Greetings 5/3/1 Forum
I’ve completed BBB Beefcake and wanted to share my write-up. As usual, this is going to be a long one.
As COVID continues to be a thing and the possibility of strongman competitions still being far out of reach, I decided to join the programming party over at r/gainit on reddit wherein they were undertaking my 26 week mass building programming block composed of BBB Beefcake, 5/3/1 Building the Monolith, Deep Water Beginner and Deep Water Intermediate. Undertaking this has boded well with me psychologically, as it’s rather uncharacteristic of me to ever suggest a program/approach I haven’t personally employed, so now was my chance to “put my money where my mouth was”. In addition, I had just come off my most successful fat loss block ever, and was in a prime position to do some growing.
I wanted to give this program a fair shake, so I did everything Jim said to do. I did the exact assistance work directed, used the percentages prescribed, kept my supplemental work to within 20 minutes, etc. …however, I ALSO went well above and beyond that, with LOTS of extra assistance work and a LOT of conditioning. I was running 2 and 3 a days for training, and frequently ran all 4 days back to back. It’s what my schedule could support, and, in turn, drove me to eat a ton, which was one of my goals. It all worked out in the end though, as I only ended up missing 1 single rep from the program, and it was on 5s pro mainwork on the press, primarily as a result of a technical issue. I’ll detail specific deviations below.
ADJUSTMENTS AND MODIFICATIONS
I ran the program 3/5/1 vs 5/3/1, which I imagine is more how Jim would have wanted it anyway. For “hard” 5/3/1 programs, 3/5/1 works really well. The 5s week functions like a mini-deload.
On the deadlift day, I rotated between 3 different implements depending on the week. On the 5s week, I’d use an axle. On the 3s week, I’d use a Texas Power Bar. On the 1s week, I’d use a Texas Deadlift Bar. I really liked how this worked out, because the implements get easier to pull on as the percentages go up, which gave each week its own unique challenge. An axle is incredibly stiff and puts the weight slightly out in front of you at a slight deficit, whereas a power bar is stiffer than a deadlift bar. This helped me maintain the “oh sh*t” factor of gaining programs, where you’re afraid of the future so you eat to grow. If I had pulled on a deadlift bar for all 6 weeks, the 5s week would have felt like a joke and may have resulted in me undereating out of lack of fear for the 1s week.
I did all my pressing with an axle. I originally had an idea to rotate in the strongman log as well, but in truth I have an easier time strict pressing a log vs an axle, and whenever my axle press goes up so does my log, so staying with the axle worked well. Early in the program, I started taking my presses from the floor instead of out of the rack. It added an element of challenge, and as a strongman competitor it was a good skillset to maintain. On the 5s week, I made it a point to clean each REP off the floor for the BBB work, and I considered that my “rows” for the day. Since I was training early in the morning, I was actually controlling the eccentric on the way down, turning these into “touch and go cleans”. I had a few cleans that turned into continentals when the weight got heavy enough.
For benching, I took to pausing each rep of the BBB work for the 5s week and pausing the first rep of each set of the BBB work on the 3s week. Also used an axle for benching.
I used a buffalo bar for all my squatting. Didn’t really get cute with modifications on it: I just used shorter rest times (75 seconds) on the 5s week, 90 seconds on the 3s, and up to 2 minutes on the 1s.
I made frequent use of supersets with the BBB work on all days. DB rows superset with benching, axle rows or cleans supersetting the pressing, reverse hypers supersetting the squatting, and weighted dips supersetting the deadlifting.
I did ABSURB amounts of assistance work. I’d meet the minimums laid out by Jim, but tended to kitchen sink things. DB benching on the bench and press days, rows and belt squats on the squat days, a full on “back day” for the deadlift day, Poundstone curls on bench day, etc etc. Jim says you can always do more assistance work if you feel like it, and I sure did.
