I remember the last time I ran Deep Water it effectively traumatized me. I had a cut-off Punisher t-shirt I wore for every squat day on the program that I had to get rid of once it was all over because it was so saturated with fear sweat that it smelled like an open grave and NO amount of washing could get the smell out. I walked like a toy soldier 6 days a week while I waited for the soreness to go away, I constantly had to field the question of “are you ok?”, my wife frequently found me on the floor in the garage with my head propped up on a furniture dolly to prevent me from drowning in my own sweat, I learned to take an excederin between sets 7 and 8 of the squat workout to chase away the inevitable exertion headache that ALWAYS happened (followed by a Rockstar right after the workout), and I remember “running out of time” on my lunch breaks, just eating as soon as the window opened and stopping when my break was over, HOPING I had put away enough food to recover from my previous workout and be able to train for the next one. I also remember saying on multiple occasions that it was the most effective program I had run in 21 years, and that’s what I had to remind myself when I decided to take it on again.
And, of course, me being me, I couldn’t just do the same thing twice, so I’m going to start this review talking about all the stuff I did that was DIFFERENT from before, and how that worked out for me.
Without further ado…
Since I’ve already run this program before, I allowed myself to play around and experiment. BUT, along with that, my schedule forced me to deviate quite a bit as well. Specifically, I had 2 one week interruptions within the 6 weeks of the program: one a visit to my in-laws, and one a work trip. I STILL wanted the program to take around 6 weeks to complete, which meant I took on the task of running the program WITHOUT days off. I’d run 5 days of week 1, then 5 days of week 2, then 5 days of week 3, etc. I figured the 14 total days off would give me enough of a break to recover from that. It shook out that my 1 week break occurred between week 2 and 3, and between week 5 and 6. During those weeks off, I did a TON of conditioning work, using a weighted vest and a kettlebell while at my in-laws (to include a 100 burpee workout with an 80lb vest and some other terrible WODs) and bodyweight and bands during my work trip (reference my recently posted “Hotel Room Conditioning Insanity” post, which included 2 different 500 burpee workouts among other variants).
On top of that, here are other ways I deviated.
• I kept up my daily work. Every day, I did 50 chins, 50 dips, 50 band pull aparts, 40 reverse hypers, 30 GHRs, 25 band pushdowns, 20 standing ab wheels, and 11 neck bridges in 4 different directions. Exceptions being, if a movement was featured in a Deep Water workout, I wouldn’t do it as part of the daily work.
• I continued doing conditioning daily, and frequently multiple times a day. I rotated through a variety of Crossfit style WODs, to include Grace, Fran, Legion of Doom, Black and Blue, 30 thrusters for time w/135lbs, and just other nasty things with barbells, kettlebells, and burpees. I’d include some running and weighted vest walks as well. For the ACTUAL conditioning day of Deep Water, I’d do the Juarez Valley front squat workout. I actually found that I recovered FASTER by forcing myself to do a lot of conditioning with an emphasis on squatting.
• On that note, for the “technique work” on the Deep Water days, I took to including those 30 total reps into a WOD, done later in the day. For squats, I was a fan of doing 10-5-15 of squats at 275, chins and dips, and then for deadlifts I’d do 12-9-6-3 of deadlifts, chins and dips, always trying to beat time. It was a good way to kill 2 birds with one stone: get in the reps, practice technique, and get in conditioning.
• I added significant work to the back day. I did all the prescribed work, but also added a high rep set of axle shrugs against bands (starting at 75 and working up to 100 total reps), a set of kroc rows, and 50 band pull aparts.
• On press days, I stuck with my lateral raise dropset and Poundstone curls vs the prescribed sets and reps for lateral raises and curls. I also tended to include band pull aparts between presses, as they made my shoulder feel better.
• Instead of hyperextensions and sit ups, I would do a circuit of reverse hypers and standing ab wheel.
• All presses done with an axle, taken from the floor and pressed away.
• Benching and close grip was done with an axle: incline was done with dumbbells.
• Lunges were done with a safety squat bar.
I honestly stuck very close to what Jon prescribed. Organic whenever possible, high quality nutrition sources. Still went “Deep Mountain” in that, if I allowed myself variance, it was typically something John Meadows was ok with. This meant a daily inclusion of some dark chocolate…and honestly that’s about it. I tried including wild blueberries in my diet, but they were wrecking my guts, so I dropped them. And honestly, I was eating so much food through this process I lost my appetite for “treats”. In 2019, I was eating 4 quest bars a day, and now I was at the point where I’d eat one every 2-3 days. I preferred tuna for a quick protein dose. My wife and I’s favorite local pizza place has a keto crust pizza that is really top notch, but I found myself going for the bone in wings in the program. I just wanted more food to recover and couldn’t find a reason to eat any junk. After 12 weeks of BBB Beefcake and Building the Monolith, I think I was just getting burnt out from food and was becoming robotic about it. That having been said, the program and all the conditioning drove my appetite to even crazier levels, and I was pretty much eating every half hour on shift at work.
