Get Combat Ready (Interview with Mark Lauren, Author of You Are Your Own Gym)

Written By: Todd Kuslikis
September 09, 2015

Today’s Expert Interview is with fitness superstar Mark Lauren, author of the bestseller you are your own gym. Mark believes that our bodies are the only tools we need to get fit. He uses his extensive experience in military training to show us how to get the most out of these advanced flesh and bones war machines we all have.

Talk to us about yourself, your experience in the military and what you do now.

Mark Lauren hanging leg raiseI spent 8 years as an active duty Combat Controller. For the last three years of my active duty career, I was an instructor and helped run our selection courses, mainly creating and implementing new physical training programs. I continued training special operations troops as a contractor both stateside and abroad in Iraq and Afghanistan until 2012. Now, I work full time creating fitness books, DVDs, and digital products for the general public using my experience from the SOF community.

Body image was your main motivation to start working out as a teenager, now you advocate exercising for functional value in daily life, could we say that some reasons to exercise are better than others?

Mark Lauren asanaI know now that the best way to get an attractive physique is to train for physical ability and through proper nutrition. Regardless if you want an attractive body or athleticism, you need a balanced training plan, or you’ll soon end up with dysfunction and injuries. Motivation is motivation. Just remember that the high levels of stress needed to bring about significant changes in appearance or performance should be applied smartly, if injuries and dysfunction are to be avoided.

How does bodyweight training prepare troops for combat?

Mark Lauren roach marchWhen used correctly, functional training of any sort should improve the user’s ability to maintain ideal joint alignment while moving through all planes of motion. Mobility and stability are improved so that better movement patterns can be developed. 



When you take on new clients as a trainer, what are the fundamentals that you have to work on most often?

Mark Lauren military trainingThe fundamentals are the same for everyone. We lay the groundwork by developing the ability to perform the isolated functions of the body (i.e. internal/external rotation of the limbs, anterior/posterior tilting of the scapula, etc.), the developmental movements from the lying to kneeling to standing positions, and the more complex movement patterns in and between the three planes of motion by training the various ways of squatting, lunging, hip hinging, and step ups.

We keep hearing about all these diet fads, what are the fundamentals of nutrition that you think everyone should follow?

Knee Health Score 2

Mark Lauren push upEat a fairly balanced split of macronutrients and control the amount of processed carbs that are consumed depending on your body type, training volume/intensity, and goals. If you’re cutting weight, don’t drink calories and get your carbs from mostly non-starchy vegetables.

You’ve been trough Special Ops training, triathlons, and Thai Boxing fights among other demanding athletic events, what were some differences between these experiences and which was the most physically exhausting?

Mark Lauren The selection course to get into the community was without a doubt the most challenging. You could quit at any time and training was from 5am to 6pm every day. Every event was either a go or no-go. For every under water breath holding event, you had three choices- do it exactly correct, quit the program, or pass out trying. If you pass out, you get pulled out, and once you recover, you go back in the pool to face the same three choices for that event. Just like a real world operation, every event was do or die/ succeed or fail.

What did you learn from failing recruit training the first time around, and how can people maintain motivation to pursue their fitness goals even in the face of “failure”?

Mark Lauren hand stand push upWhether something is good or bad is nothing more than your opinion, and you can control your opinions. Your attitude is the one thing that is always within your control. Know exactly what you want, but be okay without it. And don’t give up, because quitting quickly becomes a habit.


Your book Body By You is written mainly for women, what’s the difference between women and men fitness?

Mark Lauren photoshoot There is none, except that women need a more progressive strength training program than men. Body By You gives a strength training program that I myself used for 18 months. It begins with an evaluation to place the user in each movement category- squatting, pushing, hip hinging, pulling. Each time the user can do the required number of reps for each set, the user advances to the next harder exercise for that movement category. There are 25 steps for each movement category. The program also fluctuates in training volume and intensity as the user progresses.
If you could use only five bodyweight exercises to get a team as close as possible to combat ready, what would they be?

Mark Lauren pistol squatI would perfect some of the most basic variations of squatting, lunging, hip hinging, step ups, and pulling with an emphasis on mobility and correct movement patterns. Performance is highly task specific, so the ability to maintain ideal joint alignment while moving through the three planes of motion with gear on will be primarily a function of having the flexibility to get into the right positions and drilling the actual tasks needed for combat. The best thing to improve performance will be to duplicate the tasks being trained for as closely as possible. The principle of specificity reigns supreme- you only get good at what you do. Lay the foundation with the basic movements, and then drill with mind numbing repetition the actual tasks being trained for.



Thank You Mark, this was some solid distilled wisdom. I really enjoyed this and I’m sure my readers will enjoy it as well.

-Bodyweight Todd

Mark Lauren on Youtube

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