I also had my conditioning work turned WAY the hell up. I did some form of conditioning everyday, and usually did hard conditioning 4-5 times a week. I did a lot of 2 and 3 a days. My 4 “go to” hard conditioning workouts were 2 Crossfit WODS ([Grace done with an axle
and Fran done with strict chins and occasionally a log instead of a barbell), 100 six count burpees for time, and a Front Squat/burpee workout using Josh Bryant’s “Juarez Valley” protocol out of “Jailhouse Strong” (front squat a near max rep set, do 5 burpees, then do 1 rep of front squats, 5 burpees, a set of front squats with 1 rep fewer than the topset, 5 burpees, 2 front squats, 5 burpees, continue until you meet in the middle, next week do it faster, heavier, or for more reps). I’d have some wildcards in there, like doing Stone of Steel shouldering for 30 reps as fast as possible, a workout I dubbed “Dan John’s mistake” that was 95lb thrusters for 1 round alternated with 1 arm KB swings (switch hands each rep) for 1 round, performed at Tabata intervals for 16 rounds total, prowler stuff, KB circuits, etc. And then for easy conditioning I’d do weighted vest walks and some running, as I had a 10 mile race coming up on my deload week.
On the above, I tried to match up conditioning workouts with lifting workouts to be complimentary. I’d do Grace later in the day after my press workout, since the axle was already loaded and I was primed to clean and press from earlier in the day. I’d do Fran later in the day after my squat workout, to get blood flowing to the legs. I’d do that Juarez Valley workout the day after squats for similar reasons. I’d do the 100 burpees the day after deadlifts because I wanted to keep a load off my body and move it through space a bunch in order to get some restorative bloodflow.
It wasn’t often that I lifted weights 4 days a week and had 3 days of not lifting weights: I frequently employed a 6 day training week instead. Just how my life shook out.
I kept things low carb, as it’s just the way I like to do things. I was coming off my most successful fat loss phase ever, wherein a major player in that was slashing my dietary fats, so I wanted to focus on bringing them back up. I tried blending principles of Deep Water and Mountain Dog nutrition together, and took to calling it “Deep Mountain”, and, in turn, came up with stupid names for the whole process like “Big Deep Beef Mountain”. Essentially, it was low carb with a focus on quality nutrition sources. Whenever I needed to allow “dirt” into the diet, I’d lean to one of the two authors on allowable deviances. Meadows is pretty anti-quest bar, while Andersen tolerates them. Andersen is anti-sweets, while Meadows supports dark chocolate. Etc.
I gradually increased fats through the 6 weeks of the program and introduced a few new foods (primarily cashew milk and dark chocolate), but it would be painful to go into the complete and full detail of the dietary evolution. If you ever wanna know, come find me sometime and we’ll discuss. Instead, I’m going to lay out a typical training day’s nutrition for me. Keep in mind: I don’t count any calories or macros. I DID take to using a food scale a bit during this process, just to keep myself from UNDEReating. I was still fighting my “diet instincts” through this process, having come off a fat loss phase. Below is a training day on work days that I worked an early shift at the end of the end of the program.
- 0310: Wake up, eat 2 cage free whole eggs and 1 egg white, 2.25 ounces of grassfed beef (often piedmontese), 1/3-1/2 of an avocado, some grassfed butter 1 Birch Bender keto frozen waffle or slice of keto friendly bread slathered in no sugar added sunbutter, 2 stalks of celery slathered in nuts n more spread.
- 0330-0435 training
- 0440: 8oz of egg whites international drinkable egg whites mixed with 1 scoop of whey protein and a serving of “amazing grass” greens supplement with some fat free whipped cream
- 0500: 3/4 cup of fat free greek yogurt mixed with cinnamon, a protein scooper’s serving of Naked PB peanut flour and some fat free whipped cream
- 0600: 1 Lite n Fit fat free greek yogurt and 1 oikos triple zero fat free greek yogurt with a sugar free energy drink
- 0700: A quest bar
- 0800: Turkey sandwich: 2 slices of keto friendly bread, small serving of low fat miracle whip mixed with mustard or siracha sauce, pickles, lettuce, tomato, 3 slices of organic turkey breast deli meat and a slice of fat free cheese
- 0900: Veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, mushrooms, etc, just something veggy) and either a slice of deli meat turkey or a slice of Piedmontese summer sausage
- 1000: Cabbage salad with 5oz lean meat and some sort of fat free/low calorie dressing (sometimes salsa, sometimes sugar free BBQ sauce)
- 1100: same as 0900 meal
- 1200: same as 1000 meal
- 1330: 4 macademia nuts, 4 walnuts and a square of Ghiradelli intense dark chocolate (92-100% dark chocolate)
- 1630: Some sort of meat and veggie, typically higher fat, sometimes mixed with 1/3 to ½ of an avocado
- 1800: Sauerkraut mixed with horseradish and other spicy stuff (started experimenting with introducing spicy food after doing a bunch of reading on it)
- 2000: Final meal 1/3 cup of organic grassfed low fat cottage cheese, 1.25 ounces of grassfed beef, 1 organic cage free whole egg, 1 slice of keto friendly toast slathered in natural almond or peanut butter, 2 stalks of celery slathered in nuts n more spread, 1 keto friendly brownie made with olive oil, 1 cup of cashew milk (this was an intentionally high fat meal consumed before bed as part of an experiment to improve sleep quality by having high rates of satiety)
For fluids, I’d have at least 6 liters of water a day along with a fair amount of diet soda, green tea, sparkling water and zero sugar Gatorade.