SNAPSHOT: DAY IN THE LIFE
People seem to find this fascinating, so I’ll write it up. I’m a shift worker, so this was a day I was coming off night shift, working from 2200-0600.
• 0630: Arrive home, eat 2 whole organic free range eggs, 1 egg white, 2.25oz of grassfed beef, grassfed butter, fat free cheese and half an avocado all on an “egglife” wrap smeared with organic no sugar added sunbutter as a breakfast burrito w/organic sour cream. 2 small Birch Bender keto pancakes with nuts n more spread and sugar free raspberry preserves.
• 0700-0815 Deep Water back workout Week 5 w/aforementioned adjustments
• 0820: 9oz of Eggwhites Intentional drinkable egg whites mixed with 1 scoop of whey protein and amazing grass greens supplement.
• 0850: ¾ cup of fat free skyr mixed with a protein scooper full of Naked PB peanut flour, cinnamon, and salt
• 0900-1515: Sleep
• 1530: 30 thrusters w/135lbs done for time (got it done in 3min 54sec)
• 1630: 2 piedmontese beef jr hot dogs on 2 natural ovens keto hot dog buns, each slathered with 1/6 of an avocado, some sugar free ketchup, mustard, and topped with fat free shredded cheddar cheese, side of 5 asparagus spears with some mashed cauliflower. Hot dog night is a Tuesday tradition at my house stemming from a tight connection between when my wife gets off work and when my kid needs to get to sports practice. Otherwise, this tends to be unprocessed meat and veggies. However, the piedmontese hot dogs are about as high quality of a hot dog as you’ll ever find.
• 2000: 1/3 cup of lowfat grassfed cottage cheese mixed with 2 whole organic free range eggs, 1.75oz of grassfed ground beef and 1/6 of an avocado, 3 celery stalks topped with Nuts n More spread, a slice of keto bread with almond butter and sugar free raspberry preservers, 1 cup of unsweetened almond/coconut milk
• 2100: 5 rounds of: 10 power cleans w/135lbs, 10 burpees (time: 9:54)
• 2200: Arrive at work, eat 1 Lite n Fit fat free greek yogurt and 1 Oikos triple zero fat free greek yogurt
• 2230: 1 mini dark chocolate Reese’s peanut butter cup
• 2300: Sandwich: 2 slices of Natural Oven’s keto bread with Miracle Whip light and mustard, 2 slices of organic turkey, 1 slice of extra lean ham, pickle, lettuce, tomato and a slice of fat free cheese.
• 2330: Lilly’s dark chocolate no sugar added peanut butter cup
• 0000: Ahi tuna pack (26 grams of protein, 1g fat, no carbs)
• 0030: 1 slice of organic turkey deli meat, 3 asparagus spears, 5 organic mini carrots
• 0100: Low carb spaghetti (Costco “Healthy Noodles”: 30 calories a serving, 5 carbs mixed with organic ground turkey, no sugar added red sauce and mushrooms)
• 0130: 6 walnuts, 6 macadamia nuts, 1 60 calorie square of 92% dark chocolate
• 0200: Same as the 0030 meal
• 0300: 6oz of seafood mix (mussels, octopus, squid, surimi, shrimp) mixed with mashed cauliflower and greenbeans
• 0400: Archer Farms zero sugar grassfed beef jerky
RESULTS, OUTCOMES AND EXPERIENCES
On the final day of the program, I set a front squat rep PR of 225 for 15, done first thing in the morning at 0330, with at least one more rep in the tank. This was part of my Juarez Valley conditioning protocol, and done AFTER a week off from weights due to work travel. In turn, this speaks to just how “on” this program got me, because I hit a 500 burpee workout on the day I traveled back from work to home and then got up at 0530 the next day and crushed the week 6 10x10 deadlift workout with 2:00 rests. Lotta folks talk about feeling weaker after a deload/week off, but every time I go to the well I keep finding more and more.
