

    Anyway, my point is, you don’t possess the knowledge of the subject matter to determine whether what’s in the book is brilliant, or bullshit, or somewhere in between. Thus, it’s illegitimate to label the book “The greatest exercise manual in history”.

    • Anthony Dream Johnson December 19, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

      Congruent Exercise takes weight training out of the Stone Age.

      Furthermore, when the experts are *less* than clueless, anyone with basic critical thinking skills is qualified to make judgement calls on the subject. Example: I would never take a cholesterol manipulating medication, and I would strongly *encourage* everyone else to do the same. Standard medical practice however has 99.9999% of licensed physicians within a a thousand mile radius prescribing such medications on a daily basis.

      Who’s right, me, or the MDs? By your logic, I am severely under qualified to make such a judgement call, for myself, or anyone else, so whether or not those doctors are correct is not up for me to even determine. Yet, I’m right, and I’m backing that decision with my life.

      Meanwhile, the highly qualified MDs are stuck in a group think/herd/status quo mentality, that is supposedly safe, yet, directly contributes to people dying.

      “In a subject of lies, qualifications become meaningless, and truth is treason.”

    • Anthony Dream Johnson December 19, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

      Jason, have you even read Congruent Exercise?

      • Huey December 19, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

        Have you even read Renaissance Exercise: a Vitruvian Adventure by Ken Hutchins? If not, how do you know that CE is the best exercise manual in history?

  8. Huey December 19, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

    P.S. because of your recommendation I have decided to read Congruent Exercise.

  9. Joe A December 19, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    It is easy to get caught up in the tangents and miss the fucking point.

    Bill makes a strong case that “safety” is a consideration of exercise, paramount to all others. He takes a macro look at exercise over a lifetime. He makes recommendations that can help a person attain benefits from exercise while avoiding death from it; evading serious injury; eluding strains and common overuse consequences.

    That’s it folks! There isn’t any controversy. You can focus on the fact that Bill doesn’t consider the barbell squat one of his “congruent exercises” OR you could ask ‘why’? Is he saying it isn’t effective? Is he saying it can’t be done without injury? If you read the book, you’ll find that this is not the point of his recommendation. Bottom line- long term, the exercise, if performed consistently and progressively, presents risks that outweigh the potential reward. If there are options (and there are) then one can simply sidestep the danger altogether.

    Think about it this way…if you start with a barbell and try to figure out the best way to work the lower body with it, you may very well conclude the barbell squat is king. However, if you begin with the human body (the anatomy and mechanics that govern movement) and try to figure out the best way to work the lower body, I doubt anyone would conclude that balancing a long, loaded bar on top of your spine, then bending down into a position that puts you at the greatest disadvantage and hope you can stand up (in good form) is the best way to go…you certainly would never conclude this is the safest way to address this musculature.

    That said, I have squatted with a barbell numerous times (for years), with significant weight…with no real injury to speak of. I don’t do it anymore, though I’ll admit, I feel like I could “get away with it” if I decided to do so. I’m pretty in tune with my body; I know my limits; I’m acutely aware of how my body fatigues; I know exactly what I would do if ‘something’ went wrong; I would make every effort to make the set up as safe as possible; if I got hurt or died, the fault, blame, liability would rest solely on my shoulders.

    As a trainer, I would NEVER put a client in this situation, though. There are too many variables that are out of my control. There is too much that can go wrong, and it can happen way too quickly. The consequences can be debilitating- not just minor strains; sorry- do not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to Christopher Reeves. Worse yet, the risk is foreseeable and that makes the trainer negligent. So, I’d agree with Anthony, anyone who knows the risks and continues to subject their clients to them, is stupid.

    See, even I can go off on a tangent 🙂

    Bill’s book(s) are worth reading; if nothing else they can help shape your perspective for a lifetime of exercise. His train of thought is spot on, even if you don’t agree with the destination where his train stops. His writing is entertaining and engaging and easy to understand. If you train with conventional equipment, you are really selling yourself short if you choose not to explore his materials.

    I recommend them without hesitation.

    • ben sima December 20, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

      Fantastic comment amongst a barrage of people attacking DeSimeone for no apparent reason.

      • Huey December 20, 2011 at 11:41 pm #

        No attack on Bill D. I think he makes a compelling argument that the leg press is superior to the squat. I just think squatting is OK in a pinch, that the load used is below the threshold likely to cause problems, especially when considering the extremely limited volume/frequency of HIT routines.

  10. Bird December 20, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    It’s funny watching the posts by people that you can detect have some form of unhealthy attachment to their old ways of barbell training.

