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Boring but Big 3 Month Challenge - Results / Review


#1

Three months ago I decided to return to Wendler 531 and set my eyes on the BBB 3 month challenge.

I used standard 531 back in 2015/2016 and didn’t have much luck with it due to my own fault for not following the program properly.

I was running 531 along with PR sets , jokers , FSL and BBB all at once which obviously was a recipe for disaster … I then tried to foolishly combine 531 with german volume training …

No wonder I was struggling to make any gains and feeling run down as hell…

Eventually I gave up 531 and have been following a basic upper / lower bodybuilding routine for the past couple of years …

But I finally decided to return to 531 and this time to do it properly…

The only thing I added to it was weighted chin ups and bodyweight chin ups which I believe was recommended anyway

So here’s my review and results on the BBB 3 month challenge…

Starting weight 83kg at 6’1

Training maxes (90% of tested 1rm)

Please note that this does not include the bar weight …

Bench - 85 kg
Squat - 100 kg
Deadlift - 180 kg
Military Press - 50 kg

I decided to run the opposing lifts version which keeps my frequency at twice per week for each lift.

MONDAY
Bench press 531
Military Press BBB
Weighted chin ups (reverse pyramid)

TUESDAY
Squat 531
Deadlift BBB

WEDNESDAY
Rest or cardio

THURSDAY
Military Press 531
Bench press BBB
Bodyweight chin ups (5 - 6 sets)

FRIDAY
Deadlift 531
Squat BBB

The first month as I was expecting was very easy at 50% …

My 50% BBB weights were:

Bench - 42.5 kg (not counting bar)
Military Press - 25 kg (not counting bar)
Squat - 50 kg (not counting bar)
Deadlift - 90kg (not counting bar)

On my main 531 lift I was very tempted to push for PRs but refrained from doing so as the program says not to - “this actually proved to be very good for me as the program went on”

I was in and out of the gym very quickly on 50% month and often felt anxious and worried that I hadn’t done enough.

Month 2 at 60% was actually harder than I anticipated and found myself taking much longer rests between sets on my BBB…

My 60% BBB weights were:

Bench - 52.5 kg (not counting bar)
Military Press - 32.5 kg (not counting bar)
Squat - 62.5 kg (not counting bar)
Deadlift - 110 kg (not counting bar)

I got through all of it but it seriously made me worry that I would not survive the 3rd month …

As month 2 progressed it did become a bit easier to get through the 5x10 @ 60% and the reps became much cleaner as I adjusted to the new load…

I finished cycle 2 successfully and was still feeling very nervous about what was to come in the 3rd month …

Month 3 at 70% arrived and things got absolutely brutal …

I had to take like 5 - 8 minutes between sets to get through it and I felt guilty for hogging the squat rack and bench for such a long time.

My 70% BBB weights were :

Bench - 62.5 kg (not counting bar)
Military Press - 37.5 kg (not counting bar)
Squat - 77.5 kg (not counting bar)
Deadlift - 135 kg (not counting bar)

To my amazement I actually got through it all in the first week but there were a lot of real grinders and sloppy form…

The only lift where I failed to get the full 5x10 was on bench press where it went something like - 10 , 8 , 7 , 6 , 5 , 5 , 5 , 4

However this improved a lot in the following 2 weeks …

On week 2 I felt myself adjusting to the new workload … it was still absolutely killing me and I still had to take very long rests between sets … but the rep quality got much better.

I completed the full 5x10 again on every lift apart from bench press again.

Although I still didn’t get the full 5x10 on bench press it did go much better this week as the sets went - 10 , 10 , 10 , 9 , 7 , 5

Week 3 finally arrived and this was all out war … I felt very strong this week and was ready for a fight.

I figured I’d go balls to the wall this week as it was the last week of the challenge…

I hit all the 5x10 on every lift and even managed to do 6x10 for military Press and deadlift…

The only lift where I didn’t quite get 5x10 was the bench press again… I was just one measly rep short of doing it

This time it went 10 , 10 , 10 , 10 , 9

After that 9th rep I racked the barbell for 15 seconds and then cranked out 3 more reps … giving me a total of 52

For the sake of 1 rep I’m still claiming this one as a victory though …

During this final week I seemed to get an extra surge of strength or something …

My main 531 sets were feeling very strong and I kept cranking out an extra rep here and there just because I couldn’t resist it…

I hit a few PRs during this week on squat and military Press … just because it was the final week and I really wanted to go out with a bang …

My final training maxes were …

Bench - 90 kg (not counting bar)
Squat - 110 kg (not counting bar)
Deadlift - 190 kg (not counting bar)
Military Press - 55 kg (not counting bar)

MY RESULTS …

Weight is now up to 85kg

My Squat and Military Press have really responded amazingly well to this challenge …

I’m actually shocked as they were my 2 weaker lifts of the 4 yet they have made the most progress …

Obviously it’s very minor gains in strength at the moment as it’s only a 3 month program … but I can tell I am stronger and more confident under the bar.