Yup: I was eating every hour on the hour for quite a while in my workday. I’ve always liked frequent small meals, and even if the science about keeping the metabolism burning isn’t real, it works for me.
Here are some breakfast-porn shots for your enjoyment
- Santa Maria breakfast of grassfed piedmontese tri tip, eggs and a keto waffle
- Egg patties mixed with grassfed ground beef, celery with nuts n more and keto toast with sunbutter
6oz grassfed piedmontese sirloin, eggs, celery with nuts n more and sunbutter toast
Eggs mixed with piedmontese steak tips with half an avocado on a creppini egg wrap, celery with nuts n more, sunbutter toast and a mug of cashew milk
EXPERIENCE AND RESULTS
Unfortunately, I never weighed myself for this process. As you can see from my nutrition, my wake up times are EARLY, and I got 2 dogs that are VERY excited that I’m awake at that time, because it means they get to eat early. To make my morning move as fast as possible, I sleep in my gym clothes, and I’m not about to strip naked, weigh myself, and get dressed again while my dogs are going psycho when my wife doesn’t need to wake up for another 3 hours for work, so morning naked weigh ins just weren’t possible for consistent measurements. I DID take photos at the end of each week, and have the start and end here
- [Beginning of program]
I received enough compliments and observations from outsiders to know that growth was occurring through the process, and my food intake continued to go up while leanness maintained about the same, so I’d say that’s all good signs. I appear a bit meatier.
On top of that, my lifts performed VERY well on this program. I kept setting conditioning PRs on timed events (to include a LIFETIME PR on Crossfit’s Grace WOD, done with an axle, with a time of 2:46, a 12 second PR), which is cool in and of itself, AND I managed to hit the week 3 and week 6 numbers, which, with a growing TM, shows improvement through the process. I also observed my ability to use shorter rest periods with heavier weights between weeks 2 and 5. I became a total squatting machine, which, for me, is pretty rare: always been my worse lift.
This definitely wasn’t the hardest program I ever ran. I think this could actually serve to be a fairly regular 5/3/1 program for one’s rotation, and may actually just be a plain old “better” way to do BBB. HOWEVER, weeks 3 and 6 DID have an element of the “oh sh*t” factor that I look for when it comes to programs that force growth. I’d catch myself looking at the numbers I was expected to hit and find myself coming up with a plan of attack for them, which is a good sign. It also incentivized my eating, and, when cheat meals worked their ways in right before my deadlift workout, it was kismet. But I was also killing myself on assistance and conditioning work. Taking it exactly as Jim wrote, it should be an ideal growing program for a junior trainee that hasn’t had a real taste of hard training yet, as it’s going to push past some comfort zones.
It definitely upped my appetite, in the literal sense. I was hungry while running the program, and that was ultimately my goal: I wanted to get BACK to eating to support training, as I was stuck so much in a paradigm of eating to lose fat. It was great being able to keep adding more and more food to my diet each week.
In all, this is a solid program, and doesn’t rank among Super Squats/Deep Water in the “run it once and maybe never again” category. Definitely run this program, but consider making it a regular feature in your training.
For me, I’m continuining with my 6 month training plan, rolling into a deload and taking on 5/3/1 Building the Monolith. I won’t be increasing my TMs linearly, but will instead use the correct TMs for the program. I’m thinking of halfway increases, if not some decreases as needed. I won’t be doing the recommended diet, but instead sticking with my “Deep Mountain” approach.