    Jason, unless you provide evidence against this manual then you have no rationale yourself.

    There is little room for interpretation when it comes to biomechanics.

  11. Donnie Hunt December 20, 2011 at 11:17 pm #

    Very good discussion here. Bill’s material has really made me think. As for me i won’t be doing the “king of exercises”, or “training for explosive power”, but i will continue to do those “slow controlled movements that are gonna slow me down” and use those “machines that will never built any usable strength”. Lol.

  12. VartanK December 21, 2011 at 12:45 am #

    I think the best that can be said for Rip is that he’s trying to explain the squat as best as possible, not justify it’s very existence. The squat is pretty much like a religious idea, it’s around because it was around yesterday and that’s good enough for most people.

    I’m actually interested in buying this book because I’ve recently taken up high volume, high frequency power lifting, and while it’s a ton of fun, injury risks abound. I’ve taken that risk as an intelligent and free thinking person, but after taking a bit of abuse I want to cycle back into doing more safe, bodybuilding HIT that got me started in the first place.

    One thing I can’t stand though is that in all of these fights, I see the best and brightest trainers and athletes become dogmatists. The twist is that bodybuilders for generations have been the only ones that can leave ego’s aside and do exercises for the simple reason that they either work or they don’t, without caring about how they look or what their lore is.

    Dorian Yates always strikes me as the perfect example, he always says the weight is just a tool, the tool doesn’t matter. He switched to leg presses because squats didn’t do shit for him. Bodybuilders do this kind of tinkering all the time, n=1 style. I don’t know why other people can’t catch on.

  13. Jah December 21, 2011 at 8:48 am #

    And I thought the squat was in order to address the core musculature as well as the legs. (something I have not yet experienced in machines.)

    I’ll still hold that there are safe and congruent ways of training both deadlift and squat, which do get results, and which provide superior exercise to most available machines. (that includes much of Nautilus’ equipment)

    • Joe A December 21, 2011 at 10:41 am #

      @Jah

      “And I thought the squat was in order to address the core musculature as well as the legs. (something I have not yet experienced in machines.)”

      I honestly don’t care what any exercise intends to address…if it presents a risk that outweighs its intention, then I avoid subjecting clients to it. I would agree that addressing the “core” on machines is not a common experience. The movement patterns and loading of the RenEx machines incorporate the core…some of the most non-isolated, synergistic exercises I’ve experienced. The “core” is definitely addressed (but that is another topic).

      “I’ll still hold that there are safe and congruent ways of training both deadlift and squat, which do get results, and which provide superior exercise to most available machines. (that includes much of Nautilus’ equipment)”

      Have you read Bill’s manual? I think you may have a different idea of “congruent” than he writes about? While no one is arguing that squats and deadlifts aren’t effective (and maybe even superior to crappy machines), that does not mean they are required to address the involved musculature. Past the intermediate stage in ones lifting career, the loads needed in these lifts present a clear and present danger to the user. Are there ways to make the experience safer? YES (Bill even provides some practical advice to this end in the manual). Is it worth it? That is for each individual to decide for themselves. Bill presents a strong case against loading this way.

  14. robyn bunting December 22, 2011 at 9:07 am #

    First of all, many thanks for this review. I have been going crazy waiting for bill’s new book and ordered today.

    With respect to squats, my only leg exercise [excluding calf work] is the weighted pistol [=one leg squat] which I do holding a kettlebell in the clean position on the side opposite the working leg. Is this also contra-indicated by Bill’s reasoning?

    • Joe A December 22, 2011 at 10:55 am #

      @robyn

      When your manual arrives, this will be clear…but realize that Bill’s “issue” with the barbell squat is not the ‘squat’…it is the ‘barbell’…for reasons he expounds upon within the text. So, once you understand his reasoning for his approach, you’ll better understand how any exercise fits (or not) within it. That said, Bill identifies multiple ‘congruent’ exercises for the lower body and the pistol is not one he specifically addresses.

  15. Joseph Thorpe December 26, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

    Am I correct to assume that ketllebell training would be contraindicated? More specifically, what about the only kettlebell exercise I still do, kettlebell swings?

  16. MC January 1, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

    @Dream

    Do you think you’re pretty safe in terms of exercise/biomechanics if you’re only using your own bodyweight ie. pull ups, push ups, handstand push ups, squats, bridges, leg raises?

    • Anthony Dream Johnson January 2, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

      Biomechanics is biomechanics. It’s not contextual. (So it doesn’t change when the equipment, or any other conditions, change).

