I just completed God is a Beast and thought I would submit a review. I came into it after two strong cycles of PR sets/5x5 FSL where I hit PRs across the board, and I wasn’t sure if I could hit PRs again immediately in the next cycle. It just felt like the right time to build up volume with leaders and take a break from PRs, and it was fun trying another Forever template.
Pros: Really enjoyed the structure of it, alternating the spinal tap sets and BBS. I turned 5-rep PRs into 7-8 rep PRs, and I was more conservative in those GiaB anchor PR sets as well. Leader cycles were a nice mental break away from PRs - I don’t need them every week for my ego anymore. I like the idea of putting in the required work, as written, as an investment for future PRs. I have noticed when I go all out on PRs, I will sometimes get sad and depressed a couple days later, even if I should be happy, hitting 4 new PRs in a week. I wonder if other middle-age lifters experience this too. I experienced it again later in the second anchor.
The spinal tap sets of 3 really primed me for the PRs in the anchor - I really like that ramp-up scheme. Form got a lot better for all lifts - I generally avoided knee issues (tendonitis & patella tracking) and flared-up nerve in right shoulder which acts up with higher volume from time to time.
The 85% training max felt great, and heavy weights are feeling lighter. None of the sessions felt like a grind that was hard to finish.
Cons: It takes a long time, and there may be faster ways to get your lifts up at my level. My numbers aren’t great, but I did make progress. I’m 45 years old now, and not in a rush. I don’t have training ADD, but Jim warns impatient lifters against doing this template. It takes a long time - two 6-week leaders and two 3-week anchors. I didn’t mind it, but at times I was itching to try other templates. I also didn’t progress as much on deadlift - possibly because the lower TM kept me working at lower weights for while. I had been outpacing my true max on DL right before GiaB (4 reps on 95+), so the accurate 85% TM dropped the working weights accordingly. I also did some of the BBS sessions at home, where I used sumo DL instead of the trap bar which we have at the work gym. The lower sumo weights might have held back progress a bit on DL.
In general, I ran it one day on, one day off, so it was slightly longer than a four day/week scheme would take. I almost never regret taking an extra day off between workouts if I think I need it. (I am 45 after all.) I took a deload after leader 1 (family vacation), and took a few days off between the other phases. I felt fresh going into the anchors. I increased the TM for second leader, held it constant for first anchor, and increased it again for second anchor.
Results in estimated 1RMs for consistency:
OHP: 137 → 144
BP: 220 → 235
SQ: 208 → 225 (SSB)
DL: 310 → 320 (Trap Bar)
I was more conservative in the anchors, doing better at keeping a rep in the tank on the anchors compared to the PRs going in. I ran GiaB as by-the-book as much as I could - using strict 85% TM, calculated off the last PRs going into the template. I am 5’-11", 185, with thin bones, long legs, shorter arms and poor leverages. I’m not naturally strong but I love working at it. Even with squat shoes, wider stance, and good foot flare I still bend over a lot on the squat - low-bar or high-bar always hit my back much more than my legs. So I made my own safety squat bar, which gives a much more even loading on the legs, glutes and back. My knees haven’t felt this good in at least five years, honestly. It does feel like it gets exponentially harder as the weights go up - it really pulls you forward and you have to muscle it out of the hole. I could have pushed higher numbers on low-bar or box squats, but the SSB just feels better for my weak legs.
I also use the trap bar for the same reason - long legs and short arms. Even with high handles my back is still nearly parallel to the floor when I pull. I don’t plan on competing, and trap bar and SSB just fit my body better.
Lifting background - lifted weights for nearly 30 years, but mostly did sets of 10-12 to get myself sore-not really training. I never really pushed strength until starting 5/3/1 a couple years ago. Even then, for squats I only had a Smith machine in the work gym for at least a year, so I am still finding my groove in the squat, after experimenting with low-bar, front squats, and box squats for a time, and battling knee issues. I was in the Army for 12 years, which valued endurance - running, pushups and situps, and not strength. In general, the lighter you are, the better you would score on the Army tests.
Assistance used–pretty much the tried and true basics:
Push: DB overhead press, dips, pushups, cable flyes
Pull: Pullups, inverted ring rows, cable rows, curls, pull aparts/face pulls
Single Leg: Bulgarian split squats, single leg RDLs
Core: Ab wheel, V-ups, inverted V-ups on Swiss ball, various planks
Hard: Hill sprints, track sprints (love the descending distance sprints - 400-300-200-100, etc), 3-4 mile runs with hills. Usually 1 hard session per week.
Easy: Walks, un-powered push mower on my hilly yard, rower, biking, lighter jog
What’s Next: Pervertor template - I have not yet done BBB or BBS with same main lift in the same session, or Widowmaker FSL sets, so I want to see how I respond to those. I got good results from BBB w/opposite lift two years ago. After that, maybe a 5x5/3/1 for strength focus. I’d like to get stronger in the 185-190 lb weight range. I have no problem gaining weight if I try, but I can feel the effect on running and conditioning when I put on weight. I don’t want to lose the ability to run 3 hilly miles whenever I want. Also, the sleds are out at the local HS football field now, so I’m looking forward to more sled pushing for conditioning and legwork in the next couple templates.
Recommended? Yes, I would recommend it. It is a break from PRs during 12 weeks of the leaders and a change from the typical 5/3/1 format of main lift, supplemental of main lift, and assistance. It’s a chance to really focus on form, bar speed, and accumulate useful volume on all the lifts. It wasn’t so intense that you couldn’t do other things, like have some harder running days, or go out and play some sports. I would expect it to be useful for pushing through plateaus in PRs.