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Deepwater Beginner/Intermediate Review

Being one day removed from the Deepwater Intermediate program, I figured doing a write up of my past 12 weeks of training would be warranted, solely due to trying to encourage more people to buckle in and give this program a run. It is intense both mentally and physically and I feel EXTREMELY accomplished for making it through.

I have been lifting for roughly 3 years, doing mostly 531 templates. My most recent lifts from the last 531 anchor were

Squat- 370x1/320x6/235x20
DL- 405x1/345x9/365x6
Bench- 205x1 (was doing incline during 531, but hit 205 for DW max testing)/180x8
OHP- 135x1 (again, done in max testing. This is the first time in a couple years I’ve done standing BB OHP)/90x12

After Deepwater Intermediate numbers…

Squat- 8 sets to 100 reps at 265lb
DL- 8 sets to 100 reps at 300lb
Flat bench- 2x10, 1x9 at 180lb
OHP- 8 sets to 83 reps at 105lb
Incline press went from 3x10 at 115 to 3x10 at 135
CGBP went from 3x10 at 135 to 3x10 at 155
Powercleans- 8 sets to 100 reps at 145lb

Throughout the past year or so, my pressing had seemed to have stagnated and I was ready to move on from 531 for a while to try something different. I was eyeballing deepwater for about a year and always knew I wanted to run it in its entirety at some point, and after my last anchor cycle of 531 I decided to commit to it. I was honestly afraid of commiting in my log due to people holding me accountable for actually running it, but I made the post and I was locked in.

I decided to keep the lifting days close to how Jon Andersen outlines them in the book. I did Friday through Monday, and opted to “skip” the medium intensity active recovery day due to my lifestyle and career. The active recovery is something I wish I did from day one, and next time I run these programs I will be including it.

I also tried to keep my diet as close as possible to how it is laid out in the book. I was eating mostly whole foods, no direct carb sources and a decent amount of leafy green vegetables. My one “cheat” was using whole milk and protein powder as a sort of buffer before breakfast, and between lunch and dinner. At most, I’d go through nearly a half gallon through beginners, but during intermediate I was taking in not nearly as much.

My typical day of eating, regardless of lifting was…

Wake up
Milk and.protein powder

4 eggs
6 slices of bacon

Multiple spoonfuls of peanut butter

1/2-3/4lb lean ground beef
2 scoops organic sour cream
Cheddar cheese

Milk and.protein powder

Post workout/dinner
Cut of beef (strip steaks, ribeyes, ground beef, flank steak etc)
Sour cream
Large green salad with fatty dressing


6-8 eggs with a side of lean ground beef
Large green salad with fatty dressing

I didn’t track calories or.macros and I didn’t limit the amount I was eating. I ate intuitively the entire time and it worked out perfectly for me.

DW Beginner

Day one is a slap in the face. After the first 5 or 6 sets of squats, dread sets in and I wondered why the hell I wanted to run the program. I ended the first day on my back after the ab work just laying there in a pool of regret. The next few days of work are about as intense, but there is something about 10x10 squats that just sucks so much more.

After a couple weeks, the rest times are lowered during the 10x10 work. At this point, things actually start to ramp up. It is a legitimate battle between body and mind in order to get the work done. Lots of swearing, head in hands and again, more regret.

The final two weeks are (what I thought to be) the most intense physical work I had ever done. Weeks 5 and 6 are 10x10 with 2 minutes rest between sets. It is BRUTAL. The DOMS does not go away, and I had to find a way to just work through it.

I did not deload in these 12 weeks, so after beginners I went straight into…

Deepwater Intermediate

At this point, I thought I could conquer the world. I was feeling confident. The first 2 weeks are laid out similarly to beginners, but the final 4 are a different type of evil.

Weeks 3 and 4, Jon has you take out a set of the 10x10 but still wants his 100 reps. Also, you go from a 70% working weight to 80%. This is where things get crazy. You can spread out the suck, or try to bang out as many reps as you can in as few sets as possible, then finish with less reps the final sets. I opted for the latter just due to the fact that I wanted to shittiest part over with ASAP.

Weeks 5 and 6, he has you keep your 80% working weight, still wants 100 reps, but in 8 sets. These two weeks were pure hell. I was having physical anxiety between sets. My mind was made up that I was going to complete the workouts, but my body was begging me not to.

Last set of 5th week squats, 265lb

First and last set of 6th weeks deadlifts. 300x17, 300x11


The initial spike in volume in DW beginners was exactly what I was looking for. I immediately saw muscle size gains in my arms, shoulders, traps and legs. It didn’t seem to be as noticable in the intermediate program, but I am pleased nonetheless. I ended the two programs weighing 205 (this morning) down from a previous high of 212-214ish at the end of my 531 anchor, with a low of 206 before starting Deepwater. I had to bring in my lifting belt one notch this week, so I seem to have lost some girth around my midsection as well.

I’ve definitely gotten stronger at higher rep squats and deads, and it seems like my pressing, imcluding flat, CGBP, incline and OHP/push press have gotten stronger as well. I also started “power cleaning”, but my form is shit so it’s something to work on in the future.

My top end strength has likely suffered a bit, but since my 1RMs are so low, I’m not worried about it. I have plenty of time to get back to more strength focused programs at a later time. I’m hoping that learning the ability to grind out reps will translate to being able to move higher percentages when the time comes.

I want to give a bit of a shout-out to @T3hPwnisher for helping me through this. He was in my log, giving out advice and recommendations through the whole 12 weeks. It was very cool for me to have someone super experienced in my corner helping to guide me through the motions. Thanks dude.