      If the exercise is wrong, it’s wrong, and doing it with no equipment will not change that. That said, body weight exercises are on the whole, probably a little safer, but this is incidentally, not intentionally.

      • Mike January 5, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

        The biomechanics of the squat is one of the most basic and fundamental functional open-chain movements of human beings. A baby does when in the womb, what cavemen did to cook, hunt, and gather food, and what we do to get on and off a toilet.

        Are you telling me we can’t take a shit anymore?

        The all encompassing title for the review turns me off. But I understand the sales psychology side of it. Can’t please everyone though.

        A very large percentage of books involving exercise has significant amount of attention paid to the safety involved with risky poor biomechanics. Specifically there is not many exercise books that don’t HIGHLIGHT the POTENTIAL consequences of loading the spine via back squats.

        • Bird January 5, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

          It’s not the squat that is bad, it is the loading of weight onto your spine which is no built properly to handle a top-heavy load that is bad.

        • Joe A January 6, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

          Mike,

          Realizing that Anthony’s post is a review of a book, if you took the time to read said book…it would become clear that your questions RE: squat are completely out of context and irrelevant to the thesis.

          Further, the difference between this book and the “very large percentage of books involving exercise” to which you refer would also become clear.

          Read the book…

        • Ian Wilson April 22, 2017 at 10:09 am #

          True but we didn’t evolve to take a shit with 300 pounds on our back. Bill never tells people not to do an exercise. He simply shows the inherent risks involved, then presents options to avoid those risks. He still advocates squats, but loaded from the hip, not the spine. If you could maintain the curve in your lower back, and brake at 90 degrees with perfect form, you’re unlikely to injure yourself doing squats. But over 30 years of training are you saying every squat you performed were absolutely perfect?

  17. Donnie Hunt January 3, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

    I wanted to add this to my smartass message i posted here. I think me saying I won’t be doing “the king of exercises” was a little much. I do agree with what was said here about continously adding more and more weight over time to the squat could be a bad thing. I would encourage anyone reading this to think about this regarding other exercises as well. I think it was Joe A. here that said he gets all he can out a weight amount before adding more. I know there have been times where i was consumed with adding more weight rather than trying to use a weight that I can actually handle. Personally I prefer a leg press to the squat. I do wonder if there is something positive to loading weight on the shoulders / causing a strength adaption down through the spine, not using crazy weight amounts?

  18. Stuart Gilbert January 4, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    Just bought Bill’s book and am currently reading it….great book. As a 45 year old slowly falling apart through over exercising and bad exercise choices I can see the logic behind his words. Can I just ask …MC…have you, like I also bought Convict Conditioning? The exercises that you listed are the core six that the book promotes. I bought mine after reading about it on the Primal Blueprint forum, from other members who were raving about it. Thought I’d give it a look. This was before encountering this site and Bill’s presentation at the 21 Convention. Now I’m not sure I made the right decision in purchasing that book after starting to read Bill’s. My intentions were good, I was looking for ways to preserve my training longevity. But maybe, I now realise I was looking in the wrong directions.

    • MC January 6, 2012 at 11:44 pm #

      @Stuart Gilbert

      Yes, I have bought Convict Conditioning, but I haven’t had it for very long so I’m in the earlier steps. I really only bought it because I wanted a way to get much stronger using only my bodyweight. I watched Bill’s presentation, and I don’t think I see any danger in performing body weight exercises, but I’ve still yet to read his book.

      I don’t think I’ll find anything in his book that’ll make an exercise in CC no longer safe, and if I do, I’m sure I can tweak it.

      • Joe A January 7, 2012 at 7:01 am #

        @MC

        I think most of the exercises you mentioned above *can* be performed in a manner that is both safe and effective. I have concern with two: bridges and handstand push ups.

        Do you mean bridging with the neck? If so, hell no. If the bridge is supine hip extension, you’ll be just fine.

        Overhead pressing is extremely complicated (biomechanically)…trying to address it upside down even further complicates the exercise. Everyone once in a while, I’ll do a handstand in the middle of my living room and perform handstand pushups…just to impress my kids (they think it is cool)…I would never exercise in this manner, nor would I direct a client to do so.

        You might be better off trying to address the shoulders another way. Doug McGuff, M.D. recently wrote and articles for Mark Sisson’s site: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/setting-yourself-up-to-win-a-body-by-science-approach/#axzz1ilyOO6a0 In it, he describes a bodyweight routine that includes static lateral raises for the shoulder musculature. This is your best bet.

        BTW, if it is not included in the text, you probably should add plank to your bodyweight routine…excellent exercise.

        hope that helps.