I notice my rep quality is greatly improved on everything and I actually feel like sticking to the prescribed reps has made me stronger and more confident in the main 531 sets …

Visually I definitely look bigger … I can still see my abs so there’s not much in the way of fat gain …

My shoulders look a bit more capped out and my back is looking huge after all those damn chin ups and high volume deadlifts …

I’m honestly amazed that I completed 5x10 at 70% on all my lifts…

But my body is definitely screaming for a deload …

There’s no way I’d be able to maintain that volume and intensity for any length of time before burning out …

As for the future … I’m sticking with 531 for sure and after this deload I’m going to run a few regular cycles of 531 with PR sets and FSL 5x5

Then I’ve got my eyes set on the Boring but strong challenge which I will run with 5s pro …

For anyone thinking about doing the BBB 3 month challenge here’s a few pointers that I found helpful

  • eat eat and eat
  • rest as long as you need in order to get the full 5x10
  • You might not be very popular as you’ll be hogging the squat rack and bench for ages in month 3
  • Keep it simple and don’t add any fluff and stuff
  • Enjoy the first month and take it as a time to refine your form and enjoy the movement
  • If you do fail on 5x10 just add extra sets until you hit 50 reps
  • Do chin ups … lots of chin ups
  • Make sure you take your deload weeks and just do 3x10 for your bbb on deloads
  • Use a pre workout on the final month

I think that about sums it up …

It’s worth noting that my chin ups have also improved slightly over the 3 months challenge …

I’m now hitting 5 chest to bar chin ups with a 25 kg plate which is good …

The full log is on here if you want to see the details of each workout …

Also feel free to ask any questions …

Hope my experience has been entertaining…


#2

Interesting read. I do like seeing this approach to quantifying training effect.

I’m not sure why you don’t include the weight of the bar though? Seems odd to me, is there a reason?


#3

not counting the bar weight is just a bad force of habit …

Plus I’m not exactly sure what the exact weight of an Olympic bar is … I believe it’s about 22.5 kg isn’t it ?

I just find it easier to keep track of things when I’m just looking at plates on the bar


#4

An Olympic bar is 20kg. Specialist bars such as a deadlift bar, spider bar etc are usually 25 kg.


#5

For future runs with BBB, I really recommend trying to do the sets the way Wendler recommends in his BBB Beefcake blog post (and other places). That specific version uses BBB at FSL weights but the same idea can apply to straight 50-60% sets or whatever you prefer.

With that, you should always be aiming to complete the 5x10 sets within 20 min. For sauat and deadlift, you just do the 5x10 sets. For bench and press, each BBB set is supersetted with a set of rows, for 5x10 rows total. And that’s all to be done in the 20 min timeframe as well.

It’s a great way to know you’re keeping your TM in line, and another way of really learning that working with a lower TM can be beneficial.

I’m wrapping up my first cycle now and generally finishing the BBB/rows portion in 15-17min. It’s obviously not easy but doesn’t run you into the ground, and it sure beats spending 30-40min total just resting between sets.


#6

Thanks for the advice … I’ll definitely be running BBB again in the future so that will make a good variation to try…

I’m rather sick of sets of 10 right now so I’m glad to see the back of them at the moment lol

There’s a ton of BBB variations in Beyond so I feel spoilt for choice …

Right now I’m just going to adjust my training max a little lighter and just do some basic 531 with PRs and FSL 5x5

I really want to try BBS after that


#7

I’m on week 3 of BBB outline in the 2nd edition book. I love it but as I’ve said in other posts I like to refer to it as Brutal but big. I have seen a big difference already, which I allot to coming back into this after 10+ yrs not training. I learned early that eating is definitely key. I eat constantly and if I slack on my nutrition I can tell when I go to the gym to train. I also make sure to do all the mobility work Jim outlines as well as some others that people on here have told me about. This has helped tremendously on recovery as well as keeping my form for squats and deads especially. Definitely an amazing program with tons of variations to try.