Also, I wanted to thank every single person that has dropped in the log lately to give some encouragement or to check out the food. It really is an awesome community here, and a super positive one too. Thank you guys (and girls).


Deepwater advanced.


When you tested your training maxes for beginner… did you test again before switching to intermediate? Or just continue to use those original maxes?

I just went straight through from beginner to intermediate, all the 10x10 work is “70%” of a 10RM (I used a different way to get my numbers, basically adding weight until it sucked), and then calculated the 80% weights off of my previous numbers

So for deadlift, beginners I used 265lb for the 10x10 which should be 70% of a 10RM…



Great write up dude! You did a fantastic job all the way through the program and showed some amazing grit. Glad to see the transformation: physical and otherwise.


Speaking of transformation, did you happen to take any before/after photos?

Sort of- I’m in the Transformation challenge. I took my entry picture the last week of my final 531 anchor, so 2 weeks before starting Deep water. I am starting to restrict calories this week through the 3-4 weeks of deepwater advanced I’m going to run so I planned on taking some after pictures at that time, so probably the first week or two of May. I can upload a side by side here if anyone would be interested though


Awesome journey, I’ve enjoyed following and have a deep respect for your dedication.
What’s the overall premise of advanced? It’s less structured, isn’t it, relying more on your newfound ability to push yourself into portals of pain?
And remind me again how fat loss and wedding prep tie in with advanced - is it not a mass-building program?

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Absolutely awesome work man.

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I really appreciate that man, thank you

From what I understand so far, yeah that’s the basic layout of it. Way less volume that beginner and intermediate but intensity gets jacked up to 11. Pretty much working up to a top set of 5, then two amrap back off sets based on a percentage of your top set on the deep water days, and there are non-deep water days just hitting 5x10 on a few exercises. Bench day is almost identical to the last 12 weeks as well.

It is actually super intuitive the way Jon sets up these programs. They blend into one another so well. You learn how to push yourself further through each 6 week block, culminating in this crazy amrap fest.

Yeah so I have been slightly restricting calories this week so far. Not a crazy amount because I want to recover from last weekends lifting, but once I get into advanced I’ll start getting a little more strict. With advanced, the total volume of the deep water days is going to be a good amount lower than the last 12 weeks so I can likely get away with not eating as much.

From the way @T3hPwnisher described it to me (correct me if I’m wrong), advanced doesn’t have the same muscle building stimulus as the first two and is more of a way to jack up intensity instead of just hammering volume.

Thank you man!

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Yup. You can see it just by looking at the two programs. Beginner and intermediate has 8-10 hard worksets on the Deep Water days, Advanced is 3. You dig DEEP on those 3 sets, but they’re only going to generate so much hypertrophy COMPARED to beginner and intermediate. But that’s solid periodization right there: accumulate for 12 weeks, intensify for 6.


@wanna_be @jdm135

I decided to just take a picture this morning since there is no reason for me not to. Weighed in at 208 before the pic (minus pants), so whether 208 or 205 is a better indication of what I weigh, I’m not sure. I haven’t been weighing myself very often.

I’ll be using this “after” pic as a progress marker for the restriction portion. I honestly just want to continue gaining, but I know that I should lose some fat first.

Left is Transformation photo, right hand photo is just about 12 weeks later.

The main thing that sticks out to me is traps, but it looks like abs and overall leanness are on a good trend too.


Absolutely. And pecs too. You’re looking good.

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I’m not even sorry I had to bump the thread. I some how missed this originally.

Great work man. Deepwater looks scary and you have my absolute respect for starting and finishing.

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I gotta admit that although I completed the entire program, I ended up with some issues with my hip flexors that took months to go away. The gains were quite satisfactory, though, given that I’ve been doing this shit for a long time and that probably played a part in my injuries along with my age. High volume with only a limited selection of exercises isn’t for everyone especially if you’re around 40.

I don’t regret doing it. Anyone younger who thinks they’re really working hard and not gaining should try it along with the recommendations for eating. The latter is another monster altogether if you require lots of calories like me. I also admit I had to modify it a little by adding in some junk food and increasing carbs.


Thank you man, I really appreciate it

I’m having some shoulder pain, specifically during back squats right now. It started creeping up once I started advanced and hasn’t gotten any better as of yet. I hope, now that I’m taking a week away from lifting, it’ll start to sort itself out soon, I would hate to have this for the next 6 months…

I’m very happy with the gains personally. It was the most successful 12 week block of training I’ve ever done. Again, not a knock on 531, but the size gains were quick to show and consistent with DW. With 531, it’s like I was moving in slow motion.

Absolutely. I wish I ran DW much sooner for that reason. It puts into perspective how hard you can/should be pushing yourself. It also taught me about how to gauge recovery and eating in preparation for the next day/week.

The food was a bit tricky for me at first. I normally find it difficult to find balance between not eating enough, or stuffing my face with everything in sight. My eating became pretty structured on DW though just to be sure I was getting in all the food I needed. I don’t track calories or anything so I was going by feel. I did notice I was hungry almost constantly.

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I think it highlights where the 2 approaches fall. DW is a shotgun blast of intensity, while 5/3/1 is intended to be something sustainable that you can run indefinitely. Certain 5/3/1 programs are more intense than others, but in general it’s far more “baseline-able” compared to DW.

Granted, as you’re discovering with advanced, it actually allows something of a break if you were to run it all back to back. No matter how deep you dig into those DW sets, it’s just not going to murder you like beginner and intermediate did. Less psychological trauma too, haha.

And that constant state of recovery is no joke. Always hungry, can’t eat enough.