        • MC January 7, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

          @Joe A

          The book has 6 different exercises, and each of those 6 exercises has 10 stages. An example of the first stage would be a wall push up, and a tenth stage a one arm push up.

          Each stage has 3 progressions, which just factors in number of sets or reps before you should move onto the next stage.

          You’re required to get to stage 6 on the other four exercises before you even attempt the first stage of bridges and handstand push ups.

          The first stage for bridges is short bridges, until you’re eventually doing stand to stand bridges. In CC they don’t go into neck bridges, but in CC 2 they do discuss training the neck, so that might be in their second book, but I’m not sure.

          The first stage of hand stand push ups is a wall hand stand, Second stage is crow stands. Eventually you’re doing one arm hand stand push ups. I’m not exactly sure what you find dangerous about this?

          The reasoh why I bought this book, is because of it’s detail in progressions. Most people can’t do a one arm hand stand push up. I don’t think I’ve met anyone that could do one. But the book outlines progressions, so that you work your way up to being that strong. I haven’t found another body weight program that comes even close to CC.

          • Joe A January 8, 2012 at 9:28 am #

            @MC

            To be clear, if your goal is to obtain the ability to perform some strength feat (like the one arm hand stand push up), then your progressions make sense and would be necessarily worth the associated risks. You are not only attempting to become stronger, you are attempting to acquire a specific skill.

            This is not the point of exercise though, and the guiding principles are different. Just because because you *can* or *could* do something, doesn’t mean you *should* or *need* to. Safe and effective; do no harm.

            Study the anatomy of the shoulder girdle and the mechanics of moving the arms overhead…it’s complicated. You can get away with a lot, but if you are thinking long-term health of this particular joint, you need to be deliberate with path of movement and range of motion while under load. Attempting to maintain correct alignment while straining upside down is simply unnecessary.

            Further, there is risk to being upside down performing physical exertion. Can it be done? Sure. If that were the only option or if there were a reason to do it, the capability certainly exists. But, in the context of *exercise* and the modern age of technology, I see zero reason to ever perform this movement…certainly, as a trainer, I have no use for such. What’s the point of performing a movement to (hopefully) improve your body, only to detach your retina or cause something more serious?

            Don’t be offended, but I assume you are young (under 30)…I believe that as you age, you’ll be less impressed by these feats and care less about acquiring (or maintaining) the ability to perform them. At some point, you’ll become acutely aware of the long-term implications of everything you do. You’ll be most concerned with being pain-free and functioning well, while performing your ADLs and hobbies.

            Bill’s manual puts perspective on the impact of the totality of one’s exercise program over a lifetime. I’m speaking only from that perspective. Your current goals may supersede your concern for long term impact and that is OK. Just be as safe as you can within the context of what you are doing. Good luck.

            • MC January 8, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

              @Joe A

              Let me post a part of the book:

              “During the handstand pushup, the body instinctively positions itself in a position healthiest to
              the shoulders. The elbows are invariably kept inside the torso, opposite the chest muscles—pushing
              them out to the side feels very strange and makes balancing almost impossible, because the
              body wants to fall forwards in this position. An example of the natural elbows-forwards position
              can be seen in the handstand on the opposite page. Compare this to the elbows-out position of the
              classic barbell press shown below to it. In addition, very deep motions—which would twist the
              humerus and irritate the rotator cuff—are impossible during handstand pushups. You can’t lower
              yourself until the floor is on your shoulders—the inverted equivalent of a shoulder press—for the
              simple reason that the head gets in the way. Even advanced handstanders who descend until their
              chins touch the floor can’t really lower themselves to the point where the rotator cuff muscles are
              mechanically disadvantaged. Plus, the flat hand position is safer than the barbell grip; the flat
              hands distribute pressure evenly, allowing the forearms to strengthen in a healthy, harmonious
              way. Gripping the bar during presses is what causes forearm and elbow problems like tennis
              elbow.”

              Although he does not use the word biomechanics, he does take safety into concideratiobn for all the exercises. I know Drew Baye also designed his body weight equipment to be able to do handstand push ups, using the equipment for assistance. You can in the same way use the wall for assistance in the book, so it’s not as difficult or dangerous as you might think.

              It’s not so much a matter of being impressed by these feats that I’m doing them. It’s something that can help me with the sports I want to compete in, and can be done without the cost of a gym membership or expensive equipment. I also think what I’m doing is probably safer then using weights.