I wrote about this in the nutrition section, but to repeat: I have been eating so much that I’m just plain sick of it. The first time I ran the program, I was obeying the idea of “eat a lot of meat and fat”, but wasn’t abiding by “organic”, and I was eating a LOT of saturated (and trans) fats. This time around, I slashed saturated and got them from quality sources and focused more on monos. It’s meant eating so much all the time that there’s no room for junk. In fact, one night, my wife asked me what I wanted for dinner and my answer was legitimately “Nothing”. THAT was my “cheat meal”. The first time I ran the program, I’d have a cheat meal each week the night before the lower body workouts, and typically it was Panda Express with a LOT of rice and orange chicken. This time, I had zero craving for junk, and my “cheat meal” was typically chicken wings and 3 or 4 of my wife’s curly fries at the local restaurant we like. I also had a 2lb tomahawk ribeye to celebrate a few things all at once coming back from my work trip, which I ate off the bone caveman style and found myself STILL looking for more meat when I was done.
Berserker shirt worn on purpose
And despite all this eating, I put on no appreciable amount of bodyfat. Again: still not weighing myself, but I have the after photos AND my powerlifting belt, which has STILL not moved a notch from when I started at 177lbs back in Oct. I’ve had days where I was bloated and it felt snug, and days where it’s fit just right, but I’ve NEVER had a day where it simply wouldn’t latch, whereas typically I’m operating at LEAST one notch out from this point when I’m really chasing bodyweight and eating big.
Once again: aggression and libido took an uptick while on the program. Finding myself drawn to combat sports yet again, and though options are limited, just the fact I wanna fight again is a sign of all that.
Coming into the program with a solid conditioning base was huge. I completely blew away my old squatting numbers on the program and never once had to lay down on the floor like I did the first time. My breathing was able to get back to normal much quicker than before, as was my heart rate. I’ll keep beating this drum: conditioning matters.
I did notice my times on the Grace WOD got worse through the program, but I attribute that to how much more fatigue I was carrying compared to the 5/3/1 programs, which checks out. Jim writes programs for athletes, with the understanding that the weights are just a part of what you’re doing, so it manages fatigue and has room to play as far as conditioning goes. Deep Water is supposed to be all inclusive, so taking onto it like I did is gonna come with some consequences.
IMPRESSIONS ON HOW EVERYTHING HAS FIT TOGETHER
When I originally came up with the 26 week protocol of BBB Beefcake-Building the Monolith-Deep Water, it was honestly a bit of a “so there!”: just something to throw out and shut someone up if they didn’t know how to eat and train. But going through it, I’m really pretty pleased with how it all fits together. BBB Beefcake lays down a GREAT foundation to kick-start the whole time off. You get to practice a lot of reps and develop some solid conditioning with the time constraints, and you have plenty of opportunities to get in more conditioning. Meanwhile, the weight is on the lighter side, so you aren’t thrashing your connective tissues or digging too deep into your CNS recovery well (yeah yeah, CNS boogieman: you know what I mean).
BtM comes along and it’s SUPPOSED to be “5/3/1 for Size”, and though it DOES do that, it’s really like an intensification block from BBB Beefcake. You’re lifting heavier weights for fewer reps and getting in most of your hypertrophy work in the assistance stuff. The 5s pro in BBB Beefcake meant only hitting heavy work for 1 REAL set, but BtM has you hitting 3-5 sets across: it’s INTENSE. Meanwhile, widowmakers are building up some high rep squatting ability, and the conditioning element to it is teaching you how to recover from intense work.
Deep Water comes along and kicks you straight in the junk, BUT, all that work from 5/3/1 has you ready for it. When I first ran Deep Water, I wasn’t really doing anything intense beforehand, coming off of strongman comp preparation vs real accumulation work, and it broke me down HARD. But coming off BBB Beefcake I was already doing HALF the program on the regular (5x10 vs 10x10), while BtM gave me a bit of a break from that to focus on getting stronger but not so much that I lost my touch for high rep sets, and throughout all that time I had been driving my conditioning so far into the red that I was totally prepared. I also had a fairly good idea what weight was challenging for me for a set of 10 from BBB Beefcake, so there wasn’t any real need for 1rm testing and minimal guesswork. This went from just a wild guess to something VERY viable, and may become a regular-ish thing.
Deep Water intermediate, with more deviance. Since I still don’t really have a solid grasp of my 1rm, nor any intention to test it, I’m going to pick challenging weights to concur, and then smash myself with conditioning until something breaks. After that, I’m going to take a break from eating so much goddamn food. I’m contemplating some DoggCrapp style training, as I think single hard set work will be an excellent contrast to this super high volume stuff, and the variety of movements will be good to balance so much time spent doing the same thing.