              • Joe A January 8, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

                @MC

                It’s all perspective…if you start by accepting the movement (because it’s your only option, or you just want to do it), then yes, there are safer ways to perform the movement…and I’m sure whoever wrote the book is teaching the best way to do it. That still does not mean it is the best for the joints or the healthiest, in general…just the healthiest way to perform *that* movement.

                A good example of better or worse ways to perform this movement can be found within your last post. First, you quote the author saying the *best* path is instinctive and you can’t even balance in the *wrong* position. But then you talk about a wall…which allows the trainee to move *unnaturally* b/c balance is no longer an issue. So, the wall is actually more problematic. Second, the author talks about proper ROM and grip…then you bring up Drew Baye’s equipment (presumably to defend your choice)…which has the *wrong* grip style and allows the trainee to move into the ROM your author says to avoid (b/c the bars are elevated from the ground).

                Your original question was whether using your own body weight for exercise was pretty safe, biomechanically…and I think it is clear that *safety* is not contingent upon only using your body weight. Safe biomechanics is about sound movement patterns and *how* you perform them. Analyze each movement to determine its efficacy.

                Even if, mechanically, the handstand pushup was sound; you can’t get around the upside down nature of the exercise. You might be able to get away with it unscathed. Another person might stroke. Another person might detach a retina. Another person might ????

                Look, I don’t agree (at all) with Drew’s (or anyone) recommendation of the movement as *exercise*…but I’m not trying to talk you out of it. You want to perform a one-arm handstand press? It is definitely an accomplishment, and if that is your goal, then go for it. However, unless your sport is gymnastic in nature, handstand pushups are not required, nor are they the best way to get at that region of your body. Want to save on gym membership? That makes sense. Is it safer than the way most people lift weights? I can buy that too.

                You don’t need to waste anymore time trying to justify your choice to me (some stranger on the ‘net). Good luck with your goals.

                • MC January 8, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

                  @Joe A

                  I only brought up using the wall to point out that you’re not in danger of falling over as you use the wall to dictate how much of your body weight you’re actually going to lift. It doesn’t put you in a position of moving unnaturally and becomer problematic like you said.

                  I didn’t bring up Drew’s equipment to discuss the ROM, just the use of the wall to help support your weight and prevent you from falling.

                  I think your fear of getting a stroke or detaching a retina is a little over the top.

                  Appreciate the advice though.

                  • Joe A January 8, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

                    @MC

                    The wall helps you balance, i.e. prevents you from falling over, i.e. allows you to do perform something you otherwise are incapable of. Not falling over does not equal safer. According to your own source, the need to balance is a key to maintaining proper alignment. So, if you artificially supply the balance, you most certainly *can* get away with technique and form that is bad (as described by your text). It doesn’t “put you in a position of moving unnaturally”, but rather *allows* you to do so…which is a problem b/c you have to be more deliberate with your performance. This is obvious to anyone who has performed the movement. I have a ton of experience with handstand pushups (gymnastics, wrestling, showing off). I do not speak from a theoretical platform.

                    Your continued use of the word “dangerous” and now “fear” make me think you misunderstand my point. With my own training, and for sure when I put a client under load, I’m trying to mitigate risks; control as many variables as I can…unnecessarily subjecting a client (or myself) to an elevated risk that can be avoided is negligent (whether the risk is a strain or stroke). It is negligent to recommend this movement as *exercise* b/c of the risks inherent.

                    But, like I said previously, you can (and probably will) get away with it. Everyone eludes risk…until they don’t, though.

                    • MC January 8, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

                      @Joe A

                      “According to your own source, the need to balance is a key to maintaining proper alignment. So, if you artificially supply the balance, you most certainly *can* get away with technique and form that is bad (as described by your text). It doesn’t “put you in a position of moving unnaturally”, but rather *allows* you to do so…which is a problem b/c you have to be more deliberate with your performance.”

                      Assuming you decide to not follow the instructions in the book or even look at how you’re supposed to do it, then sure, I guess you can do the exercise wrong or “allow” yourself to move unnaturally.

                      I don’t see why being deliberate in your performance is a bad thing. Isn’t that exactly the point of looking at biomechanics in the first place?

                      “It is negligent to recommend this movement as *exercise* b/c of the risks inherent.”

                      The only risks I see come from doing the exercise improperly, like any other exercise. And doing it before you’re ready and haven’t built up the strength to lift that kind of weight is addressed through the progressions in the book. It takes 6 months before you even attempt a hand stand if you follow the book properly.

                      I wouldn’t recommend anyone just jump in and start doing handstand push ups.

  19. donnie hunt January 5, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

    If you keep adding weight to an exercise like the squat, wouldn’t this be akin to adding weight to pushups done on your fingertips?

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